Author Archives: Adam Henderson

BC Craft Four Pack for Alberta

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BC has been very lucky these last few years, seeing a rapid rise in both the number, and more importantly, the quality of breweries that exist in this province. Copper & Theory has been lucky enough to know many of these brewers since before they were pros, and those friendships have now culminated in this tasty Four Pack.

We asked four of our favourite BC brewers; Powell Street, Four Winds, Dageraad and Steel & Oak to give us something special that Albertans can’t find anywhere else. None of these beers are available in Alberta outside of this package, and two of these breweries (Four Winds, and Powell St.) aren’t otherwise available in Alberta in a package format.

This took a fair amount of time and work to coordinate, but we’re glad it came together. We’d like to offer a big thank you to the brewers for their involvement and their enthusiasm in the project!!!

We are currently planning a second package. Stay tuned…

COPPER-Poster-PrintReady

 

 

Food Pairing – Cantillon Fou Foune

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Cantillon Fou Foune arrived the other day. We haven’t ever had this beer before, and it’s one of our favourites, and an extremely popular beer as well, we learned.

So why not come up with some food pairing fun…???

Personally, I love pairing lambic, and gueuze, with charcuterie, cheese and good bread (specifically soft, just slightly stinky cheese, and dark, rye bread, and something potted like rillettes). It’s a fantastic way to showcase the versatility of great beer and surprise a few people while you’re at it. The fruit, acidity, and juiciness of lambic compliment that type of meal so well, but that felt like a cop-out tonight, when I finally had my Fou Foune.

I wanted to use apricots IN the meal, as I had previously enjoyed a pork belly stuffed with apricots; rolled, breaded and pan fried with Fou Foune. Damn good. Somehow I arrived at a Moroccan-spiced Goat Stew with Couscous. I’ve been using a pressure cooker a lot lately to make a variety of Indian dishes, and this was similar (puree of mint, cilantro, ginger, chiles, added to the pan with sauteed minced onions, ras el hanout, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and then braised with a little stock and yogurt). I added the apricots at the end for about 15-20 minutes of simmering until plump and soft. I served it with a simple couscous with lemon and orange zest and sultans, and topped it with some left over yogurt, with parsley mint and aforementioned zest mixed in…

The result was beautiful. Honestly, this was one of my favourite meals I’ve ever made. But that’s probably most because of it’s resemblance to what I imagined and expected, rather than it’s overall culinary perfection.

Nevertheless, wonderful. With the Fou Foune, it was even better. The richness of the goat, cooked in yogurt, and spice, was cut by the acidity but not overshadowed. Lambic is one of the rare beverages that has both the refreshing lightness and complexity to match a meal like this. Spice and apricot, and apricot and apricot (both real, and beer-dissolved) melded perfectly with one another. To the last sip the apricot in the Fou Foune was still singing loudly.

Too often beer pairings really aren’t working together – meaning that the beer and the food are not working side by side, making each other better. This was not one of those pairings. Try it out yourself! (I don’t really feel qualified to post recipes, nor do i really cook by them, but I can give guidance if needed) Or just do the cheese/charcutiere cop-out. It’s still incredible.

-Adam

 

RainCity Brands is Now “Copper & Theory”!

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We’ve changed our name! RainCity Brands is now “Copper & Theory”.

As of today, RainCity Brands, Inc. will begin conducting business as “Copper & Theory Artisan Beer Supply Co.”. This name change allows us to present our beers in a brand new light, and this is a big win for our suppliers and our customers at the retail and restaurant level, and a first step towards fulfilling our larger, long term goals. In 2013 we’ll be introducing some AMAZING new brands while doing a lot more to get our beers out into the market and noticed by beer drinkers. This great new brand is just the beginning…

Why, you ask…?

We wanted a new name and a new brand image to help us fulfil our mission of changing the beers people drink and how they drink them. While “RainCity” served us very well over the last few years, it has some limitations. First and foremost, there are about a dozen other great companies with the same name here in Vancouver (RainCity Grill, RainCity Studios, RainCity Rock, RainCity Bikes, etc… in fact, RainCity Bikes just changed their name in 2012…). Secondly, RainCity says “Vancouver”, but we’ve got customers EVERYWHERE in BC, not just Vancouver, and that also limits our future expansion plans to other markets. Lastly, our old name didn’t really do much to honour our love of beer’s history, science, industry and artistry – which are all things we love about this majestic beverage.

