Townsite Brewing Has Arrived!

townsite-logo-Ever since my wife and I landed in Powell River as part of our summer trip last year, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, we were surprised and impressed to find a craft brewing operation in the heart of town that catered to the Sunshine Coast. Not only were they well-situated as an operation, they seemed to know what they were doing when it came to producing quality beers. I can still remember sampling their Pale Ale, Blonde Ale, Porter, and the summer seasonal, a Blackberry Wheat that honored the city’s annual Blackberry Festival.

Unfortunately, I lamented the fact that, at the time, their products were not available on Vancouver Island. With the exception of Comox, which is a short ferry ride away, not a single beer store on the island was known to carry their lineup. Sure, you could find it up and down the Sunshine Coast, in Vancouver, and even parts of Washington State. But not in Victoria or the Southern Island, no sir!

Well, as it turns out, that is no longer the case. A number of private stores (such as Metro and Cascadia Liquor) have begun stocking their full lineup. That includes their Tin Hat IPA, Zunga Blonde Ale, Suncoast Pale, Pow Town Porter, Westview Wheat, and the latest, the YOGN 82 Belgian Triple. And with the exception of a few labels, I can attest to the quality of these beers. I even had a chance to sample some of the latest now that they are available locally. Here’s what I had to try most recently:

Said the Ale Belgian Pale Ale:
townsite_said_the_aleA special release from the Townsite Brewery, this beer has a rather interesting origin story. Apparently, the beer is part of a commitment on behalf of BC brewers to produce beer in honor of various Canadian bands. In this case, the Townsite brewery made this beer in honor of Said The Whale, a Canadian indie rock group that has was recently featured on CBC radio.

Appearance: Deep red/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Distinctive Belgian yeast, mild notes of bitter hops
Taste: Immediate burst of Belgian yeast, rich malts, snap of piney hops
Aftertaste: Quite clean, mild tang, lingering yeasts and mild citrus
Overall: 8.5/10

As a Belgian Pale Ale, this beer combines aspects of the most famous variety of beer to be brewed in the Pacific Northwest and is fermented using a specific strain of Belgian yeast. The result is an interesting brew that boasts a yeasty nose and flavor with the rich malts and sharp, hoppy taste of a pale ale. In keeping with the recent trend of Belgian IPAs, this Belgian Pale Ale is quite refreshing and balanced in terms of flavor and quite appealing to the palate.

YOGN 82 Belgian Triple:
townsite_yogn82Brewed in honor of Cedric, the Townsite Brewer Engineer who hails from Belgium, and “the Hulks” – the concrete ships that make up the town’s breakwater – the YOGN 82 is the brewery’s latest triple-fermented Belgian-style beer. The second in the series, after last year’s Charleston Triple, this beer weighs in at a hefty 9% alc/vol and has all the characteristics a Belgian Tripel is famous for.

This includes a golden blonde hue, a distinct yeasty nose, strong alcohol content, strong malts, and a distinct oaky flavor. And like each Hulk beer, it features a label created by a Powell River artist; this year’s featuring the art of Emma Bell.

Appearance: Dark golden, light cloudiness, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Distinctive Belgian yeast, strong notes of banana, sugars
Taste: Sweet malts and Belgian yeast, burst of banana and citrus fruit and oaky notes
Aftertaste: Sweetness giving way to coarse flavor, slight bitterness and alcohol
Overall: 9.5/10

Overall, I was strongly reminded of La Fin Du Monde, another famous Belgian-style Tripel which also possesses some serious Belgian-yeast flavor, strong malts and an oaky undertone. The difference here is in the level of fruit flavor and sweetness, in that this one possesses a good deal more of it. In addition to some serious sugars, there was also a strong hint of banana that played well with the strong alcohol content, oak and yeastiness of the beer. Might seem a little overpowering to some, but I enjoyed it very much. In fact, it might just be the best Belgian Tripel I have had in recent memory!

In short, not a bad set of additions to their overall lineup. I’m pretty pleased that the brewery is available here in my corner of the world, especially since I learned that they were turning out seasonal and special releases that I had no access to! It’s not like I can pop over to Vancouver every time they release a new beer, you know!

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Townsite Brewing

Hello all, and let me start by saying that it’s good to be back from the brink! After a week of romping around in the bush (aka. The Sunshine Coast Trail), my wife and I had the privilege of retiring to the lovely town of Powell River for a brief stopover before coming back to the Island. While there, we got to sample from a new brewery, one which is (sadly) still unavailable in Victoria or anywhere outside the mainland.

