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Leapbeer Reports – The Isle of Misfit Beers

So I wanted to do this post to showcase all the pictures of beers that I didn’t get onto the master list (some beers got in, but the pictures didn’t). Either I took pictures of them and lost their notes, or I just plum forgot to take notes. I didn’t want the pics to go to waste, so here they are. I’m still planning to do a compilation of what beers I had and where they were from etc etc, so keep on the watch for that.

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Leapbeer Reports – A Response from Dead Frog Brewery

img Courtesy Deadfrog.ca

If you read recent review about the Fearless IPA by Dead Frog Brewery you might have noticed concerns I expressed about events surrounding this brewery this year. A person claiming to be an insider at DF made an extremely vague post to the comments section of that review. Their comment is as follows.

mydime on December 3, 2012 at 9:46 PM said: Edit
As an executive insider of the brewery, that is incorrect…. I could tell many stories, Lets just say the public really doesn’t know the truth….its more like the reason the dog was on the projections.

I was somewhat incensed at the way the post came across, so I lashed out a bit. Here’s what I said.

heavycf on December 3, 2012 at 10:29 PM said: Edit
So what you’re saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, is ‘You could make a logical reply to the comments made in the blog post, but you’re not.’

Why not? Are executive insiders not allowed to make public comments? It seems a bit of a tease to say you could tell many stories, but not share any. You’ve effectively stirred the pot without saying anything.

I included my opinions for a reason, because I think they need to be addressed, PUBLICLY. Your crew went on a national show and came across like idiots. After it aired I got comments from other brewery professionals who tore into the same points I did (unprofessional leadership & upset by the “bought out by the big boys” comment) Even now the general opinion of Dead Frog I get from the beer community borders between indifference and not good. Please stand up for yourselves. If you want the public to trust you, earn it.

I realize I may have been a bit harsh with this, but I figured if I had someone who works there’s attention it was my best chance at getting answers to my issues. What followed surprised me. Chris Landsman, Vice President of Dead Frog Brewing, commented on the post, answered all my questions and won me over. Here’s his reply.

Chris Landsman on December 4, 2012 at 4:33 PM said: Edit
Hey Chris, thanks for the good review on the Fearless! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

I put up a blog post today addressing the results of the show, and why we didn’t move forward with The Big Decision offer. There’s other info in the post as well, but the results of The Big Decision are definitely included. You can check it out at http://www.deadfrog.ca/news/49/88/Business-and-Brews-Update-From-Derrick/.

We also put up a blog post after the show answering what we could about what actually happened during the show. http://www.deadfrog.ca/news/23/88/Answers-To-The-Big-Questions-From-The-Big-Decision/.

As far as executive insiders go, they’re definitely free to make public comments. Like Mike mentioned, Dead Frog’s a family run company and the executives are a tight knit group that consists of 4 people including me. If anybody decided to post they would identify themselves.

If you have any more questions just send me an email at chris@deadfrog.ca or call me at 604-856-1055. We’d love to have you out to the brewery for a tour anytime to taste the new brews we have coming off and to answer any other questions you have.

Cheers!

Thank you for this Chris. I am very pleased to see you taking public accountability for yourselves. I’m also excited about the relaunch in 2013 and trying your new brews as they arrive. And thank you to Derrick Smith, President of Dead Frog, who not only puts his name on it but also puts his own cell on the dead frog blog for people who have added questions.

With my comments sated and curiosity piqued I look forward to whats next from Dead Frog Brewery.

Leapbeer Fieldtrip – Portland Oregon, Day 4 & 5

Our forth day in Portland was a Friday and the day that we got the infamous Pacific Northwestern weather. It rained a whole lot that day. We decided to keep most of the family activities to ones that are done indoors. There was some shopping and later a trip to the kids museum. If you have younger kids and are visiting Portland this attraction is great.

While the family stuff was fun, I was honestly looking forward to venture out with a local fellow beer blogger that evening. I met up with  ithinkaboutbeer and we exchanged some beverages and set out on the town.

