The first annual Hopwired Festival, organized by the folks at West Craft, was a home run. This is the event that Vancouverites have been waiting for. Merging two of the most celebrated industries in the city; craft beer and locally roasted coffee, for an afternoon of sampling small batch coffee-infused beers and coffee brewed every way possible might be the best thing since sliced bread. Hell, I’d rather slice my own damn bread if it means that Hopwired will make a return in 2019, but I doubt that those two things affect one another (spoiler: Hopwired will be back next year)!
The amazing aroma that exuded from the tasting hall at Hopwired is still ingrained in my mind. The entire Croatian Cultural Centre smelled of freshly brewed coffee. If they had made a custom Hopwired Festival fragrance, I would have been the first in line to hand over my credit card (this is my next big idea, btw).
Also, very noticeable was the unique vibe of the festival. A huge thumbs up to the Hopwired attendees, as this was by far the most relaxed and well-behaved crowd that I’ve been a part of. Beer festivals tend to get rowdy near the end of the event due to the sheer amount of beer being slung to eager drinkers, however, the focus at Hopwired was on educated enjoyment. Aaron Johnson from the Cascadian Beer Podcast even hosted tasting panels on the main stage with some of the participating brewers and roasters to dive into what they were pouring at the festival.
As most of you know, craft beer events are always more fun with friends. In the last year or so I’ve become increasingly connected to a growing number of BC beer bloggers, Instagrammers, and podcasters. An unreal “beertographer”, colleague, and friend of mine, Corey Bradder from @beertifulbc, was able to join me for the afternoon of craft beer and caffeine injected fun. Here’s both Corey’s and my thoughts on our favourite beers and coffee from Hopwired:
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 left a good 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 coffees and cold brews 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.
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 was available. Both of the beers that Corey discussed 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”. This roast of coffee was the same one that Corey mentioned earlier. I normally wouldn’t consider coffee beers as “sessionable”, but this lager broke outside my pre-conceived norms. 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! Not surprisingly, Fresh Cup received the People’s Choice Award for Best Coldbrew at Hopwired.
After four hours of beer and coffee sippin’, Corey and I headed over to the Hopwired after-party at Bells and Whistles with a few other craft-beer fanatics (shout out to Anthony from Postmark Brewing and Alex aka @theflyingbeergirl from Parallel 49). Bells and Whistles had put together a well-thought-out lineup of beers on the lighter side of things, which was much appreciated after an afternoon of ingesting all things coffee.
To start, I had a glass of the refreshing and funky Bjorn Again Farmhouse Ale (ABV: 5.5%) from Brassneck Brewing. You can’t go wrong with a beer from one of Vancouver’s most loved microbreweries. Next up was the light and fruit-forward Easy Tiger Pale Ale from Superflux Beer Company to pair with my gourmet burger and fries. Superflux is one of the trending breweries in BC; and for good reason, as they keep producing crowd-pleasers like this. They’re also absolutely killing it in the can design department…check out their Instagram page and you’ll get what I’m talking about.
A big thanks to Bells and Whistles for inviting me out to their post-Hopwired festivities. 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.
Back to Hopwired – if you’re interested in reading about the People’s Choice winners from the Festival, check out the full list here. Most importantly, the folks behind the festival have announced that the event will be back on February 23, 2019. Follow their Facebook page for the latest details on next year’s event. I hope to see you all there!
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