2013 in Review!

Hey all! The good folks at WordPress have forwarded this year-end summary and I thought I’d make it public. To break it down succinctly, this site was viewed a total of 24,000 times in 2013, mostly by people in Canada, with visitors from the US and the UK following not far behind. In addition, I wrote 106 new posts, nearly doubling the amount of reviews on here, and uploaded 226 pictures. Wow, that’s a lot of beer!

Here’s to 2014 and the hope that it is equally prolific and enjoyable for us all!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

Back from Ottawa!

Greeting all from the nation’s capital! Some interesting things have transpired since our arrival. Some friends came out, some pubs were visited, some pints were tilted. All good times! And as usual, I intend to write about it all, particularly all the beers we drank! Some old, some new, there were many brands that were drunk even thus far that have been worthy of a review. It will take me days to cover them all, so please, your indulgence as I try to do it all justice…

My first review is dedicated to the beers encountered at a timely and impressive event:The Winter Beers and Ice Wines event that took place during the weekend of the 17th/18th. Not only did it coincide with our visit nicely, my darling wife had the foresight to suggest we book some VIP tickets. As such, we got the deluxe experience! In addition to sampling many, many beers from the Quebec side of the border, we got a taste of some true culinary delights in an upscale atmosphere. It all went down at the Maison du Citoyen in Hull, Quebec, and here’s what I thought of what I tasted, by brand and name.

Brasseurs Du Temps:
Located in Gatineau, Quebec, this brewery was the only one at the tasting that had its own booth staffed by its own people. And given the fact that the sample glasses were also stamped with their company logo, I got the distinct impression they were hosting the thing. All of their brews were made in accordance with traditional European and (more specifically) Belgian brewing, at least the ones I tried. As such, they were strong, heavy, dark and deep! Not to mention flavorful.

Dumduminator: Named in honor of its creator, Dominique Gosselin (Dumdum to his friends), this dunkelweizenbock was a nice surprise, calling to mind one of my all time favorites: Aventinus! And like its predecessor, it was dark, strong, had a heady foam, and some rich wheat malts. However, the DD was different in that it had a distinct banana flavor in addition to its spicey notes. A nice opening to this tasting experience! 4/5

La Saison Basse: This seasonal beer, named in honor of the fall, is a blonde ale that boasts a variety of spices with an intense, distinctly Belgian taste. Overall, I was reminded of Duvel, another blonde done in the Belgian fashion that boasted some gruff malts. I should also note, in a move that is decidedly clever, this beer has an opposite known as La Saison Haute, a seasonal spring beer. Unfortunately, this one was not available at the tasting. Guess I’ll have to wait til next year! 3.75/5

Messe de Minuit, 2010: A holiday beer which, quite frankly, is like Christmas in a glass! The color is black, the smell is fruity and spicey, and the nose and taste are similar to a stout. Add to that a rich flavor that is reminiscent of figgy pudding, cloves and spices, and you get a pretty good picture of what this beer is all about. A great finish to this breweries lineup. 4.5/5

I just wish I could have sampled more. A quick perusal of their website would seem to indicate that there’s certainly no shortage! I wonder if they deliver…
http://www.brasseursdutemps.com/beers/our-full-range

IGA Famille Charles:
Said family is a major compact in Quebec which owns the Independent Grocers Association, a number of craft breweries, and the relative giants of Molson, Coors, and Rickards Brewing. Overall, I’d say I spent the majority of my time at this booth, trying their beer, talking to their patrons, and bugging their representatives for info! Here’s what I sampled and where it came from:

L’Assoiffe: brewed by Brasseurs du Monde, from St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, this beer’s name literally translates to “thirsty”. A double brown ale, brewed Belgian-style, it was expectedly strong and quite dark, combining a strong malty profile with the tawny character of a brown. Lightly scented but firmly flavored, it was quite the thirst quencher! 3.75/5

