Thursday, May 6, 2010

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller

Way back in February I was the undeserving recipient of some amazing Canadian generosity when Ryan O'Connor, who edits the CAMRA Vancouver newsletter, bestowed on me a tasty assortment of some of his favorite British Columbia craft beers.  He recommended that I not sit for too long on the two bottles of Old Cellar Dweller barleywine from Victoria's Driftwood Brewery, as part of the attraction was the "big, sticky, resinous hop nose", which he said goes away with just a little age.

It was a good call.  When I opened a bottle of Cellar Dweller at a neighborhood poker game a couple weeks after Ryan gave it to me, it was a big hit.  We also tried another barleywine that he brought with him, the Old Bad Cat from Fat Cat Brewery in Nanaimo, BC.  The Cellar Dweller's tons of malt and hops blew away the Bad Cat, which was merely syrupy in comparison.

Last week I opened the other bottle of Cellar Dweller so I could give a slightly more descriptive report than "tons of malt and hops".  The bottle was at room temperature, and the hop aromas may have faded a bit, because strong alcohol was the main component in the nose this time.  Flavorwise, it has lots of everything, all balanced well against one another:  brown-sugar (or even burnt-sugar) malt, lots of bitter, orangey hops, and a little alcohol sting (it is 12%).  It was pleasantly viscous, with a hoppy/roasty finish that didn't overstay its welcome.  This time Dave, Carla, and I compared it with a year-old bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, and the fresh Old Cellar Dweller won hands down.  The hops in the Bigfoot were bitter but losing their floral qualities, and the body just wasn't as full as the Driftwood.

Ryan also brought some cans of Red Racer IPA from Central City Brewing in Surrey.  It was a very nice, big IPA, plenty of hops but not over the top.  He also dropped some off with Ezra, who describes it in more detail in this review, as well as comparing it to Bear Republic's Racer 5.  Ezra also reports that Bear Republic has sued Central City, claiming that Red Racer infringes their Racer 5 trademark.  Don't you think the world would be a better place with fewer lawyers in it?

Anyway, many thanks to Ryan for the unexpected beer delivery.  And definitely seek out some Old Cellar Dweller or other Driftwood beers if you find yourself in the Great White North.


  1. Don't discount the Old Bad Cat - the flavours from the Cellar Dweller probably killed it.

    Old Bad Cat is aged in bourbon barrels and has quite a yummy flavour.

  2. Hey Bill,

    Missed your message before the fest. I got there around 5:20, and left when they kicked us out. I had a great time. Tried lots of great beers, and even won a raffle prize. I was the tall guy with the plaid western shirt, and tattooed arms with "the bumps".

    I'm sure we've seen each other at plenty of fests; it seems like we go all the same places. We'll meet one of these days!

  3. Hey pedXer, now that you mentioned the bumpy arms, I know I was standing right by you at CtBB this year. Didn't see you at Fred Fest, but man that was a great time.

  4. Usually "bumpy arms" rings a bell with people. (I thought it was a good idea a decade ago when I was 19!)

    I had a great time at Fred Fest this year.

    I can't wait to see how they finish building out the space. When I heard "tasting room", I was really stoked, and it had me thinking of something like Upright has going at their brewery. When I saw the space HotD dedicated for serving the public, I stopped thinking "tasting room", and started thinking full-on brew pub.

    Between the neat industrial location (that is a real short walk from my business), the great space (I love big old exposed beams), the view of downtown, the great beers, and Alan's BBQ, this is a place I could spend a LOT of time this summer.

    Now that I've seen what hair of the dog is up to, I'm extra curious about whats going on 8 blocks away at Cascade.