The Parallel 49 Brewing interview…plus a Mountie, some gin news, and a groundhog in a bowler hat

My Fellow Inebriates,

Let’s face it, when it comes to remembering stuff, neither of my two neurons exactly has its axon on the answer button. So I’ve been very remiss toward one of my favorite fellow beer reviewers and two very kind booze purveyors:

Beerbecue tweeted me to ask about the legalities of LBHQ Canadian Cream.

Naturally I hadn’t thought about getting busted (nor had I honestly thought of sharing the liqueur, internationally or otherwise; it represents about four good days of blotto). But beerbecue instilled the fear of Mounties with this picture.

Mounties are notoriously honorable and this one is probably no exception. Regarding the Canadian Cream biz, it probably wouldn’t accept a hush bribe, and then I’d end up in jail where someone would forge the orifice I don’t yet have.

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Julia Gale sent me a lovely newsletter mentioning that BROKER’S GIN has been relisted by the BC liquor authority.

This whole thing has been an absolute odyssey, so much gratitude goes to Julia for listening to my whining. Once we get that delicious hooch back at LBHQ we’ll have our much-threatened Gin Shoot-Out Part Deux.

If this groundhog has a Broker’s Gin bowler hat, I imagine mine must be in the mail.

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Anthony Frustagli of Parallel 49 Brewing was kind enough to do an interview with me.

Since only house-trained bears are allowed at the brewery, we did our Q&A via email. Be warned, this is a real interview! It contains actual answers and information, which are anomalies for this space.

LB: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us about Parallel 49 Brewing. I’m still reeling from how good LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER was. I’ve been tasting SCHADENFREUDE this week—quite bold and spicy. As soon as I bought it, I noticed a ton of other pumpkin beers. I was also surprised to note it’s a lager rather than an ale. Where does SCHADENFREUDE sit on the pumpkin-beer spectrum in terms of flavor profile?
AF: It’s the only pumpkin lager that I know of. We designed it that way because as a lager it has a much lighter body than most of the ales out there, so we didn’t have to spice it as aggressively as some of the other pumpkins. At the same time, the bready malts in Oktoberfests provide a perfect backdrop for the spices.
LB: Do you get a lot of feedback on specialty beers such as SCHADENFREUDE? What would it take for this to become a year-round product?
AF: Feedback on the seasonals has been fantastic. In fact, an article in the Globe and Mail today called SCHADENFREUDE “one of the best pumpkin beers in the country.” Having said that, it is staying as a seasonal beer.
LB: What do you see as your market demographic?
AF: Our demographic is people interested in new, exciting, well-crafted beers.  We’ve only had product in market for about five months, so our demographic hasn’t changed much.
LB: Is craft beer suffering the same doldrums [as macro beer], or is it able to weather the vicissitudes of style/popularity?

AF: Craft beer numbers are soaring, showing double digit growth every year for the past decade. I think macro drinkers are moving over to craft beer more than they are switching to wine or spirits…. Differentiating ourselves from macro beer is not hard at all. Macro beer is amazingly homogeneous in terms of both flavour and image. Convincing macro drinkers to give you a shot is the hard part. In terms of production and planning, “craft” shouldn’t immediately imply “small.” There are many amazing craft breweries in the US that are HUGE (relatively speaking). Small-batch breweries are not necessarily craft, and craft breweries aren’t necessarily small. A brewery’s commitment to the quality of their product is what determines if they can be considered a craft brewery or not.
LB: Is brewing more art or more science? Both?
AF: Very much both. Our top two brewers both have degrees in chemical engineering, and are both avid home brewers. Designing great beers is an art; actually making the beers as designed (and on a large scale) is definitely a LOT of science.
LB: There must be a lot of stories about how everyone at Parallel 49 got into brewing. Is everyone at Parallel 49 passionate about beer?
AF: We all are insanely passionate about craft beer. In fact, we all left relatively secure, well-paying jobs because we wanted to work in a field that was a little closer to our hearts.  
LB: How do you decide what sort of beer to produce and market? Do you ever butt heads?
AF: All five of us, along with our brewers and sales reps, have weekly meetings where we sit down and taste each and every beer in production or testing right now, and ask ourselves how we can improve on those. At the same time, we try to answer the question “what would be really awesome to drink right now that I just can’t find anywhere.” That’s how our beers are born.
LB: Which beer is your personal fave? How much does personal taste play a role in deciding which beers to market?
AF: Our motto is “Driven by thirst.” We brew the kinds of beers that we want to drink. Personal taste is pretty much the most important factor in deciding which beers we bring to market. Do I have personal favourite? Depends on the date, weather, my mood, time of day, alignment of the planets, etc. In other words, no… I don’t have a favourite 🙂
LB: Have you ever produced a beer that just didn’t work out?
AF: Several dozen. They never see the light of day outside the brewery though.
LB: What’s your next new beer? Or is it a secret? How soon can we get a taste?
AF: Our next seasonal is UGLY SWEATER MILK STOUT…and we also have a salted caramel Scotch ale, and a cascading dark ale being released in 650ml bottles in mid-November.

