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.

♦ ♦ ♦

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)

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LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER—What would you sell for it?

I threw down the hairy paw (read: gauntlet) this morning in a challenge toward the only human in the mostly estrogenic LBHQ capable of taking it on.

“Dude, you have less than two weeks to get your stache on.”

I was addressing my dad of course. Despite the ongoing flirtation peri-menopause is having with my mother, a decent moustache is well out of reach for her…this year. So it’s up to my dad and me to be Bloggers for Movember.

Poor Dad. Only rarely has he ever tried to grow a stache—each time a failure! Some guys look great with facial hair, and my dad can pull off five o’clock shadow, but an honest-to-goodness moustache? Ha! My dad looks like a tool with a moustache, which I suspect is why he said it’s “not gonna happen” this November.

He even cited his work regulations—apparently the very large company he works for regulates facial hair. OMG!

If you’re wondering why I’m so confident about winning this would-be throwdown against my dad, consider that I already have a moustache. I just have to shave 95% of myself and leave a bit of fur under my nose. Voilà!

This was pretty much my path today. The razors were in the bathroom. It’s much easier to get that little plastic tab off a Daisy razor head than it is to open a bottle of wine, let me tell you. There I was, poised to sculpt my latent moustache, when three little girls came screaming into the bathroom wearing Disney princess dresses. The youngest immediately dropped drawers to deposit solids in the toilet. The others went into a flurry of clothing exchange, obscuring Miss V’s plops with their 4-KHz exuberance. My ears exploded and the razor skittered off into the sink, from which my mother sternly retrieved it. There would be no bear shaving on her watch, she said, particularly in front of her two daughters and their playdate witness.

“P and V are used to shit like this,” I remonstrated. “They like it.”

“No they don’t,” she said. “They’d rather put makeup on you, which would be almost as difficult to undo, so make yourself scarce.”

“But I need a moustache. I’ve already committed to Bloggers for Movember. I’ve liked the Facebook page already. And I have only recently garnered the attention of Le Clown, whose charitable fundraising effort this is. If you thwart my moustache you’re basically endorsing prostate cancer. You’re telling prostate cancer to go forth and multiply.”

“That’s a bit strong, LB.”

“Speaking of strong, do you recall the alcohol percentage of LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER?” (This is what is called a gratuitous segue.) “I think it was 6.5%. Do you remember?”

“Why?”

“Because at a respectable ABV it would address my DTs in short order, and one could settle for drinking it slowly; moreover, with its moderate level of fine carbonation it wouldn’t interfere too much with one’s moustache. Assuming one was allowed to groom oneself a moustache.”

I don’t recall my mother ever calling any of her other children a douchebag.

Fact is, and I’m not even going to save this for the final punch, LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER is the best beer I’ve had all year. With its comic-book-style Grim Reaper label and scary moniker, it’s freaky not just for its Halloween theme but because—holy crap, people—it won’t be here for very long. In fact, when we returned a second time to the liquor store for more, it was all sold out.

Let’s break it down, my fellow inebriates:

LOST SOULS is an inky cola color with a tan head. Across the room you might take it for a Guinness, but then you’d be surprised by its snappy carbonation. Aromas of sweet malt, espresso-touched chocolate, subtle spices and just-perceptible pumpkin waft from the glass. On the palate LOST SOULS delivers a rich baker’s-chocolate wave of toasty malt and mild pumpkin, reaching into you like a succubus and stealing your very soul. Yes, guard your soul, people, if you’re lucky enough to sample this Parallel 49 product before it evaporates into post-Halloween nonexistence. With its bewitching flavor palate and satisfying viscosity, LOST SOULS will own you. (Maybe eternally.) I would sell my soul for another, people. And don’t tell Le Clown, but I would probably sell my nascent moustache for it too. Except I won’t; damn it, I’m growing that fucker.

Visit Le Clown for full details (click the picture).