Here in British Columbia we are lucky to have a wealth of Belgian beers available—ones that were actually brewed in Belgium as well as Belgian styles produced by BC breweries. And there so many styles that all fall within the “Belgian” category: wits; saisons/farmhand ales; golden ales; Trappist/Abbey Ales; dubbels, tripels, quads; sour beers; and even crossover styles, such as White IPAs.
One of my favourite events each year at Vancouver Craft Beer Week is the Biercraft Belgian Showcase. Last year, I had a great time at this event, mainly because I got to hang out with Cédric Dauchot, the only Belgian-born brewer in BC, who works at Townsite Brewing. It was only a few months after Townsite had opened up in Powell River, but he managed to produce the Charleston Triple for the event, and it was a big hit.
Cédric and I walked around Biercraft sampling various Belgian beers together throughout the evening. It was fun getting the inside scoop from him, hearing his anecdotes about many of them (“This is the one I used to drink when I was 16 and getting into trouble.” or “This brewery is five minutes from my father’s house.”)
The best part came late in the evening when the restaurant owner walked over with a small, unlabelled bottle and offered us each a tiny glassful. It was the fabled Westvletern 12, a Trappist beer that is brewed exclusively by monks in Belgium and is incredibly hard to get a hold of.
Cédric’s reaction was priceless. “This should not be here!” he sputtered in shock, gazing at the small glass as if it were liquid gold. He led me to a quiet corner and insisted we warm the small glassful a little in our hands before sipping it. It was delicious, of course, but I especially love the fact that my first sip of this renowned and rare beer happened as it did.
This year’s Belgian Showcase will take place next Monday, June 3 at Biercraft’s Cambie location, starting at 6:30 pm. Tickets are still available through the VCBW website. You can tell I am a fan of this event since I am promoting it even though it is in direct competition with my own book launch at Yaletown Brewing!
Biercraft will be pouring over 50 Belgian and Belgian-style beers including such legends as Rochefort, St. Bernardus, and Delirium Tremens, as well as styles produced by local and US craft breweries such as Commons, Logsdon and Driftwood. Biercraft is even giving away a Westvleteren 12 gift pack.
Here are a couple of beers that will be featured at this year’s Biercraft Belgian Showcase.
The Heretic Local Malt Tripel
8% ABV | 650 mL
Availability: Private liquor stores in Victoria and Vancouver, and on tap here and there.
When Victoria’s Driftwood Brewery opened in 2008, two out of their three core brands were Belgian styles, and they still produce them today: Farmhand Ale and White Bark Wit. Back then, co-founder Jason Meyer told me, “We wanted to stake out our space as a brewer of Belgian beers in the Northwest.” Since then, of course, the brewery has achieved renown for their incomparable IPAs (Fat Tug, Sartori Harvest, and Twenty Pounder) but Driftwood has also continued to produce limited release batches of other Belgian styles, including dubbels, golden ales, and the Bird of Prey series, which features sour, barrel-aged beers.
Driftwood’s latest Belgian forays both feature local malted barley, produced by Saanich farmer and maltster Mike Doehnel, who is single-handedly trying to revive the practice of growing grains on Vancouver Island. The Clodhopper local malt dubbel came out in April and is already gone from most liquor store shelves, but it will be on tap at the Belgian Showcase. And now Driftwood has released The Heretic, a Belgian-style, local malt tripel, which is out in bombers now and will also be featured at the Biercraft event.
The Heretic is an excellent tripel, subtler in terms of sweetness and aroma than some other BC-produced tripels I have tasted in recent years. It’s subtle, but still complex, pouring deep golden in colour with a bright effervescence and a formidable head of pure white, lacy foam that sticks around forever. You can detect a slight spiciness on the nose, but little hop aroma as it should be with the style. The Belgian yeast gives it a deliciously fruity and spicy flavour with a slightly sour tang and a very dry finish. It is sneaky-strong at 9% ABV—the alcohol is hidden away nicely in the background.
The label is also great – I almost missed the writing on the book clutched behind the heretic’s back: “Reinheitsgebot,” the famous Bavarian Purity Act of 1516 that outlawed the use of anything other than barley, hops and water in brewing. Belgian brewers went in the other direction, embracing the addition of candy sugars, fruits, spices, wild bacteria, whatever they could think of, it seems.
Rating (out of 5 mugs):
Powell River, BC
YOGN 82 Belgian Triple
9% ABV | 650 mL | 40 IBU
Availability: Private liquor stores in Powell River, Victoria and Vancouver, and on tap here and there.
This beer is part of Townsite’s “Hulks Series,” so named after the local breakwater made up of floating concrete ships that is a well-known, historic landmark. It’s also a revision of last year’s Charleston Triple, which debuted at the Biercraft Belgian Showcase. This year’s version is a little less boozy in aroma and the body is a bit lighter, too. It’s a great revision.
Rating (out of 5 mugs):