Autumn in a Glass: Fall-Themed Cider, Beer, and Wine

Autumn in a Glass: Fall-Themed Cider, Beer, and Wine

Autumn in a Glass: Fall-Themed Cider, Beer, and Wine

The days are growing shorter in the Cowichan Valley, and the colourful flowers of summer have given way to the colourful leaves of fall. We’re sitting in that time between cold frosted beer mugs and cold frosted window panes. As the leaves crunch beneath your feet and the air takes on a refreshing chill, fall-themed cider and beer offer a delightful way to embrace the season.

Fall-themed cider and beer offerings are becoming a seasonal tradition here capturing the essence of fall. It’s time to get out those chunky knit sweaters and embrace the cozy and heartwarming flavours of autumn bonfires and brisk walks in the cool, crisp air.

Cider: It’s Autumn’s Brew

Cowichan Valley cider has a time-honoured history as one of the quintessential fall beverages. It’s a versatile and diverse drink that encompasses a wide range of flavours and styles. Autumn is the time when apples are harvested. Their flavours are at their peak, so it’s the best time to craft a delicious brew.

Spiced Apple Cider, a Good Book, and a Crackling Fireplace 

Apple is most certainly the most well known and common form of cider as apples come in an amazing number of varieties. Each brings its unique characteristics to the table, from sweet and juicy to tart and crisp. This versatility allows cider makers to experiment with different combinations. Crafted with warm spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, spiced cider is like a cozy blanket for your taste buds.

Nothing says autumn more than wrapping your hands around a hot spiced apple cider and breathing in the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pumpkin Spice: It’s Not Just for Coffee Anymore

Not into pumpkin spice lattes? Me neither! But it seems like the world goes crazy for them at this time of year. Try this fall favourite instead: pumpkin cider, which takes the essence of pumpkin pie and infuses it into a crisp, apple-based brew. This cider boasts flavours of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and tastes like a delicious autumn dessert in a glass. Skip the calories in that piece of pumpkin pie and enjoy the season’s signature flavour without the guilt!

Beer: Crafting Fall’s Magic

What says “fall is here!” more than the celebration of beer that is Oktoberfest? This festival is a beloved tradition that originated in Munich, Germany. It marks the arrival of autumn with the tapping of the first Oktoberfest beer keg. This style of beer is characterized by its rich, amber colour and a medium to full body. It has a balanced maltiness, with a clean, dry finish, making it perfect for pairing with hearty German fare.

Craft breweries and microbreweries in the Cowichan Valley have embraced the challenge of brewing unique beers that evoke fall. Taking inspiration from the spirit of the season, beer makers have introduced a variety of fall-themed brews that capture the spirit of autumn in a glass.

Pumpkin Ales: Brewing the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin ales are a quintessential fall favourite. Crafted with real pumpkin and a blend of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, these ales are reminiscent of pumpkin pie in a glass. A variety of pumpkin beers embody the cozy essence of pumpkin carving and bonfires.

Harvest Ales: The Bounty of the Fields

Harvest ales celebrate bringing in the harvest and season’s agricultural abundance. These beers often feature ingredients like fresh hops, barley, and wheat, giving them a rustic, earthy quality. They are a perfect way to connect with the agrarian roots of fall in the Cowichan Valley and honour the hard work of the harvest season.

Brown Ales: Embracing the Essence of Cozy

Brown ales are another popular choice for the fall season. They have a rich and malty profile, with a flavour that has been described as toasty, chocolatey, caramel-like, or toffeeish. The nutty undertones and smooth finish make them a warm, inviting choice, perfect for chilly autumn evenings.

Pairing Fall-Themed Cider and Beer with Food

Fall-themed cider and beer are versatile beverages that can be enjoyed on their own, but they truly shine when paired with the right foods. Here are some delectable pairing suggestions:

  1. Cheese and Charcuterie Platter: A selection of cheeses, cured meats, and crusty bread is a perfect accompaniment to both cider and beer. The salty and savory elements of the charcuterie complement the sweet and spiced notes of the beverages.
  2. Roasted Root Vegetables: Fall is the season for hearty, earthy vegetables. Roasted root vegetables, seasoned with herbs and drizzled with olive oil, make a wonderful pairing with the malty richness of brown ales or the spice-infused notes of pumpkin ales.
  3. Apple Pie: What’s fall without a slice of warm apple pie? Pair it with a spiced cider or a pumpkin ale to create a heavenly combination that celebrates the quintessential flavors of autumn.
  4. Sausages and Bratwurst: For those enjoying Oktoberfest beers, sausages and bratwurst are the classic pairings. The beer’s maltiness and clean finish complement the savory and slightly spicy notes of the sausages.