How will this affect you?

Our new brand allows us to be a more prominent and authoritative voice for Craft Beer. It’s more professional and lasting than our old branding, and it’s something we’re very proud to put out into the world. As a result we will be doing just that, and you’ll see us, and our beers more often.

Our new website is, in our opinion, the best agency/importer website in the province, for beer, spirits, or wine. We will still be improving it from here on, but upon it’s launch we will be featuring high resolution bottle shots all products, along with detailed descriptions of the beers. There will be more great features to come, all designed to inform you about the products and where they can be found.

We’re also implementing a new toll free number and phone system to improve our service, and we’ll be launching new marketing and promotional materials, as well as creating a roster of innovative promotional events.

So….. why “Copper & Theory”?

Copper of course references the metal, copper (Cu), the age old material that was once so prominently used in the brewing industry. Some brewers still use copper, though it’s largely fallen out of favour due to practical reasons and has been replaced by the more durable and cheaper stainless steel. Beer has such incredible history, and has impacted industry and economics for the at least the last thousand years. So for us, this one word evokes a lot more than an element on the periodic table.

The word “Theory” is a nod fellow beer nerds, brewers, and drinkers everywhere that may often be found dissecting the alchemy of malting, the conversion of simple starches to sugars, or perhaps the subsequent fermentation that creates alcohol – you get the idea: To truly love beer one must appreciate the science and artistry that goes into it. And it has always been our goal to spread that knowledge to the masses.

And lastly, we just think it sounds good :)

So… we proudly present to you, Copper & Theory, same great beers, same cool kids behind the helm, but we got a haircut and bought a fancy new suit.

Happy New Year, and Happy Drinking!!

Brasserie De Cazeau (Tournay)

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When I went to Belgium last August, the very first beer I ordered was Saison Cazeau. Being a sucker for saisons in general made it easy, but it came highly recommended as well from good friends… and it did not disappoint. Right away I wanted to import this beer! Thankfully, the brewery is only about 20 minutes from De Ranke, so a few days later Nino Bacelle was kind enough to introduce me to Laurent Agache, who having just finished a brew day, made for an excellent host, and gave us a tour.

I’ve posted a few pics here of the old farmhouse brewery. I have to say the building and general locale was my favourite in Belgium, probably because it’s closest to what I imagined when I sipped my first Saison so many years ago. (It was Saison D’Epeautre, by the way)

The Noire sealed the deal as far as deciding to import this line up – it’s roasty, dry, snappy finish leaves an impression unlike any other Belgian dark ale you’ll be likely to find in North America. A true gem.

 

We will be importing the Tripel and the Saison later this summer. The former is brand new, and I’ve not tried it, and the latter is made only once a year when the elderflowers used in the brewing process can be harvested (usually late June).

Before anyone asks, I am not sure if the Tournay Noel will fit into our schedule this year, but I certainly hope to import some if that works out.

I hope you enjoy these beers as much as I do!

-Adam

Some Sad News… No More Pretty Things for BC

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Hello all,

Unfortunately RainCity Brands will no longer be distributing beer from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project.

Dann and Martha, the owners at Pretty Things have decided that it no longer makes sense for them to send beer all the way to BC when they are so busy at home in Massachusetts, and their neighbouring states. They currently distribute to only MA, NY, PA, RI, so we were the only company west of Pennsylvania to be working with them, which was quite a nice little feather in our cap. It was pretty cool while it lasted, but they have simply grown too much and become too busy to be sending beer all the way to the West Coast.

Pretty Things was the first brand I got approval from when I started this company 2 years ago, so they are very special to me personally, and I owe Dann and Martha much thanks for helping me get started. I will miss having their beer in portfolio to say the least. St. Botolph’s Town is probably the perfect beer for me, so selfishly, I’m a bit pissed I can’t have that any more!

I know several of you have these beers on your menus, and will miss them just as much, or that you simply just enjoy picking them up at a bottle shop. My apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. I had expected this to occur one day, just not yet!

On a slightly more positive note, we will have some new and really exciting breweries joining our portfolio in the next few months, and I will be sure to keep you all posted on that.

Again, please join me in wishing Dann and Martha and the rest of the Pretty Things team all the best for their incredibly bright future.