Trois-Mousquetaires Wiezenbock: this beer, I quickly realized, is something we have in BC. In fact, I can recall drinking one or two Mousquetaires not that long ago; luckily they weren’t the Wiezenbock so I didn’t consider this experience wasted! Brewed in Brossard, Quebec, Trois Mousquetaires is another Quebec craft brewery specializing in continental-style beer making. And at 10% alc/vol, this wheat beer was certainly a unique experience, combining strong wheat  malts with a very rich, very dark profile that called to mind brown sugar, molasses and a hint of smoke and bananas. Quite the powerful number, and definitely for the barley wine enthusiast, if not the casual beer drinker! 3.5/5

La Noblesse: Possibly my favorite from the IGA section, this beer was reminiscent of Chimay in a number of ways. For starters, its a dark amber, cloudy in appearance, and boasts a strong oaky flavor that reminds one of sour ale.  I was also told to be on the lookout for a touch of vanilla, though I admittedly took awhile to find it! Definitely something I’ll be on the lookout for in the future. 4/5

McAuslan Brewing:
Technically, the bar hosting McAuslan’s fine products was hosted by the radio station CKOI (104.7 Outaouais), but to me, they were the centerpiece so they might as well have been running it themselves. Several other brewers were represented here; unfortunately, I only got to try one other. Lucky for me, it was worth it since I finally got to try McAuslan’s latest Vintage Ale as well as the rather unique and intriguing Diablo. Of these:

Millesimee: This is the name of McAuslan’s 2010 Vintage Ale. Awhile back, I reviewed McAuslan and claimed that their Millennial Ale, the 2000 Vintage, was the best beer I’ve ever tried. Well that’s still true, but unfortunately, I’ve been unable to offer any opinions on any of the vintages they’ve produced since. Thanks to this event, those days are now behind me, even if it’s likely to be awhile before I can review any of their vintages again. That being said, I have to say that I was unimpressed with this latest vintage by the good folks at McAuslan. Unlike its Millennial predecessor, the 2010 Vintage was an amber ale, very strong, slightly sweet, and quite rough on the palatte. I was reminded of Scotch-Ale, the “Wee Heavy” style of beer that combines rich, heavy malts with a touch of sweetness and a bitter, highly viscous aftertaste. That’s what you got here, and I have to say that I do not think these different elements go together well. This is not to say that the beer is a bad contribution, far from it! In fact, its without a doubt a faithful adaptation of an extra-strong amber ale and an interesting choice for their latest vintage. It just didn’t agree with me personally. Mainly because the strong flavor has a way of really lingering. Seriously, after a glass of this, everything tasted rough and bitter! 3/5

El Diablo: Last of the festivals lineup comes to you from the Brasserie du Lievre located in Mont-Laurier, Quebec. And I can honestly say that my choice to try this over several others from this bar was thematically consistent, given the fact that it too was a strong amber, rough on the palatte, and quite rich and chewy. However, the Diablo combines all of this with a strong, vanilla flavor that is surprising and quite palatable. A touch of velvet you might say to an otherwise rough and tough brew. Little wonder then why they call it Diablo! 3.75/5

Well, that is all for now. Like I said, there were many drinking experiences during my Ottawa trip, and it will take some time to do it all justice. Lord knows I spent plenty of time this trip with a beer in one hand and my PDA in the other, constantly drinking and typing, hoping to get all my impressions down so I could do faithful reviews later.

Coming up next, the Mill Street Brewpub, a newly opened branch of the Toronto-based craft brewery!

The Howe Sound lineup

Howe Sound, located in beautiful Sqaumish BC, has been making craft beer since the mid nineties. However, as with most BC beers, I only learned about shortly after I moved here. I believe I first spotted some of their signature bottles in a small liquor store in Duncan, and was quite impressed with their appearance. That first impression was surpassed only by the quality of the beer itself and they fast became one of my favorites. And the more of their products I’ve tried, the happier I am making them one of my go-to’s whenever it comes time to do some beer shopping.