Autumn’s Elixir: Fall-Themed Wines

As autumn paints the Cowichan Valley red and gold, winemakers craft a symphony of flavours that harmonize with the season’s essence. It’s the perfect time for rich, velvety reds to take center stage.

Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots offer robust notes of blackberry and cedar, evoking cozy evening by the fireside. Pinot Noirs dance with delicate hints of cranberry and spice, a perfect accompaniment to harvest feasts and festivals.

Crisp Chardonnays with apple and pear undertones bring to mind orchard wrapped in early morning mist. Finally, sweet dessert wines, embody the apple pies topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle.

So, gather your loved ones, savour the flavours of this wonderful time of the year, and toast to the magic of autumn with these delightful seasonal offerings.

Take Flight! Have a Beer

Take Flight! Have a Beer


Take flight! Have a Beer

Not into wine tasting? How about a beer tasting? Many craft breweries, pubs, and even some restaurants now offer “beer flights”. A beer flight is a tasting experience that allows beer enthusiasts to explore various beer styles, flavours, and aromas in a single sitting.

Origins

Beer flights actually harken back to the beginning of beer brewing, when beer was often consumed in small quantities to quench thirst or as part of a meal. The craft beer movement of the 1970s and 1980s brought beer flights to the forefront as a popular way to sample different types of beer.

The craft beer movement began with the desire to create unique and flavourful beer that was different from the mass-produced lagers and ales that dominated the market. Craft breweries were a local phenomenon often attached to the sustainability movement. Brewmasters began to experiment with different brewing techniques, ingredients, and styles, creating a wide variety of beer, each having unique flavours and characteristics.

To introduce their new beer and allow customers to sample them, craft breweries began offering beer flights. A typical beer flight consists of as few as three or as many as eight small glasses of beer. The number of beers included in a flight varies depending on the establishment. Customers can choose from a selection of beers and the samples are served in a specially designed wooden paddle or tray with small holes to hold the glasses securely.

Flights are often served with tasting notes or descriptions that provide information about each beer’s style, ingredients, and flavour profile. This helps drinkers understand and appreciate the various nuances and characteristics of each beer they are sampling.

Benefits of Beer Flights

Beer flights are now widely available in a variety of settings, providing an opportunity for customers to taste new beers without committing to full-sized servings.

Flights allow you to sample a variety of beer and discover new flavours and styles. This can be particularly beneficial if you are new to craft beer or if you are looking to expand your palate.

Beer flights also allow you to compare and contrast different beer types. By trying several beers side by side, you can pick up on subtle differences in flavour, aroma, and the feel of the beer on your tongue. This can be a great way to develop your beer tasting skills and become more knowledgeable about beer.

Finally, beer flights can be a fun and social way to enjoy beer with friends. By sharing a beer flight, you can try a variety of beers together and discuss or debate their flavours and characteristics. This can be a great way to bond over a shared interest in beer and to learn from each other’s perspectives and tasting experiences.

Creating Your Own Beer Flight


1. Select your beer

To create your beer flight, start by selecting beer in a variety of different styles, such as pale ales, stouts, lagers, or sour beers. This will allow you to compare and contrast and develop your understanding of beer. Be mindful of the alcohol content of each beer you choose, selecting a range of lighter through heavier beers.

Alternatively, you can choose beers from different breweries or regions to compare their unique characteristics.

2. Arrange your glassware

Once you have made your selection, pour a small amount (around 2-3 ounces) of each beer into a separate glass. Be sure to label each glass with the name of the beer and any other relevant information, such as the style or ABV (alcohol content).

3. Taste the beer

Start with the lightest or lowest ABV beer and work your way up to the heaviest or highest ABV beer. Starting with a lower ABV beer will help you pace yourself and avoid becoming too intoxicated.

When tasting your beer flight, it’s important to take your time and savor each beer. Take a sip of each beer and try to pick up on subtle flavours and aromas, and how the beer feels in your mouth. Pay attention to any other characteristics that stand out to you.

4. Take notes

You can use a tasting sheet or notebook to record your observations for each beer you’ve tasted so you can remember the individual beers and compare them later.

