Howling for You (Barkerville Brewing)

Barkerville, that dog is too cute and you need to be stopped.

Barkerville, that dog is too cute and you need to be stopped.

The Specs: Barkerville Brewing Co. (Quesnel, B.C.) Hound of the Barkerville Brown Ale
5.9 per cent ABC, 650mL, regular series


I didn’t initially intend to review this beer right now. In fact, had it not been for last weekend’s Prohibition ale review, I might have given the little brewery in Quesnel that could a few months off before returning to their lineup.

But, a couple nights after reviewing that nice, but totally average brew, I found myself needing a brew that could stand up to both latkes and stuffed peppers and discovered the brown ale I’d been hoping for.

On the face of it, Hound and Bootlegger look pretty similar — same deep amber colour, though much less head and overall carbonation on the former — but there are surprisingly few points of commonality on taste.

Where Bootlegger is wheat bread, Hound is a much more interesting loaf.

Starting with a deep, roasted malt flavour and rounding out into a quick hit of pluck hops, it’s in some ways a much simpler beer. Where Bootlegger offered hints of citrus and sugar, Hound offers a straight-ahead nuttiness and virtually no sweetness.

With the slightly hopped finish, you’re not weighed down by the darkness at the front of the sip, and with no sugar the lack of acid isn’t an issue — there’s no syrupy tones to cut through.

Once again, Barkerville’s done a solid rendition of a standard. And, in case you were wondering, it indeed stood up beautifully to peppers and potatoes. I’m on my second bottle in less than a week, and if that’s not a seal of approval I don’t know what I can do for you.

Alpenfire – Pirate’s Plank Bone Dry

Alpenfire Pirate's Plank Bone Dry

I *never* get the wax to come off so clean like that!

Pirate’s Plank is a scrumpy-style cider, meaning it’s made with “traditional methods” (to wit: raw and unfiltered in this case) usually in smaller batches, and often tannic whether dry or sweet.

Living up to its name and scrumpy style, it does actually taste a bit like drinking a plank of wood, if one could achieve such a feat without splinters in really unfortunate places.

I’m not complaining; it’s pretty much the cider that comes to mind in a positive way when I think of very dry ciders. It’s a cloudy gold and really fizzy — pours several inches or so of head out of the bottle. The flavor and aroma are consistent with each other: slightly musty, lightly spicy, definitely bone dry and woody but not too bitter, lingering in the nooks and crannies of your mouth.

Pirate’s Plank uses mainly cider apples — Kingston Black, Vilberie, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill — with only Granny Smith represented from the dessert apple category, and it comes in at a respectable 6.9% ABV.

Alpenfire has pretty solidly positioned themselves as a higher-end brand, running more expensive than many other ciders but with a higher quality expectation to match. I imagine in part it’s simply because most (all?) of their stuff is organic.

I’ve never had a bad cider from them, though, and their packaging is always classy, with bottles wax-dipped or given other design treatments that manage not to cross over into being ostentatious.

Locate some Pirate’s Plank or another Alpenfire product to try for yourself here!

Good versus average

Prohibition Ale

That blindfolded pig is on every bottle, btw. Cheeky, Prohibition.

The Specs: Prohibition Brewing Co. (Kelowna, B.C.) Bootlegger Ale
5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL, regular series

It’s the straight-ahead, nice-enough beers that are really the hardest to write about, and such is the case with Bootlegger Ale.

After a summer featuring quite a lot of pilsner, pale ale, hefeweizen and PBR (What? You have to take something to all-night barbecues) it feels a little strange to be drinking an ale this dark.With its deep amber colour, Bootlegger feels like a properly fall beer in most respects, save its carbonation. Beer this fizzy seems like a summer concern. I’ve been having a bad week for pouring beer to begin with, but I’ve not built up a head like this on a pint in a while.

As far as taste goes, it’s fairly sweet with a bit of acidity to keep it from being fully weighed down. I wouldn’t say I found either the hops or malt of it particularly pronounced, though they’re both present and distinct.

And… that’s about it. Yup. Review over. Go home.

There’s not a thing bad about Bootlegger, but I can’t get worked up one way or another.

Were I a Kelowna-ite looking to support the local craft brew scene, I’d probably order this one with food sometimes. But, as a Kamloopsian I don’t know if I see much call to pick this one up on the regular — and no, that call has nothing to do with the supposed rivalry between the Tournament Capital and the Little Apple.

