This was the first festival I attended in the rain — the rain was very welcome after an extensive dry spell so I wasn’t about to complain and I came mostly prepared; next time I will wear boots if it is wet though as my feet ended up very wet and chilled.
Last year, the secret ingredient was mango — this year, it seemed to be coriander in many of the brews on offer. I did the first hour of the festival solo this year before my partner joined me (another partner was volunteering so I said “hi” to her right away then left her to do her duties). This meant I had a five-taste head start on him but he caught up and by the end of the festival had surpassed my 14 wee (4 oz) beers.
While taking notes, I numbered my tastes in the guide so I could remember the order I drank them in and present them here in chronological order:
1. Belgian Witbier from Canoe [Victoria] – Canoe was premiering their new offerings at GCBF this year. The witbier was a perfect starting point for my day as it was light and simple.
2. Bourbon Cask Amber Ale from Twa Dogs [Victoria] – one of the highlights this year was this special cask offering from the brewery arm of the Caledonia Distillery. Spicy and sharp, for those who love bourbons the flavour was unmistakable. My partner absolutely loved this beer but when we returned for him to get a second pour later in the day they were tapped out.
3. Tangerine Dream Ale from 4Mile [Victoria] – the bright citrus scent was almost cleaning product intense, not the kind of correlation I really wanted to make but there nonetheless. However, once I sipped it, the tart, subtle flavour complemented the ale (with coriander!) and gave a slightly sweet aftertaste. Not my first pick for a pint but one of the better fruity beers this year.
4. Fruity Mother Pucker from Axe & Barrel [Westshore] – this intense mixed berry sour tasted like a sweet-and-sour fruit candy. It was ridiculously red with a pink foamy head and was in the end a little too Jolly Rancher-like for my palate.
5. Three Bears Breakfast Stout from Trading Post [Langley, BC] – my pick for the best I tasted this year. A proper stout needs to be almost chewy and, like the porridge this beer references in its name, this one cleared that hurdle with ease. The depth of the flavour in this was spot on with a hint of coffee bitterness balancing the sweet of the oatmeal. I really wanted more of this one and could happily drink more than one pint in a sitting.
I paused here for some food from the DeadBeetz food truck — to soak up some beer and force me to slow down my tasting. It also meant I was able to sit and wait for my partner to find me. I chose the Tennessee Cheese Burger with a side of mixed veggie chips as I finished off the Breakfast Stout.
6. Black Lager from Persephone [Gibsons, BC] – bitter but light, this lager promised a graham cracker finish that I couldn’t pick out. Chocolate notes, yes but in my guide I underlined graham cracker and added “nope.” Still worth sipping but not a festival fave.
8. Big Smokin’ Joe Baltic Porter from Backroads [Nelson, BC] – my exact words on the first sip were, “Holy fuck.” The smoky intensity was a LOT to manage, like good bacon, and there were strong hits of coffee and molasses flavour with a bit of a fruity kick, too. 4 oz of this was plenty, in the same way one has to savour a flourless chocolate torte. It was rich and dense and enjoyable but took some time to finish.
9. Saison du Pinacle from Brasserie Dunham [Quebec] – this was a lovely, light and fruity saison, very faintly sweet, and smooth. Went down easily and would happily drink by the pint.
10. Gin & Lime Pilsner from Fuggles & Warlock [Richmond] – makers of my fave fruity beer, Last Strawberry Wit, had two Gin related offerings on tap this year. We both went for the Gin & Lime Pilsner and were not disappointed. Very much worth the longest line we stood in for this refreshing light beer with a defined lime flavour and hints of juniper from the gin.
11. Great Plains Brown Ale from Two Wolves [Vancouver] – The amazing thing about this beer was that it had all the richness and that wonderful coffee/chocolate flavour of the best stouts but without the heaviness. The aftertaste was all flavour and this would be a great pick for a summer evening beer around a campfire.
12. Con Leche from Twin Sails [Port Moody, BC] – the woman ahead of us described this to her companion as “a dessert beer” and I would have to agree. This “horchata style” milk stout has a heavy punch that made me say, “I think this is a sitting down beer.” It was intense, much like the Baltic Porter from Backroads, but in a sweet rather than savoury way. Vanilla and cinnamon stand out and again, this one took time to consume.
13. Blackberry Bourbon Ale w/ Raspberry from Red Truck [Vancouver] – this special festival cask added raspberry puree to their regular Blackberry Bourbon Ale. While I could not find a hint of the bourbon, the fruit was very balanced in this ale and I am eager to try the regular pour without the puree.
14. Mistress of My Soul Saison from Twa Dogs [Victoria] – I ended my festival (not entirely on purpose) with this lovely regular offering from Twa Dogs and it was a very smooth, simple and vaguely fruity beer. It went down well, a little heavier than some saisons owing to the spiciness, but very pleasant nonetheless.
While I had hoped to get in one more beer, the last call bell had been rung and many tents were already tapped out of anything I was hoping to try. Still, 14 was very reasonable (and pretty average for me). Leaving the festival we stopped for sushi (and warm green tea) which hit the spot after so much beer! Already looking forward to next year…