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Maybe I am showing my age, but when I hear whispers of “Mango…,” a part of my brain leaps to the SNL character played by Chris Kattan, the running gag being that the ambiguous character was irresistible to virtually everyone. The rest of my brain is simply saying “Eww,” because mango is not a fruit I enjoy.
So when every other cask at this year’s Great Candadian Beer Festival turned out to be mango-something-or-other, I started rolling my eyes at the flavour-of-the-hour. Not that it mattered, there were plenty of beers to try that had no trace of mango!
I’ve been to enough GCBFs now that I’ve tried a lot of the standard offerings — some breweries never seem to change up what is on tap — and I was looking for new and different. Aside from mango, sours were the popular brew this year (though often the two were combined). I attended with my two partners this year so, as a team, we would sometimes get three different brews from a booth and taste each of them. As a result of this plus some rather haphazard note-taking this year, my tasting notes aren’t as robust or orderly… but here are the overall results by brewery:
Axe and Barrel [Westshore]: I tried the Raspberry Sour. Nice colour and fruity scent and not nearly as pungent as some of the other sours I tasted. I could finish a full pint.
Brasserie Dunham [Dunham PQ]: The only brew I couldn’t come close to finishing was their Saison Cassis. More sour than most of the sours and with an overwhelming cough syrup aftertaste I couldn’t pawn this one off on either companion so it got dumped into the Royal Athletic Park grounds.
Bridge [North Vancouver]: Filled my glass with the Lemon Gin Saison which was a nice blend, the flavours played together well, but it was not a brew I’d ever order again. I also had a sip of the Blood Orange Wheat Ale and pulled a bitter beer face — the wheatiness was too pronounced for my palate.
Crannog Ales [Sorrento BC]: I tasted three of their offerings and all are recommendable! I filled my glass with The Other Hand Whiskey Ale which was tart but very smooth and I tasted the Backhand of God Stout which had rich chocolate and coffee notes — either of these I would be able to drink by the pint quite happily. The other one I tasted was their cask offering, Gael’s Blood Potato Ale, a red ale that was not quite to my taste as a red ale but I’d recommend it to others.
Driftwood [Victoria]: I tried the Latus Flanders Red a hearty deep sour, well balanced by the oak barrel aging.
Fernie Brewing [Fernie BC]: I was lured in by the promise of maple in their Sap Sucker Maple Porter which was a perfectly passable dark beer but I couldn’t detect either a note or aroma of maple. Disappointing and remarkably average.
Fuggles and Warlock [Richmond BC]: my very fave beer from this year’s festival was their The Last Strawberry Wit, a Belgian Wit with pureed strawberries and honey. Reminiscent of the best strawberry lemonade, the pale pink brew was the only one I would have had seconds if there were time. Long line was totally worth it. They also had on tap one of the best dark beers I tasted this year, Bean Me Up Espresso which has an amazing dark roast flavour thanks to Salt Spring Island coffee.
Granville Island Brewing [Vancouver]: Their cask this year was a Berliner Weisse, a light wheat ale which I tasted with a blackberry syrup added. Very pleasant, fruity and light; I could definitely drink a whole pint of that one.
Hoyne Brewing [Victoria] — my local fave: I ended the night with a glass of Dark Matter which is my go-to dark beer of choice year-round and a fitting way to toast the end of the festival for me this year.
Lighthouse Brewing [Esquimalt]: On offer was something I was very curious to try and happy that I did, a Coffee Lager. Normally, coffee pairs well with darker beers — stouts or porters — so I was curious what the effect would be in a lager. Well, if you consider Starbucks Blonde Roast or the ubiquitous Timmies, then this all makes sense. One sip and I was convinced: if Tim Hortons sold beer, it would taste like this. While it would never be my first pick for a coffee beer, I happily emptied my glass and I wouldn’t turn down a full pint. They also had the most beautiful painted kegs on display!
Philips Brewing [Victoria]: I tasted the beer one of my companions was brave enough to try, their cask was an Altbier with cardamom and cinnamon and while it smelled amazing, the taste left a lot to be desired. No chance I was filling even a 4 oz glass with that one.
Postmark [Vancouver]: another fruity beer here, this time a Raspberry Ale which smelled far stronger than it tasted. Overall average, I wouldn’t turn it down but wouldn’t order it myself.
Powell Street [Vancouver]: I adopted my companion’s choice of the Dry Hopped Sour, which was a peach sour. She couldn’t finish it, but I rather enjoyed the almost cloying canned-peach flavour that balanced the sourness of the underlying brew.
Ravens [Abbotsford]: I eagerly filled my glass with the English Dark Mild which promised toffee and hazelnut aromas in an earthy and hardy brew. Alas, with each sip the beer tasted progressively more bitter to me and by the time I got to the bottom of my glass I was definitely ready for something to clean my palate.
Steel & Oak [New Westminster]: I grabbed the Smoked Hefeweizen which was light and smoky and while I probably wouldn’t have picked out the banana note without the write-up in the guide it was definitely recognizable. I’d buy a bottle to enjoy as a nice summer evening beer.