And of course, like most established craft beer makers, they have a regular line-up and a line of seasonal releases. And both are growing and becoming more diverse, so there are a few I have yet to try. Give me time and I shall find them all! First up, their regular beers:

Garibaldi Honey Pale Ale: Originally, I was not a fan of honey beers. Sleeman’s Honey Brown Lager turned me around on that. However, a pale ale seems a bit of a stretch to me on that point. Balancing a hoppy, citrusy profile with the taste of honey (heavily sweet) just doesn’t work. This is not to say that this isn’t a good beer. It’s profile is light, slightly sweet, with a slightly hoppy finish. Named on honor of Mount Garibaldi (8,776 ft, 2,675 m) which was named for Italian hero Guiseppe Garibaldi, the man of two worlds, this beer also boasts three medals: the gold medal in the 2007 North American Beer Awards, the bronze for the 2010 North Americans, and the bronze for the 2011 Canadian Brewers Awards. 3.5/5

Rail Ale Nut Brown: One of the finer brown’s I’ve ever had and possibly one of the best browns in BC. Smooth, tawny, with a nutty flavor that lingers on the tongue. This beer is excellent on its own, with most dishes and as a light dessert beer, best when paired with dark chocolate. Named in honor of BC’s strong railway history, particularly Squamish’s own, this beer is also the 2009 silver medalist for the Canadian Brewers Awards. 5/5

Devil’s Elbow IPA: A nice, powerful India Pale Ale, combing a nice floral bouquet, a citrusy profile, and a dry, lingering finish. A deep, golden orange, heavy on the hops and relatively strong on the alcohol (6% alc/vol), this beer is still highly drinkable. A good food pair, and lovely on its own. It was also the Silver medalist in the 2010 North American Beer Awards, no small accomplishment given the competition! On a more modest note, it also won the prize for best IPA at a beer, cider and wine tasting hosted by our friends this past year (Hi Richard and Kim!). Guess who brought it? 4/5

Diamond Head Oatmeal Stout: Named for the razor’s edge ridge that comes off the south flank of Mount Garibaldi’s Atwell Peak, this beer is a fitting example of an oatmeal stout. Boasting strong flavors of roasted barley and oats, this beer also has a light hop bite and a smooth finish with lingering notes that are reminiscent of roasted coffee. In terms of awards, this beer has won both the Bronze in the 2007 North American Beer Awards and the Silver for the 2011 Canadian Brewers Awards. 4/5

Baldwin and Cooper Best Bitter: As Bitters go, this one is right up there, comparable to Swann’s, Spinnakers, and Longwood’s. I guess there’s just something about Vancouver Island, we know our British beers! And the critics seem to agree. This Bitter has won medals three years running now, securing the bronze medal in the 2009 North Americans and silver in the 2010, followed by another silver in the Canadian Brewers Awards for this past year. The name is also significant, in honor of Jim Baldwin & Ed Cooper, the first men to climb the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief (702 m) in July, 1961. But the taste is where its really at! Smooth, malty, with a nice dry hop finish, this beer also boasts a certain fruity character that makes it well paired with meat, seafood, spicey dishes, or just on its own. 4.5/5

Whitecap Wheat Ale: A Belgian-style wheat beer that contains the signature traces of orange zest and coriander, combining both wheat and barley malts that result in a clear, lightly colored beer with a spicey taste and clean finish. Delicious when served cold, best when paired with spicey food, light deserts, and most enjoyable on its own, especially on a hot day! 5/5

Bailout Bitter: A nice, dry, yet smooth and light tasting beer, highly remisicent of their Mettleman Copper (see their Seasonal Beers). This beer was a special release, apparently named in honor of the 2008 Banking Crisis and the resulting bailout, which had left plenty of people feeling bitter! I for one championed the release of this beer and drank it heartily, enjoying both nits smooth, dry taste and its message. F@Y%@ you  Wallstreet! 4/5

Coming up next, Howe Sound’s seasonal lineup. Stay tuned…

St. Ambroise!