It is known as The Townsite Brewery, an operation which took over the Townsite building of Powell River in recent years and began producing beer by and for the Sunshine Coast. And I can tell you from having kicked around their for the last week or so that the locals are pretty proud of this home-town operation! Just about everywhere we went – pubs, bistros and liquor stores – we saw signs, taps and heard plenty of verbal endorsements in favor of this new beer.

And while in Lund, Powell River, and anywhere in between, my wife and I managed to sample the better part of their lineup and were pretty pleased. We were even fortunate enough to get a hold of a bottle of their first seasonal beer, a blackberry-wheat which is brewed in honor of the Annual Blackberry Festival. And here they are, in the order in which they were sampled, with my humble thoughts…

Tin Hat IPA:
Named in honor of Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast, which in turn is a reference to the town’s own mining heritage, this IPA is aptly named. A sessional IPA (meaning, lower in alcohol content and gravity) this beer is light, dry, and packs a piney hop bite. And like all IPAs, I found it particularly refreshing when sitting in Lund harbor, dealing with the inexorable heat!

Initially bitter, it grew on me as I continued to sip throughout the hot afternoon. As a sessional IPA, one can expect that the malt character will be subdued, bringing out more hop characteristic. In time, I began to enjoy the strong hops combined with the light, drinkable quality, and we began to bond. By the end, we had become friends and I promised to visit again real soon! 8/10

Suncoast Pale Ale:
A true session beer that is has nice amber hue and a smooth, tawny character to match. This beer was introduced to me and my wife while dining at the Boardwalk Restaurant while digging into some burger platters. Nothing like burgers and beer to beef up for a big hike!

Like all good sessions, this beer had a light, semi-sweet malt characteristic that was balanced out by a light dose of hops. The result is a beer that is infinitely drinkable and has a a good, clean finish. Also great for beating the heat and well paired with both seafood and meat dishes, as we learned that night on the boardwalk. 8.5/10

Zunga Blonde Ale:
Coming in next, I believe during our last night before setting out for the Sunshine Coast Trail, was the Zunga Blonde Ale. Again, I felt the brewery hit this one right on the head, creating a beer that was both faithful to the best in brewing traditions while still both being drinkable and accessible.

Like your typical Blondes, this beer is light in color, has a slight cloudiness, and comes on with slightly coarse, syrupy malts and a mildly bitter finish. The name is also a reference to the peculiar word for a rope swing which is indigenous to Powell River. 8/10

Pow Town Porter:
Speaking of words indigenous to Powell River, the name of this Porter is the very name of Powell River itself, as it is known to the locals. It may just be the esoteric appeal that makes this beer a porter, or it may be a historic reference of sorts, not sure…

All I know is, the beer itself was mighty pleasant and delivered in the flavor department. Smelling of rich coffee notes, the taste is somewhere between cocoa and espresso, finishing slightly bitter but still possessing of a smooth, clean quality. In terms of appearance, she is also quite dark, but still manages to be relatively clear. 8.5/10

Blackberry Festivale:
And here we have the brewery’s first seasonal beer, brewed in honor of Powell River’s annual Blackberry Festival. For my money, there are few beers more appropriate than ones which are brewed in honor of local seasonal festivals. And in that respect, the Townsite folks really came through here. We’re talking nailed it in one!

A blackberry-wheat beer (natch) which calls to mind the long and venerated Belgian tradition of brewing witbiers infused with fruit, this beer contains no artificial flavors or colors, just blackberries. In terms of appearance, it is slightly cloudy with a nice dark amber hue and the slightest hints of ruby, indicating the presence of real blackberry fruit.

The taste comes on with a tart kick, reminiscent of genuine fruit beer, but finishes clean and smooth. All of this adds up to a beer which is mighty refreshing on a hot August afternoon, especially when its one of the hottest on record. A supremely appropriate summer ale and a fine addition to any BC beer fridge during this sweltering month! 8/10

Well, that’s all that I managed to get from Townsite this trip. I have yet to sample their Westview Wheat, which is named in honor of the Westview burb of the city. All points in Powell River look west, you see, and look to the Comox Glacier on the Island. And from the descriptions of this beer, I think it might just be my favorite of the lot. Only time will tell…

In the meantime, might I implore the good folks at the brewery, or whatever BC provincial authorities, to see to it to make sure that this beer can be made available it to the Island? You won’t be sorry, I know I won’t 😉