Almanac Beer Co – Dogpatch Strawberry

Almanac Beer's Dogpatch Strawberry

Almanac Beer’s Dogpatch Strawberry

In Canada, it’s Thanksgiving, so in lieu of the next Pumpkindrome entry from Andrea, I’m debuting a brand new occasional segment where I review beers that have been recommended to me when I explain that I don’t like beer.

One of the more promising-sounding recommendations I’ve gotten is to try “sour fruit beers,” so we’ll kick things off with Almanac Beer Company’s Dogpatch Strawberry, which comes in at 7.5% ABV. It’s a cloudy, ruddy orange, and more, uh, chunky than I’m used to with ciders. I left it alone while I was finishing up today’s later entry and a good amount of pale sediment settled to the bottom of the glass.

The aroma is yeasty but not overpowering, and I also definitely get notes of the strawberry, so it gets off to a good start.

As for the taste: dang, they’re really not kidding about it being sour.

It’s interesting and actually not terrible, speaking as someone who prefers cider. I do get some fruit along with the sour pucker, and underneath, the bready flavor I associate with beers in general which lingers in the aftertaste.

All in all, I’m not a convert, nor am I even inclined to run out and try other sour fruit beers, but I’ve certainly had worse — as we’ll probably discover in the next episode of “beers recommended to someone who doesn’t like beer” (some recommendations I’ve known right away would be a terrible idea).

Almanac’s locator page only lists places in California, but a good PNW bottle shop or large liquor store may have one or more of Almanac’s several fruit beers to try for yourself.

Domaine Dupont – Dupont Reserve

Dupont Reserve Cider

Dupont Reserve Cider

We try to stick mostly to local stuff here at Bad Rider, but someone recently gifted me a bottle of Dupont Reserve as thanks for helping them out with some stuff, and since I’m drinking it anyway, why not review it as well?

Domaine Dupont is a maker of French cider and calvados (which for the record is my favorite of what I think of as the “classy”or “serious” hard liquors — brandy, scotch, etc). This Dupont Reserve cider is aged in calvados casks for six months, and comes in a thick, heavy, champagne-style bottle.

It’s SUPER fizzy, with a giant head as it pours, 7.5% ABV, and a semi-cloudy light golden color. The aroma is a bit musty, and kind of dry, but not in the usual sense of sweet vs dry; it smells like a sun-baked dusty dirt yard.

The taste is bright and acidic at first, following up with smooth sweetness and a mild bitter undertone. I definitely get an impression of the calvados casks working on this cider, casting shades of age and depth over it.

Domaine Dupont seems like hardly the kind of outfit that would need any endorsing from me, but for the record I do quite like this cider. You can get your hands on some from their online store — unless you’re in the US, in which case I’d say that this is more likely to be found in your local specialized liquor store than a grocery store or corner shop.

Pumpkin Head vs. Crooked Tooth

photo 4

Week One: Fernie versus Phillips

This October Bad Rider’s beer section is pitting gourd against gourd in a battle to determine which B.C. beer is king of the pumpkin patch. Welcome to Pumpkindrome, Week One.

The Challengers: Fernie Brewing Co. Pumpkin Head Brown Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL) versus Phillips Brewing Co. Crooked Tooth (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)

We begin our epic showdown with a battle of light and dark, sweet and more-sweet, pumpkin and …wait, where’s the pumpkin?

If Pumpkindrome were a battle of smell, Fernie would have the match after one whiff of the pint glass. With a moist pumpkin and spice aroma, Pumpkin Head smells like a slice of pie that’s been lingering on in the fridge a couple days past Canadian Thanksgiving. Crooked tooth, meanwhile, offers a light nutmeggy scent, but none of the pumpkin funk.

But, when it comes to flavour, Fernie’s offering can’t make up to its pre-sip hype.

Where I was hoping for notes of cinnamon, allspice and sweet, cooked pumpkin, all this dark beer had to offer me was sugar. To its credit, it was a rich, brown-sugar, fall-style sweetness — seasonally appropriate, at least. And as far as brown ales go, if you like your brew mid- to very-sweet, you’ll find nothing to complain about here.

You just won’t find any pumpkin.

Phillips, on the flip side, offered me a taste quite like what I would have expected from Fernie, based on smell. Crooked tooth is a pure slice of pumpkin pie, with a slightly sweet pumpkin custard flavour and mellow spicing.

While the Phillips website claims ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in the brew, it’s the latter I noticed most, which actually seemed to work quite well. While your standard pumpkin spice fare can get abrasive and heavy from cloves and cinnamon, a light touch of nutmeg adds some depth to the sweetness without overwhelming the pumpkin.

This time around, it’s no trouble to pick a winner. After all, if your pumpkin beer doesn’t taste of pumpkins, what’s the point?

Phillips moves to round 2.

Seattle Cider – Pumpkin Spice

Seattle Cider Pumpkin Spice

Seattle Cider Pumpkin Spice

For better or for worse, cider has become popular enough over the past few years that some cider makers are starting to hop on board the Pumpkin Spice bandwagon in fall.

