When it comes to consuming beer, there are a few wildly divergent schools of thought. Most North Americans will drink anything from anywhere as long as it’s at a temperature just shy of freezing. Some would argue that beer was meant to be consumed at “cellar temperature”, which is between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius. A certain Georgia Straight staffer who shall remain nameless maintains that this approximates the experience of quaffing yak piss. More enlightened folks—like the ones who run ratebeer.com—know that different beers are at their best when sipped at a variety of temperatures, from very cold (any cheap American swill you don’t actually want to taste) to cellar temperature (bitters and IPAs) to, yes, even hot (spiced winter ales).
You know who likes to drink? Musicians, that’s who. With that in mind, we rounded up a few of the artists playing this year’s Squamish Valley Music Festival and asked them to tell us about their favourite brews. Being nosy, we also wanted to know how they like their beer: ice-cold or yak-piss-warm. By which we mean “cellar temperature”.
Steve Bays is currently immersed in the world of Mounties, whose debut album, Thrash Rock Legacy, is one of the great records of the year. (Hands up if you’ve been playing “Tokyo Summer” six times a day every day of this summer.) You might also know him as a member of Fur Trade and Hot Hot Heat, as a respected producer, and, of course, for having the best head of hair in Vancouver.
If you’re buying, I’m drinking: “My favourite beer right now is Orange Creamsicle from Storm Brewery. It’s not overly sweet, just a really smooth summer beer with a subtle flavour poking its head out to say, ‘Hey, you’re not an alcoholic if you buy your neighbourhood brewery’s most expensive niche brew.’ ”
Ice-cold or cellar temperature? “On paper, I’d say I prefer beer as cold as possible, but the fridge I stupidly bought off Craigslist for my studio barely works, and so I’ve gotten used to drinking beer at room temperature and I’ve acquired quite a taste for it. It’s also downstairs, and I’m too lazy to go back and forth all the time. So that growler gets mighty warm by the end!”
Matt Rose plays guitar for the Matinée, whose north-of-the-border take on Americana is a thing of whisky-cured, roots-rocking beauty.
If you’re buying, I’m drinking: “I can only choose one? I would have to give the nod to the fine folks at Steamwhistle. It’s the perfect pilsner, and goes down well in any situation. Plus, they’re incredibly supportive in the Canadian independent-music scene. Do yourself a favour when you’re in Toronto next time and take a free tour of the brewery. Just don’t plan on driving afterwards.”
Ice-cold or cellar temperature? “Ice-cold, to the point where it’s just starting to freeze. That said, if warm is all you’ve got, then you won’t hear me complaining.”
Neu Mannas sings and plays guitar and organ for blues deconstructionists Head of the Herd, a band cofounded with guitarist Clayton Frank during a road trip to Boise, Idaho, that left countless whiskey-hazed memories. Watch for the band’s new album, By This Time Tomorrow.
If you’re buying, I’m drinking: “I generally say I model my life after Jimmy McNulty from The Wire. He’s the single-handed reason my brothers and I drank Jameson and Budweiser exclusively for a decade. But today, I’ve got to go against him. The launch of original Coors in Canada has turned my whole year around. I used to head to the States mainly to buy that and bring it home. Now, though, it’s on our rider and gets us good and ready to fall over on-stage.”
Ice-cold or cellar temperature? “Got to be cold, but not so cold you can’t knock it back at a moment’s notice. In Head of the Herd, we’ve got a game called ‘chugging in someone’s face’. Basically, grab your bandmate by the collar out of nowhere and start chugging directly in their face. At that point, the race is on. Clay’s also got a technique called the West Coast Shotgun. It’s similar to regular shotgunning, but a live crab pierces the can. It’s petrifying, and beer too cold can’t work.”
Felix Cartal is signed to Dim Mak Records, which means he gets to hang out with Steve Aoki and other people who cooler than we could ever hope to be. Not only will the electro-house producer and DJ’s Squamish set make you dance, it might even coax the Sasquatches out of the forest to shake their shaggy asses.
