Sip Trips #145: Hop Pursuit

A couple weekends back, Mrs. Sip and I joined friends at their family cabin in Birch Bay, Washington for a little getaway. To keep hydrated, I bought both the Hale’s Brewing mixed six-pack (Ale, IPA and Weizen) and the 21st Amendment Brewing Variety Pack (Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Ale, Blah Blah Blah Imperial IPA, Brew Free or Die Blood Orange IPA, Brew Free or Die IPA, Down to Earth Session IPA). Both were good, with the 21st Amendment case definitely being geared towards hopheads.

With only a couple months left to achieve my goal of getting Baby Sip to 52 breweries before her first birthday (one for each week of her life), we popped into Four Winds Brewing on Monday, joined by Cousin Sip. I had glasses of their Velo Pale Ale and Operis Brett Saison. This is my hometown brewery, so it was nice to finally get Baby Sip there and the beverages were pretty good, to boot.

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The next day, I tagged along with Ma and Pa Sip for a shopping trip in Washington. We ate lunch at Bellingham’s Chuckanut Brewing, where I enjoyed a delicious BLT and glass of their Willis Helles Lager. The sandwich was good and the beer decent. I love that craft breweries in Bellingham that also offer food have Tim’s Potato Chips as a side dish.

Keeping the streak going, on Wednesday, Mrs. Sip, Sis-in-Law Sip and I visited Strange Fellows Brewing, pushing our brewery tally up to 42 with eight weeks left in our pursuit. At Strange Fellows, I had the Guardian White IPA, which was very refreshing. The girls selected the El Jefe Wheat Ale and liked it.

Wheat Smoothie

As for drinking at home, I recently grabbed Vancouver Island Brewing’s Summer Outpost Mix Pack, containing their Juan de Fuca Cerveza, Twisted Stalk Blackberry Helles, Ukidama Lychee Saison, and Broken Islands Hazy IPA. I really enjoyed this collection, particularly the Helles and Hazy IPA.

The upcoming long weekend has a few items on the docket and then we’re off to Halifax, Nova Scotia to explore some east coast breweries. We have two weddings to attend during this time, so there will be plenty of drinking and celebrating on the horizon!

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Beer of the Week #12 – Vancouver Island Carmanah Ale

Vancouver Island Brewing seems to be going through a bit of a rebranding, featuring a few old favourites with new names. Of those included in the new campaign is this product, which I picked up a six-pack of recently.

The Carmanah Ale is of the amber ale variety, featuring flavours of pine “as deep as a forest of Sitka spruces”. The 4.8% ABV easy drinking beverage was perfect for a long day of sipping, including drinking games, providing longevity and durability.

Vancouver Island Carmanah Ale

Joining the Carmanah Ale (aka Sea Dog Amber Ale) with new packaging is the Piper’s Pale Ale and 48 Dark Lager (formerly Hermann’s Dark Lager). The movement is using geographic coordinates, along with the tagline: “Where’s Next?”

The brewery did change ownership last summer, thus the company reboot. This particular release is named for Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, located on Vancouver Island. The park features numerous hiking trails.

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BC Beer Baron #327 – Vancouver Island Black Betty Blackberry Saison

With the Sip Advisor’s annual beer pong tournament being contested, some good beers were needed for my red solo cups. I chose to fill some of them up with this Vancouver Island Brewing release and had a party!

The Black Betty Blackberry Saison is brewed using freshly hand-picked blackberries from the island and combined with Northern Brewer hops for notes of spice and pine flavour. The 5.5% ABV beverage has a tart finish, making for a refreshing summer beer. According to the brewery: “We brewed this Blackberry Saison and the damn thing went wild!”

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The summer seasonal is available in canned six-packs at BC Liquor Stores. I also recently came across the beer being part of Vancouver Island’s Pod Pack winter edition, as the feature brew, joined by three other VIB selections.

An homage to the classic rock song of the 1970s, Black Betty by Ram Jam, the tune’s lineage traces back to being an African-American work song. This has caused some controversy when various artists have recorded and released the track.

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BC Beer Baron #266 – Vancouver Island Killer White IPA

While stocking up on supplies for an upcoming camping trip, the Sip Advisor picked up a bottle of this Vancouver Island Brewing new release. Isn’t camping shopping the best!

The Killer White IPA is a wheat ale-IPA hybrid, combining the best from both worlds into one delicious drinking experience. That would include flavours of banana and clove from the hefe yeast and citrus notes from the three different hops used in the beer’s construction.

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Vancouver Island writes of the brew: “This white has some bite to it!” The 7% ABV, 60 IBUs summer seasonal is available in bomber-sized bottles at BC Liquor Stores, as well as other booze vendors.

