Sunday, March 6, 2011
The Island Beer Fest
When I arrived I was greeted by two girls wearing comically low cut beer wench tops and ridiculously short Bavarian style skirts. I guess the idea (apart from the obvious), was to imitate the outfits of the serving girls at Oktoberfest. I've been to the beer fest in Munich and these outfits looked more liked slutted-up Halloween costumes than anything else. Its not that I'm complaining, it was just kind of absurd. Once inside I saw that most of the usual suspects of Island brewing had a table so I made for Spinnakers to try a cask ale I saw they had set up. The server was not from the brewery but an employee of the Strath, and when I asked what type of beer was in the cask he replied, "honestly I don't know buddy, I just work for the building." "Uh, huh," I replied. Apparently, the deal with the Strath was that only its employees were allowed to pour beers, the breweries' employees were totally forbidden. As the representative from this brewery had wandered away from the table there was no one to field my fairly reasonable question. At the Vancouver Island Brewery table another cask was available, a coffee beer. I heard the server talking about the beer so when I got to the front I asked hopefully what the beer was made with. "Coffee," she replied, "and its got yeast in it, so theres also vitamin B." "Uh, huh," I replied.
There was very little in the way of new beer to be tried. Almost all the breweries just brought their usual offerings that can be purchased at any liquor store or bar in town. There were some highlights, such as Duncan's Craig Street Brew Pub, with their surprisingly good Hemp Ale, made with honey and hibiscus, and it was interesting to talk to the new owners of Wolf Brewing (formerly Fat Cat), but overall this festival was a giant disappointment. Some particularly dishonourable mentions stand out:
Dishonourable Mention: Swans Brew Pub - When I arrived they were already out of their coconut porter, one of the few beers I wanted to try coming in. It appeared they only brought a single tub of bottles, no draught beer, and when these were gone they just packed up and went home, well before the festival ended. Isn't your brewpub just down the street? So how can you be out of beer then, just ring them up for more? Very cheap, and very weak.
Dishonourable Mention: Lighthouse Brewing - Instead of having some of their interesting "small brewery, big flavour" series of beers they had only three of their everyday brews to try. If you decided you wanted some of their beer anyways, they just cracked a bottle and poured it in your glass, there was no draught available. I came to this beer festival to drink Lighthouse Lager from a bottle, great.
Dishonourable Mention: The Strath - For not allowing the breweries staff to pour beers and putting their serving girls in the most ridiculous outfits I have ever seen. If I wanted a titty show I'd walk down the street to Monty's, what I want at a beer festival is someone pouring the beer who knows something about it, and this was totally absent.
About the only person I would recommend going to this event in the future is an out-of-towner, someone completely unfamiliar with the beers of the Island as it is a chance to try a good proportion of the local brews in one place. If you're just looking for a piss-up, go to a bar, or a buddy's house, you won't have to fight the crowds or waste time drinking out of a very small glass. If you're a local and actually into beer, trust me, stay away, this festival offers practically nothing of interest for the serious Island beer drinker and will just waste your time and money.