As the calendar winds down and we move into a new year, many folks feel the need to create various resolutions. Exercise more, eat healthy, and inevitably some people also include one that fills me with dread… Cutting out alcohol. Instead, I would like to offer an alternative. Drink more, but go for variety instead of quantity. With so many amazing local breweries coming out with new beers every day, it is now a challenge to keep up while drinking pints. By changing from pints to tasters, the benefits roll in pretty quick. Tasters allow you a wide variety of beers without having to down a full pint. And with the smaller sizes, there is more room to try a beer that you otherwise may have passed on. There are a couple of methods to go about sampling smaller glasses, here are two of the best methods.
Many breweries have a consistent theme or style that they work within, either focusing on tropical, hoppy IPAs and Pales, Belgian beers, Sour and Wild ales and many more. By focusing on a smaller variety of beers, they can specialize and really refine their craft. This gives you the opportunity to go our and focus on one of those theme. If you are looking to try a variety of ever changing and small batch brews, try Brassneck, which is always rotating their lineup. Or another favourite, Callister Brewing, where several different brewers operate out of one building (and CAMRA members receive $1 off 20oz pints of non-premium beers!) . This model allows for a much wider diversity of beers, with each brewer having a different focus. All of the local breweries offer flights or tasting paddles. These are typically four tasting glasses, ranging from 4 to 6 ounces each. After you go through the selection, you can pick your favourite and grab a bomber or growler to take home.
Restaurants and Bars
Restaurants and craft beer bars offer up a different option. By serving a variety of breweries products, you can focus on an individual style and try a series of that style by all the local breweries. Zeroing in on one style can highlight the different interpretations of the style. With IPAs for example, one brewery might focus on a maltier sweeter version, or a crisp and dry version, or throw a ton of dry hops at it to boost the aroma.
There are many ways one can look at a classic style to come up with a beer.
One new style that is only recently popping up around Vancouver are Milkshake or Lactose IPAs. These are sweetened by lactose, a non-fermentable milk sugar, and often accompanied with fruit. By trying all of the local versions of this new beer style, you can create a better idea on what it is and which interpretation you prefer.
Another way to drink more (but less) beer is to organize and participate in a bottle share. Get a group of friends together and everyone can bring a bottle to share. Usually bottle shares will have a theme, so maybe a particular style or region or even a vertical series of the same beer. Barley wines are often released in vintages, allowing for them to be cellared and aged. The brewers will often use the same recipe, highlighting the aging process and how it changes the beer over time. One of the most remarkable bottle shares I participated in was a series of barleywines which had each been aged an additional year more than the previous. The newest bottles had a classic vanilla and bourbon character, but the older bottles offered up an amazing coconut notes.
The other benefit of bottle shares is the saving. By sharing these beers you only need to bring one or two bottles along with you, while allowing the opportunity to try an impressive variety. As well as the fact that many of these beers are best shared amongst friends regardless.
So follow up with that New Year’s resolution to drink less if you must, but only in quantity. Seek out new and interesting beers, go to your local breweries, do a brewery crawl or bar hop opt for flights and tasters instead. If you are a home brewer, use it as a means for R&D. And if you aren’t, use this to expand your palate, learn more about the variety of styles out there.
If you want to get out and try a wider variety of beers or even just get some more experience in some of the local craft, come to one of our education classes. Our next class is Craft Beer 101 and will be held at Big Rock Urban Eatery on January 19th. So enjoy the variety of amazing beer our city has to offer.
CAMRA BC – Vancouver Branch