My friend Dan has been extolling the virtues of Central City for awhile now. So last Friday, when in search of dinner and drinks, we gathered up a small group willing to brave the wilds of Surrey to visit the Central City Restaurant & Pub. It was super easy to get to on the Skytrain, only about 50 metres from the Surrey Central station. There was also the added bonus of heading in the opposite direction from the crowds going into Vancouver for the evening; we walked right in and immediately got a nice roomy booth for five.

The beer selection was quite wide with ten of their microbrews on tap. Unfortunately, I only had time to sample two of them.  The menu to accompany the beer was comprised of pretty standard fare. I ordered the Central City Burger with fries. It was simple but good, especially the fries. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their dinners as well.

All in all, this brewpub is definitely worth the trip out to Surrey. I think we will all be visiting again in the near future and in the meantime picking up a few six-packs of their beer.

The Beers:

Central City Empire IPA

empire_ipaCentral City Empire IPA was voted the Best Beer in BC in 2008 by CAMRA. They just might be right. This was a very good beer which reminded me of the IPA’s of Oregon that I so enjoy.

It had a medium copper colour with a floral and citrus aroma. Once I was drinking it down, it had that hoppy citrus flavour with very strong notes of grapefruit, but nicely balanced with a bready malt. It was quite bitter, but in a good way. One of the best BC IPA’s I have tasted.

Central City Boomers Red Aleboomers_redale

Bitter’s are quickly becoming a favourite of mine, and my growing appreciation was definitely helped along by the Central City Boomers Red Ale.

This ale had a reddish amber colour with a good frothy head. It had a nice medium bitterness and was slightly sweeter than the IPA. There was a good mix of hops and a lightly roasted malt with a dry finish. If we hadn’t had to catch the train back to Vancouver, I could have had quite a few.


blue-buckPhillips Blue Buck is currently my “go-to” beer for parties. In fact, I was drinking it this Sunday at my Super Bowl party. It is a tasty, easy drinking pale ale.

Blue Buck pours a rich amber colour with a very slight citrus aroma. It has a toffee malt flavour with a tiny bit of hoppy bitterness which nicely balances out the sweetness. The finish is crisp as the beer goes down easily. This is definitely one of my favourite beers. It is also readily available at most Vancouver area liquor stores, which means I don’t have to make a trip to my trusty Firefly if I am out of the area or in a rush.

Thumbs up for Blue Buck!

I first had this cake at a friend’s birthday party at The Whip, one of my favourite local pubs. She had baked it for her birthday and had the pub serve it to all her guests. It was a smash hit and I was lucky enough to persuade her to bring it to my birthday party a week later.

I recently adapted the recipe to make cupcakes and topped them with cream cheese icing. They were delicious!

Guinness Cupcakes

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast
Yield: 24 cupcakes

1 cup Guinness
1 cup butter
2/3 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cupcake tins with liners.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan and add the sliced butter. Heat until the butter is melted and remove from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar.

In the mixer bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla. Slowly pour in the Guinness mixture into the mixer in a thin stream. Stir until all combined. Then, beat in the flour and baking soda.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each up 3/4 to the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan as the cake is very damp.

Ice the top of the cupcakes with cream cheese icing.

To make a cake: Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool in the pan.

Cream Cheese Icing

From Simply Recipes

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 – 3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness.

Either spread on with a blunt knife or spatula, or spoon into a piping bag to decorate your cake or cupcake.

Here is the second batch of neat beer-related things found on etsy: beer stationary. Now you can show your love of beer in correspondence.

card1hoppy birthday card from letterarypress
I love hops and I love this card – so cute

card2beer love card from ThePoint
the devil made me do it – cute for valentine’s day or any day

card3‘i love you more than beer’ card from Storeyshop
another great valentine’s card (it’s coming soon)

card4cheers card from twoguitars
perfect for just saying ‘hi’

card5beer invitation from twoguitars
good for your next party, especially if it involves beer (which would be any party I had!)

innis_and_gunnI first tried Innis & Gunn Oak Aged beer in my beer tasting class and then had it again this weekend at the Six Acres pub in Gastown. Luckily, I had it at the beginning of the night before the 36 Czechvar that our tabled imbibed. This pale ale-style beer is definitely a unique beer given that it is aged like whiskey in oak barrels.

It is a medium gold in the glass with an oaky and slightly sweet aroma. The most dominant flavour to me was the vanilla, however there are also hints of toffee and peat. Given the vanilla and toffee notes, it is a bit sweet, so the limit on these would probably be two or three. This is not a session ale (a good thing since they were charging $7.50 for it at the pub!). It also has a great mouthfeel, soft and creamy and just generally very smooth.

This would be great with desserts. I can imagine sipping it with some sticky toffee pudding or gingersnaps.

Overall, I liked this beer and would definitely drink it again (maybe just not at 7 bucks a pop).

Traditionally there are two styles of beer: ale and lager. Most types of beer will either fall into one category or the other.

Ale is brewed at a higher temperature than lager and uses yeast that sits at the top of the fermentation vessel. It ferments quickly and is characterized by a sweet, full bodied and fruity flavour. Many ales, such as India pale ales, contain more hops which results in a slightly bitter taste to help balance the sweetness. Types of beer in the ale category include pale ales, wheat beers, bitters, porters, stouts, barley wines, brown ales and tripels.

