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TASTING NOTES: Craft beer for wine lovers
Time for refreshing ale! There’s plenty to do during Vancouver Craft Beer Week, running May 31 to June 8; but say you’re a wine fan and a little lost when it comes to an ale that suits you, then what?
I did some very difficult research this week, saddling up at The Alibi Room in Gastown, Vancouver’s craft beer Mecca, to sleuth out the options. Guiding me was one of my best pals, Alibi Room bartender Alex Wilson. Alex not only has a little International Sommelier Guild certification under his belt, but his craft beer passion has been propelled by working at Main Street’s Brewery Creek Liquor Store and constant trips around the Pacific Northwest. This week, with Alex’s help, I offer the best beer styles for wine lovers. Find many of them in stores like Brewery Creek or West Vancouver’s 16th Street Liquor Store.
Riesling or Alsatian Varieties
Alex didn’t hesitate in recommending the wheat beer, or “witbier,” route for those who like that mineral-driven, citrusy character that many Alsatian varieties provide. Vancouver Island’s Driftwood Brewing White Bark Wheat Ale or Oregon’s Logsdon Farmhouse Brewery “Kili Wit” Organic Witbier are indeed brewed with a little citrus peel and often times with coriander or African spices which do well at mimicking Riesling-esque minerality.
Sure, there’s a breadth of styles with Chardonnay style, from crisp, steely versions to oaky, tropical fruit-laden lushness. Brighter beers like Surrey’s Red Racer Pilsner err towards the former style, where fruit-forward types like Powell River’s Townsite Brewing “Zunga” Golden Blonde Ale will speak to those who like a bolder style.
We got a little more literal here. Dry rosés rule the summer, and as we see many local and global versions appear on shelves, they share seasonal popularity with fresh and lively ales that are brewed with local berries. Both Phillips Brewing Raspberry Wheat Ale and Granville Island Brewing’s False Creek Raspberry Ale are refreshing and dry, perfect for seafood and patios.
If you like those funkier, earthy Burgundian versions of Pinot Noir, then you can really geek out here. That style typically offers a little truffle or mushroom-y character, something you’ll find in beers that have been brewed with a little “brettanomyces.” When appearing in wine, the genus of yeast can make Pinots a little too funky for some, but it offers a pretty cool dimension to fuller-flavoured brews that might offer a little Pinot-esque plum or dark fruit, too. Try Oregon’s Logsdon Farmhouse Brewery’s Seizon Bretta for a good dose of that style, or Belgium’s Orval Abbey for something a little more subtle.
Cabernets, Merlots or Bordeaux Blends
Wanting something a little more structured, with a complexity that may include dark fruit, espresso, herbs and spice? Just like big, red wines — you’ll want to go darker here; plus Cascadian hops help provide the structure that a good dose of tannins can lend. Parallel 49 Black Hops Cascadian Dark Larger or Granville Island’s Cloak & Dagger Cascadian Dark Ale will have you heading in the right direction.