Bootlegger is the wheat bread of beer. It may be a good every day pick, but it’s not going to compete with a showcase full of macarons and cream puffs.

(That’s not entirely metaphorical, actually. Drinking it felt an awful lot like eating a slice of darker bread. Again, a perfectly pleasant job, but who writes home about the bread basket?)

Ultimately, it’s a strong enough showing that I’m happy to investigate Prohibition Brewing Co.’s other offerings, but I don’t know that I’ll be back to this well any time soon.

Anthem – Hops

A glass of Anthem Hops

A glass of Anthem Hops

Though I’m not the biggest fan of most hopped ciders, I respect Anthem Hops for doing its thing. If you’re the kind of person who generally likes hopped ciders, or who thinks an apple-y lager sounds tasty, I feel pretty confident in recommending this one to you.

I hesitate to recommend some hopped ciders to beer drinkers because apple and hops seems like a combination that might not appeal to many (despite “appeal to beer drinkers” usually being the reason for hopping a cider in the first place), but this is one I feel pretty good about.

The Cascade hops give the cider a, well, hoppy aroma, but also with a side of fruit and florals. It’s quite dry, a little tart, a very pale straw color, and the hops are well evident in the bitter, somewhat funky taste — but they don’t fight with the apples, instead blending together into a cohesive whole.

Interesting thing about Anthem: they have a page where you can see specific percentages on what recent individual batches of each of their products contain — for example, I’m probably drinking Batch 52 of the Hops, which is 40% Red Delicious, 28% Granny Smith, 5% Golden Delicious, and 26% assorted others.

Another interesting thing about Anthem: the batch info is especially relevant (though it would be even more relevant if it included ABV) because their product line stays the same, but with varying composition over the course of the year based on what fruit varieties are available. You can see in the case of their main cider that even from one batch to the next, the composition can change significantly.

(So when it comes down to it, yes, this review can only be of limited use to anyone unless you drink some of the same batch I’ve got. But at least you have a general idea of what to expect?)

Anthem’s site says the Hops ranges from 5.0%-6.9% ABV, and my local liquor store had this tap at the growler station listed at 6.9%, but I don’t know if they’re just listing it at the high end of the range to be cautious or if that’s actually the ABV of this batch in particular.

Creative Anachronism


Uncommon sky, meet common kitchen counter.

The Specs: Whistler Brewing Co. Big Sky Uncommon Lager
5 per cent ABV, 650mL, seasonal


We’ve got more than 90 breweries in B.C. these days, and yet here I am back at the Whistler Brewing trough.

What can I say? Big Sky has a dandy story. Quoth the bottle copy:

“Back in the 1890s, before refrigeration and modern brewing techniques, lagers were hot fermented in the warm western climate — much like an ale is today. What was common then is uncommon today.”

Whistler promises as “hop forward clean finish” and I have to say, they’ve delivered. This is the most literal interpretation of hop-forward, clean finish you could hope to find.

On taking a sip of Big Sky you’re immediately hit with all of the beer’s flavour. And where the back of the sip, your end notes, your aftertaste, should be there’s… nada. Instead, you have the strange experience of the hop taste just sort of evaporating out of your mouth, even as you still feel like you’re drinking. It’s like Jesus in reverse — beer into water, with maybe a hint of metal.

It’s pretty entertaining. The slower your sip, the more pronounced the experience is. It took me entirely too long to get through a glass of this stuff because I was trying to see how far I could push the sensation. And you don’t have to worry about feeling weighed down when you’re through your first pint. Big Sky is its own palate cleanser.

But, I feel like the punch of beer flavour at the front doesn’t allow for complexity. The toasty and hoppy flavours end up trampling all over each other, stifling their best characteristics. I found myself wishing Big Sky could cool its jets, give me more time to get a handle on its flavours before everything swept away.

Faults aside, if you can still track down a bottle (this was one of Whistler’s summer releases, though I found a good batch of it at one of my local stores) I’d give it a go. Makes a heck of a party trick if you’re the right kind of dork.

