Spinnakers Sooke Harvest

Spinnakers_Sooke_HarvestBrewer: Spinnakers Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Style: Fresh-Hopped Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 40

Description: This fresh-hopped ale is brewed using a combinatio of Pale and Crystal malts, then bittered using late addition Cascade, Chinook and Willamette hops, all of which are freshly picked from hop farms in the Sooke region.

Tasting Notes:  Spinnakers, it seems, is getting on the fresh-hopped game. And their offering is quite good, consisting of a nice, balanced pale ale with a hint of sweet bread flavor, and a nice, dry hop backing that has hints of West Coast flavors – i.e. herbs, grass and citrus.

Appearance: Deep ruby, clear, lacy foam retention, good carbonation
Nose: Rich pale malt, sweet bread, mild citrus, grassy and herbal hop notes
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, dry hops, herbal and grassy, mild citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness and malt flavor
Overall: 8.2/10

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Spinnakers Jolly Hopper Imperial IPA

Jolly_Hopper_Bottle-WEBBrewer: Spinnakers Brewpub, Victoria BC
Style: Imperial IPA
Alc/Vol: 8%
IBUs: 100

Description: Named after the flag pirate ships would fly to signal imminent attack, this Imperial IPA is brewed is using a variety of experimental hops, and in significant doses. The end result is a very strong, very hoppy India Pale Ale that combines English-style and West Coast-style brewing traditions.

Tasting Notes: This beer delivered in all the usual departments. It had the strong, coarse malts of an Imperial IPA, plus a very significant dose of hop bitterness. And you can sense the varied hop profile in both the smell and the taste. While it comes through with what appear to be West Coast Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo hops in the taste department, the nose calls to mind Kent, Golding and Fuggles – all English strains. A good IIPA, but definitely not for the faint of heart or unaccustomed.

Appearance: Amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, fruity, English-style hops
Taste: Heavy malt, coarse and tangy, bitter burst of grapefruit
Aftertaste: Citrus rind, lingering malt coarseness
Overall: 7.8/10

Of the Rise in Craft Brewing

A long time ago, I did an article for this site addressing what I saw as a criminal trend in the brewing industry. Not just any crime mind you, but a crime against nature itself, as far as I was concerned! I was referring to the expansion of major brand names and how it seemed to be leading to an overall dip in quality.

To illustrate, I referred to how some of my favorite craft brewers from over the years had been altering their recipes, mainly so they could achieve mass appeal and expand their sales. Others, also personal favorites of mine, had closed down instead, unable to compete in a mass market dominated by major names and low standards. Not a happy article. But if I’ve realized anything in the past two years, it is that this trend has swung sharply in the other direction.

Yes, craft brewing is becoming more and more popular, and may I say that it’s about bloody time! Whether its an upsurge in the number of micro-breweries or the adoption of a craft beer line by major breweries, the trend seems consistent. Granted this is all based on my own anecdotal experience, but when you notice it happening everywhere, you have to assume you’re onto something!

First, as I said, is the expansion in craft brewing. Of all the micro breweries that I’ve discovered since moving to BC, few seem to have opened their doors before the year 2000. For those that did, you’d be hard pressed to find one that’s been in operation since before the late 90’s. This is true of the Driftwood Brewery, the Cannery Brewery, Moon Under Water, Phillips, Old Yale, Hoyne, Dead Frog, Surgenor, Longwood, Swan’s, Spinnakers, and a host of others that I’ve sampled over the years. Back in Ontario, this is similarly true. It was only in the late 90’s and early millennium that the spectacular operations of McAuslan’s, Creemore, Scotch-Irish, Mill St., Heritage, Cameron’s, Muskoka, and a slew of others were established. And their ongoing success is a testament to fact that the popularity of craft brewing is on the rise.

As for the adoption of special, small-batch product lines adopted by larger operations, I am satisfied to say that this trend seems to be catching on, particularly with breweries that I noticed were watering down the wares. In recent years, the Vancouver Island Brewery, Granville Island Brewery, the Lighthouse Brewery have all began releasing signature or limited release beers that are not part of their regular lineups, and take advantage of the small batch production methods that ensure better quality.

This is also true of such giants as Keith’s, which has expanded its lineup by incorporating a white, an amber and a dark ale. This began in recent years, and represents a complete 180 from what they’ve been doing for the generations now – producing a single, watery ale that bears no resemblance to a real IPA. And Sleeman’s, a major operation in its own right, has even expanded its repertoire by introducing an IPA and a Porter to their lineup.

Granted, brewery ownership is still concentrated in the hands of a few major multinationals, and the vast majority of beer consumed today consists of mass produced, flat and flavorless numbers. Still, the trend towards authenticity and flavor seems to be clear. Consumers are demanding beer that is made locally, in small batches, and in accordance with traditional standards. And for beer snobs, who insist on authenticity over accessibility, this can only be seen as great news. Great news indeed!

So when you’re out next weekend, find yourself a local microbrew, a brewpub, and drink up! And be sure to tip your barmaid. Cheers!