Located in Montreal, the McAuslan brewery is the purveyor of some awesome beers, not to mention my all time favorite. Yes, their Millennial Ale remains the best beer I’ve ever tasted, but their regular and seasonal are also pretty damn exceptional. In fact, of the six types of beer they now make, several of them are among the best beers I’ve had of that particular variety.

Oh, and here’s a few interesting tidbits. The brewery not only makes beers, but a whole line of culinary products, such as cheeses, mustard, sauerkraut, cupcakes and even soaps! The name of the brewery (McAuslan) often creates some confusion since the vast majority of the products are labelled St. Ambroise. During one of my many visits to Beerfest in Ottawa, a representative explained…

Apparently, marketing in Quebec can be a bit tricky with such an Anglo-Scottish name, so the name St.Ambroise (St. Ambrose of Milan, guy who converted St. Augustine) was seen as a good label name for all them French Catholics! And, interesting tidbit, it just happens to be the name of the street where their operations are located (Rue St. Ambroise, Montreal) Personally, I’m just glad these guys have been able to stay in business for all these years, especially given their extensive competition. If there’s one thing Quebecers know, its beer!

Check out their website while you’re at it: McAuslan Brewery
Okay, first up, their regular beers:

St. Ambroise Pale Ale: Definitely one of the best Pale Ales I’ve ever had. Crisp, refreshing, hoppy, balanced, and quite drinkable. Whenever there’s a mixer case in our house, my wife and I constantly compete over who get’s to drink the Pale Ales. For those new to Pale Ales, its also the perfect introduction, showing exactly what a true PA is all about. Rich color, floral aroma, a nice bite, a lingering finish, but still refreshing. In terms of official praise, this beer earned three stars in the Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide To Beer, and beer critic Michael Jackson described it as: “An outstanding ale… amber-red, clean and appetizing, with a very good hop character, from its bouquet to its long finish. Hoppy, fruity, and tasty all the way through.” I agree with everything except the three star rating! 5/5 baby!

Griffon Extra Pale Ale: Compared to the Pale Ale, the Griffon is quite light. And I mean quite light, seriously, the flavor is quite underwhelming as far as my palatte is concerned. However, this does mean the beer is extra drinkable, and even won a gold medal in the Golden Canadian Ale category at the 1996 World Beer Cup, apparently for its bright gold color, clean hop and malt flavor and “great drinkability”. Not a personal favorite, but a fine beer nontheless that is sure to please fans of lighter fare. 3.5/5

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout: Yet another contender for the “best ever” category. St. Ambroise’s Oatmeal Stout is both a personal favorite and a first for me. Prior to being introduced to this beer, I had never before had an Oatmeal Stout. Shortly thereafter, it seemed like every micro-brewery I could find was making one of their own. Naturally, I learned that this is because this variety of stout is time-honored and with the resurgence in craft brewing, just about everyone would be making their own version of it. This does not change the fact that this baby was a first for me, and you never forget your first. In terms of awards, this baby was the runner up at the World Beer Championship in 1994, competing against over 200 beers in its category, and also won one of only nine platinum medals awarded. It’s dark colour, rich taste and aroma, with hints of chocolate and espresso make it a perfectly well-rounded stout. 5/5

St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale: Another first for me, this beer introduced me to the world of fruit beers, which is apparently a very rich, time-honored and lesser-known world. At least it was, until St. Ambroise and Kawartha Lakes Brewery came along (more on them later). And I can attest that the Apricot Wheat is one of St. Ambroise best-sellers, being light, malty, clean, and quite fruity in both its taste and aroma. Personally, I find the fruity character a bit overdone, the flavor giving the impression of artificial flavor. However, this does not prevent it from being very tasty. 4/5

Those I have yet to try in their regular beer category include: St. Ambroise Cream Ale, Griffon Red Ale (Griffon Rousse). However, as with many examples of fine Quebec brewing, the full lineup can be hard to find outside of Quebec (stupid prohibition-era laws!)

