A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to check out HopWired Festival, the first festival featuring both coffee and craft beer under the same roof. If you asked me what I think heaven would be like, this would be a close to what I would describe. Booths lining a hall of the Croation Cultural Centre serving coffees roasted with utmost care and attention, and craft breweries sampling beers brewed in collaboration with the coffee roasters. It was hard to make your way around the festival without someone exclaiming, “This is the best smelling festival I’ve ever been to!”.
For me coffee is up there with beer, I started getting into small batch roasters before I started to really get into beer. I think there are a lot of parallels between the two beverages besides both being “brewed”. Whether it’s a Roaster monitoring the beans waiting for just the right moment to dump the beans and start the cooling process, or a Brewer waiting for just the right moment to add the hops to get create the flavours they envisioned for their beer. It was exciting to walk from booth to booth sampling some of the smaller coffee roasters like Smoking Gun Coffee out of Mission (their Guatemala pour-over was unbelievable) or White Goat Roasters that came all the way down from Terrace!
I’d like to give a big hats off to the organizers of the event. The event had a relaxed atmosphere and felt approachable regardless of how much coffee or beer knowledge you possess. To top it off, Cartem’s donuts were being served which couldn’t have been any better of a pairing.
A big thanks to Chris Dinsdale, a colleague and friend of mine, who also runs the craft beer blog Vanpours for inviting me to the festival! Vanpours is a top notch local beer blog that covers BC Craft Beer events, releases, and anything else in between. Make sure to head on over and check out their blog and social media channels, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Below are a couple thoughts from Chris and myself about which beers and coffees really stood out from the crowd:
COREY BRADDER - BEERTIFUL BC
Over the course of the afternoon, many beers were tasted, but there were a couple that especially stood out for me. The first of which had to be Mariner Brewing’s Night Sky Stout. The beer was full of rich coffee flavours and subtle hints of sweet chocolate that both played well into the roasted malt flavours. This was actually the first beer from Mariner that I've tried; it made a great first impression and I'm interested to see what seasonals they brew in the near future.
The second beer that really stood out for me was the Cà Phê from Four Winds Brewing. Somehow these guys managed to combine the flavours of Vietnamese coffee and a beer and make it incredibly delicious. There was an expected sweetness that was well balanced, but not overwhelming. The overall flavours blended too well. I couldn’t drink a lot of this in one sitting, but to get a small taste of the beer was exciting and refreshingly different.
It goes without saying that one of the best coffees of the event was the Cask Conditioned Bourbon Nitro Cold Brew from Fresh Cup Roastery Cafe out of Victoria. I’ve had my fair share of cold brew and this one still managed to catch me by surprise. The green coffee beans are soaked in bourbon in a highly secretive 28 day conditioning process before being roasted. The result is a smooth, delicious cold brew with a bourbon forward aroma. It’s no coincidence this was the talk of the festival.
Another coffee that I found very interesting was the Gelgelu Edama from Agro Roasters. The beans were roasted very lightly, with the roasting process being halted before the first crack. My first thought was the coffee would be grassy with underdeveloped flavours, but I was completely surprised to taste bold blueberry flavours with a very juicy mouthfeel.
CHRIS DINSDALE - VANPOURS
I was honestly quite surprised at the variety of coffee-infused beer that were available at Hopwired. Everything from stouts and porters to sours and lagers were available. Both of the beers that Corey highlighted above were fantastic, but they weren't the only highlights from the afternoon!
I found the 33 Acres of Coff33 (ABV: 7% | IBU: 25); a collaboration with 33 Acres Brewing and Toronto-based De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters, to be a very interesting mix of coffee and fruit flavours. This beer features local honey, cold brew, and German malts, with notes of dark plum and mango. This is hands down one of the most unique coffee beers I've tried, and quite different from ones I've leaned towards, historically.
On the other end of the spectrum, after enjoying a few porters and stouts I was in need of a "palette cleanser". Doan's Craft Brewing Co. was pouring an American Light Lager that they collaborated with Agro Roasters on. This beer was brewed using a very light roast of coffee, with the beans being removed from the roasting process before the "first crack". I normally wouldn't consider coffee beers as "sessionable", but this lager broke outside my pre-conceived norms of the style. Bottom's up!
My favourite coffee of the afternoon seemed to be a consensus pick for many of the Hopwired attendees, including Corey from @beertifulbc. Fresh Cup's Bourbon Cask Conditioned Nitro Cold Brew was out-of-this-world! Typically, I find cold brew coffee to have a lingering bitterness that puts me off, however, this was so utterly clean and smooth my senses could not compute. If coffee heaven is a real place, I was knocking on the pearly gates!
After closing down the festival, we made our way to Bells & Whistles where the Hopwired after party was being hosted. There we met up with a few more folks from the craft beer community for some much-needed food and even more beer! I ended up going with the Easy Tiger Pale Ale from Superflux, a super hazy, tropical fruit forward beer that goes down all top easy! Bells & Whistles has only been open for a few months, and has become a must visit establishment with their always impressive tap list, mouthwatering menu, and sports arcade games like Skee-ball. I’d highlight recommend stopping by for a pint on your next night out and show them whose boss when it comes to sinking threes on the basketball free throw game.
A big thanks to Bells and Whistles for having us out to their Hopwired after party. Keep your eyes peeled to Bells and Whistles' social media accounts, as they frequently host tap takeovers featuring crazy lineups from breweries across Canada, the United States, and overseas. Also, they have two massive projector screens which makes them the perfect spot for cheering on your favourite sports team (and then yelling angrily at the refs after a few cold ones).