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‘Snobs’ savour specialty suds
Dan Therien admits it. He’s a beer snob. He likes to tell his friends what’s good beer and what isn’t – with more or less positive results most of the time.
“I can pretty much convert everybody. I’ve convinced them all.”
Therien is one of the Maple Ridge members of the Fraser Valley chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale Society, a group of enthusiasts who meet whenever, drink beer and put forth profound arguments about which is better and why.
The group also promotes local craft beer and its establishments and, in return, get discounts at those establishments.
He doesn’t bother with mass-produced beer, even that which comes out of medium-sized breweries, which can be owned by the giants.
“We’re quite snobby, to tell you the truth, when it comes to that kind of beer.”
In Maple Ridge, beer lovers are at home, with both the Billy Miner Alehouse and Cafe – where 23 craft beer are served – and Kingfishers Waterfront Bar and Grill, which offers 11, catering to the craft beer crowd by offering dozens of unique suds with enticing names.
For those who want to drink at home, the Firefly Fine Wines and Ales offers the largest variety of craft beer in the Fraser Valley, while the Witch of Endor Liquor Store offers take-home craft beer.
All are club sponsors and provide places to meet, as well as the odd keg.
“They support us. They put the word out for us.”
Just because beer is a craft, doesn’t mean it’s good, Therien acknowledges. Some are better than others, for sure.
But odds are, the niche product will taste better than the mass produced.
So what’s the difference between savouring a Schlitz and downing a speciality craft brown?
“For one thing, you’re generally buying local,” said Therien.
“You’re getting fresh beer. It’s made without any preservatives, [and has] local ingredients. They actually care about the product they’re making. There’s way more flavour in it.”
When it comes to the mass-produced beer, there’s just no love.
“There’s no flavour. There’s no love put into that beer.
“They make it as tasteless as they can so the masses will buy it.”
For beer connoisseurs who still appreciate a finely poured Blue, Lucky Lager or Canadian, moving to craft beer requires a partial abandonment of the golden strain, because ales predominate in the craft-beer scene.
That’s because ale is fermented at higher temperatures for longer times, allowing the development of a wider variety of flavours.
Lager yeast ferments more quickly, producing more crispness and refreshment.
“You can get more flavours, you can experiment more with ale,” says Therien.
“That being said there are many good, craft lagers out there,” such as Hoparazzi and Black Hops Cascadian Dark Lager produced by Parallel 49 Brewing Co.
Vancouver Island Brewery also produces Hermann’s Dark Lager.
Meetings of CAMRA often involve members bringing casks of craft beer from different breweries for sampling.
“It’s not so much a getting drunk thing. It’s about trying new beers. Basically, just discuss the beers and have a good time.”
The Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia also lobbies for consumer rights with campaigns such as “Save the Growler” and F.U.S.S. (Fess Up to Serving Sizes).
Each beer will have its optimum serving temperature, but Therien advises that lagers generally should be served at 4 C and ales at 10 C.
And don’t even think about drinking beer from anything but a glass or mug.
Beer, like wine, does its thing mixing with air. Don’t chill the glasses either, he advises.
“You might as well not drink craft beer if you drink it out of the bottle.”
Top 5 lists
Who makes the best beer? Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, or in this case, imbiber. The following are the top picks from Dan Therien, Fraser Valley chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale Society.
Top 5 B.C. craft beers:
1. Driftwood Brewery Fat Tug India Pale Ale
2. Central City Brewers Red Racer IPA
3. Crannog Ales, Back Hand of God Stout (draught only)
4. Central City Pilsner
5. Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale
Top 5 craft beers from medium-sized breweries:
1. Granville Island Imperial IPA
2. Okanagan Spring Porter (a “fantastic” beer)
3. Okanagan Spring Summer Weizen
4. Granville Island Imperial Chocolate Stout
5. Granville Island False Creek Raspberry Ale
If you like imported or European beer.
(Stella Artois isn’t on the list.)
Top 5 European craft beers:
1. Westmalle Trappist Dubbel (Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle) (Belgium)
2. Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock (Germany)
3. Saison Dupont (Brasserie Dupont) (Belgium)
4. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout (England)
5. Fuller’s 1845 (England)
Top 5 B.C. seasonal beers (not always available):
1. Driftwood Brewery Sartori Harvest Fresh Hop IPA
2. Driftwood Brewery Singularity Russian Imperial Stout
3. Howe Sound Brewing Megadestroyer Liquorice Stout
4. Vancouver Island Brewery Hermannator Ice Bock
5. Central City Brewers Thor’s Hammer Barleywine
• Beer advocate: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/780/67897.