Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2012

It is very possible that the music from 2012 was much better than the music released last year, or I may just perceive this to be true due to the fact that I was traveling around the world in 2011 and simply wasn't on the ball. My praise for the music of this year is also connected to the bands that released new work. That is, they are amongst my favourites: Hot Water Music, Sigur Ros, and Bloc Party are all in my Top Ten Favourite Bands of All this bias would make it pretty much impossible for 2011 to compete. Here are my favourites from 2012, in no particular order. 

1) Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

I placed the Wild Beasts' Smother on my Top Ten of 2011 and Alt-J actually has a lot in common with this band: both are led by troubadour-like vocalists, both contain folktronica elements, both use unconventional instruments (Alt-J's drummer often uses a saucepan), and both produce songs rife with obscure historical references. In fact, Alt-J supported the Wild Beasts main tour this year. I also reacted to both of these albums in the same way; initial dismissal sparked by arcane compositions transforming into incrementally-earned admiration and appreciation. It's hard not to respect a band that can make a catchy song about doomed photojournalists Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. Already got tickets to their show at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom this coming April!


2) Sigur Ros - Valtari

Valtari means "steamroller" in Icelandic. This is ironic because Valtari is incredibly docile compared to their last three albums. In an act of delayed gratification, I did not listen to this album in its entirety until December 8th when I went to see the band's Mystery Film Project at Vancouver's VanCity Theatre. This project involved a wide range of directors creating music videos for every song on the album, with zero input from the band. This was indeed a strange way to enjoy and judge an album for the first time. While the videos varied a fair deal in terms of subject matter, I believe the recurring themes of water, rebirth in nature, and testosterone-driven angst say something about the tone of Valtari. This is a fairly melancholy and airy album that avoids the band's trademark crescendos and bouts of drum-fueled fervor. While it probably won't become my favourite Sigur Ros release, it is still a rich and mysterious collection of songs by a band that can do no wrong in my mind. Even if they teamed up with Timbaland or produced a rockabilly album, I'd still buy their albums and travel to see them live (have tickets for their show in San Fran on April 17th, 2012!!!)

3) El Ten Eleven - It's Still Like a Secret

A friend recently lent me the documentary Urbanized and I was floored when I heard El Ten Eleven playing as the soundtrack to this city-planning based film. This is not a well known movie, and El Ten Eleven are not a well known band. I saw this instrumental LA duo in November at Vancouver's Media Club and liked them a lot more live than recorded. I own two of their albums and bought them during a time when I needed lyricless music to study to, but I didn't realise how technical and complicated their compositions are until I saw them in person. The majority of their songs sound like just that...tracks to a film. This is not your typical John Williamsesque, Hans Zimmery instrumental music though. El Ten Eleven specializes in looped, upbeat, layered guitar pop that is the perfect match for cleaning the house, reading, or learning about the potential dynamism of urban river corridors.      

4) Beach House - Bloom

I've read reviews of Bloom that describe it as an improvement upon Teen Dream and definitely their best work to date. I really really liked Teen Dream, so you can imagine how excited I was to hear this new album. I like it - and am bordering on loving it - but think that it is very close in quality and character to their last effort. The dense instrumentation and dreamy layers that Beach House are known for are rich and encompassing here, but most tracks lack the hooks and fresh experimentation that were at the forefront of Teen Dream. I often play Bloom on iTunes and let Teen Dream follow. Personally, I think it is a testament to the band that I often forget which track belongs to which album. They are both so, so good.

5) Bloc Party - Four

This band is getting old. I find it really interesting how bands cope with the inevitability of aging. Some try to cling to their former selves (see: Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes), while others take unfortunate and unnatural paths to avoid predictability (see: Neil Young with Trans, Jack White). A large number of the better and more versatile bands out there face change head-on and incorporate issues like aging and altered band dynamics into their music.


Four has a great deal in common with Bloc Party's past releases in that it contains thoughtful pacing and the band's trademark juxtaposition of peppy riffs with emotional content. But it also contains a frustration and edge that the other albums lack, and this is most apparent in the brazen song intros and the tracks Coliseum and 3x3. Bloc Party has lost little momentum since Silent Alarm, but their songs are beginning to reveal an unprecedented maturity and grit.