Spire Mountain – Dark & Dry

Bottle and glass of Spire Mountain Dark and Dry

Bottle & glass of Spire Mountain Dark & Dry

I’ll give this one “dark” — it’s about the color of strong black tea, or perhaps the ice-diluted ends of a glass of Coke — but “dry” it ain’t. It’s flavorful, and smooth going down, but very sweet, on par with an Angry Orchard or Woodchuck at least.

There’s a distinct brown sugar aspect to its sweetness, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “molasses” as the Spire Mountain website does. The aroma is also a little sweet, but crisp and clear, not cloying.

There’s some tartness rounding out the flavor, but no bitterness, woodiness, or earthiness, and the aftertaste lingers for a little while before fading.

It’s low fizz but foams up quite a bit when poured, with more foam lingering around the rim than I see with most ciders even after the head subsides.

At only 5% ABV it’s more suitable for an extended drinking session than most of the other ciders I’ve reviewed. If I had to pick a single word, I’d call the Dark & Dry “mellow.”

Other than the inaccuracy of its name, I have no particular qualms with it, though I’m sure its sweetness won’t appeal to some. It’s the kind of cider I might like to drink in the dark, on a cool evening, after spending a hot day working outside.

Spire Mountain doesn’t have a locator widget on their site, but they’re based in Olympia and I’ve seen them around at plenty of stores as well as eating and drinking establishments. If you’re in the area, I’m sure you’ll be able to find some; if you’re not, well, come visit!



Yeah, it's even kinda pink.

Yeah, it’s even kinda pink.

The Specs: Tin Whistle Brewing (Penticton, B.C.) Strawberry Blonde Ale
5 per cent ABV, 650mL, seasonal (I think. It’s hard to tell with this company)

This is the story of a good beer that made me think bad things.

I was about halfway through my first glass of Strawberry Blonde Ale when it first popped into my head: “This is a girl beer.”

This beer — this nice, very drinkable beer — was making me sexist.

It’s odd, because I’ve reviewed many a fruit beer on this site and this has never occurred to me before. Raspberry beers in particular are mainstream for all genders.

Yet there’s something about this light, somewhat sweet, not too bitter strawberry beer that makes me vaguely embarrassed about recommending.

Maybe it’s strawberries themselves. Your usual beer berries are assertive, tart. Raspberries and blackberries. Strawberries are more commonly found in creamy pink liqueurs and wine spritzers.

And there’s no denying that this is a strawberry beer. As with my last Tin Whistle selection, Peach Cream Ale, this is a beer that tastes exactly of its eponymous fruit. The strawberry here is so potent I would have sworn I could feel seeds grinding between my teeth as I sipped.

But, Strawberry Blonde is also fairly smartly balanced. Where other berry beers can get weighed down by their sugar, blonde ale is light in the mouth, with a finish of beery bitterness that I was not expecting.

It strikes me as a good gateway beer. The brew you could hand the friend who drank a lot of Boone’s Farm or Arbour Mist in their misspent youth, but never developed a thing for beer.

Maybe that’s the problem. I think of craft brew as a lot of things — but craft beer for people who don’t love beer? Sounds almost sacrilegious.

Obviously, that’s a bullshit attitude. A craft beer can be inventive and well-brewed and still appeal to those who aren’t living a 24/7 malt-and-hop lifestyle. Otherwise, all we end up with are trends like that one a few years back, when every IPA had to be so hoppy you couldn’t force half of them down without a glass of water as a chaser.

So give Strawberry Blonde a shot. Hell, if you really want to double down on the girly, serve it with a salad heavy on green vegetables, which seem to pair well. Both are delicious.

Girls have good taste.

Sea Cider – Prohibition/Rumrunner

A bottle of Sea Cider Prohibition

A bottle of Sea Cider Prohibition against the blue Seattle sky.

At 12.5% ABV, I feel obliged to start out by letting you know right up front that Prohibition is a boozy doozy.

It’s flavored and colored with molasses, and aged in bourbon barrels for 6 months; this gets you a fine, fizzy, caramel-colored drink which — and Andrea can back me up on this one — may knock you flat on your ass and/or leave you full of regret in the morning if you don’t pay attention.

(Not that there’s too much of a chance of that in modest doses, but given it comes in 750ml bottles, you may want to make sure not to down a whole bottle in one session, is what I’m saying. Bad Rider doesn’t judge anyone’s drinking habits, we just want you to have the facts so you can make well-informed decisions.)

