Victoria’s Lighthouse Brewing recently expanded its brewery into a neighbouring warehouse, which gave them the room to add some big, new fermentation tanks. This is great news for craft beer lovers since brewer Dean McLeod’s line-up of limited release beers in 650-mL bombers has been one of the most interesting collections of beers put out by any brewery in B.C. over the past couple of years. Two of my favourites were the awesome Belgian Black, which caught everyone by surprise early last year, and Siren Red Imperial Ale, which blew my mind back in December.
As part of its expansion, Lighthouse has added a growler station with four taps. It is only open during weekday office hours, and with its industrial location in Esquimalt away from Victoria’s eight other breweries/brewpubs (all of which are situated in a mile-long loop around the Upper Harbour) it isn’t exactly a trendy destination. But the brewery might yet become a must-stop on Victoria’s popular growler circuit because McLeod has pledged to produce small-batch “pilot brews” on a regular, hopefully weekly basis that will only be available in growlers. Then, based on feedback from customers and his own staff, the best beers will move up to become monthly bomber releases. It’s even possible that one of these pilot brews could eventually become one of Lighthouse’s regular year-round brews.
Since the growler station opened, McLeod has released the delicious Mountain Goat Maibock and Toxic Avenger Imperial Porter, as well as the Barnacle Wheat IPA, which is the first example of a pilot brew that has moved up the ladder to become a limited release bomber.
This Friday, April 19, from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, Lighthouse is holding Growlerific, an open house to celebrate the new growler station and brewery renovations.
Barnacle Wheat IPA
8% ABV | ~75-80 IBU | 650 mL
Availability: Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
Over the past year or two, B.C. brewers have gone hoppin’ mad fiddling with the inimitable and super-popular IPA style. All sorts of hybrid versions have emerged: Belgian IPAs, white IPAs, black IPAs, session IPAs, IPLs, and now a wheat IPA? What the heck’s a wheat IPA, you might be asking? Well, in this case, it’s darn good!
Brewed mostly with malted wheat and toasted rolled wheat, the result is a smooth, medium-bodied beer with a wheaty flavour and a refreshing dry finish. It’s deceptively strong at 8% ABV, but it sure doesn’t taste or feel like it. But what really sets this beer apart is the palate of New Zealand hops—Rakau and Riwaka are their names. Like other Southern Hemisphere hops, these have a delicious tropical fruitiness along with a subtle grape/peach aroma, much different than the piney, citrusy Northwest hops that big IPAs like Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA, Central City’s Red Racer IPA and even Lighthouse’s own Switchback IPA showcase. While those beers bathe your taste buds wonderfully in grapefruit-tangerine glory, this one is more lemony, which works well with the wheat malts (why do you think we’ve been adding lemon slices to Hefeweizens for all these years? and don’t say you’ve never done it). The hop bitterness is just as potent here as in any of those other great IPAs I mentioned above.
When I asked McLeod about the bitterness, he estimated it to be 75-80 IBUs, and added, “The dry finish certainly makes it appear more bitter. For me, balance means having a beer in each hand.” Nice.
Coincidentally, this isn’t the only big BC IPA using southern hemisphere hops out this spring. Nelson Brewing has a new one called Full Nelson Imperial IPA that uses the very grapey Nelson Sauvin hops. I’ve had a preview taste of it and it’s exceptional. It should be arriving in stores next week and I hope to review it formally then.
Rating (out of 5 mugs):