New beergeek.TV Episode – British Columbia Eh

Alta Lake at Whistler

British Columbia Eh” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

Though we had visited British Columbia a number of times, we took the opportunity of a niece’s wedding to explore the province’s growing beer culture. During our trip, we traveled from Vancouver Island, up to Whistler, finishing in Vancouver. We experienced as much of the beer scene as possible in a quick week.

So enjoy our beer adventures north of the border…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

Wandering Around Victoria

With its concentration of breweries and easy walk-ability, Victoria screamed out for an Urban Beer Hike. I even had one envisioned in my head, a circular route that hit all the new breweries plus some old favorites in the British Columbia capital. But, prior to our trip, I was too immersed in working on promoting Merideth’s book to get one properly organized and planned. Our one full day in Victoria morphed into more of an Urban Beer Wander.

Blue skies over Victoria…

In contrast to the previous day, the weather on Saturday in Victoria was a bit more encouraging for a walk. Clouds were breaking up mid morning as Merideth and I left Spinnakers, our brewery-hotel, for the short walk to the Inner Harbor. By the time we reached the center of town, both Merideth and I had our fleeces off.

After doing a Clark Griswold on the downtown tourist sights, Merideth and I headed up Government Street to the industrial part of town. The blocks around Government and Bay Streets have become Victoria’s ‘brewery gulch’, the location for most of the new breweries in town.

Been there, done that

Our first beer stop was Vancouver Island Brewing. To illustrate my distracted state prior to our trip, I had the island’s oldest craft brewery on our target list despite having already visited the brewery on our last visit to Victoria in 2001. Even though we’d already been there, nothing looked familiar to me or Merideth. I certainly hope a remodel was the explanation.

In the end, a few beer samples can’t hurt, even if the brewery was already on The List. Hermann’s Dark and the seasonal Hefeweizen Beachcomber Summer Ale were pleasant starts to the beer portion of the day.

The one brewpub in the industrial part of town

We continued walking up Government and hung a left on Bay to reach our second destination, Moon Under Water, a brewery that did count on The List. The name comes from a George Orwell essay of the same title where he describes Moon Under Water, his fictitious ideal pub.

The sample flight at Moon Under Water

Not quite sure of how many more stops there would be on the day, Merideth and I only split the six beer sampler. In a rare moment, we agreed on the our favorites of the lot, Moonlight Blonde, Lunar Pale Ale and the seasonal Stout. The overall star for me was the 4.2% ABV Blonde ale. Made with a bit of wheat and hopped with Saaz, the brew had a really nice bite to accompany its light body.

Certainly is…

From Moon Under Water, it was only a short walk around the corner to Hoyne Brewing on Bridge St. To illustrate that this neighborhood is brewery gulch, Driftwood Brewing was located next door. But unfortunately, it is not currently open to the public.

Located in a blue-roofed industrial building on the corner, Hoyne has been only open since December. For being such a newcomer, they have already developed quite a following as evidenced by the steady stream of customers coming it to fill growlers.

Sampling at Hoyne Brewing

We sampled five beers, all quite nice especially given the youth of the brewery. Starting on the lighter end with Summer Haze Honey Hefe and Hoyner Pilsner, we moved on to Merideth’s favorite, Dark Matter. Technically classified a Brown Ale, Dark Matter had a wonderful nutty and roast character. Moving on to my end of the spectrum, we finished with Down Easy Pale Ale and Devil’s Dream IPA. Both were excellent, though I preferred the Pale Ale.

Phillips Brewing

Returning back the way we came, Merideth and I headed back down Government Street to our third and last new brewery of the day, Phillips Brewing. Just like Hoyne, but even more so, Phillips enjoyed a very steady stream of growler-fill customers. We grabbed a corner of the tasting bar, trying to stay out of the way, while we worked our way through the Phillips lineup.