Our first stop was for a quick flight at Commons Brewery. I hadn’t tried their beers yet and was excited to give them a try. A quick look around and this is really reminiscent of what I call a ‘working brewery’. Not to say that other breweries don’t work, but Commons doesn’t have the pizazz of a fancy brewery/brewpub with seating. Just fairly operational with a nice tasting bar and a few barrels to congregate around while you enjoy your beer.


Img via Beerthirst


Here's the taps and the tasting bar Read more…

Leapbeer Fieldtrip – Portland Oregon, Day 3

Day 3 for the Portland trip I thought it would be a nice opportunity to all climb aboard the Trimet and see some more of the town. I went to their site and plotted our way to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI (pronounced om-see by the locals). While the exhibits at OMSI were interesting, and they had several that were focused on my daughters demographic, I was most excited about going to a Brewery that was very close, Hair of the Dog. It was the number one ‘must go to’ on my list of Portland Breweries. Even though I hadn’t ever had their beers before, the legend of Hair of the Dog had reached my ears and I was intrigued.

First thing I ordered was the ‘Walk the Dog’ tasting flight.

From left to right, its Adam, Fred, Blue Dot and Ruth. I tasted them in the opposite order. Read more…

Leapbeer Fieldtrip – Portland Oregon, Day 2

Before I start recounting my second day of escapades on the Leapbeer to Portland trip I wanted to share another tip that I found helpful. This tip about PDX is when you travel down here, know your wifi hot spots. We spent an inordinate amount of time at Powells Book store downtown and thankfully they have wifi there. In fact they have wifi on all levels. I really bemoaned the exorbitant rates my cellular provider wanted to charge me for data & roaming to the states. What we did instead was search for wifi spots where we were when we could use it, and for talk we bought a cheap Tracfone pay-n-talk cell phone for making calls when we were down there.

Places with free wifi that I found: Starbucks, Stumptown Coffee Downtown, Powells Books, Shari’s Restaurant, Hair of the Dog Brewery, OMSI Oregon Museum of Science and Industrty

We started our day at Stumptown Coffee for an artistically sculpted Cappuccino and Latte.

Even though it wasn’t on our list of places we wanted to go to, we happened to be walking by Voodoo Doughnut’s and stopped to give them a try.

And similar to the lackluster beer based on it, the Maple bacon bar was unimpressive. In fact all the doughnuts we tried from there were pretty lame.

In making our way to Powells, I found a parkade near the book store. It also happened to be close to a Whole Foods. I remember reading on another BC bloggers plan of attack for Portland that it included a trip to Whole Foods for beers. We went in there and I was impressed. I filled up a basket and left with two bags of assorted bottled beer goodness.

My wife spent her time perusing the book store and I entertained my daughter in the children’s book section. After some time there we needed a place to eat some lunch. Despite suggestions from Thirsty Writer Mr.Wiebe to track down a 5 star delicatessen (which for the record was equally close), We ended up going to Deschutes Brewpub (just a block away from Powells) for lunch. And I want to add, it was a great choice. The food was great, and the beer was even better.

Read more…

Leapbeer Fieldtrip – Portland Oregon, Day 1

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to pack the family up and take a nice trip down to arguably one of the craft brew mecca’s of the new world, Portland Oregon. Not only is Portland home to more than 40 breweries & brewpubs (as of 2011 per link) but it also boasts some wonderful attractions, and one of the most impressive transit systems I have ever seen.

Image via Wikipedia

As you could imagine I was very excited before going on this trip. My wife and I both started making lists of places we were anticipating to go and see, both beer and family themed. To my initial surprise, it was remarkably easy to intertwine both of those. One of my first revelations about Portland came to me before even leaving British Columbia. A conversation with a fellow BC beer blogger, @BGCanary on twitter informed me that many of the brewpubs and breweries were minor friendly. In fact, some of the pubs even have special kid friendly menus & games to help the two areas coincide. Of course sometimes the people drinking the beer get a hold of the kids games and engage their inner child while enjoying the beers as well, (Lynn).