Again, start with lighter beer, such as lagers or pilsners, and work your way up to heavier beer like stouts or porters. This will help prevent your palate from becoming overwhelmed by strong flavours.

Beer tasting notes are an easy Google search away and easily created at home.

Whether you’re a seasoned beer drinker or new to the world of craft beer, sampling beer flights will greatly enhance the pub crawl experience or provide a unique twist on adult birthday gatherings.

Cheers!

Cider:  Beer’s Hipper, Younger Brother

Cider: Beer’s Hipper, Younger Brother

Cider: Beer’s Hipper, Younger Brother

Beer had already been around for 8,000 years when the builders of the Egyptian pyramids paid their workers four to five litres of beer daily. By comparison, cider is relatively young. Julius Caesar’s invading troops first observed the Celts creating cider from crabapples in 55 BCE.

The word cider comes down to us from Middle English meaning “liquor made from the juice of fruits” and later “beverage made from apples”.

Ciders vary from dry to sweet so there is something for every palate. They may appear cloudy with sediment, absolutely clear, or anything in between. The colour varies from pale, almost completely clear to amber through to brown. These variations are mostly created by differences in filtering during production. Cider may be alcoholic (sometimes called hard cider) or non alcoholic, and still or sparkling, although sparkling cider is more common. Ciders are typically classified as Modern, Heritage, and Specialty.

Heritage ciders

Originally, ciders were made from crabapples or locally available wild apples such as Golden Russet in areas with cool climates such as Great Britain and parts of western Europe. Today, Heritage ciders are produced using culinary and cider apples including wild apples, crabapples, heirlooms, and bittersweet and bittersharp.

Heritage ciders are typically made from apples such as Roxbury Russet, Kingston Black, and Dabinett and have higher tannin levels than modern ciders. The colour ranges from yellow to amber and clarity from brilliant to hazy.

“Loyalist-style” ciders are quite dry, and are a variety of heritage cider made in Canada using McIntosh apples.

Modern ciders

Modern ciders are made from culinary apples such as Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonagold, and McIntosh. They are more acidic but lower in tannins than other types of cider. Colours range from pale to yellow, and appearance varies in clarity from brilliant to hazy. Modern ciders that are mass-produced look very similar to sparkling wine while traditional types are darker and cloudier. These traditional brands are often stronger and have a more powerful apple taste.

Low alcohol or sweet cider has a strong apple aroma and flavour, while high alcohol or dry cider is fruitier in aroma and flavour.

White cider, as its name suggests, is almost colourless. It is sweeter and some feel, more refreshing than other ciders. It is usually 7-8% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Black cider is a dry premium cider that is, strangely, amber in colour and typically has an alcohol content of 7–8 % ABV.

Specialty ciders

Specialty ciders have no restrictions on the types of apples to be used and therefore come in many different styles such as spiced, hopped, sour, wood-aged, fruit, and iced ciders.

Spiced ciders have spices such as cinnamon or ginger added before, during, or after the fermentation process. Hopped ciders have hops such as Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy, and Cascade added during fermentation. Sour ciders use non standard yeast and bacteria to elevate acid production for that mouth-puckering taste!

Wood-aged ciders are fermented or aged in wooden barrels. This adds woody, earthy flavours to the final product. Fruit ciders have other fruit or juices added to the production process, such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Ice ciders are made from apples naturally frozen outdoors or from pre-pressed frozen juice.

Cider in Canada

Cider is widely enjoyed across Canada with Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan being the only Canadian provinces that do not produce cider.

Canada has strict regulations for the sourcing and alcohol content of cider. Under the Canadian Food and Drug Act Regulations, cider is defined as the alcoholic fermentation of apple juice. In addition, it must contain at least 2.5% but no more than 13% ABV. Aside from that, the list of ingredients that may be added during production is fairly flexible, allowing for the seemingly endless varieties of cider commercially available.

Cowichan Valley Cider

The Cowichan Valley’s climate, soil and water are ideal for growing apple trees. The long growing season creates apples that have time to develop complex flavours during slow ripening. No surprise then, that the craft cider industry has been taking hold in recent years.

Whether you’re out exploring for the day or a serious cider enthusiast, visit one of our local cideries and tickle your taste buds!

Merridale Cidery and Distillery:

One of the oldest cideries in the Valley, Meridale’s orchard has over 20 varieties of apple trees and produces a range of ciders, from dry and crisp to sweet and complex.

