Sunday, March 31, 2013

One Fest To Rule Them All...

One week ago, a story came out in The Guardian that PEI's Liquor Control Commission was going to take more control of beer festivals on PEI. You can read the news article here, but, essentially, this is the gist (along with some other notes for the background story):

  • Two Septembers ago, Campbell Webster put on PEI's first beer festival. He invited Gahan / PEI Brewing Company, and they wouldn't come. I've heard different reasons from they didn't have enough beer to they were going to have their own Oktoberfest within a month (which didn't happen). The fest was pretty good, although there was some room for improvement. Before and after, Campbell even consulted with myself and other local beer fans for ideas. He was (is) keen to listen and improve upon what he does.
  • Fast forward to this past September. Campbell puts the fest on again, in a better venue, and improved upon the previous year's fest in many ways (he lost a brewery or two from the previous year, but gained some, as well). Even though his fest was in mid-September, the PEI Brewing Company put on their own "first annual" PEI International Beer Fest (no more international than the other) at the end of the month, and got it listed as part of the Fall Flavours festival. Rumours went around about some "just business" kinds of things in trying to ensure theirs was the best (or only) fest on the go.
  • Apparently, listing all of these new brews for the two fests in the same month must have just about done in someone or some people at the LCC, because for the upcoming year, they say they are going to only approve one fest. From The Guardian article, they said they are, 
"...looking for a contractor to organize, manage and partner with the commission on a new beer festival.
Under the criteria for the proposal, the contractor will organize and supervise the festival, while the commission will provide promotional material and own the event’s website.
The commission will be able to renew the contract with the successful party on annual basis, provided there is a satisfactory performance evaluation.
Under the proposal, the contractor will have to maintain a minimum $5 million in commercial general liability insurance and a further $1 million automobile liability."

  • Only Campbell Webster is quoted in the article, and he says he likes the idea and is planning on submitting a proposal. That being said, it would be hard not to bet that the Murphy/Gahan/PEI Brewing Co. group would have deeper pockets for a bigger bid as well as stronger political ties. 
What're your thoughts? Could PEI not support two events in a year, just more spaced apart (Can't we all just get along?)? Should the gov't take control of such an event and limit its existence to once a year (in Sept. / Oct.)? Will this ensure a better yearly festival? Would brewers rather show up for a fest run by a promoter, another brewery, or a branch of the provincial gov't? Why can't I remember that other question I was going to post? 


Saturday, March 30, 2013

More Pump House Brews @ Water Street Fish & Chips

Just FYI, there's a nice little place downtown that has good food, and maybe isn't as busy as it should be yet. Water Street Fish & Chips in downtown Charlottetown has been bringing in Pump House brews on tap for a couple or few months now. This week, they've got the S.O.B. and IPA on tap (next time I'm in, I'll ask what others they still have on with them). I snuck in for a quick IPA last night, and I must say it was a pretty nice beer. Good aroma, nice & bitter. Lots of citrus & pith. I feel I must also note that the pricing's great, too - only $5.41 before tax or $6.25 after tax... something along those lines. Good luck finding a decent craft brew in town of a similar size for the same price. It's also worthy noting that, as of now, these are the only craft brews available on PEI other than the Gahan / PEI Brewing Co. offerings.

Next week, Water Street has a burger entry in the PEI Burger Love competition, so I expect I'll be down for a burger and a pint or two some day!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Prince Edward Island Brewing Company Expands...

It's no secret that the PEI Brewing Company is expanding. Just how much it's expanding and evolving might be a bit surprising to those of you off-island or out of "town", though. To save me some time and make this post efficient for you, here's the few interesting things you may like to know:

  • Their brewing space has increased. A lot. Just over a year ago, they got a million-dollar loan from the province to expand their operations by adding some much-needed space and larger tanks. Basically, they built on to the left of what you see above with a large add-on.
(How they envision their new facility will look. Only blue cars allowed.)

  • Now, they're on the move just up the Kensington Road (old place on the left in the top pic above, new place on the right), and expanding again in even more ways. From what I understand, the new place will have the capability to brew more than twice as much beer as they did last year, and it will provide more space overall for storage, office space, event space, guided tours, as well as a brewtique (among other things?). Just check out their Facebook page for lots of photos on the progress, their official site, or their Twitter account for some more quips, pics, and... I had to say it... frequent-enough errors in writing to drive me a little nuts. Nothing to do with the beer. It's just a thing of mine. This move and expansion got them another loan of $2,140,000 from the province, $500,000 from ACOA, and $220,000 of their own money. Check out the news article here. Many locals fuss over a successful family / group getting provincial money, but think of it - who do you want your money going to? Some unproven business or someone (gasp) "from away", or someone who's making progress and jobs here and (we all know) will pay all of the loan back? The new place opens up the middle of this May.
(photo from their Facebook page)
  • Their market continues to grow outside the province. I believe their full commercial line-up is in New Brunswick's stores now, and they hope to have a presence in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland within the next year or so. Beyond that, I think they've designs on going cross-country, perhaps starting with the lager. 
  • They have had an extremely busy past year putting their brews in local venues. With the bucks to back up a plan that sees them supplying the kegerators and set-up/maintenance know-how & service, it's a bit of a no-brainer for local places to accept selling their brews. Have a look at the list of vendors on the site. I think I counted 82 places. I'm all for craft brew in as many places as possible, but I just hope this doesn't make it harder for a new brewery like Barnone or anyone else on (or off) Island to find some venues to sell their own brews. 

  • They've changed their logo. Again. After less than a year. After Beach Chair Lager came out last year, its logo was basically adopted as the company's logo. Now (thankfully / intelligently), they've gone with a better logo that isn't tied to just one of their beers. It made a sneaky appearance in this month's Buzz, but was only officially revealed online last week, and at last weekend's brew fest in Fredericton. I like the new logo. It's simple, classy, and gives a nod to our local history & brewing alike. 
Did I forget to include anything?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

De Molen Vuur & Vlam

Translates as "Fire and Flames". Thank God it's not "Fire and Rain", because that'd make me think of that "Set Fire to the Rain" song by Adele which would remind me of that dress from the Grammys and how CBC R2 overplayed "Skyfall". Let's not go there. Move on.

This brew is a completely clear (until the sediment stirs up), bright copper colour. It starts bubbling up a head slowly as soon as you pop the cap, and the head in the glass upon pouring is sky-high, coarse, and turns slightly creamier and very sticky as it lowers fairly slowly.

There's some kind of fruit that is hard to pin at first... I'm pretty sure it's (surprisingly) figs popping up. It's definitely got an interesting aroma. It's got some hoppy and citrusy aspects for sure, at least at first, but I find it's more dominated by some kind of rather odd mix between figs, toffee, and some kind of bread pudding or some such thing. It's not won me over here...

There is a bitterness to it, but it's well under control - nothing offensive to anyone... not overly pithy or grassy. Hmm. It's like... like a mix of more than one beer. It's as if they took an IPA and mixed it with a greater proportion of a dubbel or something. I seem to prefer drinking it without inhaling... just take it in, swallow, and then breathe. It's more IPA-y that way, and the smell's throwing me off a bit, so this seems to improve it for me. Almost a barley wine sweetness in there.

The finish is a bit sticky and a bit airy, due to the bitterness. Microtingles from the carb, and a medium body.

Overall... just a little weird for me. Not a bad beer. Not a great beer. Just confused.