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Leapbeer Interview – Paul Hadfield, Publican of Spinnakers Gastro Brewpup

As I have mentioned before, on my trip to Victoria in July I had the opportunity to stay at Spinnakers in their guest house, and ample opportunity to sample their beers as well. One of the highlights of our trip was a wonderful tour of the facilities with the owner & publican of Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, Mr Paul Hadfield.

After our tour I arranged to do an interview with Paul, here it is.

Thanks for taking the time for us Paul, your establishment is a world class place. Do you mind telling my readers a bit about how it got started?

Spinnakers’ story began shortly after John Mitchell opened the first small scale commercial craft brewery of the modern era in Horseshoe Bay, in June 1982.  That he was granted a Brewer’s License, whilst being on the license of an affiliated neighbourhood pub license was groundbreaking.  Shortly after opening his Horseshoe Bay brewery, John became very aware of the shortcomings and set off to UK in search of better equipment.  Whilst he was away, I began the groundwork for a Victoria brewpub.  Upon his return, he agreed to sell his shares in the Troller Pub in Horseshoe Bay and we agreed to proceed with Spinnakers as the first purpose built brewpub of the modern era in Canada.  As an architect, my job was to find a site, design and build the premises and John was to be the brewer and publican.  The process took about 20 months from idea to opening day and involved a process wherein we had to do an update to the Vic West community plan, create new zoning bylaws for the City of Victoria, work with BC’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to create guidelines for brewpubs and work to change the Federal Excise Act to enable brewpubs to be both manufacturers and retailers of beer.


You’ve built Spinnakers into such an iconic establishment in Victoria. With a brewpub, lavish guest houses, gourmet kitchen, bakery, choclatier, artisan vinegar brewery and the artesian well all on site, what could be next for Spinnakers?


We are currently shifting our focus somewhat to be more brewery production oriented, having this year begun to ship our beers up Island and into the lower mainland.  Given the challenges facing the hospitality industry what with the downturned economy, the impacts of HST on food service establishments, the impact of changes to drinking and driving regulations and how they are administered and most recently the increases to labour costs as a result of minimum wage increases, we found ourselves searching for revenue streams which could be expanded.  We noticed that retail beers sales were growing as more consumers were picking up more product at retail stores and taking it home to enjoy.  We also noticed that there was a significant change in consumer preferences in greater Vancouver where craft beer was replacing (UK and European) imports.  Since the beginning of the year, we have committed to distribution, have more than doubled our brewing, sales and distribution staff,  installed a canning line, new bright tanks and are adding additional fermentation capacity to enable us to meet growth targets.



While we stayed there, I expected the beers to be good (which of course they were) and I expected a high level of quality from the food (which completely exceeded my expectations). But the thing that really amazed me was the attention to detail in absolutely everything. The baking for example. The breakfast scones, the crackers, in fact all of the baked goods we had there were exquisite. Since our stay every time I’ve been through Victoria I stop in and at least get 2 packs of the asiago dill crackers. Also the intricate and complex flavours to your truffles was impressive. What I’m trying to say in such a long winded and rambling way is that you’re whole staff seems to be top notch. Can you explain how you’ve assembled such a top notch team behind Spinnakers? And how have you managed to keep the quality to such a high level?


We came here to be artisan brewers, back in 1984.  At the time, the best insurance was to sell lots of good food to accompany the beers we wanted to sell.  We quickly became known for both with food sales rapidly outpacing beer and liquor sales and stabilizing at around 65 – 70% of total gross sales.  Over time we came to understand the brewery as a source of ingredients which could become inputs into other items.  We also came to view our food operations through a craft beer lens, causing us to seek out artisan growers and producers able to supply us with unique, locally produced food items.  Putting it all together requires that everybody understands, is committed and wants more out of the experience than just flipping frozen burger patties.  We were 20 years ahead of the current local, seasonal, sustainable trend, as doing all of these things was simply consistent with our business model, our underlying philosophy and was a reflection of why we came to be here in the first place.  The magic is that our staff tend to find us now, bringing their own unique skill sets and dreams with them.  We encourage people to try new (old) things and to push the local component to the extreme, looking for substitutions where imported food items are not grown here.  The people, be they brewers, bakers, chocolatier, chef, pastry chef, cooks or bartenders all feed off each other and are encouraged to interact and be innovative in creating (recreating) a local interpretation of cuisine.  In face of globalization, we have stressed going back to the farm gates for ingredients.  We seek out ingredients with good stories and encourage everybody to collaborate and delight our senses and taste buds.  When we evolve our cuisine and differentiate it from globalized food, we begin to define ourselves, culturally, as people.  We are passionate about Vancouver Island and delight in exploring the amazing opportunities that living here provides to all of us.  We aspire to function as a reflection of where we live.


