What do you get when you pair local breweries with amateur brew clubs and task them with coming up with delicious casks of beer? Give up?
You get the Tri-Cities Cask Festival Pro-Am, that’s what!
Sunday, January 22nd, more than 20 breweries from BC and Alberta, joined forces with their local amateur brew clubs, to produce enough suds to satisfy over 500 people, at the Executive Plaza Hotel, in Coquitlam, BC. Hosted by Tri-City Cask Festival, the event had enough beer, burgers, and poutine to satisfy the masses that came to (literally) rub shoulders at the event. The Wet Hop was in attendance and we have the lowdown on this wonderful celebration of what the beer brewing community is all about.
A big thank you to the Tri-City Cask Fest (TCCF) team for organizing this event and their hospitality. We would also like to thank Nick Nicholson Photography; all photos used in this post are his work and are being used with the permission of TCCF. And of course, a huge round of applause and ample credit to the breweries, both pro and amateur, for bringing such great beer to the event!
If the tastings had been blind, without indication of who brewed what, it would have been near impossible to pick the amateurs out of the crowd. The “Ams” brought their A-game, along with a lot of great creativity to the event. While only one club could take home the title of Best Amateur (Full Barrel Homebrew Club did, for the record), the Amateurs shone through as the big overall winners of this event. Whatever your beer proclivities are, there seemed to be a little bit of everything. Some personal favourites that shone through from the clubs:
Brew Westminster, Chai Stout: infusing their brew with chai spices, this beer was smooth and easy to drink. A perfect marriage between a mid-body stout and the spices of Southeast Asia, this beer was less “chai latte” and more a delightful trip to the bazaars of yore.
Tri-Cities Cask Fest, Scotchy Scotch Ale: I inherently always steel myself a little bit, before imbibing a scotch ale. Typically heavier handed, with a thickness belying its colour to boot, this style can be a bit overwhelming. The beauty about the host’s offering? It was surprisingly light and easy to drink. That doesn’t mean it was lacking in flavour. For peat lovers, this is exactly the type of beer for you; a bonnie swally, worthy ay Rabbie Burns’ praise!
KPU Brewing and Brewery Operations, Double Molasses Porter: Who says you can’t learn fun things in school? KPU delivered a delicious, thick, rich, savoury beer. If “beer bubblegum” ever catches on, this is the first flavour that I want to be chewing. Equally savoury and sweet, the molasses added a nice pep to the beer that helps round out this deliciously complex brew. With beer like this, I imagine the competition to enroll in the brewing program is going to heat up even more!
Fraser Valley Fermentalists, Dark Rye Saison w/Brett: I was really stoked to see some brett at the event; I love me some funk. This beer reminded me of a stubborn mule: dank with plenty of bite (hello brett and rye!), dry, and fuming (tons of tobacco on the end); yet an invaluable and loved member of the farm. I could have parked myself in front of the Fermentalists’ booth and enjoyed this beer the whole day.
Ten Corners Homebrew Club, Raspberry Porter: *insert heart-eyes emoji here* No matter how many delicious beers an event has to offer, there’s always going to be a favourite. I have personally enjoyed a string of delicious porters, over the last few months, and I can easily slot this one alongside the pro-brews I’ve been gushing about. There is no shortage of raspberries in this beer. It is absolutely bursting with the scent of a berry-bush, while the delightful tang that is present from start to finish in the beer, tangos beautifully with the porter backbone.
While it would have been easy for the pros to rest on their laurels, letting the Amateurs steal the spotlight, the breweries also pushed the envelope with delicious, craft-y beers. Fuggles and Warlock doubled-down on the awards, again, this year, taking home Best Pro and Best in Show for the second straight year. Much like with the Amateurs, there was no shortage of variety and flavours, here’s an overview of some personal highlights.
Boombox, Coconut Showers IPA: Not new to the brew-scene, but new to my own palette, Coconut Showers showed up with its unique flavour and mouthfeel. I’m still on the fence about the whole lacto-IPA phenomenon. Despite my own taste preferences, I can definitely appreciate the ingenuity and intent behind this beer. Coconut and hops hula in a surprisingly harmonious manner. The coconut also helps the unexpected (for an IPA) creamy mouthfeel, easing the drinker into the experience. The kind of beer you may drink, if the weather’s got you down and you’re dreaming of Maui’s more tropical climate.
Old Yale Brewing, Sour Plum Porter: If there was a Biggest Surprise in Show, this would get my vote. I was skeptical about how sour plum would work with a porter, but I am glad I checked that skepticism at the door. A nice, dry porter at its core, the sour plum slowly creeps up to add body and dimension to this beer. I often lament when beers that promise fruit are tender-handed, but in this case, it was a wise decision. I mentioned earlier that I’ve felt spoiled with tasty porters and this is yet another one I can add to the list. This brew made me nostalgic for the Scottish hard candy my Nanny used to send over form Aberdeen.
Steel & Oak, Orange Whiskey Weizenbock: Whiskey. Weizenbock. Wow. While one could argue that there could have been a dram or two more of the whiskey, it is very difficult to find fault with this beer. The warmth and spice of the rye-whiskey blended beautifully with the weizenbock’s yeastiness. Add the nice bitter touch of the orange and what you have is akin to a beer version of Cointreau.
Storm Brewing, Vanilla Brandy Black Plague Stout: I really enjoy Storm’s Black Plague Stout. That said, I rarely feel the need to partake in more than one pint. That is until I had this version. The brandy absolutely sings, with Black Plague as its stage. Sweet, yet savoury, this beer is an elegant spin on a typically rough and tough beer. Make no mistake though, this is still a heavy brew and you will not need to search for its typical qualities— this beer is still full of body and roast. Think of it like dressing up your favourite warrior: they may look more suave, but their character is still the rough and tumble, battle hardened soul you fell in love with.
As you can probably tell by now, this was an ideal beer event. Beyond the suds, the craft poutine bar and burgers provided with ticket purchase were great additions; the type of food you want to pair with such heavy, dominant flavours. The organizers did a great job maximizing the limited space they had to work with, to fit everyone in comfortably. Yes, it got cozy at times, but what’s a beer event without making a few new friends? I’m going to close my impressions by giving a big shout out to the volunteers of this event. Some were familiar faces, others were new acquaintances, but the common thread shared by the group is a love for craft beer and more importantly, craft community. These types of events can’t function without their time and dedication, so thank you, faithful pourers, ticket distributors, and those working behind the scenes to make sure things ran smoothly! And hey, if you’re reading this thinking, “Gee, I’d really love to give back to the beer community and volunteer myself!” you’re in luck!
April 22nd, 2017, TCCF will be hosting their next event: The Siris Cask Festival. This festival will be all about celebrating the women of craft beer; you definitely won’t want to miss this event. Click the link above for more details and keep your eyes peeled on The Wet Hop for additional information regarding the event.
À Votre Santé!