Swan’s Brewpub

Looking back this weekend, I realized that I have yet to dedicate a review to some of my favorite watering holes here in Victoria. Sure, I’ve mentioned them, maybe even rated their wings, but where’s the page dedicated to them? Time to remedy this! And I shall start with the place me and wife know as “Old Faithful”. Swan’s Brewpub.

I can remember when I was a young man and living in Ottawa, some friends of mine who were from Victoria and periodically came back to visit family would always bring some Swan’s beer home with them. Yeah, it was always a treat to enjoy a few frosty Swans and watch some our favorite shows in those days. If they’re reading this, hi Aaron, hi Megan! Miss you guys!

Since moving to the west coast, dining in at Swan’s has been a recurring treat. Not only are their beers faithful examples of craft brewing, their food is also a tasty treat. It’s little wonder then why my wife and I refer to this place as “Old Faithful”. Alas, some specific examples feel necessary. First up, the taps!

Appleton Brown Ale: A nice, tawny, smooth ale that is in keeping with a London-style dark ale. Highly drinkable, smooth and yet complex. 4/5

Arctic Ale: Definitely one of the lightest beers I’ve ever had, and certainly the lightest produced by Swans. Named in honor of Canadian-style beers, apparently, this beer is clean tasting, has a quick, light finish, and is completely inoffensive. However, that is not necessarily a good thing, not when you’re me at any rate. Nothing wrong with it, but not my favorite either. 3.5/5

Buckerfield’s Bitter: One of my favorite ESB’s (Extra Special Bitter) to date. Copper colored, clean tasting, with a nice dry hop finish; this bitter taught me what this beer is all about! A favorite I routinely order! 5/5

Extra IPA: A true India Pale Ale, at 6.8% alc/vol and full of hops! The color is a rich orange, the nose is floral, and the flavor both sweet, dry and lingering. I’ve had so many I think I’ve OD’d! Best enjoyed with food and in moderation, unless your an IPA lover like me! 4/5

Old Towne Bavarian Lager: A fitting accompaniment to spicey food or on its own as a nice light drink. This beer is a faithful lager, combing a clean taste, crisp hops and a lingering finish. Its color is also clear and golden, reminiscent of traditional lagers found in your famed Munich beer halls. 4/5

Pandora Pale Ale: Probably the most faithful brew offered by Swans, I can attest to both its popularity and its drinkability. Golden amber, with a nice hop nose, clean taste and short, sharp finish, this beer is their flagship brew for a good reason! 4.5/5

Raspberry Ale: My wife and I agree, there are few who do fruit beers up right. These guys would be one of them! This ale combines a nice drinkable ale with a tart and semi-sweet touch that is both refreshing and is well paired with deserts or just on its own. It’s especially refreshing when enjoyed on your patio during a hot summer’s day. The taste also manages to conceal the fact that its actually quite strong, at 7% alc/vol! 4/5

Riley’s Scotch Ales: A traditional ale done in the “wee-heavy” style, meaning of high alcohol content. And this customer is no exception, being 8% alc/vol and possessing a strong, malty flavor, a big dose of hops and a sweet finish. Definitely not for the unititiated or the faint of heart. Definitely not for light beer drinkers! 4/5

Swan’s Oatmeal Stout: Swan’s was one of the first microbreweries in my experience to incorporate the Oatmeal Stout into their lineup. And there stout is definitely among the best I’ve had. Well rounded, creamy smooth, but with a nice, bitter bite for a finish. Stout lovers will approve! 4/5

Legacy Ale: This ale you won’t find on the regular menu. It’s an anniversary ale, which means it was made in honor of the brewery’s anniversary back in 2007. Hence, it is only available periodically, and let me tell you… it is one of the best beers I’ve ever had! Comparable only to McAuslin’s Millennial Ale, this Barley Wine has it all. Rich, mahogany color, smooth malty goodness, and a semi-sweet touch with just the right hop finish. I give this beer 6/5. Yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense, but who cares? I love it!

You might have noticed, most of these beers are rated pretty close to each other. But that’s a testament to their quality. And now, the food! However, know that the menu has changed since we ate there last, so some of these items might be out of date.