Now that you’ve added canning to your brewery, does that spell relief for those ‘thirsting for a real ale’ further away from Spinnakers? Does that add some heartiness to the shelf life of them?


Canning is certainly superior in terms of protecting beer from the negative impacts of light.  Beyond that, a clean can, like a clean bottle is only as good as what goes into it.  As craft brewers, we are dealing with live products that have to be managed carefully.  I have long lived in fear of what happens to our beers after they leave our control.  We know that beer is very fragile, that it is going to taste best, depending upon what we are striving for, fresh from the tank at the brewery.  In tastings over the years, we have studied and compared beer on tap to beer in a cask to bottled to bottle conditioned and now canned.  With each, the beer has been though a slightly different process, even if they are from the same batch.  There are going to be minor differences in appearance, aromatics and overall flavour profiles. This is part of the magic of craft, that it is not all the same.  Having committed to distributing our beers, we look forward to making them available, more readily, to those who are unable to frequent the brewpub.


How many different styles of beer does Spinnakers produce?


Over the course of a year we will make about 20 different styles.  We try to keep 9 or 10 on tap, another 2 or 3 cask conditioned and feature 5 more as daily cask specials.  In package form, we currently have 17 active SKU’s with 5 being in cans, the others in 650 ml formats.


Do you have a favorite style of beer?


A very personal question, but the answer is definitely no.  There are many times of the day and days of the week and occasions that come and go, each of which speaks to an opportunity for a different beer.


Although your Brewpub is literally filled with brewing & fermenting tanks, What are your plans for brewery expansion for Spinnakers?


We will hit the wall early in the new year, forcing the addition of new fermentation capacity and storage capacity.  We are planning a new production brewery to meet the demand and are looking at shifting the focus from the original brewery into more esoteric styles, including barrel aged and sour beers.


Our Spinnakers experience while taking it all in was really comforting. My wife and I felt like family there, and everyone else we saw was being treated the same. How is it possible for a place to be as busy as yours is, and still everyone leaves with a smile? What is your secret?


Everybody leaves happy.  That’s our mission.  We are fortunate to have staff who care and who understand hospitality.  The fun part about having guest rooms, suites and the bungalow is that people can come and stay with us for more than a couple of hours and can indeed become house guests, part of the family.

What’s next for Spinnakers?

We are constantly working to evolve what we do.  The opportunities are a function or our collective imaginations, our abilities to see, understand and seize them and translate them into products or offerings which can delight us as consumers.  We have a couple of projects that we are working on.  Time will tell!


You operate an amazing place sir, truly a jewel of Victoria. I want to thank you for your time as well as your hospitality. I wish you well in all your endeavors.


It was our pleasure have you both come and stay and have you take the time to see and understand some of what we try to do every day.  We look forward to having you return soon.  Best regards.


Here’s the pictures of from our tour. Unfortunately I tried to take a pic of the boil (they were brewing more of their delicious Hoptoria IPA) my lense got messed up.

Lastly I wanted to re-review Spinnakers Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale. If you read my early one here I totally botched it. I reviewed this beer from the mistaken idea it was an IPA. I think I had gotten all hoppysocks that day. It was unfortunate that it happened, but that mistake actually yielded some good results. Not the least of which is a second chance to review this fine beer. Blue Bridge is a deep transparent amber double pale ale with a white head on top. While the head shrinks with time it still leaves a great lacing on the glass. It has a malty and sweet aroma, with hints of candied orange peel or maybe marmalade. It tastes great, mildly sweet up front with a nice bitter back. It is a deceptively drinkable DPA as it hits in a 8.2% ABV. The bitterness lingers with you, but as it smooths out it hints at a mild fruit character. Not as distinct as the orange scent, but still mildly fruity. A great beer that I’ve had a few times to enjoy this year, both from cans and in the bomber.