While I won’t be running an actual bracket like Andrea, I will of course round up all the pumpkin and pumpkin spice ciders I can get my hands on and review them for you, in addition to any other autumn seasonals I find. And anything else that’s generally thematic, while we’re at it (Angry Orchard Straw Man, I’m looking at you).

We start today with Seattle Cider’s Pumpkin Spice Cider.

This is definitely more of a spice cider than a pumpkin cider — the bottle claims cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves followed by “just a touch of pumpkin,” but if the pumpkin’s there at all it’s extremely understated.

Cinnamon and cloves dominate the aroma; the other spices come forward in the flavor to mingle with the apple.

If this were an actual pumpkin pie, or even an apple pie, I would sigh and make adjustments to my recipe, because the proportion of spice to fruit/squash filling is way out of whack.

As a cider, it’s fine — just as long as you’re aware you’re on the express train to Spiceville and that’s where you want to be. I bet it would actually be pretty good mulled with an orange (NON clove-studded, plenty of clove in there already, thanks) and maybe some rum.

It’s medium/heavy fizz, golden in color, and 6.9% ABV. If you’re in WA, OR, MI, or AK, you can find some for yourself here.


Welcome to the Pumpkindrome

The muesli will not be competing in Pumpkindrome.

The muesli will not be competing in pumpkindrome.

A year ago, around Thanksgiving, I got it in my head I wanted to try as many of the pumpkin beers at the BC Liquor Store as I could. After scouring the aisles, I took about five bottles up to the counter, feeling both pleased and a little over indulgent with so many beers on the counter before me.

What a difference about 346 days makes.

Have you been in a government liquor store lately? It’s like the Great Pumpkin went on some sort of bender. Orange everywhere. From Seattle to St-Ambroise, every craft brewery worth its stock is getting into the gourd game. Even Anheuser-Busch’s craft beer knockoff brand Shock Top had its own pumpkin wheat offering. I bet we’re two years away at most from Bud Light Pumpkin.

So far this year, even though I’m only buying B.C. beers, I’ve amassed a collection of nine different brews, and been promised still more to come. With so many bottles and so little time before winter sets in, what’s a humble beer reviewer to do but make them fight to the death?

Thus, I present Bad Rider’s first ever Pumpkin Madness Bracket. Every week, we’ll be pitting two brews against each other to see what combination of spice, squash and hops you should be cuddling up to during your annual leaf peeping trek.

Each brew will get a couple rankings: Spiciness, actual pumpkin flavour (potentially a dicey category, given how many pumpkin spice products contain no pumpkin at all, but we’ll give it a go) and overall performance. Based on past experience, the best pumpkin beers balance both spice and gourd, but with some dark horses in this year’s line up who knows what we’ll find.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, your first round matchups (so far):

Fernie Brewing Co.’s Pumpkin Head Brown Ale versus Phillips Brewing Co.’s Crooked Tooth

Prohibition Brewing Co.’s Harvet Pumpkin Spiced Ale versus Howe Sound Brewing Co.’s Pumpkineater

Parallel 49’s Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter versus Nelson Brewing Co.’s Organic Pumpkin Ale

Tree Brewing Co.’s Jumpin’ Jack India Pumpkin Ale versus Red Racer Pumpkin Ale


Steamworks Pumpkin Ale versus ????*

Who will emerge victorious? Who will be crushed like a rotten Jack o’lantern on November 1st?

The challenge begins next week..

*So far Kamloops only seems to have 9 B.C. pumpkin beers stocked in the entire city. While Bad Rider has several plans in the works, for now challenger 10 must remain a mystery of its own.

Crispin – Steel Town

Crispin Steel Town

Crispin Steel Town

Steel Town is a limited release from Crispin to commemorate their 5th anniversary,  a blend of ciders aged in 5 different casks (sherry, port, shiraz, rye, and bourbon).

Don’t pay too much attention to the overly flowery and enthusiastic bottle copy, which talks about Steel Town being a “jam session cider” and ascribes musical attributes to the 5 different casks used to age it — the Dave Matthews Band in a cider bottle, if you will.

Whether that description sounds positive or negative to you, Steel Town is good drinking.

It kicks off with a mild honey-vanilla aroma and a hint of squash, and pours a cloudy amber. The 5-cask aging really has given it impressive complexity and depth of character — it’s a little sweet and fruity, a little bitter, a little spicy, but everything in balance, with no single element overpowering the rest.

And even balanced as it is, drinking it cold and drinking it as it nears room temperature are more dramatically different experiences than many other ciders I’ve tried as various aspects of the flavor come forward and retreat.

Crispin recommends drinking it chilled (50-55 F/10-13 C), “with or without 1 or 2 ice cubes.” While I agree that’s the sweet spot, its mercurial nature makes it interesting in different ways at higher or lower temperatures.

Steel Town is 6.9% ABV and isn’t listed on Crispin’s website for locating yet — it’s just starting to ship out to markets, which means this is your advance warning to keep an eye out for it. I’m already going to miss it when it goes away.