I imagine Sea Cider might’ve had to add molasses just to get it sweet enough to ferment to 12.5% ABV without it going completely, undrinkably bone-dry — in addition to the color, there’s definitely molasses in the flavor, sure, and the aroma’s laden with brown sugar, but Prohibition doesn’t actually end up terribly sweet overall, and has so much else going on that its sweetness hardly even takes a dominant note.

Prohibition is spicy and fiery and kind of rummy, with a sharp bite up front on top of a woody, somewhat bitter foundation. It’s a unique and complex cider for sure; probably not the kind of thing you’re going to want to drink all the time, but absolutely a treat worth picking up now and then when you want something with a real kick.

Frankly, I think every single suggestion Sea Cider makes about Prohibition on their site sounds fantastic (“delicious cold, or mulled and heated with butter…pairs well with steak, Caribbean and Moroccan food, and is perfect for marinades, barbecue sauces and cocktails”), and can’t wait to try some of them myself.

You can locate some Prohibition for yourself here — or, if you’re in Canada, some Rumrunner, as that’s the name it’s sold under there.


Hoyner Pilsner

With apologies to Community, “Pop pop!”

The Specs: Hoyne Brewing Co. (Victoria, B.C.) Hoyner Pilsner
5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL, regular series

This pilsner’s got a pedigree.

At least, it has a good advertising campaign — its own little flag on the shelf, proclaiming “best in class Okanagan Fest of Ale 2014!”

Being kitty-corner to the Okanagan here in Kamloops, I figured if it’s good enough for my fellow regional beer snobs, it’s probably good enough for me.

If the way I’m backing into this review hasn’t tipped you off already, I’m not sure that turned out to be true.

It’s not that Hoyner Pilsner is bad. Certainly, it’s not in the same league as my last review, which I still think about with baffled head shakes.

In a lot of ways Hoyner’s a great pilsner.

It’s nice and light on the tongue, with just enough of an acid feel to keep it bright. It’s a beautiful colour, foamy enough that it still had a few millimetres of head by the time I was nearing the bottom of the glass, and the sort of beer that pairs spectacularly with a sweet potato veggie burger (I got hungry with about 1/4 of the bottle left).

I think I’d like it a lot, if it didn’t taste so damn much like Corn Pops.

I checked into this, and I’m not the only person to identify a “cereal” taste to Hoyner, but here at Bad Rider we like to dig deep, which is why I spent much of my drinking session trying to come up with the best possible breakfast analog.

Bright, corny, slightly sweeter than you really want it to be — buy me a mini cereal box and transport me back to Grade 5. Corn Pops.

If you like your beer a bit sweet, this might really do it for you. But in my case, there are only a few scenarios where sugary beer is a winner. I found myself wishing for a bit of bitterness on the back end, something to break up the corn flavour.

As I mentioned earlier, the veggie burger did a bang-up job of diluting the cereal taste, and I suspect carnivores would enjoy it with burgers or some sort of sandwich.

So, if you’re looking for something with some industry cred to serve at your final barbecues of the year, Hoyner’s worth a try. But for straight drinking I’ve got other pilsners closer to my heart.

2 Towns Ciderhouse – The Bad Apple

Bottle & glass of 2 Towns "The Bad Apple"

Bottle & glass of 2 Towns “The Bad Apple”

When I saw this in the store I thought, ah, surely this is a cider for the Thoroughbred of Sin himself. Having tried it, I’m inclined to stand by that initial impression.

The bottle description claims notes of fruit and vanilla; though I wouldn’t have picked vanilla out of a hat myself, having read that I do get some vanilla coming through in the aroma. The taste is sharp and strong, quite tart but not bitter, just sweet enough to earn its “semi-dry” self-description.

It’s definitely a very present cider, the kind of thing you pay attention to while drinking — no idle sipping while your mind is elsewhere, and a taste that lingers in your mouth.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, the way the red cap on the bottle picks up the red accents in the label is a nice touch that drew my eye. It’s surprising what something as trivial as “not a generic black or gold/brass cap” can do to boost your visibility and appeal. (Yeah, I’m a sucker for presentation; I judge books by their covers too.)

The Bad Apple is a vivid amber in color, low fizz, and a surprising 10.5% ABV. There’s a map of where you can find 2 Towns cider on their home page.