-Adam

Privatizing the BCLDB’s Warehouses – Input Needed

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A recent Liquor Distribution Branch announcement told us all of the impending sale of the LDB’s Distribution Centers to the private sector. Of course this has caused much speculation about motives and about potential suitors. I’ve seen a lot of misinformation, and misunderstanding about what is happening and what it might mean. I’m not a journalist, I’m a business man, but my business is craft beer, so I feel like I know a thing or two.

First, let me be very clear that the Liberals aren’t talking about privatizing the LDB! This is simply about selling the two distribution warehouses that are in Vancouver, and Kamploops – these two facilities are huge and they are the point from which most alcohol moves around the province. Under the proposed budget, the LDB stores, and the oversight of liquor sales in BC would still remain under the control of the LDB.

I am proponent of privatization in the strictest sense, for just about everything. The main reason I feel this way is that a government’s role shouldn’t be to run businesses. It should be to govern. Secondarily, should the industry in question be in the benefit of society (and thus be allowed to exist at all) the free market is the best way to deliver fair value to the people in the most efficient way possible.

I do however have a sense of cautious optimism, perhaps even just straight up scepticism, towards this announcement. While you’d be right to think privatization would be a great thing, I feel that the benefits of a free market I’ve listed above are only realized when the industry is wholly privatized. This particular change is simply about taking components of a bureaucratic, highly-regulated, and far-from-private industry and outsourcing one of those parts to a private operator. This is not privatization of the industry, it’s just outsourcing and it could jeopardize the growth and possibly even the sustainability of the Craft Beer industry, because all other stakeholders are effected by this and they will have no choice but to work with these new partners.

Frankly, most BC wine and beer lovers don’t understand what these warehouses are. And the average consumer is completely uninformed.

These warehouses are a critical part of a distribution network that is actually relatively good for consumer choice, though far from perfect. It is good because under our current system (which I remind you, is NOT about to change), they allow agents like myself (we are the ones that actually import and market most of the cool shit you drink) to economically sell beer, wine or spirits hundreds of kilometers away from major urban centers, such as in small towns like Prince George. Because every licensed establishment, be it a bar or LRS store orders significant amounts of product through the LDB, agents can simply leverage these economies of scale and load our products onto consolidated pallets with other products through the LDB’s centralized warehouses in Kamloops and Vancouver – the warehouses in question. The existence of these facilities makes it feasible for an LRS in Vernon to order one case of Belgian Lambic, for example. I might make $5 dollars on such a transaction. I can’t speak for all agents, but if I had to drive that case out there from Vancouver myself it would not be cost effective.

If these warehouses get bought up by some larger firm, let’s call them XYZ Company, then XYZ company will expect to make a profit, as they should. But what leeway will XYZ have to determine how this profit is made? Will they be required to follow the LDB’s current rules, and operate the same way the warehouses do today?

Currently, I pay $0.10 a litre to have my beers sent anywhere in the Province. That’s a flat fee that every Agent pays. But if that changed significantly, it would seriously hurt consumer choice by negatively affecting the revenue models of importers and thus limiting what product can be sold in private stores. Further, what if XYZ company determined that they only want to deal with product that came packaged in a certain standardized formats such as 24 x 355ml cans, or 341ml bottles? Would they have the right to say “no” to agents that import beer in 6 x 750ml bottles? Would they have the right to charge agents minimum fees for delivery?

Hopefully I am clearly illustrating a point. It is this: This sale should not conclude until all stakeholders have the opportunity to provide feedback into how this company will be required to operate. They cannot be allowed to operate as a truly private firm because they are not part of a truly private system, and it is a system which has many stakeholders without other recourse. If I’m forced to work with these guys, they should be forced to recognize my concerns.

On a more optimistic note, we can use this feedback process to provide the LDB with ideas for new rules. For example, perhaps we could allow for ‘rush delivery’ options for licensee’s, or enhanced, realtime reporting for agents. Currently it takes 7-10 days for a spec product to be delivered. Sometimes that’s fine, but in other cases the products may be desired immediately, but there is no possibility to make that happen. And agents cannot see who has ordered product when it happens. So while I will know that I’ve sold something, I have to wait until month end to find out where it has gone.

I see many people commenting that privatization is great or that we should be all for this. As I said in my second paragraph, I love that idea. But the reality is that the rest of the system is so bureaucratic and inflexible that should these warehouses be allowed to squeeze the little guys, then we will have no other recourse. We need to act now, while we have a voice and before any damage is done.

