The Specs: Barkerville Brewing Co. (Quesnel, B.C.) 52 Foot Stout
7 per cent ABV, 650mL, regular series
I don’t think anyone, anywhere, ever has been as happy to sell me something as the clerk at the liquor store was when I stepped up to the counter with my tallboy of 52 Foot Stout.
According to the clerk, Barkerville’s beers are pretty much impossible for this small private store to keep in stock, and the stout is the best-seller. She assured me I was going to adore it.
With that much hype in the mix, I naturally put off drinking the beer for almost a week out of concern.
But rest assured, reader, this beer is awesome enough that, in contrast to a recent review of Phoebe’s, my notes started out with “oh my god. OH MY GOD. Oh my God!”
You know that moment when you find a beer that hits all your preferred characteristics for its style?
Though 52 Foot Stout has an odd ingredient on its list — in this case “boreal amber birch syrup,” to quote the bottle copy — it’s not a particularly quirky beer.
From my experiences with birch beer, root beer’s love/hate cousin, I’d expected something sweet and even syrupy.
Instead, 52 Foot doesn’t offer so much as a hint of sweetness. The birch beer seems to contribute to a toasty woodsmoke and nature finish that would have been entirely lost in a sugary brew.
With a stout, heaviness comes with the territory, but that campfire-on-a-dark-night note keeps 52 Foot drinkable and never oppressive the way the dregs of a lesser dark beer can get.
And, ok, this is shallow, but we have to talk about Barkerville’s packaging choices, because they’re charming as hell, from the cartoon lantern and the old-timey, hand-lettered fonts on the front to what looks like a moonshine jug printed on the back side of the bottleneck. The brewery’s schtick is solidly gold rush-era, and they’ve hit a great balance with their bottles.
Assuming the liquor stores around here manage to keep the brewery’s other varieties in stock long enough for me to get through my bottle backlog, it’s safe to say this won’t be the last time you see Barkerville on Bad Rider.
And future stouts are going to have a hell of a lot to live up to.