LB: Are you getting a lot of traffic in the Parallel 49 tasting room?
AF: Yes, the traffic through the tasting room has exceeded our expectations several fold.
LB: Do you have any advice for tasting-room visitors?
AF: Please bear with us 🙂  Our growler program has exploded beyond our wildest forecasts (we have over 1000 growlers out to market in just over three months) and we only have one growler filling station. We’ve ordered two more, and they will be installed soon.
LB: What do you like best about brewing?
AF: Drinking beer 🙂  And watching people enjoy our beers.
LB: Do you allow bears in the tasting room?
AF: Are they house-trained bears? 🙂

The Parallel 49 brewery and tasting room can be found at:

 1950 Triumph St.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

V5L 1K5

Tel: 604-558-BREW (2739)

How (not?) to mollify an angry Irish bear

My dad has finally accepted the reality of the Fluffy Problem.

He’s been laughing it off for quite a while, telling me I’m delusional. (Yeah, and who’s talking to a bear?) But a couple of mornings ago the stove woke him up. Beeping. All on its own, people!

No one had set the oven timer. There hadn’t been any clock-resetting electrical outage; the clock time displayed correctly—but the stupid thing was beeping at 6:00 a.m. It would have to have been set the evening before. What the hell? Seriously, no one at LBHQ is so super-curious about household appliances that they’d bother to figure out how to set a 12-hour timer…holy crap, for what reason?

Finally we figured it out. The night before, the family had watched a movie. We bears sat on the couch getting kicked and shoved and tangled up in V’s favorite comforter. Somehow Fluffy got kicked off the couch and rolled under it, where he stayed all night after the family had gone upstairs and we other bears had been tucked into bed (i.e., the laundry basket).

No one noticed that Fluffy had been abandoned. He was alone all night. And even when the oven timer started bleating at 6:00 a.m., no one put it together that it was powered by Fluffy’s mind. Not until later when he was discovered under the couch.

OMG, my fellow inebriates. If Fluffy can make the oven do something it’s not even supposed to, that means he can do anything electrical. He could set the house on fire, my fellow inebriates. He could fry us all.

So our first order of business is to make nice with Fluffy.

The most obvious way to do this, I decided today, was to offer him a taste of the liqueur we made on the weekend. Sure, the recipe says to let it mellow three weeks or more, but we have an emergency here. We have an Irish bear in the house with angry magical powers who might (logically) be mollified by some Irish Canadian Cream.

But getting into the fridge turned out to be a bitch. That appliance has some mean suction on it, and I was stuck for quite a while. When my dad did finally discover me, he paused to take a picture.

And then another.

“Bearly had a chance,” said my dad.

And so the countdown to our tasting continues…ploddingly. No Irish Canadian Cream tonight, which leaves us at the mercy of whatever Fluffy does next.

Just as well, perhaps. Is it creeping determinism to say it might be for the best that Fluffy doesn’t critique our homemade liqueur? Who knows what he might do if he realizes the base spirit isn’t Jameson Irish whisky but…Wisers?

Our own Irish (well, actually Canadian) Cream—at one-third the price of store-bought! (And YOU can do it too!)

Check it out, my fellow inebriates. With roughly $33 worth of simple ingredients, we’re going to make almost 3 litres of dreamy Irish Canadian cream liqueur. Yes!

Okay, so typically we wouldn’t get all the ingredients ready like this. My mum would be more likely to begin a recipe, then run around the kitchen looking for ingredients she didn’t bother reading about, all the while cursing whatever’s burning, only to realize we’re out of whatever she needs. But today we got organized. After all, this is a documentary of sorts.

The Recipe

  • 8.75 oz milk chocolate chips (call it a rounded cup)
  • 1 shot espresso
  • 750 mL whisky (that’s 3 cups to you imperialists)
  • 2 cans condensed milk
  • 2 cans evaporated milk
  • 2.5 cups whipping cream

Can you believe it? That’s it! In fact, the only complicated part of this whole deal is getting the chocolate chips to melt nicely. If you don’t have a double boiler (and who does?), just put a smaller saucepan inside a larger one partly filled with water. Get the water gently boiling, then simmer it, making sure the water won’t go apeshit-splashy into the small saucepan. Put the chocolate chips and the espresso shot inside the little saucepan and stir as they melt. Mmmmm!

Meanwhile, get a bowl like our big pink one and pour the whisky into it. (Usually we make cookies and cakes in the big pink bowl, which makes the kids come running, and today was no exception. They loved making Canadian cream liqueur.)

Once the chocolate is melted and well stirred (no lumps), pour it into the whisky, whisking it up immediately so it doesn’t get a chance to harden. You’ll probably get a few little chips at the bottom, but most of the chocolate should become happily suspended in the whisky. It will look like the Exxon Valdez spill at first, then like diarrhea. Don’t worry, you’re doing it right.

Empty all four cans into the bowl and whisk everything up. The mixture will lighten pleasantly.

Pour the whipping cream in. This is the AHA! moment when you realize it looks just like the store-bought stuff. Just like it, people!

Whisk the mixture to ensure the color is uniform. Then…do you have a container ready?

Our branding/packaging is still incomplete, so we’re using this 4 L milk jug for the next two weeks while our Canadian Cream mellows. We’ll give it a shake every day, look longingly at it, sniff it…and after two weeks have passed torturously by, we’re going to pound it. Ahhh!

Almost forgot: store-bought Irish cream goes for $55 per 1.75 L. Our yield is 2.85 L for $33! OMG, making your own is one-third the cost of buying it!

Review in T minus two weeks, so save the date, MFI 😉