If the whole industry was privatized then I could care less about who owned the biggest distribution warehouses. If it didn’t make sense for me to work with them I would deliver my own products as I saw fit, to whomever and where ever it made sense. I would sell my products to Whole Foods, and Organic grocers that want to support niche market products with a focus on sustainability, flavour and uniqueness (The LDB does not). I would leverage boutique shelf space in local delis and corner stores whose owners want to do something different than the big chains. But I cannot do those things, even with these proposed changes. That Utopia is far, far away, but it’s what we should really be striving for.

 

-Adam

Belgium – Day 3, 4, and 5

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Day 3 - Uneventful day in Bruges. No real beer business, just touring around (first time there), although I did have a few beers at the famous t’ Brugs Beertje. The most eventful thing that happened there was that I got offered a tour of the cellar. However, it wasn’t offered by the ownership, but rather a very ‘friendly’ local man.  And he didn’t want to show me beer.

De La Senne Beers

Day 4 - From Bruges, we booked a very cheap hotel near the Grand Place for our return to Brussels. Across the street is a building called Studio 2000 which I assumed immediately was most certainly a brothel. A brewer later confirmed this for me, but since I don’t know how he acquired that information I won’t name him.  Brussels, like any major city has it’s sore spots and it’s highlights. We were in the former.

This day we saw every brewery in Brussels. There are only two. Our first stop was De La Senne, to visit Yvan De Baets, and Bernard LeBoucq. This brewery is new, and fully functioning, but it has the unmistakable feeling of a place ‘in progress’. “The red paint on the floor is where the cafe will be” said, Bernard’s wife Rosanna. The barrels were yet unfilled and should be soon I’m told (with the brewery’s Saison and a Flanders style sour beer).

Taras Boulba was exceptional as always, and I had my first real glass (read, full glass) of Zinnebir today. I’ve only ever tried it previously at various tastings in the US and always tasting only a small amount. More interestingly, Yvan poured some Zinnebir from their custom fermenters (see pics). Still cloudy and uncarbonated, it was remarkably different than the bottled beer with much more hop flavour and aroma, and of course a little of that sulfur nose that unfinished and unlagered beer often has. The fermenters are built to mimic open fermenters, and while closed are made much wider than they are tall as not to stress the yeast.

In the afternoon we went to Cantillon to meet up with brewer Jean Van Roy. The neighbourhood, Anderlecht was once considered a suburb, but it is really now just part of the downtown, only about 15-20 minutes from the Grand Place. Anderlecht is an almost entirely a muslim neighbourhood. I mention that only because I don’t think most people envision Cantillon existing in such a neighbourhood. But frankly, most of Belgium is unlikely to be quite what you expect coming from North America. More on that in a later post…

Jean Pouring a year 2000 lambic for us!

It’s famously known that there is a cat at Cantillon, named Le Chat (the cat) who keeps the mice away. But there is also a cat there named Bloemponch who prefers to catch mice in the vacant, grass covered lot across the street and bring them back to the brewery. With all the grains mice might eat, and visitors they may scare, live rodents aren’t good for business, but nor are dead ones sitting at the front door.  Jean explained, “Bloempanch” means blood pudding and it’s a very typical Brussels dish. It is mostly black and differs from the english version in that it has large pieces of fat dotted throughout (approx1cm cubed). I like blood pudding very much, so when Jean told me this I made sure I ordered it that night when Yvan De Baets from Brasserie de La Senne and I went to the restaurant of Alain Fayt, Restobieres. The cat, is black with white spotting. Hence the name.

Day 5 – In a town called Rebecq, about 25 minutes from Brussels is the only Gueuzerie in the French speaking part of Belgium in Wallonia. As you might know Gueuze is traditionally, or perhaps famously, Flemish. Pierre Tilquin is the proprietor and this year is the first year he has had any product in bottles. His Gueuze was actually the first thing I tried in Belgium, at Moeder Lambic Fontainas and it was exceptional. Technically the beer I had was different than the bottled version, which is 6%. The draft version contains March beer from Boon, which is a lighter wort (3.5% after fermentation, I think) and thus a lighter Gueuze is produced. But it’s basically the same thing as the Gueuze. The complexity on the Gueuze could be rounded out a little with the addition of 3 year old lambic, which is absent in this years version because Pierre simply doesn’t have enough 3 year old lambic to have used it. Pierre is using lambic from Boon, Lindeman’s, Girardin and Cantillon. It is the Cantillon that will differentiate his product, as it’s not used in a similar blend. Omitting the Cantillon would essentially make his blend the same as 3 Fonteinen. Pierre used to work at Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen.