Merideth enjoying herself at Phillips Brewing

We sampled numerous brews beginning with the light-bodied Phoenix Gold. An early highlight was Service 1904 Scotch Ale, a 5% ABV stone-fired beer with a flavorful caramel malt profile. Hop Circle IPA not only was a great hop-pun, but a well-crafted hopbomb. Longboat Chocolate Porter was a favorite of both Merideth and I. It’s deep chocolate flavor cried out for a big bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Sample flight at Canoe Club

Once back in the center part of Victoria, we headed to Canoe Brewpub. Though we had been there before, Merideth and I had visions of playing scrabble in the sunshine overlooking the water on the brewpub’s patio. Grabbing the only available outside table, Merideth and I dove into the six beer sample tray.

Then the weather turned for the worse. The wind picked up, dark clouds rolled in and the sunshine was gone. The wind was so strong it even picked up an open umbrella from the table next to us and hurled it over the glass wall onto a walkway. By the time we decided to pack it in, the rain had started to fall.

Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA at Garrick’s Head Pub

Trying to wait out the rain, Merideth and I next went to Garrick’s Head Pub in Bastion Square. A Victoria fixture since 1867, Garrick’s Head came recommended by several people for being a good place to find local craft beer. I took the opportunity to try Driftwood Brewing Fat Tug IPA. At 7% ABV and 80 IBU, it was very West Coast style and one of my favorite beers I drank in Victoria. It definitely made we wish they had a tasting room to try the rest of their offerings.

A bit breezy…

As Merideth and I enjoyed our beers at Garrick’s Head, we examined every entering customer to see how wet their jackets were. With a 20-minute walk back to Spinnakers still ahead, we were hoping to minimize how wet we got. Finishing our pints, we decided the rain had sufficiently let up. It was a pleasant, if breezy, walk back to Spinnakers.

Our reward for a good day of beer travel

After two visits to the British Columbia capital, Spinnakers, for us, remains the cream of the crop of the Victoria beer scene.The beer was world-class and the farm to table food quite delicious.

Though I was wanting the long-gone cask Cascadia Ale that I had enjoyed the previous day, Spinnakers India Session Ale was the perfect choice after a day of drinking beer. We finished our Urban Beer Wander with a nice dinner, our evening culminating with a Chocolate Truffle and Beer Pairing. It’s one of the perks of staying in their hotel.

Our day in Victoria wasn’t that organized, but despite that, we discovered again that it’s a great beer town. Next visit, I will be better prepared with a properly planned Urban Beer Hike.

View all of the Victoria images…

New beergeek.TV Episode – Oz Beer Adventure, Part I

There’s more than good beer in Australia

Oz Beer Adventure, Part I” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

In the first of three episodes from our two week Australian beer adventure, we quickly explore the area around Victoria’s capital. Beginning in Melbourne, we completed a loop in four days around Port Phillip Bay, finishing up back in Melbourne for an Urban Beer Hike.

So enjoy our latest beer adventures in Australia…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

Port Phillip Bay Beer Loop – Part 2

On our first trip to Australia, we made a day trip down to the Mornington Peninsula from Melbourne. Long the playground for Melburnians, we loved Mornington’s laid back atmosphere and rural charm. We barely scratched the surface of the area’s offerings during the first trip, so this time we made a point of staying over the weekend.

Disembarking from the ferry at Sorrento,  we headed up the Peninsula along a coastal road. Despite the sporadic showers, the beaches were crowded with weekenders insisting on a day playing in the sand.

Merideth at Hix Beer

Hickinbotham of Dromana was our second winery/brewery combo stop of the day. Pulling into their parking field, Merideth and I were taken aback by the number of cars. We joked about drinking the Hix beers, as they’re called, amongst hordes of heathen wine snobs.

Hix beer

Unlike other winery/brewery locations we have been to, Hix had a rustic feel to it. Grabbing the only two available seats at their tiny bar, we were relieved to see others around us drinking beer. Merideth and I ordered one of their five beer sample paddles.