Spinnakers Hoptoria IPA

Congratulations Victoria on your 150th birthday and everything you do for the fine art of craft brewing. That appears to be what this new release from Spinnakers is all about, also known as Hoptoria India Pale Ale. And just in case the name wasn’t indication enough, this beer is a tribute to its hometown and even features a picture of the BC Legislature on its label, known to locals as the Ledge.

Brewed with a combination of local and international malts, an array of Northwestern hop varieties, and then dry-hopped for added flavor, this beer is a fitting example of a Pacific Northwestern (aka.Cascadian)  India Pale Ale. Combining hop strength, strong malts and a good alcohol content (6.8 alc/vol), it’s an all around great IPA that’s arrived on my doorstep just in time for summer!

Appearance: Light amber gold, slightly translucent and good head
Nose: Bitter hops, notes of citrus, sweet malts similar to barley wine
Taste: Comes on with slightly coarse and sweet malts punctuated by bitter-sweet hops
Aftertaste: Lingeringly bitter, giving way to a strong note of grapefruit rind
Overall: 8.5/10

It warms my heart when craft brewing is honored, but when my hometown is honored for its history and contribution to craft brewing, well that just heats my heart to a near-incendiary degree! And it doesn’t help that the very thing conveying those honors is a strong ale, as such beers have only been known to intensify the nostalgia factor for me 😉 Congratulations Spinnakers and here’s to ya, Victoria! Keep on brewing!

Wings!

Here is an old review, dated May 2011, of my favorite haunts to get chicken wings on the island. Be warned, I get a little fanatical when it comes to my wings. So if you don’t agree with my assessment… well, then let me know and I’ll be sure to check out any place you deem fit! Having a good wing is more important to me than being right ;):

Great wings on the island!  Yep, I’m dedicating an entire entry on the subject of chicken wings, and who does em right!  I know there are other wing enthusiasts out there and I hope they will appreciate this info.  For simplicity sake, I use a simple grading scale. 1-5, with one being the worst and 5 being the best.  Okay?  Here goes:

Avenue, Comox: 3/5  Okay, technically they’re not wings.  They are “chicken drummettes”.  What’s the difference you ask?  You pay a lot more for them and there aren’t that many!  But they are nevertheless tasty and satisfying, both in terms of meatiness and flavor.

Christie Carriage House, Victoria: 3.5/5  Not bad, both the Louisiana and the Five Alarm are spicy and relatively plump.  Except on Wing Night!  Then they get a bit skinny, but everybody knows wing night when they get rid of their B-grade stuff, and its cheap, so you pretty much get what you pay for!  Otherwise, not the best I’ve had, but pretty good overall!  Also best when enjoyed with a nice cold brew, and the house has many taps!

Craig Street Brewery, Duncan: 5/5 Yep, best wings I’ve had on the island.  Not only is the chicken healthy (that is to say, neither the hormone-fed tasteless variety, nor the skinny kind), the sauce is awesome.  My favorite is the suicide hot!  Holy crap it’s hot!  And best when washed down with a few of their microbrews.

Fat Teddy’s, Mount Washington: 2.5/5  What can I say?  You get what you pay for, and Fat Teddy’s isn’t exactly gourmet.  It’s a nice place to sit and have an after-ski beer, and these wings fit that bill just fine.  And they got a relatively nice spicy number, though I suspect its just Franks Red.

Longwood Brewpub, Nanaimo: 4.5/5  Runner up to the Craig’s.  Plump and delicious, and the beer-b-q sauce is one of the best I’ve ever had.  It comes in at a close second for one reason only, no spicy flavors!  I need a little kick in my wings.

Lorne Pub, Comox: 1/5  Worst wings I’ve had since moving to the island, possibly ever!  Not only were the wings dry and emaciated, they were over fried and the sauce came on the side!  And it was obviously just a cup of tabasco!  What the hell man!

Spinnakers, Victoria: 3.5/5  Not bad, definitely not bad.  But not exactly stellar given the ostentatious nature of their menu and beer.  The beer-b-q sauce sure is decent enough, and the chicken is neither too plump nor too skinny.  But dang it if I don’t want a spicier flavor on the menu!

Swan’s Brewpub, Victoria: 3/5  Nothing to write home about, but they’re not offensive, /just not very special.  They aren’t very plump, and the sauces, while somewhat creative (beer-b-q flavor is never a bad idea!), don’t put them over the top.

The Black Fin, Comox: 3.5/5  These are a little harder to rank.  Pound for pound, the Fin makes a damn good wing.  They’re plump and the Louisiana sauce is hot, hot, hot!  On the other hand, they don’t always add up to a pound!  Ten bucks is a lot to pay for a mere hand-full.  If they get this squared away, they can expect a better review.

Note: this list has seen been updated due to some changes and one instance of fire. To the Lorne, my humble apologies for criticizing your wings. Had I know Comox’s most historic building was about to burn down, I would have kept my mouth shut and warned you about the impending crisis! Rest In Peace!