Chicken Wings: Not the best wings on the island, but definitely faithful and consistently good. The wings themselves are not plump, but not emaciated either, and the sauce is simply Frank’s Red, but they get the job done. Especially with beer! 3.5/5

Yam Fries: Now I’ve had several version of yam fries over the years, especially since I moved to BC (seems to be a local thing!). However, this remains the place that does it best, in my humble opinion. Sweet, lightly dusted with Cajun spice, granulated salt and accompanied by a kick-ass chipotle mayo! 5/5

Chicken Focaccia: A very decent sandwich! The focaccia bread is the perfect accompaniment to a chicken breast, don’t ask me why, and the veggies, red onions, and mayo compliment the flavor perfectly. 4/5

Buckerfield’s Burger: One of the best burgers I’ve had since moving to the island. Hand made patties, cheese, bacon, grilled mushrooms and onions and a smokey bbq sauce. This burger is exceptional when pared with a Pale Ale and some yam fries! 5/5

Apple Pie: Apple pie is just one those things. It’s hard to screw up,  but its still nice to find a place that does it especially well. And as you can imagine, this is one such place. The pastry is hearty, the apples sweet and spiced just right with loads of cinnamon! And of course, the accompanying dollop of vanilla ice cream, ya can’t go wrong! 4/5

Creme Caramel: It has always been a source of consternation to me that Swans doesn’t do a creme brulee. However, their creme caramel is a fitting stand in! Creamy, rich, sweet, but not overpowering, this desert is the perfect end to an evening of fine beer and fine dining! 4/5

Hmm, seems I did it again with the food. Just about all them score within the eighty-percentile. But hey, that’s how it is. Good food, good beer, good times. If you’re interested, here’s a link to Swan’s full and updated menu. Check it out, preferably in person!

Swans Brewpub

Beer that Tames the Fire

Not that long ago, I tried my hand at homemade curry paste. The results were… shall we say, less than mild? Yes, I’m still getting the bugs out of the recipe, not literally of course, but I maintain that homemade is best. Which brings me to something else I’ve been working on of late: a list of suitable, spice-appropriate beers. Granted, its not exactly rocket science. Pairing beers with spicy food is fact more of an art, and highly open to interpretation. Nevertheless, it generally is wise to avoid anything too heavy, hoppy, or best when served warm (aka. stouts, porters, ales, etc). In short, when dealing with spicy foods, one should stick to lagers, pilsners and other beers that offer a clean, crisp taste and are best when served cold.

With that in mind, I’ve assembled a list of just a few that are particularly good in this respect. Interestingly enough, most happen to be from the very parts of the world that are famous – or infamous – for producing some of the world’s spiciest food. And just to be helpful, I’ve grouped them from best to worst, at least according to my own taste and standards.

Sapporo: 8.5/10 A Japanese draft lager that dates back to the Meiji period (19th century). Like most Asian breweries, it was established by a German brewmaster and it shows in the taste and character of the beer. Although not surprising or particularly complex, it is a very reliable beer that is at once clean, crisp and quite tasty, with a mild bitter finish that does not interfere or enhance the taste of spicy food.

Tsingtao: 8/10 Compared to some of its competitors, this Chinese beer, named after its town of origin, is somewhat hoppier. However, it still retains the characteristic flavor of a German lager; crisp, clean, and not overpowering. As you can imagine, they can easily be found wherever Chinese cuisine is available, and pair well with the spicier Hunan and Szechuan dishes.

Dab: 7.5/10 From Dortmund, Germany, the name is actually an acronym for the brewery itself (Dortmunder Actien Brauerei). I would have to say that this has got to be one of the cleanest beers I’ve ever tasted, meaning it has a light taste and little to no aftertaste. Not the best standalone beer, but excellent when paired with something spicy. One can expect the heat not to linger when this exceptionally light lager is introduced to the palate.