It didn’t take us long to notice that we had placed ourselves between two hen parties. The one in the barrel room to our left all wore crazy wigs. The other, outside on the patio, wasn’t dressed as crazy but they certainly seemed more tipsy. We couldn’t figure out whether the guy in the lederhosen was a male stripper or just out for a Saturday afternoon at a winery. We decided this could be the most interesting stop of the day.

The lineup of Hix beer

Hix burst on the Aussie beer scene last year by winning a gold medal for their Pale Ale the first time they entered the Australian International Beer Awards. There were four standard brews in the Hix lineup, Pilsner, Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Stout. Augmenting these four was a light-bodied Summer Ale. The two standouts for me were the Pilsner and award-winning Pale Ale.

Thankfully, the dude in the lederhosen never took off his clothes.

In the 'industrial' part of town...

After checking into our hotel in the town of Mornington, we walked to our final stop of the day, Mornington Peninsula Brewery. After two straight winery/brewery stops, Mornington was much more familiar setting to us — an industrial space.

The tasting room seen from the loft

We walked into the beer garden already filled with locals out on a Saturday night. Inside large roll up doors, there was a spacious tasting room and bar. Above the brew kit was a loft with a few tables and some comfy sofas. Since a birthday party dominated the few inside tables, Merideth and I set up shop in the beer garden. (Until it started raining, then we moved to the loft)

The randall at Mornington Peninsula Brewery

There were four beers on the sample paddle: a Belgian-style Wit, Aussie Ale, a brew made with all Australian ingredients, Pale Ale and Brown. The Brown Ale, with a delightful roast and nuttiness, might have been the best beer of the sample paddle.

While we played a game of Scrabble, Merideth enjoyed the Wit poured through their randall filled with oranges. I went with the Double IPA, a beer not served with the paddle. I haven’t had too many Australia DIPAs but Mornington’s was the best so far.

The lighthouse at Cape Schanck

One of the draws to coming back to the Mornington Peninsula was to seek out its natural beauty. Sunday morning, we drove to the end of the Peninsula, exploring Mornington Peninsula National Park. Beginning at Cape Schanck, we walked the rocky beaches around its lighthouse. As we climbed over rocks and gazed into tide pools, we listened intently for the bark of the Fairy Penguins. No barking sounds, all we could hear was the crash of the waves and the howling of the wind. The scenery was nothing sort of spectacular.

I feel like I am being watched...

After the beach, we moved inland searching for the elusive Koala. Instead, we found a kangaroo viewing track. Reaching the end of the trail, we could see the mob about 100 yards away in a clearing of the low brush. As we looked at this group, we started noticing heads popping up in the brush much closer to us. The kangaroos didn’t look especially happy about our presence, but we never felt threatened. We slowly withdrew from the area, wondering about what the defensive maneuver was for a kangaroo attack.

View all the Mornington National Park images

One of our favorite stops in Australia

There is something special about Red Hill Brewery, the only repeat stop from our first trip to Australia. It’s rural setting, relaxing patio dining, great beer and food drew us back for a second visit. Arriving early afternoon, it was a perfect stop for lunch after a morning of hiking.

Stoemp Cakes and Pork Scratchings

Being familiar with their brews, Merideth and I stuck with with their Golden Ale and Wheat Beer, probably my favorite example of a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen Down Under. The beer is fantastic, but we also knew that the food was top notch.

Local Mussels in a Beer Broth

We started with the Stoemp Cakes (deep-fried mashed potato balls) and Pork Scratchings. The chicarrones were excellent. They had the crispiness of corn chips rather than the melt-in-your-mouth type that we have had before. While Merideth went with the Pork Belly for her main course, I chose the local Mussels in a Beer Broth. The mussels were wonderfully briny, but I think the best part of my meal was dipping the peasant grain bread in the broth. We finished the incredible meal by sharing some Panna Cotta.

It was a great second visit to Red Hill Brewery, capping off a wonderful day on the Mornington Peninsula. Thanks to Karen for taking time to chat with us… and thanks for the beers!

