Jason Armitage, head brewer at Surrey’s Big Ridge Brewing Co., with his “Cask Off” championship belt. (Photo: facebook.com/bigridgebrewingco)

Surrey brewpub’s 20th-year ‘Cask Off’ championship belt won by its head brewer

‘Jason’s Mimosa’ among crafty creations at annual competition

A special “Cask Off” competition served to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Surrey’s original brewpub.”

The event was held June 22 at Big Ridge Brewing Co., where casks of beer crafted by nine local breweries were judged by pub patrons in an afternoon-long voting period.

Creative names for the entries included Dry Hopped Lychee Sour, Espresso Dry Irish Stout, Neighbourhood Threat Raspberry Tart Ale and Zexy Bastard Hef with Blackberries and Hibiscus, among others.

In the end, with a wrestling-style “Royal Rumble” belt up for grabs, the winner was Jason’s Mimosa, crafted by Jason Armitage, head brewer at Big Ridge – the first time in six years the host brewpub has won its own Cask Off.

“I took a hefeweizen that we had on tap and put in blood oranges and bitters, which is supposed to emulate a cocktail I found in a beer book,” Armitage explained. “I used to be a bartender, so I love cocktails.”

Armitage, a Cloverdale-area resident, has been with Big Ridge since the spring of 2018.

Turns out Armitage won the Cask Off belt last year, too – when he worked at Langley’s Trading Post brewery.

“It’s all about experimenting and being creative,” he said about the informal competition.

“There’s a lot of creativity from my colleagues in the industry,” Armitage added. “Normally we do four breweries (for the Cask Off), but Rob (Bader, general manager at Big Ridge) wanted to go with more this year, so we settled on eight – but I forgot to include us, so there were nine involved this time.”

Other Cask Off competitors this year were Yaletown, Russell, Whistler Brewhouse, Trading Post, Central City, Mariner, Ravens and Fuggles and Warlock brewing companies.

Big Ridge originally opened in a building at Highway 10 and Panorama Drive, across from Tong Louie YMCA there, and then moved kitty-corner to a site southeast of Highway 10 and 152nd Street about nine years ago, around the time Bader began working at the pub.

“We were the first brewpub to open in Surrey,” Bader said. “Central City came after us.”

With the Cask Off, the idea for a championship belt was planned for the brewpub’s 15th anniversary, five years ago, so the champ must now return to defend the title every year, Bader said.

“A decade ago, we couldn’t have held a cask event like this, because people wouldn’t have come,” Bader added. “You know, ‘A Cask Off, what’s that?’ Tastes have changed, with more people drinking craft beer, for sure.”

On June 18, a Brewmaster’s Beer Pairing Dinner at Big Ridge also celebrated the 20th year of the brewpub, owned by Mark James Group.

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