While summer is undoubtedly the most popular time to break out a cold one, craft-beer fans don’t exactly wind things down in the fall. Rather, they switch to brews that better match the chillier days and heartier, more robust dishes that are on the table.
We asked three experts what they’re most excited about drinking this season—and there’s not a pumpkin-flavoured brew in the patch.
“I want to enjoy pumpkin ales, but I’ve yet to find the right one,” said Liam Peyton, manager for the Whistler Village Beer Festival. Interviewed in the mountain town just before the fest’s main tasting event on September 13, he admitted that he’s “not a massive fan” of pumpkin beers. However, he does get into the autumn spirit with Whistler Brewing Company’s Valley Trail Chestnut Ale. “It’s a great fall beer,” he said. “Sweet, nutty, caramelly… It’s the most easy-drinking beer ever.”
Peyton, who represents Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers in the Whistler region, is also looking forward to Deep Cove’s soon-to-be-released Frost Bitten Tea Saison. The beer is a winter version of the brewery’s Sun Kissed Tea Saison Ale, which was made for summer with rooibos tea. The Frost Bitten Tea Saison incorporates a darker malt and more spices for winter, as well as bourbon-soaked oak and a hint of vanilla. According to the brewery, the beer will be available on tap and in 650-millilitre bombers by mid-October.
Ken Beattie, executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, pulls out saisons for Thanksgiving dinner. “Saisons are highly carbonated, and they will cleanse your palate,” he explained at the Whistler festival. That and their spicy, peppery nature makes them a good choice to counterbalance all the fatty goodness of the traditional celebratory meal. Beattie recommends Cannery Brewing’s Red Dawn Saison and Driftwood Brewery’s Farmhand Saison.
This time of year, Beattie also tries to get his hands on late-harvest wet-hopped brews, which he compares to Beaujolais Nouveau wines for their rush between harvest and consumption. “Wet-hopped means they pick them [the hops] right off the bine: they don’t dry them or pelletize them,” he explained. One such example is Driftwood’s Sartori Harvest IPA, for which fresh, wet Centennial hops are rushed from the Sartori Cedar Ranch near Chilliwack to the brewery in Victoria. This year’s batch was released on September 22 and is being snapped up at Vancouver liquor stores: the limited supply will likely sell out during the first week of October. Hoyne Brewing’s Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale is also in hot demand.
The beer that Beattie is most excited about this fall, however, is the first beer ever produced by the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, which hits B.C. Liquor Stores this Friday (October 3). Called Maiden Voyage, it’s selling under the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild brand and was produced as a collaboration between Four Winds Brewing Co. and Central City Brewers & Distillers. The idea was to pair a smaller-capacity brewery that wouldn’t have been able to produce the beer on its own with a larger-capacity brewery. “It’s a cedar-aged extra pale ale,” Beattie said. “The cedar gives a real spiciness to it.”
Cicerone Lundy Dale is also looking forward to drinking Maiden Voyage, which she’s hoping to tap casks of at events throughout B.C. Craft Beer Month. Dale is the founder and director of October’s ode to B.C. craft beer, and she’ll be tasting plenty of beers in the coming weeks. In general, she said she moves on to richer, fuller beers this time of year, and she named Lighthouse Brewing Company’s Desolation Imperial Oyster Stout as a favourite.
“I definitely don’t do pumpkin,” she said emphatically. But while she doesn’t like to drink it, she does add pumpkin beer to her sweet pumpkin bread. “I use a lot of beer in bread,” she said. For example, she puts R&B’s Red Devil Pale Ale into her Cheddar cheese bread, which adds a hoppy bitterness. “It’s great for grilled cheese sandwiches,” she noted.
Dale works for R&B Brewing, and she’s enthusiastic about the latest release in R&B’s Chef series, in which the brewer collaborates with a local chef to create a beer meant to be served with food. Wild Spruce Tip Pale Ale was created in conjunction with Brian Skinner, who until recently was chef at the Acorn restaurant. It’s a sessionable ale made with spruce tips (that’s right, the tips of spruce branches) that were collected in the spring. Dale said the beer “has a hint of forest”, unlike some other spruce-tip beers she’s tried that “are almost like having a mouthful of forest”. (You can find it in private liquor stores as well as on tap at the Acorn.)
At least 30 B.C. breweries will be bringing their fall best to the B.C. Beer Awards, which will be handed out at the Croatian Cultural Centre on October 25. Dale said the winners in the professionally judged categories will be announced at the start of the event and that tastings will follow. Tickets sell out every year, usually by mid-October, so those interested should buy them soon. Other Vancouver events that are part of B.C. Craft Beer Month include brewmaster’s dinners and cask events. For info and tickets, see craftbeermonth.ca/.