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Beer Festival

Posted September 13, 2011 | 1:39 am, by nadine

The Gods were smiling on the GCBF (Great Canadian Beer Festival) this year. On September 11th and 12th beer-lovers in Victoria, B.C. enjoyed two full days of gloriously sunny weather as they assembled in Royal Athletic Park to sample a range of delicious craft beers.


The festival started with a special presentation by CAMRA B.C. honouring Frank Appleton with a lifetime achievement award. Frank Appleton is one of the pioneers of the North American craft beer movement. In 1972, he quit his job as quality control supervisor at O’Keefe and began consulting for breweries. In the early eighties, at the dawn of the current craft beer movement, many breweries enlisted Appleton as a consultant. In the years since he started freelancing in the industry, Appleton has helped start 18 breweries total, including 14 in Canada and 3 in the U.S. In 1982 it was Frank Appleton who helped assemble and install the equipment for the first brewpub to open in North America since prohibition; Horseshoe bay brewery. He also designed the recipe for Bay Ale, Canada’s first craft beer and trained the Horseshoe bay’s brewer at the time, John Mitchell. Mitchell, now eighty, was there at the award presentation to support and congratulate his friend, as were a number of the local craft brewers that Appleton has helped along the way.


Once the presentation was through, we all went our separate ways, some were off to pour beer and some of us were off to drink it. I myself was on a mission to sample a range of beers from each of the 26 B.C. breweries present at the festival. I am happy to report that I succeeded in my quest. There were a few tasty off-beat beers at the festival, like the Swan’s Coconut Porter and the Salt Spring Island Heatherdale Ale (in which Heather flowers are used as a second hopping) but, for the most part, the B.C. beers I sampled at the GCBF were an array of delicious well-balance, quaffable ales and lagers that were perfectly suited for whiling away a sunny afternoon. There was a large selection of English-style Ales. On the Saturday, Longwood Brewpub tapped a keg of ESB that was “spot-on”, as they say. It was bursting with flavour, balanced, fresh and lively. The Old Yale Sasquatch Stout was also in great form. There were some delightful lagers, too many to mention. It was clear that the organizers at the GCBF have been careful to seek out quality products for the festival.


I did go out of my way to try as many B.C. brewed I.P.A.s as possible during the GCBF, since B.C. is so close to the West-Coast U.S. hop-growing regions. I found the I.P.A.s I sampled to be very well balanced, highlighting the flavour and aroma of hops and offsetting a pronounced bitterness with a solid malt profile. These included Tree Brewing Hophead, Phillips Amnesiac, Old Yale Sergeant’s, Lighthouse Brewing Beacon as well as Cannery Wildfire IPA, a black IPA that was brewed as a tribute to the firefighters who struggled countless days to control the fires that plagued the Okanagan valley over this past Summer. Cannery was also serving their Apricot Wheat ale, as well as a Blackberry Porter. There was quite an interesting array of fruit beers at the GCBF this year. Crannóg Ales, from Sorrento, B.C. had some fabulous seasonal fruit ales on cask. There was a Black Currant Brown as well as a Cherry Currant Ale. Both these casks were made with the addition of fresh fruit that the Crannóg team grows on their property. On the wackier side of things was a Cask of Blackberry Brett beer by Driftwood brewery in Victoria. This was one of two casks that were tapped on Sunday; both brewed using only Brettanomyces yeast. The other beer was called Brett Bark and was made with the wort from Driftwood Brewery’s tasty Witbier called White Bark Wheat Ale. Both casks were very flavourful and, interestingly enough, shared an underlying peach-like flavour. It was also very fun to taste the Brett Bark and White Bark side-by-side knowing that the only difference between them was the yeast used. Driftwood co-owner Jason Meyer, who creates the beer recipes, was very happy with the casks and plans to devote one small tank at the brewery entirely to Brettanomyces brews as soon as he and his team have the means to do so.


My only complaint with the GCBF is that two days weren’t enough to try everything. The selection at the festival extended beyond the B.C. breweries listed above, and included a range of other Canadian breweries as well as seventeen American Craft Breweries. There were 53 breweries in all, or one could say 53 solid reasons to come back to the festival next year…


Publication: Celebrator Beer News

Date Published: April/May 2010

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