If you’re buying, I’m drinking: “Sapporo. It’s been a personal fave for a while now. The tall cans are also indestructible and make great hockey pucks.”
Ice-cold or cellar temperature? “It has to be ice-cold, preferably from one of the samurai-sword draft taps. Serve it at the maximum allowable coldness before freezing.”
Zachary Gray is the singing and guitar-playing half of the Zolas. (Tom Dobrzanski is the piano-playing half.) The band has been feverishly working on a follow-up to its 2012 smart-pop masterpiece, Ancient Mars. Gray admits he’s not a beer guy, but still played along.
If you’re buying, I’m drinking: “I just wrote a long paragraph about how I haven’t inherited whatever gene makes you care about beer but then just remembered the answer is Phillips Chocolate Porter, actually. I like it because I have the palate of a ninth-grader, so the subtle chocolate undertones of most porters go right over my head. There’s nothing subtle about this one, and I love that.”
Ice-cold or cellar temperature? “Between chilly and room temperature. What do you call that? Lake temperature!”
Daniel McBurnie holds down singer-guitarist duties in the self-described “folk band from Surrey” Good for Grapes. Look for the group’s debut album, Man On the Page.
If you’re buying, I’m drinking: “Philips Amnesiac. An 8.5% double IPA with enough hops to last a round trip to India in a rowboat without becoming Budweiser. My love for the ‘kicks-you-in-the-ass’ nature of bitter beer probably comes from the ‘don’t be a pansy’ mentality sermonized by my older sister, which has made me partial to other acquired tastes like black-as-hell coffee and filterless cigarettes. Also apple-tinis."
Ice-cold or cellar temperature? “To be honest, while I’m just old enough to be confident in my choice of favourite beer, I’m probably three to four years away from any snobbiness as to how it’s served to me. As long as it’s not a block of ice, or boiling, one glass down, I’ll be grinning like Oliver Twist with a second bowl of stew. That being said, when I’m at Squamish with the sun beating down, in nothing but what used to be an Arcade Fire shirt and some sweaty ripped-up shorts, give it to me cold. It’s going to dehydrate me to death anyways, so it might as well cool me down.”
Ryan Dahle will be playing Squamish as part of the supergroup Mounties, but his involvement in the music industry doesn’t stop there. Look at his résumé and you’ll see a long list of work experience that includes everything from solo records and major producing credits to stints in iconic Vancouver acts like Limblifter and Age of Electric. About the only thing he hasn’t done is got a permanent line on some Kakabeka Falls beer.
If you’re buying, I’m drinking: “Before I was a teenager, my father, Helge Dahle, collected beer cans. The family would travel from our home in Regina, Saskatchewan, ‘across the line’ into the U.S. so that he could buy and test out the most collectible, limited-distribution beer. Sometimes he was looking for the best taste or the craziest can, some of the more rare beers like JR beer, North Star, Tennent’s, Billy beer, and the yearly issued Sturgis beer. He took us to Sturgis one year—one of my earliest memories was walking around with my dad and brother at that huge gathering of bikers on modified Harleys made into trikes and beds and bizarre sidecars. We’d continue further south to Colorado, where my uncle and now, today, my two cousins work at the Coors factory. Helge had a huge display of cans in our basement in Regina: he had suspended each can with almost invisible fishing line around the rim and then the tiniest nail all along these cedar boards up high along the walls, which made the cans appear to be floating. This is where all of our band would jam—our pals were amazed, and every first-time visitor would need a few guesses to figure out how they were suspended. Magnets? Following in Helge’s steps, my brother Kurt, who was a few years older than me, collected beer bottles and amassed a fair-sized collection as well.”
Ice-cold or cellar temperature? “We were always allowed to sample my dad’s beer when we would crawl into the back of the station wagon to fetch a beer from the big green cooler for him as he drove through the northern States. We’d tried a large variety of beer before we were teenagers. The one beer that always stuck out to me as being the tastiest was one called Kakabeka Falls. I always remember that beer as being my favourite. I wonder if it still exists? If it does, of course I would prefer it cold.”