Swans [Victoria]: having tried the Coconut Porter from Maui, I was curious about Swans’ take on that. It was good, not nearly as rich as the Maui version but, as my companion said, “The coconuts are probably a lot fresher in Hawaii.” Too true. I was content with the sip I had.
Twa Dogs [Victoria]: The Brewery arm of the new Victoria Caledonia Brewery and Distillery takes their brew inspiration from Robbie Burns. I selected the Holy Willie Porter which was a very nice, smooth, dark brew. Would happily drink a pint of that wherever it’s pouring.
Yellow Dog [Port Moody]: only a sip here of the Ginger Lime Gose cask. It was OK but happy I didn’t bother to fill a glass. (Sidebar: their webpage is still Coming Soon — since 2014 — and instead they are relying on a Facebook page. Hey if you need a website, I know someone who can help… )
PHEW! So that’s all of it. I went through 14 tokens (4 leftover from last year plus 10 I bought this year) and while I adopted one glass, I also dumped a glass but that is still just shy of 60 oz of beer! Already looking forward to next September.
Here are some of the tracks I would like to have on my bomb-shelter mix tape/mp3 player/subdermal implant; these are all songs that I can listen to on repeat (and have) and most of them I sing along to as well. I didn’t really delve into the dance party tracks; I focused more on songs that tell a story.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to those who know me that the theme here is dark & twisted with a side of destruction…
2. Criminal Mind by Gowan “… ask one who knows me, if I’m really so bad…. I AM.” Another one from my youth that I listened to endlessly. Larry Gowan has been touring with Styx the past few years but he is an amazing pianist and performer in his own right.
3. Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones “I shouted out /Who killed the Kennedys?
/When after all / It was you and me” Is it the history references? Or the fact that it is a happy song about the Devli? I dunno but I love this song.
4. Tangled up in Blue by Bob Dylan “Then she opened up a book of poems/And handed it to me/Written by an Italian poet/From the thirteenth century/And every one of them words rang true/And glowed like burning coal/Pouring off of every page/Like it was written in my soul from me to you/Tangled up in blue” As difficult as it is to choose a favourite Dylan song, this is probably it. I come back to it all the time because of that stanza.
5. It’s All Over by Insane Clown Posse “….me, I climb the roof of my house, spread my arms out, and sing/ It’s all over, here we go, here we go… ” Honestly, I love so many ICP songs but this one appeals to my dark apocalyptic side — I always used to say that if there was a nuclear war, I’d wanna stand outside, arms spread and welcome it (I wanted no part in the aftermath) — so what better song to have on a bomb-shelter mix?
6. Experiment IV by Kate Bush “They told us all they wanted/Was a sound that could kill someone from a distance…” this song gives me goosebumps every time (and if you’ve never seen the video, please do yourself a favour — it is from the golden age of video in the 80s where everything was a mini movie).
As creepy as this song is, it is not the saddest song I know. That would be Slow Car Crash by Headphones which makes me cry every time I listen so it is NOT going on the bomb-shelter mix.
7. An Open Letter to NYC by the Beastie Boys “Dear New York I hope you’re doing well/I know a lot’s happened and you’ve been through hell” this song might not be one of their chart-toppers but it is incredibly authentic and heartfelt. It is a love letter to their city, written after 9/11, and it radiates resilience and hope.
8. Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie “Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom’s a junkie/strung out in heaven’s high, hitting an all time low.” I love Space Oddity (and for that matter, Major Tom by Peter Schilling) but I appreciate this panic-attack-in-space peek-behind-the-curtain perspective.
9 The Rake’s Song by The Decemberists “What can one do when one is widower/Shamefully saddled with three little pests/All that I wanted was the freedom of a new life/So my burden I began to divest” — honestly this song is so damned dark, I adore it. The Mariner’s Revenge is what made me fall in love with the creepy-assed storytelling of this twee band but The Rake’s Song gets a lot of airplay when I need to blow off steam.
10. All These Things That I’ve Done by the Killers “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” — honestly I loved this song from the first I heard it but then it showed up in a drug-trip sequence lip synched by Justin Timberlake in Southland Tales (one of my favourite movies) and that is the scene that comes to mind whenever I hear it now.
Nearly made the list — the next 10:
- Under Pressure by Queen with Bowie ( I also love the Annie Lennox/Bowie version.)
- Last Friday Night (TGIF) by Katy Perry (trust me, it fits with the destruction theme)
- It’s a Sin by Pet Shop Boys (self explanatory I should think)
- Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (this is my Cold War childhood… )
- Tentacles by Rah Rah (there are trolls everywhere… )
- Woman in the Wall by the Beautiful South (creepy song is creepy)
- Spidermother by Baterz (it’s worse than I feared, it’s gone way beyond weird…)
- Blow me (one last kiss) by P!nk (I’ve had a shit day, you’ve had a shit day… )
- Enter Sandman by Metallica (Sleep with one eye open/Gripping your pillow tight)
- 99 Problems/Points of Authority by JayZ and LinkinPark (love this mashup)
I know there are many, many more that I missed but these are some of the songs that are nearly always close by (on CD, YouTube or uploaded in my phone).