Leapbeer #141 is Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale by Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub

Brewery: Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub of Victoria, BC
Released: Unknown
Size/ABV: 650ml Bottle + 355ml Can/8.2% ABV
Availability: Continuous (as far as I know)
Purchased @: Spinnakers, MVLS & Top Shelf Liquor Store
Webpage:
http://www.spinnakers.com/our-beers
Other Reviews: http://urbandiner.ca/2010/07/08/beer-review-blue-bridge-double-pale-ale/  Rate Beer  Beeradvocate

State of the Leapbeer, Mid September

I have a confession to make. I have been THE blog slacker of 2012. Here I am, devoting the year to beer and blogging and I don’t even do a post for nearly a month. For that, I sincerely apologize. I knew August would be a busy month for me, but I didn’t bank on it being as busy as it was. I should have had a back up plan. That said I’m rededicated to the cause.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy drinking my beers, or even taking the notes. I have been. Also I started posting for another beer blog, the BC Beer Blog. I even have my pictures, notes and beer’s from Great Canadian Beer Fest from Friday the 7th to post about. Without going into a long line of excuses lets just say that I got really busy. What also happened was I felt that my writing was starting to get a bit better and I didn’t want to publish anything that I deemed ‘Sub Par’. I felt that a simple ‘This beer is great’ post would somehow reflect negatively on the blog.

You could say I have a beer or two to work with

With my unnecessary hiatus behind me, I pledge to make the rest of the year (the last third of the leapbeer) to be the best of the leapbeer, starting now. Read more…

Leapbeer Fieldtrip – Spinnakers Chefs Table Dinner

While we were visiting Spinnakers my wife and myself took time to savour the excellent dining their kitchen offers. When you dine at Spinnakers one of your options is their Chefs Table Dinner. It is a 5 course meal and each course offers the chef Ali’s suggested beer or wine pairing. The evening was great, the spacing between the plates was perfect and our server was very helpful. I’m still learning about beer and food pairing, so this evening was illuminating for me. I always thought that maybe the beer would bring out some different flavours in the food or vice versa. However it was more that they two flavours would play off each other on my palate.  I chose the beer pairing and my wife chose the wine pairing. I didn’t take notes on the individual plates because I didn’t want to interfere with the mood of the evening. I did my best to take it all in as we ate. The plates were all fantastic. Nothing was excessively large or disturbingly small, but it all had perfect proportions and the timing between courses was impeccable.

First course was a Hertel bacon wrapped smoked oyster with Spinnakers Scottish Ale infused grainy mustard & a house made english flat bread cracker paired with Scottish Ale for beer or Hester Creek Cabernet/Merlot for wine.

Read more…

Tales of The Vancouver Island Craft Beer Creep – Part 1

You may be asking yourself what I could possibly mean by ‘craft beer creep’. Could I be talking about the guy at the bar leering from behind his chalice of porter? Perhaps this the guy who scoffs at your choice as you stand in the line of the liquor store with a 12 pack of Bud? Or is this that irritatingly outspoken person on the internet going off about how this years ‘hot beer’ isn’t nearly as good as it was last year? Or could it be something else, something completely different?

Pardon if I go a bit geeky on this next bit, but anyone who has played as the Zerg in the globally popular game Starcraft will have seen the term ‘Creep Colony’. For the uninitiated, a creep colony spreads out ‘creep’ on the play surface making it able to place new buildings on it, spreading out the species (the Zerg’s) influence on the game. (for more on Starcraft ‘creep’ see this link http://starcraft.wikia.com/wiki/Creep )I’m using this analogy for craft beer because of a trend I am starting to see develop on Vancouver Island.

Read more…

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