6) The xx - Coexist

I found The xx's first album too simple and mopey to buy or listen to very much. While The xx still hangs its hat on the droning harmonies of guitarist Romy Croft and bassist Oliver Sim, DJ and producer Jamie xx has created angular song structures here that both engage with their programmed beats and grow in complexity as they progress. I have also found that this album, more so than their debut, can be played in a variety of settings. The clicks, pops, and synth percussion allow you to play it at parties, yet the atmospheric downtempo grooves of most tracks make it suitable as background/mood music. I'm finally a fan. Took me long enough.    

7) Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

A friend of mine went to Airwaves, the big October music festival in Reykjavik, this year and was expecting several bands to be overwhelmingly popular. Sigur Ros, Phantogram, and Shearwater were all packed, but the band generating the most hype at the festival was Iceland's own Of Monsters and Men. This was a band that I had heard a few tracks from, but several people told me I really really needed to give them more of my attention. The Airwaves hype and personal recommendations really do reflect the quality of this debut album. And I know there may be some music dorks who claim this to be a 2011 release (in Ice, Ice, Iceland), but North America and Europe couldn't get their hands on this animal until 2012. 

8) Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city

Unlike his last album Section.80, this release is the first of Kendrick's with major label backing. I am not the biggest hiphop/rap fan in the world, but this is a moving and super stimulating genre when done well. Like OutKast, The Roots, Busdriver, and Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar blends intelligent lyrics, strife, and original beats which engage the listener on several levels. The concept of this album is by no means novel - the autobiographical format was used just last year with The Roots' Undun - but the story of a smart kid escaping from the ghetto has universal and lasting appeal. Unlike his last album, this release has a low-key, downbeat, narrative style that prompts you to listen from beginning to end...rather than track by track.

9) Hot Water Music - Exister

I am not an extreme person. It is for this reason that I have never been able to relate to super fans. I could never put in the energy and investment required to memorize every lyric of a band's every song. I could never be a groupie, or one of those wack-jobs who get band tattoos. Having said this, I was genuinely upset when I heard Hot Water Music disbanded in 2006 due to Chuck's strained vocal cords and diverging musical interests amongst the members of the band. This is the only time I can remember getting emotional over a band...while I do truly love HWM's rhythm section, I also have very specific and valuable memories linked to this band's first five albums. So, you can imagine how excited I was to hear Exister, their reunion (and probably final) album. This album has a lot in common with the tone and heavy melodies of The New What Next, and Chris is handling more of the vocals than ever before, but songs such as Take No Prisoners and Drown in It carry all of the grit and dueling vocals that HWM fans mosh, drink, air punch, and run marathons to.


10) Hot Chip - In Our Heads

A great deal of the music I like requires some auditory attuning. I usually have to work towards appreciation and respect when listening to new music, but I loved In Our Heads from the first layered synth staccato of 'Motion Sickness'. I have seen Hot Chip twice live, and was a huge fan from the time my sister made my listen to 'Crap Kraft Dinner' in 2006, and this album proves that they are still amongst the best purveyors of indietronica on the market.

Keywords: "Top Albums 2012", "Alex Dawkins", "Zulu Records"

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jethro's Fine Grub

FINALLY! I had been rejected at Jethro's three times over the past year before finally getting in today...a rainy Monday at 9am. This place is near my apartment in Kits but it's not really a feasible option for breakfast due to the long lineups...and also due to the ginormous portions (as my GI tract realised this morning).

I'll just reiterate what pretty much every review on Yelp says when I state that the pancakes are ridiculously large. Don't even bother. A huge, beefy, and (apparently) hungry Asian dude was sitting beside me today and he only got through 1/2 of a single flapjack. My girlfriend and I shared the banana bread french toast and really liked it. However, it would have been a bit dry and dense were it not for the fried bananas that came on top. My dad ordered the apple cobbler french toast and, although he couldn't finish it, said it was really good and fairly "light".

I'll definitely eat at Jethro's again because it is reasonably priced and because they have some atypical options. It's not the best breakfast in town, however. I would like to see a bit more finesse in their dishes (i.e. smaller portions, higher quality) and some more combos. Their carb-to-protein ratio seems off on most items. For example, their chicken-fried steak comes with two eggs and potatoes. Some fruit would be nice with this. On the flip side, their pancake and french toast choices are too doughy. ADVICE: if you are a normal human being with a normal appetite, most of these items should be shared! Don't be a hero.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lattimer Gallery Charity Bentwood Boxes

One of the coolest things currently happening in the Northwest Coast Native Art scene is Lattimer Gallery's annual Charity Bentwood Box Event.  The gallery has been doing this for the past five years and it is based around the unconventional ornamentation of small, hand-made cedar steam-bent boxes by British Columbia's top First Nations artists and jewelers. The boxes all start off looking the same, but artists are encouraged to manipulate and decorate them in experimental ways.