Lager is brewed at a lower temperature and uses bottom-fermenting yeast. It ferments slowly, usually over a period of at least three weeks, and is characterized by a “crisper” flavour than ale and has less hop flavouring. Types of beer in the lager category include pilsners, vienna lagers, bocks and marzens.

And now some (and certainly not all!) specific types of beer…

Altbier: A German ale with a copper-bronze appearance and a mildly fruity flavour with more hops than is usual in other German styles and a dry finish. Its alcohol content is medium.

Amber Ale: An ale without a precise definition. The name generally refers to pale ales which are more amber in colour (light copper to light brown).  Usually a small amount of crystal or other coloured male is added to amber ales which gives them a bit darker colour than a typical pale ale. They have more malt flavour and less hoppiness than traditional pale ales. Its alcohol content is medium.

Barley Wine: A strong ale that ranges in appearance from amber to almost black. It is one of the strongest styles of beer (it gets its name for being as potent as wine) and has a very fruity, yet alcoholic, flavour. Sometimes this fruitiness is balanced out by hops. Its alcohol content is high.

Bitter: An English ale with a generally deep bronze appearance and a well-hopped flavour with greater depth than an IPA. Its alcohol content is medium to low (with the extra or special bitters being medium high to high). Bitters vary in strength, flavour and appearance and are often divided into the following sub-categories: session or ordinary bitter, best or regular bitter and premium or strong bitter (often called Extra Special Bitters (ESB)).

Bock: A German lager which ranges in appearance from light to amber and a malty, toasty flavour with a slightly sweet finish. Its alcohol content is high. Like bitters, bocks are divided into several sub-types: maibock or helles bock, doppelbock, and eisbock.

Brown Ale: An ale with a “brown” (hence the name) or amber appearance and a sweet, mild flavour. Its alcohol content is low to medium low. It is typically an English style of beer, although there are some Belgian brown ales.

Doppelbock: A stronger and darker version of Bock. Usually dark brown in appearance with a malty and bitter flavour. Its alcohol content is high.

India Pale Ale (IPA): An ale with a light amber appearance that is characterized by its citrus and hoppy, bitter flavour. Its alcohol content is medium to medium high.

Lambic Ale: A style unique to Belgium, lambics are a bit different than ales and lagers as they are spontaneously fermented (uses wild yeast by exposing the beer to open air to allow naturally occurring yeast and bacteria to “infect” the beer). It has a hazy appearance (as lambics are usually unfiltered), but may range in colour, and a dry and cidery flavour with a somewhat sour finish. Its alcohol content is medium.

Marzen: A German lager with a generally dark copper colour and a full-bodied, malty flavour with a clean, dry finish. Its alcohol content is medium strong. It is traditionally seasonal to Octoberfest (and also known as Oktoberfestbier).

Pale Ale: An ale that is bronze or copper coloured (not “pale” compared to pilsners but far lighter than the darker ales like stouts and porters). There are a broad range of pale ales but they all generally have a hoppy, dry flavour with some malt taste. Its alcohol content ranges from medium low to medium high.

Pilsner: A lager with a golden colour and crisp, dry and hoppy flavour (the hop flavour is distinct from all other types of lagers). Its alcohol content is medium. It is the most common type of beer brewed in North America (i.e. Budweiser, Kokanee, and Heineken are all pilsner-style beers)

Porter: A dark ale similar to stouts but lighter bodied and often without the roasted barley used in stouts. It usually has a complex flavour and often includes special flavours such as coffee, vanilla, or bourbon. Its alcohol content is medium.

Red Ale: An Irish ale with a reddish appearance and a lightly hopped and toasted malt flavour with a dry finish.  It may also be slightly sweet. Its alcohol content is medium. There are also Belgian Reds (more sour notes) and American Red Ales (similar to amber ales).

Stout: An ale that has a dark brown to black appearance and is characterized by the use of roasted barley, which gives it a dry, roasted flavour with notes that vary from coffee to chocolate to slightly burnt. Its alcohol content is medium to medium high.

Tripel: A Belgian ale with a golden appearance (but darker than a pilsner) and a sweet flavour with a dry and spicy finish. Its alcohol content is high.

Vienna Lager: A German lager that has an medium dark amber or reddish appearance. It is rich bodied with toasty malt and caramel flavours and a sweet finish without much hops. Its alcohol content ranges from medium low to medium high.

Wheat Beer (or Hefeweizen): An ale with a light yet very hazy appearance. It has a special yeast that often gives the beer a slight banana or clove flavour. There may also be a bit of a spicy or apple taste and no hop bitterness. Its alcohol content is medium. Wheat beers are often served with a lemon wedge.

I recently developed a serious addiction to etsy, an online shop for handmade goods. This morning when I was perusing all the unique items on the site, I thought I’d do a quick search for “beer” and see what came up. I ended up with so many neat things to share that I will have to do several posts. So here is the first, a collection of handmade vessels to hold your beer!

vessel1pottery tumblers from victorvsclay
simple and rustic, perfect for beers on the balcony

vessel2mustache pint glasses from BreadandBadger
this one just makes me smile every time I see it

vessel3glasses made from recycled beer bottles from nickpaul
I’m a big fan of the Rogue bottles, what a neat way to enjoy them permanently

vessel4leather tankard from hardwickleathergoods
definitely a different way to hold your beer

vessel5wooden stein from fairefinery
another unique way to hold you beer and also drop-proof