Red Stripe: 7.5/10 Next, we have Red Stripe beer, Jamaica’s famous export lager. It might seem just the slightest bit stereotypical to assume that warm-weather climes would produce beer that goes well with hot food and hot weather, but this beer certainly lives up to that reputation. Like a true lager, it is light, refreshing and has a gentle, lingering hop aftertaste. And like just about all Caribbean brews, it goes well with Jerked food, curry, and spicy Roti.

Tiger Beer: 7/10 Last, but not least… From Singapore, Tiger is the flagship brand of beer for this city-state/nation that dates back to 1932. Its flavor is reminiscent of pilsner, the hops tasting sharp and distinctively Czech, and maintains a well rounded, light taste that finishes quite clean. All of this makes Tiger quite drinkable and well suited to dishes featuring chilis, curry, or other such delights.

I could go on, but this is making me hungry AND thirsty! Time to seek out spicy food and a cold beer! Until next time, keep sampling my friends!

Surgenor Brewery, We’ll Miss You!

Just got back from Comox where I was visiting with friends and family, as I periodically do. I was hoping very much to find a sample of Surgenor’s latest beer – In Seine Pale Ale – and instead came away with a dire piece of news. It seems that Surgernor, Comox’s own brewhouse, has closed down! Naturally, I wasn’t too surprised, there were rumors that this upstart brewery – just a few years up and running – was falling on hard times.

After experiencing a setback with their aluminum bottling – which I still think was brilliant and made their beer taste fantastic! – it seemed they had encountered some problems with government regulations and distribution. Naturally, there’s only so many setbacks and frustrations and upstart business can stand, and so its owners decided to close up shop and move on.

However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find the announcement both sad and deplorable! Its always sad when a great microbrew closes down, but when it’s a hometown operation that also makes a damn fine product, you got to take it personally! I tell you, I haven’t been this disappointed since the Hart brewery shut down in Ottawa. The world of craft brewing  is always diminished when one of its own succumbs…

So it seems only fitting that I dedicate this next review to Surgenor’s line of signature beers. Not only were they tasty, creative choices, they were also a truly local operation, making beers that were named in honor of Comox Valley’s history and heritage.

Steam Donkey Lager: This beer takes its name from the steam powered winch which played an important role in Comox Valley’s historic timber industry. Since it was the workhorse of west coast logging operations, its understandable why the folks at Surgenor decided to name their own workhorse in honor of it. Having enjoyed several, I can attest to its authenticity, solid flavor and drinkability. It’s color is a rich, orange-yellow, the taste is malty and has a nice hop finish which lingers nicely on the tongue. 4/5

Red House Ale: Named in honor of the Surgenor brew house, the Red House is my personal favorite of Surgenor’s lineup. Rosy red in hue, this beer combines a strong malt profile with crisp hops and a touch of citrus. The nose is especially nice, sharp, floral, and with a touch of effervescence. 5/5

#8 Shaft Black Lager: I take full credit for this one! No joke, when the brewery was first starting up, they were taking suggestions from the community on what beers people would like to see them make. Given the fact that they were naming their beers in honor of Comox Valley’s heritage, I thought a dark lager or ale named in honor of the Cumberland coal mines was a good idea. A little over a year later, at Nautical Days, what do you think they’ve got on tap at the beer tent?

Okay, I can’t take full credit (or any in all likelihood). After all, it’s kind of obvious when you think about it. Dark Lager, coal mining, it’s just a matter of time! Glad they came up with it though, and enjoyed the flavor even though I only got to taste it once. Light, but tawny and smooth, this black lager is reminiscent of Vancouver Island Hermann’s or Sleeman’s Dark, both fine dark ales in their own right. A little weak for my taste, but still enjoyable. 3.5/5

In Seine Pale Ale:  Another name that is one part Comox history, one part delicious pun, In Seine honors the fishermen of the West Coast. Unfortunately, I have yet to sample this one, and now that the breweries shutting down, I will scowering the island looking for some. Expect to hear about it soon!

Rest In Peace, Surgenor’s. And if you get the chance, get back in business! See what you can do about bringing those aluminum bottles back, that was lighting in a bottle!