All of the work in the creation of these small cedar boxes is donated: the boxes themselves are steam-bent and donated by Metis/Cree artist James Michels; the promotion and collected funds are donated by Lattimer Gallery; and the artwork is donated by the artists. The boxes are sold through silent auction and can be seen online at Current selling prices are updated in realtime on Lattimer Gallery's website, and bids can be placed in person, via email, or by phone. Bids are accepted between November 24-December 8 this year

Artists involved for 2012 include Haida artist Don Yeomans, Kwakwaka'wakw artist Richard Sumner, and Heiltsuk artist Bradley Hunt.

The money raised will be donated to Urban Native Youth Association, a Vancouver organization which has been providing 21 prevention-focused programs and services to Native Youth since 1988 to help them meet their immediate and longer-term needs. They have started an Endowment Fund for Native youth, and Lattimer Gallery will work with UNYA for three years to help develop this fund.

Keywords: "Native Art Vancouver", "Alex Dawkins", "Northwest Coast Gifts"

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Red Wagon

I'm tempted to give The Red Wagon high praise because I had the pulled pork pancakes tonight for dinner and almost went into a meat-and-sugar induced food coma of excellence. My double tequila caesar, with its pickled asparagus and fresh horseradish, was also amazing and worked surprisingly well with those flappy meat jacks. I went with a group of five, and while everyone seemed to enjoy their meal, we walked away feeling a bit laggard. I know this is a diner, and I realise that Red Wagon's "thing" is zesty meat and comfort food, but there are few balanced dishes on the menu. There is a whole lotta white flour and flesh on this menu. My dad ordered the cobb salad, which is one of the healthier options, and it was laden with avocado, blue cheese, and bacon. Props to Red Wagon for serving all-day breakfast though, but a word of warning: the kitchen closes at 9pm! So instead of high praise, Red Wagon will have to settle for good old fashioned praise.

Keywords: "Red Wagon Vancouver", "Vancouver diners", "Alex Dawkins"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kalamata Redux

The Old Location
Kalamata was voted Best Greek by Vancouver Magazine in 2011 and won the Georgia Straight's 'Golden Plate' award for Greek cuisine in both 2011 and 2012. Then, Kalamata shut down in the spring of this year. What-the-Feta?! This really surprised me because it had won the aforementioned awards aaaand was doing pretty darn good on Yelp.

But alas! Kalamata and its succulent kleftico is back! New to Granville and Broadway, right beside Fortune Garden Chinese Restaurant, Kalamata has found a spot with a reasonable lease in which to sear their souvlaki and prepare their paidakia. There is not a great deal of Greek in this hood, so I think they will do well here. Nu Greek is a block away on the same side of the street, but they only create take-away items...and Apollonia is relatively close, but they cater to False Creekers. I ate at the old Kalamata near Cambie twice and remember really liking it. I walk by this new location everyday, and will surely pop in for some lamb on a regular basis.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Analysis: Three Pumpkin Beers II

In October of 2010, I reviewed three seasonal pumpkin beers. A few years ago, I sampled the Howe Sound Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Brooklyn Brewing's Post Road Pumpkin Ale, and Granville Island Pumpkin Ale. Of these three, I liked the Howe Sound Ale for its rich nutmeg flavour and warming 8% abv. Last week, I tried three different pumpkin beers to ring in the fall season. I tried these with my girlfriend and family, and we sampled them through a blind taste test. Let's just say we easily reached a consensus.

1) Tree Brewing - Jumpin Jack Pumpkin Ale    
From bottles of their Mad Cap White Ale to tallboys of their Thirsty Beaver Amber, I have never enjoyed the beer made by Kelowna-based Tree Brewing. I just don't like anything about them: I hate Kelowna, their branding is tacky, it tastes like they use adjuncts, and their beers are flabby and one-dimensional. Having said this, pumpkin ale is definitely one of my favourite flavoured beers, so I was eager to try Tree's Jumpin Jack. This beer is highly carbonated and super sweet. The nose is dominated by brown sugar and cinnamon, and there is very little evidence of pumpkin being the bouquet or the flavour. There was zero lacing on our glasses and the beer was a nondescript amber colour. If a Tree fell in Kelowna, would anyone give a care?

