Taster Tray Series – Big River Brewing Company in Richmond, BC: One of my favourite things to do is sample beer, be it at a festival, at a bottle share, a bar or even better at the brewery where the beer is made. In this blog series I’ll be featuring different taster trays from mostly local BC breweries ( I’ll be sure to include my travels as well). Taster trays are always so interesting as many breweries try to offer up something unique in terms of glassware, the trays themselves, the atmosphere or any combination of the bunch in order to make for a fun tasting experience. Today’s feature is the Big River Brewing Company in Richmond, BC who sells their beer at two Big River Brewpub locations attached to The Zone bowling alley’s in Richmond and they used to own the one in Coquitlam, but sold it off.
About Big River Brewing: In place since 1997 and attached to The Zone bowling center at the Big River Brewpub, this place is currently overseen by head brewer Bill Herdman (formerly of Green Leaf brewing, something I learned from Joe Wiebe’s Craft Beer Revolution Book). Despite the fact that this place has been around for awhile, I hadn’t had much experience with their beer until recently at a local winter cask festival where I thought that their offering was great. They also hosted Fuggles & Warlock for a while, who gypsy brewed there for a bit and they have seen the Riverport area around them expand over the last 18 years.
The Taster Tray / Flights: For $6.25 you can get four 5 oz tasters of any on their beer on tap, either seasonal or regular lineup. They come in non branded glassware, served directly at the bar or on a long wooden carrying trays if you are at the bowling alley (see below). The pours were of good quality, the glasses were beer clean and I thought the price was reasonable considering the markup was only 30 cents more than an equivalent pint of beer. Even the Imperial Stout at 10% abv didn’t cost any more to add to the tray, which some places will mark up occasionally if it’s a special beer or higher alcohol.
The Beers: From left to right in the title picture I ordered the Zwickel Lager, the Acid Trip Soured Wheat, the Rally Cap Pale Ale and finally the Chimperial Stout (despite the name, this beer does not contain any chimp products, right Bill?). I was most impressed with the Acid Trip Sour Wheat, which was excellent and highly sessionable at 3.4% abv. I felt that souring a wheat beer was a fantastic way to give a low alcohol beer some serious flavour, while still delivering some of the desirable wheat malt flavour and textures that make wheat beers so good on a summer porch. The other beer I really enjoyed was the Chimperial Stout, which was big on the tobacco, chocolate and coffee notes and I thought the Rally Cap Pale ale had some solid fruity hops and bread malt. The only beer that didn’t hit for me was the Zzwickel Lager, which despite the higher IBU didn’t hit me with any hop flavours or aromas at all. It was still an okay lager, but the others were much, much better.
Final Impression: I enjoyed my tasters and the experience of sitting at the bar there during a slow period on a Saturday afternoon while killing a bit of time. I have also enjoyed being able to sample some beers in the past while bowling at The Zone which is something I’d like to see more of as a way to revive some of the more run down bowling alleys. Bowling and craft beer, it should be a thing people! I’d be happy to go there sample some beer again, the fact that they have 4 rotating taps is enough to make me interested returning from time to time as well as the decent sour beer.