Featuring a label with a jumping killer whale, I assume the beer is an homage to Vancouver Island’s whale watching industry. This season lasts from March to October each year and brings a great number of tourists to this part of the world.

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BC Beer Baron #167 – Vancouver Island Sabotage India Session Ale

Last weekend, we hosted a big shindig at Ma and Pa Sip’s place to celebrate Ma Sip’s retirement. In order to get my party face on, I picked up Vancouver Island Brewing’s Summer Pod Pack.

The feature beer in that set was the Sabotage India Session Ale (ISA), which uses three different hops in the brewing process. The beverage is light (5% ABV) and refreshing and provides a nice entry point for those interested in trying hoppier beers, but who are reluctant to dive headfirst into an Imperial IPA or something of that ilk.

Vancouver Island Sabotage India Session Ale

The ISA was a really good beer and a nice compliment to a solid Pod Pack. I should know, I killed off almost the entire thing during the retirement party and I was uncharacteristically selfish and not very open to sharing. The summer version of the Pod Pack also includes Vancouver Island’s Piper’s Pale Ale, Sea Dog Amber Ale, and High Trail Honey Ale.

I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed with the breweries various mixed packs when trying to pick something out the other day. I narrowed my choices down to VIB and Dead Frog, before going with the island option. Perhaps I was being too picky, but I feel there used to be more experimentation in the mixed packs and a more noticeable line-up change when going from winter to summer sets.

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BC Beer Baron #144 – Vancouver Island Sea Dog Amber Ale

As a last-minute addition/replacement to Mrs. Sip’s work outing to The Price is Right Live at the Abbotsford Centre, I spent an hour and a half in traffic, trying to make the show on time. My reward was a beer from the Vancouver Island Brewing booth at the arena.

How Vancouver Island became the beverage of choice all the way out in Abbotsford is a bit of a mystery, but I’m very glad that was the case. While my original choice was unfortunately already tapped out, that was for the best, as it provided an opportunity to order the Sea Dog Amber Ale. Mrs. Sip and I agreed that this was a great beer to enjoy as we watched classic games like Plinko, Cliffhanger, Any Number, and Punch-A-Bunch played out live.

Vancouver Island Sea Dog Amber Ale

Available in six-packs and some versions of Vancouver Island’s Pod Pack variety case, this 5.2% ABV brew is a tribute to Victoria’s naval heritage and the centennial anniversary of the Canadian Navy. The beer is a little sweet with light hops, making for a well-balanced drink.

While in line for the beers, it was funny to note that Abbotsford locals were a little taken aback by the $6.50 price for beers. Meanwhile, Mrs. Sip and I were thrilled with that price, being used to paying double that when at Vancouver entertainment venues. To each their own, I suppose!

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BC Beer Baron #26 – Vancouver Island Hermann’s Dark Lager

Each month, as part of this 366-day BC craft beer extravaganza that I will be sharing with you throughout 2016, I will highlight a specific style or theme of beers for a whole week of articles. For the opening month of this project, I wanted to look at some of the flagship and original offerings from breweries around the province.

Vancouver Island Brewing has been in business for over 30 years, or as they put it, since “Bon Jovi was a hot new band, mullets were cool, [and] lawn darts were legal!” Born in 1984 as Island Pacific Brewery (Vancouver Island’s first of its kind), the company started small and has grown exponentially over the years, changing its name in 1992.

Their Hermann’s Dark Lager was first created in 1986 and has remained a staple of the brewery ever since. The beer is named after brewmaster Hermann Hoerterer, whose name also adorns their Hermannator Ice Bock. When Hoerterer moved to Canada, he brought with him the inspiration to create the Dark Lager, among other recipes.

Vancouver Island Hermann's Dark Lager

“It is a testament to [Hoerterer’s] brewing skill that he formulated the recipe for a beer that continues to be a significant brand in the west coast markets thirty years later,” said Barry Fisher, President of Vancouver Island Brewing. “The craft beer market today is far more receptive to beers that bring new experiences. Fortunately, Hermann’s Dark has benefited from being attractive for new drinkers, while holding on to a loyal group of dedicated Hermann’s fans.  Hermann’s Dark: often copied, never duplicated.”

A few years ago, Mrs. Sip and I visited Vancouver Island at their beautiful facility on Government Street. There, we did a tasting and had a long chat with our server about the brewery and beer in general. Without Vancouver Island, other Victoria breweries, such as Phillips, Hoyne, Lighthouse, Driftwood, Moon Under Water, and Spinnakers might not exist. For that alone, they deserve credit.

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