2) Phillips Brewing - Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale 
Smooth and more pumpkiny than spicy, this is yet another stellar beer by Phillips. This is my favourite BC brewer, and I'm always excited to try their seasonals. Unlike many autumn and pumpkin ales, Crooked Tooth is only 5% abv which makes it really easy to enjoy one (or two) of the 650ml bottles without getting squashed. It pours a hazy light orange and the yeast used results in a moderate, creamy head. There is little evidence of hops in the finish, yet this comforting ale finishes clean. A

3) Steamworks Brewing - The Great Pumpkin Ale
Recently available in liquor stores, Steamworks beer is equally tasty in bottles as it is straight from the vats in their downtown Vancouver brewpub. This beer has a similar profile to Tree's Jumpin Jack - the copper/amber colour, the small head, the emphasis on spice rather than pumpkin - but Steamworks actually knows how to make a well-balanced beverage. Despite the brewery adding "100 lbs of pumpkin directly to the mash", nutmeg and cloves dominate the palate with this brew. This is pleasant though because the malt and squash cut the spice and provide the beer with a biscuity taste. Not amazing, but well made. B-

Keywords: "BC pumpkin beer", "Alex Dawkins", "Phillips Crooked Tooth"

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tap & Barrel

My experience at Vancouver's Tap & Barrel was like going up and down that first big hill on a roller coaster: the entrance was inviting (...ascending), the set-up of the beer and wine taps along the bar was overwhelming (...nearing the top), the seating was ample and comfortable (...rolling over the peak), but the food and service were complete failures (...the steep, scary descent). People I have complained to always come back with how money the patio is, but what will this place fall back on when the clouds roll in for Vancouver’s annual nine months of grey? I am not exaggerating when I say that our waitress provided the worst service I have experienced in Vancouver for several years. She was ridiculously slow, she screwed up a drink order for our table, she ignored attention-grabbing gestures, and she took for-ev-er to deliver the bill. The management must be partly to blame for this since it didn’t look like the other servers were doing much better. The food at Tap & Barrel is as sub-par as the service. There are some safe standards - such as burgers and salads - but the less conventional items - such as the sticky yam fries and the cast iron chicken - were literally a mess. Oh ya, I should mention that the impressive selection of craft beers they have will cost you $7.00 a glass, to start. If you are looking for a sweet patio in False Creek, I strongly encourage you to try The Wicklow or the Backstage Lounge.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bellingham's Elizabeth Station

There is only one thing preventing me from moving to Bellingham in order to patronize this outstanding business on a daily basis. Well, two things, because I have an incredible girlfriend who is currently studying in Vancouver...but Elizabeth Station seriously needs espresso-based drinks! They have everything else I love in the world: obscure beers on tap, a cereal bar, a broad range of candy, and one of the largest canned and bottled craft beer selections in the Pacific Northwest. However, they only serve filtered coffee, which is a bummer. Before I was lucky enough to explore Elizabeth Station myself, a friend from Bellingham had difficulty describing the store to me: “It’s essentially a convenience store, except the proprietor has dedicated 80% of his inventory to delicious, rare beers and meads from the West Coast. Like, you have to look hard for things like milk and bread because there is so much friggin’ beer everywhere.” He actually did a good job of describing it, but it is hard to understand how amazing this place is until you experience it for yourself. 

The last time I visited Elizabeth Station, I bought two beers that I would highly recommend. You may be able to find them in a specialty beer shop, if you live in the Pacific Northwest. The first was New Belgium Brewing's Tart Lychee Ale. Dominated by lychee and cinnamon flavours, the sweetness of this complex brew is counteracted by the yeasts that the brewers have used, which provide the beverage with a puckering dryness. It's a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and the 7.5% abv really ties the room together. The second spectacular beer I bought was Sound Brewery's Humulo Nimbus Double IPA. One can't help but be intimidated by the title "Double IPA" but Sound's take on this Northwest-specific brew is totally approachable. With IBUs under 80 and tropical-tasting hops, this is a bold yet drinkable India Pale. It is mildly carbonated and slightly amber in colour, which also sets it apart from many bottled IPAs made in Washington and Oregon. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beau Dick Burning His Masks

Would your opinion of an artwork change if you saw it in a gallery and were then informed that it was going to be intentionally destroyed in the near future? From a large collection of masks by Kwakwaka'wakw-Haida artist Beau Dick currently on display at Macaulay & Co, forty of the forty-nine pieces are set to be burned after the exhibition.

Image Courtesy of Just Art Gallery

It is true that these masks - as with many masks that are made for use rather than aesthetic appreciation - are a little rough around the edges, but Beau Dick is up there in the ranks amongst the Northwest Coast's best carvers. As one who studies and collects Northwest Coast art, and as one who views much First Nations art outside of its cultural context, I can't help but feel that some of those masks should be on my wall instead of on a bonfire. Beau says of the masks that are going to be burned: “It takes away any monetary value they have in this world and makes it real. What we have to do is recreate them — and that keeps them alive.” 

This will be the fourth time that these masks have been danced. Since four is significant number in Kwakwaka'wakw culture, these masks will be danced in four ceremonies this fall and then burned. Sarah Macaulay was co-founder of Vancouver's Blanket Gallery but has now ventured out on her own. She has always shown an interest in First Nations culture and masks. Macaulay & Co is located at 560 Seymour Street and this eclectic show runs until September 22, 2012.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Oakwood in Kitsilano

Joe's Grill. Sophie's. Zen. Sunshine Diner. Jethro's Fine Grub.

I've pretty much exhausted the breakfast places in my hood. Therefore, when I am free for breakfast on a Saturday or Sunday I try to seek-out a unique brunch spot. I haven't been to this space since it changed over from Tatlow's but read a lot of great reviews on Yelp and was intrigued by their brunch menu. They have a small number of brunch items, but they represent a good balance of flavours and options: short ribs and fried eggs, lumberjack, house-brined corned beef hash...

My pops ordered the mascarpone-stuffed french (intentionally not capitalizing this!) toast, and I had the short ribs. The french toast was crispy, and the sweet cheese filling ensured that the interior was moist (I hate this word, but I have to use it here) and flavourful. The over-easy eggs and lean short ribs were stacked on top of a crispy latke, and these heavy ingredients were counterbalanced with a small tomato-frisee salad. The portion sizes were perfect too. 

I have a few trivial criticisms. First, their dinner menu contains a dictionary sidebar with terms used in their dish descriptions. I find this pretentious and unnecessary. Second, the layout fails in the feng shui department. Containing booths, banquettes, a bar, and an awkward longtable, the interior design has no flow and made me feel kind of anxious.

I should also mention that the service and craft beers on tap were impressive. While it is a bit far to be my "local" I will definitely give this place a try some evening. I have always wanted an alternative to the worn and uber-casual Darby's, and now I have one!

Keywords: "Vancouver brunch", "Alex Dawkins", "Oakwood Bistro"

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cranmer + Gray Exhibition

Heart Sutra Mask, Phil Gray
Courtesy of Coastal Peoples

There is a dramatic divide between Northwest Coast Native art from the north of the province and from the south of the province. While each culture in British Columbia creates work with distinctive styles and figures, the formline design and colours used by the Coast Salish, Kwakwaka'wakw, and Nuu-chah-nulth are easily identifiable and entirely unique. In certain forms and genres, creative objects from these southern groups have little, if nothing, in common with art from up north. Coastal Peoples' current Cranmer + Gray show features two young artists who epitomize their respective cultures when it comes to artistic output. Kevin Cranmer's Kwakwaka'wakw pieces can barely contain all of the bright colours and salmon-trouthead elements packed into them. They are busy, extremely detailed, and animated. Phil Gray's pieces, in contrast, are subdued in colour, unconventional, and stress the bold formline design that has become a trademark of Tsimshian artwork. While I prefer Northwest Coast Native art that fuses classic design with experimental elements, one cannot help but marvel at Kevin's inlays and precise execution. Phil is only 29, and Kevin is 45...both artists have hit their stride and are arguably creating the best work of their lives right now.

I have a mask, pendant, and bentwood box by Phil. I went to this show because I love his work and know him pretty well, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed viewing his work in contrast to Kevin's. In terms of Aboriginal Art, the Northwest Coast of North America cannot be beat! This show is on until August 2nd. If you miss it, you can always see a broad selection of Phil's work at Lattimer Gallery

Warning: Coastal Peoples releases items as they sell, which is an unconventional and irritating approach. Due to this exhibition method, not all items included in the show and on the website are in the actual gallery!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eye Pee Ehs: Nothing Pale About These Ales

A certain ladyfriend, known to some as the Erroneous Ginger Magnet, has been preaching the praises of India Pale Ale to me over the past few months. IPA to beer drinkers is kind of like beer to non-beer drinkers in that it initially seems quite bitter and is basically an acquired taste. I had relatively little experience drinking IPAs prior to 2012, and associated them with old men, buttloads of hops, and beer nerds. However, a trip to Portland in mid-May and my recent adventures with the Erroneous Ginger Magnet have revealed some of the joys that IPAs can provide.

An important thing to keep in mind when dabbling in India Pale Ales is that they range a great deal in bitterness, hop characteristics, and alcohol content. Due to their very nature (an ale high in antibacterial hops and alcohol that originally aided in preservation when beer was being made in the UK for export to, you guessed it, India), IPAs are potent and very flavourful, but there are many ways to make them. West Coast IPAs, for example, are unique in that they often contain fresh Northwest "C" Hops, which include Centennial, Cascade, Chinook and Columbus varieties. Hops from this part of the world are piney, grapefruity, and lingering. They will literally put hair on your chest. East Coast and British IPAs, however, use hops (such as Admiral) that are less sappy and more grassy. While the UK is just starting to alter their IPA-making methods in order to jump on the North American IPA bandwagon, they are generally low gravity and quite malty.

Here are some of the more memorable IPAs that I have tried over the past month and a half:

Alameda Huckleberry Hound IPA (Portland, OR) - 6/10
"What am I? Who did this to me?" These are two questions that I was asking myself in the wee hours the other week, after a night of IPA and burrito pounding, but these are also two questions that the Huckleberry Hound is always asking itself. Part summery fruit beer and part West Coast IPA, this is a beverage in the midst of an identity crisis. It's not a "bad" beer due to the skill of Alameda's brewers, but it is not a harmonious beer. If you see this on a menu, I suggest you get a lambic or IPA, and just encourage a pal to buy this so you can have a taste.   

Alameda Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA (Portland, OR) - 7.5/10
I had this at Portland Craft last month and was impressed with the drinkability of this bold beer. Imperial IPAs are also known as Double IPAs and they are (without providing an uber nerdy technical description) just IPAs with abvs between 7%-10.5% and an extreme amount of hops. The correct amount and hops must be used to counteract the malty characteristics generated by the high alcohol, so it is hard to avoid making a beer of this style toooo hoppy or toooo alcoholy. The Yellow Wolf is unfiltered, mildly carbonated, and packed with grapefruit characteristics to distract you from that 8.2% alcohol content. I couldn't drink more than one of these though, due to its thick, murky aspects. 

Tenaya Creek Hop Ride IPA (Las Vegas, NV) - 6/10 
A 6 on the ABCD Scale? Yes, but not because this is a bad beer...rather due to the fact that this is a forgettable beer. I had this at St Augustine's in Vancouver and remember liking it, but not loving it. When there are forty taps to choose from at an awesome establishment like St Augustine's, you should avoid selecting a beer that you don't love.

A Paddle Full of IPA

Left Coast Belgian IPA (San Clemente, CA) - 8.5/10
If Darth Vader was a West Coast IPA, then Luke would be a Belgian Tripel. West Coast IPAs are bitter and sappy, while Belgian ales are spicy and smooth. So how could these nemeses of the beer world join forces to create a drink that is big and bold yet luscious and smooth? The answer lies in the yeast, and also in the relatively low alcohol content, which is 6.2% in this case. Slow-moving Belgian yeasts often create esters that are floral and spicy, which can be delicious in an IPA that contains appropriate hopping. Good job, Left Coast!

Phillips Hoperation Tripel Cross Belgian IPA (Victoria, BC) - 7.5/10
I like every wobbly pop that Phillips makes and have probably spent more money on this company's product than on any other beer. They are cautious brewers, who value distinct traits and clean flavours...which is totally different from the brewers at, say, Burnside Brewing (see below). Like the Left Coast above, Phillips has combined Northwest hops with a Belgian yeast to produce an IPA that is smooth and aromatic. Phillips' Tripel Cross is higher alcohol than the Left Coast beer but less complex. 

Burnside Brewing Alter Ego Imperial IPA (Portland, OR) - 7/10
I drank this from the source and found it oddly smooth. I always brace myself for a citrus-based punch to the chops when taking a first sip of an unknown IPA, but this amber-coloured ale was surprisingly sweet and subdued. It contains 99 bittering units, which is almost as high as you can get, but the toffee and woodiness provided by the malt really mellow out the hops used in this. It's a weird one, and one that I probably wouldn't feel like drinking from a bottle. 

Keywords: "St Augustine's Vancouver", "craft beer Vancouver", "Double IPA"