Before I get started on the focus of today’s write-up, I wanted to highlight a few things that will be coming up. First, I’ve heard word that more Surly is going to be coming to Manitoba near the end of August and beginning of September. There are also rumours that we might see their highly sought after Russian imperial stout, Darkness, come to Manitoba. For more on Surly, check out my write-up here.
I also want to mention that Half Pints recently celebrated their 11th anniversary. I want to give a shout out and huge congrats to all the folks there past and present. You’re all amazing people and you make amazing beer. Another anniversary is coming up soon as well. On August 26th torque will be releasing their anniversary beer “Inception” a Belgian saison aged in French oak barrels. So, add that to the calendar.
Finally, both TransCanada and Stone Angel are ramping up and getting ready to go. I expect we will hear more from them soon with Oxus not far behind (making their debut at Brew at the Zoo). Exciting times folks, exciting times.
I’m excited about today’s write-up because it involves not only reviewing a beer but also a “Get to know a brewer”. I received another beer from Granville Island, their BC Bitter, and had the opportunity to ask their brewmaster, Kevin Emms, about himself and about the beer.
*Note – I did receive this beer for free*
I wrote about Granville Island in more detail when I first reviewed their Gose. You can read about them more here. To begin I’d like to focus on Kevin Emms a bit. Kevin came to Granville Island in 2015 following the departure of founding brewmaster Vern Lambourne. Kevin had always had these dreams of becoming a famous musician and using his millions to start a brewery. When the millions didn’t come, he decided that he would make the other half come true and pursue professional brewing.
I’m always interested in what it is that gets people into brewing beer. For me it is about the creativity and being able to try things that someone else might think is weird. For Kevin, it was the intersection between art and science. Being able to use science in the brewing process to create liquid works of art. This is something that I’ve heard from a lot of brewers.
Kevin has a MSc in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland and has worked as brewmaster at Coal Harbour Brewing Company and Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers. He’s a big music fan and is still a dedicated musician. He plays drums in an indie band and in a couple of metal bands. He makes records, plays in shows and brews beer. Sounds sweet. Kevin’s favorite style of beer to brew and drink is a German Pilsner. The first beer he had a chance to drink when he was younger was Bitburger Pils and he’s been hooked ever since.
Kevin also has pretty free reign over his brewery and has been given the opportunity to brew styles he is interested in making. They brew 20 unique brews a year and at this point he says he’s crossed off most of the beers on his bucket list.
Onto the beer. For this small-batch series, Kevin has brewed a traditional English bitter using local ingredients to put a BC spin on it. He was inspired to brew this beer from his personal experience. When he was 15 his family moved to London and some of his first experiences drinking in pubs was in England and often drinking bitters.
The BC Bitter is essentially an English style bitter characterized by being flavourful and refreshing and bringing some moderate hop bitterness with a light body and lower carbonation. This is a BC take on a traditional style of beer from England and uses pacific northwest hops to give a bit of that BC influence to the beer. It is slightly stronger alcohol content than an English bitter and uses barley malted in BC as well as organic hops grown in Lillooet.
Kevin describes this beer as being characterized by a delicious, top quality malt flavour that compliments the bitterness and aroma of the hops. Balance and sessionability are crucial in this style and Kevin sees that as being a critical piece. Kevin aimed to give the malt as much respect as the hops. He was looking for a clean estery ferment that was hopped appropriately.
ABV – 5.5%
Appearance – Pours a slightly hazy, medium copper colour with a puffy foamy off-white head.
Smell – Definite hop notes, some piney and resinous, good doughy malt notes as well.
Taste – Nice doughy caramel malt notes and an earthy characteristic. There are some subtle citrus notes and a resinous hoppiness.
Mouth Feel – Carbonation is higher than expected, medium bodied, with a bit of a piney bitterness note to it. Finishes semi-dry with good notes of bitterness and grainy malt.
Overall Thoughts – Hard for me to place this one exactly but I felt that it brought both a hop character and a doughy caramel character. There was good balance between the two which was nice. Overall I think the use of BC ingredients brought a challenge in placing this beer to style.
Do I like it? – I did like it. The hop character was quite nice for only 32 IBU and brought some good aroma. For me, it is a beer that I could have a couple of with food but not something I’d be clamouring over.
Thanks for following along. I hope you enjoyed this write-up. As always I encourage you to get out and try new beers. This one is currently on the shelves at the Liquor marts.
Hopefully I’ll run into some folks at the Winnipeg Craft Beer Festival this weekend (August 19th) I’ll be tweeting and instagraming @beerwinnipeg so follow along. If you are coming, be sure to look for me and say “Hi”.
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