View all the Mornington Peninsula images…


Entering an Aussie Craft Beer Void

It was time to leave Melbourne for our trek up the Princes Highway back to Sydney. The Princes Highway winds its way along the coast and we were taking five days to traverse its length. While we had a brewery visit on Day 1 and Day 5 of this drive, there was nothing in between. Despite this being the hiking and nature portion of the trip, we were positive we would find more craft beer along the journey.

The world’s tallest tree was cut down in 1884

Exiting the the Princes Highway on our way to Mirboo North, we were treated to a bit of Australian ‘history’. Driving down a country road, we came across the sign that said “Site of World’s Tallest Tree 1km”. My skeptic alarm rang; there were a lot of trees around but nothing that looked like the ‘world’s tallest’. I made the left turn. Finding the site, there was no tree; only two markers and a not-so-tall metal poll with ‘the world’s tallest tree’ at the top. Turns out the tree was cut down in 1884. Once down, it was measured at 375 feet (114 meters). Clearly no “Dog on a Tucker Box”, we hopped back in our car and continued our journey to Mirboo North.

The big beer out front…

Mirboo North was the home of Grand Ridge Brewery. Once in town, Merideth spotted the big beer that marks its location. It was a bit past 11am, Grand Ridge’s opening time.

Walking in the open door, the only person I could see was the cleaning guy. Shutting off his vacuum when he spotted me, I inquired whether they were open. He said he didn’t know but he thought we could come in. Grabbing Merideth, who was waiting the car, we found some seats at the bar.

There must be a lot of burlwood in region (maybe the locals are still making stuff out of the world’s tallest tree). While we waited for a bartender, we checked out the burlwood bar stools and tables. The stools were really cool, though not very functional. My stool was not made for my butt size and on several occasions, I overshot the landing.

Yarra Valley Gold…

When a bartender appeared, we ordered a sample paddle. Grand Ridge’s paddle was a six beer set. All were well crafted, with the standouts being Gippsland Gold and Yarra Valley Gold. “Gippy” was a Australian Pale brewed with both Tasmanian and New Zealand hops. Yarra Valley gold was billed as a ‘bottle aged real ale’ though our sample was draft. Brewed with Cascade hops, Yarra Valley, like Gippy, had a nice balance of malt and hops.

Two beers we didn’t get to try were both Scotch Ales; Moonshine and it’s grandfather Supershine. Supershine, maybe Australia’s strongest beer at 11.5% ABV, has a two year waiting list we were told.

After lunch at Grand Ridge, we moved on, entering an Aussie craft beer void. For the next three days on the road, we kept our eyes peeled for a craft beer place. I never really expected to find a brewery but running across “Aussie Bob’s Craft Beer Bar” (and exclaiming “Crikey!”) was something I did anticipate at some point. It didn’t happen. We would later learn that Mogo Cellars, an off license in Mogo, NSW, has a good selection of Australian craft beer.

Views like this made up for a lack of craft beer

But the scenery of the coast was ample compensation. Spending our days hiking hills and walking beaches, and our evenings drinking our stash of Australian craft beer was the stuff dream vacations are made off. Of particular note were our hikes at Wilson’s Prom, Cape Conran and Genoa Peak and our beach walks at Pebbly Beach and Jervis Bay.

Lawn bowling was the perfect occasion to try Carlton Draught

I also found some time to do some “research.” Wanting to know the complete world of the Australian beer drinker, I thought it was important to try some of the macrobrews. Earlier on the trip in Canberra, I drank Victoria Bitter (VB). At dinner on the second night in the void, I tried a bottle of  XXXX Bitter and Toohey’s Old. And the night we  lawn bowled (which is HUGE in Australia; each town has its own club), we each had a pot of  Carlton Draught. In doing this, I learned to appreciate Australian craft beer that much more.

We survived our exile and on the fifth day we returned to a world with craft beer.

Jervis Bay