Valley Cider Company:

This small-batch, traditional cidery produces ciders using heritage and modern apple varieties. Unique offerings include Afternoon Delight, Bloo, and Cherry Bomb.

Affinity Ciderhouse:

The Cowichan Valley’s latest up-and-coming craft cidery produces a Heritage Dry, a Modern Dry and Pome Blend (apples, pears, and quince).

 

When is a Pub not a Pub?

When is a Pub not a Pub?

When is a Pub not a Pub?

Remember when, if you wanted to go out for a drink you just went to a local bar? Well, welcome to the age of choices! Now you and your best pals can be shuttled to bars, pubs, brew pubs, craft breweries, microbreweries, and gastropubs. Confusing, right? Let’s see if we can clear this up.

Bars, Pubs, or Taverns

Ale as a drink predates the occupation of Great Britain by the Roman Empire in the first century AD. The construction of the system of Roman roads led to the appearance of the first taverns (known as “tabernae”) serving food and drinks.

A Taphouse is a tavern consisting of a building with a bar and public rooms; often providing light meals.

Bars typically do not serve food and you go to the counter or bar to order drinks, hence the name. There is an age limit for patrons and bars can be attached to other businesses such as hotels.

Pubs, short for “public houses”, became established around the beginning of the 19th century and have been the social centre of the villages and towns of England and those countries once part of the British Empire ever since.

Pubs generally occupy their own building and serve casual food and drinks with a focus on beer and wine although they also provide non-alcoholic drinks. Pubs provide a social gathering place for locals as well as those just passing through.

Microbreweries or Craft Breweries

A brewery, sometimes called a beerhouse, is a commercial establishment that creates and sells beer. It can produce millions of barrels of beer per year.

As its name suggests, a microbrewery produces much less annually – no more than 15,000 barrels. It must be licensed by the Government of Canada, and be independently owned. Microbreweries make specialty beers and most are sold and drunk on site.

Trying to pin down a definition of a craft brewery or microbrewery is difficult as there is no consistency across Canada. Most craft breweries are small and locally or family owned. According to the BC Craft Brewers Guild, member brewers must be majority owned in BC and produce less than 200,000 hectolitres of beer per year.

Brew Pubs

Brew pubs gained popularity in recent years as an extension of the movement towards supporting local businesses using locally-sourced ingredients sustainably. Essentially, a brew pub is a combination of a brewery and a restaurant.

The beer is brewed on the premises and often served directly from the brewing tanks providing a unique look at the technical skill and methods used to create a top-quality beverage. Food offered is typical pub fare.

The Cowichan Valley has become a popular center for the craft beer industry. Take a pub crawl through these local brew pubs:

  1. Red Arrow Brewing Company: Located in Duncan, the Red Arrow brews small batch high quality beer taking every opportunity to use locally sourced ingredients. The food menu features classic pub fare with vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
  2. Small Block Brewery: A family-run brewery with a cozy atmosphere, Small Block even features live music on the weekends. The menu features craft beer, cider, and snacks.
  3. Craig Street Brew Pub: Offering a range of handcrafted beers brewed on site, the pub has a cozy fireplace for winter and an outdoor patio for warmer weather. Food on offer covers the range of appies to desserts.
  4. The Oak Taphouse: Fostering community and connections, The Oak serves up local craft brews and delicious home-grown eats.
  5. Riot Brewing Co.: Located in Chemainus, the Riot Brewing Co. offers a full lounge license, outdoor patio, sleeves, and sample flights. It’s kid- and dog-friendly.
  6. Bayview Brewing Company: Locally owned and operated in Ladysmith, Bayview offers wonderful craft beer and appies, bowls, and sandwiches sure to please anyone.
  7. Sawmill Taphouse and Grill: Another reason to stop in Chemainus, the Sawmill features Pacific Northwest craft beers and forno oven pizzas. Authentic farm-to-table tapas and appetizers complete the incredible atmosphere.

Gastropubs

Gastropubs first made an appearance in England in 1991 when the new owners of The Eagle pub decided to offer “restaurant quality” food in their pub moving the focus away from a purely drinking establishment. The word gastropub was created by combining “pub” and “gastronomy” to emphasize the inventiveness and quality of the food on offer.

Whether you’re a connoisseur of beer, a foodie, or just want to hoist a few and kick back with good friends, the Cowichan Valley offers a diverse range of establishments for visitors to explore.