It was on the third day that I finally wised up. In a dark lunchtime pub, I daringly tried Russell’s Lemon Wheat Ale. I did so not expecting much, but very pleased with the results. This was a wonderful mix of lager malts and lemon tang, that after a day of riding a bike around Stanley Park was perfect.
But where to go next? How am I going to find other pubs with interesting beer selections?
It’s simpler, of course, than I’m making it out to be. Our bartender Billy, with silghtly bulldog cheeks and a salt and pepper grizzle and moustache was happy to tell me where to go next: the Black Frog, Irish Heather, and Malone’s. None of these pubs were brewpubs, but they were havens in a city were I was having trouble finding selections beyond lagers.
It was at the Black Frog I had Big Rock’s Traditional Ale. I had no idea what the heck I was getting when I’d ordered it; I got it because another bartender had suggested it to me, but he couldn’t tell me what the style was. I was treated to a pleasant nut brown ale in a bar that everything from a Melvin’s 45 to a monkey doll riding a T-rex. Also a doll; I doubt I would’ve been able to enjoy a beer with an actual Rex around.
Walking in to the Irish Heather for a moment I felt that the pretension there would drive me out. It felt disturbingly modern, with huge windows in the front, no seats at the bar, quotes from Samuel Becket etched into the glass of the door leading to the bathroom. Fortunately, the waitress was disarmingly charming, and easily set a relaxed tone for the place. I had Tin Whistle’s Killer Bee-which was another honey ale, and wasn’t very distinctive. I selected it because I’d had so many of the beers they offered, but that wasn’t the pub’s fault; I just drink lots. After that, I had Whistler’s Pale Ale, and like so many pales I had, it tasted more like an amber than like a pale. It’s not an easy distinction I know; the line between amber and IPA, but with all the beers I as drinking heading toward the malt sweetness instead of the bitterness of the hops, I was getting a bit worn out.
This was also my problem with Steamworks‘ IPA; it tasted like a decent pale ale, but couldn’t be called an IPA except by stretching. The hop bitterness just wasn’t present, not in the nose, nor flavor. I know I’m from a part of the country that really, really likes their hops, but I can still appreciate an IPA that’s in style. Now if they’d just make one….