That’s it for now… more pictures below…

Belgium 2011 – Day One & Two

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Day One: We arrived in Brussels on Saturday morning,  9am local time, and were lucky to get situated in our hotel right away. After a quick shower we stopped first at a touristy coffee shop near the Grand Place for a cappuccino and a croque madame, which aside from being Sarah’s first taste of anything in Europe, were unfortunately nothing special at all. Then it started to rain, which is fine except it was already quite cold and all we’ve packed are t-shirts and sundresses. The sundresses are Sarah’s… not that you should be judging either way…

After breakfast we took a much needed two hour nap that turned into a four and a half hour nap, woke up, and headed out to Moeder Lambic. I’d been dying to go here because it was recommended highly, mostly by Belgian brewers that I work with. The menu consists mainly of De La Senne, Cantillon, and De Ranke beers – fine by me!

Moeder was fantastic, I highly recommend it and I will return again when we’re back in Brussels – there are two locations, by the way, and we went to the one nearest that Grand Place, Moeder Lambic Fontainas. Moeder has several Cantillon beers on tap, served very appropriately at cellar temp. The Rose de Gambrinus was spectacularly fresh and  in a way that imported Cantillon can probably never quite be. Of course, I am drinking this 10 minutes from the source. The raspberry flavour is so fresh and pure that I expected to feel the crunch of little raspberry seeds every time I took a sip.

Sarah’s favourite beer of the night was Bink Bloesem, which is basically a dubbel with some pear juice, made by Brouwerij Kerkon from St Truiden. A fantastically made beer, as was the Kerkom Adelardus Dubbel. I also had my first taste from the new Gueuzerie Tilquin, which was terrific. And just because, we also sampled a Cantillon Lambic (unblended), Taras Boulba, Cazeau Saison, and Troubadour Magma.

Day Two: An early rise to catch the train to Bruges, were we met Nino Bacelle of De Ranke, and his wife Christine for lunch at De Halve Maan in Bruges. We followed this with a tour of De Dolle Brouwers, a short drive from Bruges. Everything in Belgium is a short drive away.

De Halve Maan is a gorgeous place, right in the center of Bruges, it’s a much bigger facility than I imagined, and it must do a tremendous amount of business; Bruges itself is packed with tourists and the brewpub was one of the busiest places I saw in the town. We tried the Brugse Zot, a Belgian blonde ale, which was rather spicy, clean, typical, and not very hoppy. Apparently the bottled versions are filtered and pasteurized and thus not quite as good, but this was certainly a very nice beer.

The tour at De Dolle was something I had wanted to do for over a year, since Nino first suggested it to me. Nino tells me that De Dolle is essentially the first craft brewery in modern day Belgium, with brewer Kris Herteleer and his brother Jo having got their start as homebrewers in the late 70’s and opening De Dolle in 1980. Jo moved to South America to practice medicine and Kris now brews on Friday’s and Saturday’s, making some 40 batches a year, or about 1,000 hL.  They are open for tours only on Sundays, the English tour is at 2pm and the Dutch/Flemish tour at 3pm. The tour is conducted by the 92 or 93 year old mother of the brewer Kris Herteleer, which is in and of itself amazing. She whisks herself up and down the breweries staircases as she goes from room to room, always landing at a well placed stool, even once using the brew kettle’s ladder as perch for her next sermon. And she does preach; extolling the virtues of natural beer, the health benefits of hops, and the rationale behind the traditional methods used at the brewery.  For example, they still use a koelschip to bring the beer to 70C after boiling, and then using a baudelot chiller for the rest of the chilling. This is a type of heat exchanger that sends cold water through a curtain of pipes while beer is run OUTSIDE of the pipes, exposed to the air. (see a picture in the gallery at the bottom)

“Mom” by the Koelschip

This was my first time drinking the beers from De Dolle. All were good, some exceptional. My favourite was the Arabier, which is basically a dry hopped blond ale, superb in it’s simplicity and execution, followed by a 2008 barrel aged “Stille Nacht” which was complex, very strong, but purely delightful. We were also lucky enough to do a tasting of the Oerbier Reserva from 2005, and 2006. This is a barrel aged version of the Oerbier at 13% ABV, which is aged on wine barrels (Chateauneuf du Pape I think) for at least one year.

So far, Belgium is treating us very well!

Oh and, here are few more pictures: