Saturday, June 15, 2013

Spring Beer Review 2013

As more and more craft breweries pop-up (three new ones will be opening in Vancouver within the year), more and more seasonal options are appearing on liquor store shelves. Over the past few months I sampled a selection of beers that possessed decidedly springy qualities: light, dry, and moderately hopped. These beers have been designed to help drinkers transition from the warmth and heaviness of winter concoctions to the light and fruity characteristics of summer brews. 
Buckman Brewery Apple Beer - A-
Buckman Botanical Brewery is a tiny operation located in Portland headed by ex-Rogue brewer Danny Connors. It features low-hop to no-hop brews, which is atypical for Oregonian breweries. Buckman grows many of its own ingredients, and uses additional botanicals from the Portland area. I bought a bottle of their Apple Beer from the Rogue stall at the Portland Saturday Market and only drank it last week back in Vancouver. I was expecting a sweet, low alcohol summer beer which would be closer to cider. My expectations were off. This beer is 8% abv and is only appley in its nose and finish. With a smoky orange colour, biscuity mouthfeel, and bold malt profile, this beer is appropriate for sunny days but is not really quaffable. I'm really glad that they have controlled the sweetness levels with this one. I will definitely be buying this again, and hope to visit their taproom in Portland some time.

New Belgium Brewing Transatlantique Kriek - B+
Most people assume fruit beers are going to taste like alcopops. I blame coolers and improperly made lambics for this assumption, for the fermentation process in beer-making transforms fruits to shadows of their former juicy selves. Adding fruit to the boil or cooled wort does impart fruit flavours, but the added yeast will consume sugars from these fruits and create a drink that is much more subtle and earthy than any cooler or cider. As with most beers that are part of New Belgium's Lips of Faith series, the Transatlantique Kriek is complex, expensive, and completely original tasting. This beer starts its journey in Europe, where it begins as a naturally-fermented (using wild yeasts floating in the air) and sour kriek made by master brewer Frank Boon in the Lembeek region of Belgium. This authentic and tart lambic is aged for two years and then shipped to New Belgium in Colorado where it is diluted with a golden, Belgian-style ale. The addition of this golden ale cuts the acidity of the European kriek and helps to round out the beer's finish. This was an interesting and satisfying drink, but one that I will probably not crave on a regular basis.

Parallel 49 Hay Fever Saison - B-
I like most of Parallel 49's beers, but Hay Fever is the only one that I buy regularly to drink at home. Saisons are becoming more and more popular in the Northwest and are a bit hard to define as a style of beer. This type of beer originated as a low alcohol, bottle-fermented beverage that was made in the fall, aged over the winter, and then cracked in the summer before the next batch of malt and hops was available. It was originally a yeasty and drinkable pale ale with a dry finish. It is largely the same nowadays, except saisons are generally 6% abv and above, and hoppiness can vary a great deal depending on the brewery. Hay Fever pours a cloudy straw colour, lighter than many saisons, and has a nice tart finish. It is springy and appropriate for hot weather, but has enough hops to demand respect.

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins", "Brassneck Brewery", "Vancouver Craft Beers"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pajo's in Steveston

Not only does Pajo's have the best dining location in the quaint fishing village of Steveston, it also provides some perks that other places do not. They have numerous (excessive?) condiments and garnishes for your fish. While most fish n' chips places I've been to either provide you with an inadequately teeny container of tartar sauce or - zounds! - charge you for it, Pajo's offers free tartar. And as much free tartar as you want! Along the same lines, they also keep a hugemongous bucket of lemon wedges on the service counter. I know they are just lemons, but it's nice to have the option to take as many as you want. I hate rationing my lemon juice when seafood is involved. I went mental at Pajo's...I even squeezed three wedges into my iced tea.

We ordered halibut, chips, and a side of coleslaw. I am really picky about fried fish because I have had many more bad experiences than good. I hate thick, flavourless, artery-clogging batter, so I always focus on this rather than the fish itself. The batter at Pajo's is good. It's not great, but it is fairly thin, which I appreciated. I wish it was a bit crispier though. I really liked the coleslaw. It was light on dressing and contained crunchy sunflower seeds.

Tip: if you are visiting Steveston from Vancouver, leave the car at home and bike! We live in Kits but it only took us an hour and a half to get to Steveston by biking to Cambie, taking the Skytrain to Aberdeen, and then cycling along West Dyke. I'm not sure I could handle a two-piece Halibut without exercising before and after my meal! Plus, it's a beautiful ride.

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins", "Vancouver breweries", "Vancouver fish and chips"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Steve and Rod Smith - Collaboration & Contrast

I studied Art History as an undergraduate and was initially drawn to the diverse media and subject matter that make-up Modern Art from the Western world. From blown glass to formaldehyde fetuses - and from psychoanalysis to automatism - art from the Twentieth Century was so complex and varied that it met many of my intellectual needs, as a right-brained nerd in his early twenties. As I began to consider applying for a Masters degree in this field, however, I found it more and more difficult to find a particular artist or subject to focus on. There was simply too much diversity in twentieth-century art, and I couldn’t think of something that I really wanted to dedicate my time and money to. During my final year, I began working at Vancouver’s Lattimer Gallery. I was not particularly fond of British Columbian First Nations art prior to securing this position at the gallery, but it did not take long for my understanding of this art to develop, and then for my appreciation to pullulate. One of the things that I found so satisfying about this art form was that it had historically-defined and aesthetic constraints, unlike modern art from Europe and North America. There are subjects and shapes and colours that define the creative output of artists from the various cultures along the Northwest Coast, and it takes truly creative individuals to produce novel and innovative works within these artistic and cultural traditions. My time at Lattimer Gallery sparked a passion for Native art from the West Coast, and this is what I ended up getting my Masters degree in.

Two artists that best demonstrate this rare ability to propel Northwest Coast Native art, given these aesthetic and thematic boundaries, are brothers Steve Smith Dla’kwagila and Rod Smith Galuyagmi. Their father, Harris Smith, was an established Kwakwaka’wakw artist who was very successful in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island during the 1980s and 1990s. He developed a distinctive style of painting based on the abstraction of Northwest Coast First Nations design elements. The ovoid, split-u, and s-form would cover surfaces from rustic burl vessels to iconic totem poles in a fluid and dynamic fashion. Harris still produced conventional masks and prints and paintings, but he created many pieces that were blatantly non-figurative and notably innovative. Steve and Rod took-up this style of painting and design sense, but went slightly different ways with it. Most of Steve’s pieces cling to the figurative, while Rod has really embraced and perfected painting in the abstract. Having said this, both brothers have a lot in common: they possess the awe-inspiring ability to apply their idiosyncratic painting style to most any shape and surface, and they have consistently created new and completely original works for over twenty years.

Lattimer Gallery is holding an exhibition of Steve and Rod’s work between June 22nd – July 20th. The show is titled Collaboration & Contrast, and in addition to highlighting the differences between these two unpredictable artists the exhibition will also contain pieces that the brothers have made cooperatively. Steve and Rod are in their prime right now, both born in the 1960s, so I strongly encourage anyone interested in Northwest Coast Native art to go and check out this show. Also, if you can at all afford it, I would advise that you purchase a piece by one of these artists as well!

Keywords: "Steve Smith Native Art", "Alex Dawkins", "Native Art Vancouver"