Angry Orchard – Iceman

Angry Orchard "Iceman"

Angry Orchard “Iceman”

Though the non-flavor-related driving themes of my Strawman review still more or less hold true for Iceman (for the money you’ll pay to buy it you’d be better off supporting a smaller craft outfit), I thought I’d get a review on the books for practice and for the sake of being comprehensive.

Iceman is dramatic, a bold clear orange in color and 10% ABV.  Taking its cues from ice ciders, its aroma is sweet, sweet, sweet, like candy-dipped apples, and the flavor follows with more strong sugary notes, caramel and toffee over the intensity of the tart apple.

Even for my sweet tooth, Iceman is on the verge of being too much like ice ciders and ice wines, generally consumed in small amounts, a sip at a time. It’s a big taste.

On the up side, while it’s pricey for cider (especially for commercially produced, widely-available cider), Iceman is more of a decent deal for someone who wants to try ice cider but doesn’t want to shell out $$$$ for a tiny bottle of the stuff.

Locate some Iceman for yourself here.

Nuts to you

But seriously what is that dude on the bottle's DEAL?

But seriously what is that dude on the bottle’s DEAL?

The Specs: Dead Frog Brewery (Aldergrove, B.C.) Nutty Uncle Stout
6.1 per cent ABV, 650 mL

So. Yeah. Peanut butter beer. That’s a thing.

When it comes down to it, I know this beer isn’t that weird. I’ve read news stories about American brewers making beers out of Count Chocula and Boo Berry cereals. A little nut butter? That’s nothing, especially since I love peanut butter. I might even consider peanut butter cups, which Dead Frog’s label so clearly evoke, the greatest candy of our generation.

And yet, man. Even taking a sip of this beer felt like a hurdle.

I took extra photos of my mug, I Skyped people, I sniffed the beer over and over, trying to decide whether I could smell peanuts or just the usual mix of malts and sundry common to your average B.C. stout.

Finally, the first sip.

Yup. Nuts.

Nutty Uncle is less peanut butter and more roasted nuts, with a certain smokiness to it on the first sips that I never quite shook off. As befits a stout, there are also notes of chocolate (coffee, as the brewery claims, not so much) though I wish they’d been milkier and rounder, the way Parallel 49’s pumpkin and milk chocolate porter manages. That’s chocolate in practice, where Nutty Uncle is chocolate in theory.

It’s sweet, but not incredibly — to the point where I almost wondered if more sugar wouldn’t have been worth it.

Overall, a peanut butter cup.

Kind of.


As much as you can with a beer.

Yeah, OK, it’s weird. It’s totally weird. Super freaking weird. There is a picture of a dude who looks like a low budget Adam Sandler on the front of the bottle — I don’t know what I was expecting!

This I guess. Weirdness.

Props to you for inventiveness, Dead Frog. But to be honest now I mostly want a real peanut butter cup. But then again, when does one not?

(Also, tiny side rant: Strong beer again? Guys stop. Stop guys.)

Cascadia Ciderworkers United – Dry

Cascadia Ciderworkers United Dry

Not shown: the delicious pretzels at Brave Horse Tavern

I found this cider while out with some coworkers for a sort of “we survived the last few months” celebratory happy hour, and since I haven’t seen cans or kegs of it in the stores I tend to frequent I figured I’d try to jot down some notes without being too blatantly rude to my fellow happy-hour-goers.

It’s a classic clear gold, 6.9% ABV, and the aroma is disarming at first — a mild, sweet, pretty straightforward dessert-apple smell. So when I took a sip, the wallop of powerful vinegar sourness came as a major surprise. Sure enough, when I took another sniff I could get a hint of the vinegar under the apples, though that might have been a contribution from the long finish of the cider.

It’s not a sweet vinegar taste, either. Acidic, tannic, bitter — it’s been a long time since I couldn’t prevent myself from making a face when I tasted an alcoholic drink.

In the words of Ian Fleming, once is an accident, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action. Before trying Troy’s MCMXIII I might have thought I somehow got a can that soured on the shelf; I still haven’t entirely ruled the idea out given that they’re both unfiltered varieties, but I’m also starting to consider that there’s an actual market out there for people who really want to drink cider vinegar with bitters.

CCU doesn’t have a cider finder, but you can check them out on Facebook and keep an eye out for them on tap around the Pacific Northwest and in cans more broadly distributed.

Time to drink my words

Shoutout to the B.C. Liquor Store employee who told me to get this one chilled, but not too cold. You get a much better sense of the yeast that way.

Shoutout to the B.C. Liquor Store employee who told me to get this one chilled, but not too cold. You get a much better sense of the yeast that way.

The Specs: Bad Tattoo Brewing Co. (Penticton, B.C.), Dia de Los Muertos Cerveza Fuerte 2014
9.2 per cent ABV, 750mL, limited edition

OK, OK, let’s get it out of the way: Today’s beer of choice is not only a strong beer, it’s a damn 9 per center — which is nearly as high as we can go before we enter the murky territory of barley wines.*

So, yeah, I’m not over strong beer after all, but drinking Bad Tattoo’s new limited offering reminded me it’s not so much the alcohol content that counts as how you use it. And Bad Tattoo, I’m coming to realize, really knows what it’s up to.

What’s most surprising about this beer is how sweet and boozy it smells — and how normal it actually tastes.

So many of the strong Belgians I’ve tasted lately have this almost rotten fruit flavour to them, but Dia de Los Muertos Cerveza Fuerte is concerned with other flavours. Dark and dense, it’s another of those hearty bread-style beers, all rye toast and nuts. Despite the smell, I didn’t find it particularly sweet — nary a vanilla or caramel tone here. This is a savoury beer for sure.

According to the bottle copy these bad boys have more than a full pound of malt per 750 mL and two strains of yeast. Of the two, it’s the yeast that stood out most for me, and tipped the beer from good to fascinating.

To call a beer fermented is to state the obvious, but you can taste it here in a way that I’ve not experienced often, similar to the notes of a good sushi-joint soy sauce or a well-crafted kombucha.

While it’s got some fizz to it, this is one heavy beer, best drunk very slowly over the course of the evening while making a slow slide from couch to floor (just because this beer isn’t upfront about its alcohol content, doesn’t mean it’s not there). Or you could share it with friends, I suppose, but since this is an extremely limited 1,200 bottle run you’ve got a built-in excuse to horde it all to yourself.

On a final quick and shallow note, I’ve bagged on Bad Tattoo a bit for its regular series bottle designs, but these black, long-necked, wax-dipped bottles are things of beauty. I’m tempted to stick a candle in the empty and use the light to illuminate a garret as I write gothic novels.

*Riders, do I dare? I considered a bottle at the shop today but I am mad skeptical about anything that is not wine but feels the need to identify itself as such.

Strong beer, grumpy Andrea

Oh Red Truck, you are not quite the start to 2015 I was hoping for.

Oh Red Truck, you are not quite the start to 2015 I was hoping for.

The Specs: Red Truck Beer Co. (Vancouver, B.C.) ’46 Porter
6.6 per cent ABV 650mL, limited release


Hey Bad Riders, let’s start the year with a controversial question:

Is anyone else starting to feel like they’re over strong beer?

This may be the winter doldrums talking, or the result of having too much Steamworks Blitzen (a 9 per cent tripel that wishes it had Red Collar’s cleanness of flavour) in my fridge that I don’t want to drink — but it’s also in part because I can’t figure out why the porter I’m drinking right now needed to be 6.6 per cent.

I like porters a lot. Over the course of the fall, they’ve become a go-to beer style for me. From what I’ve seen of the B.C. beer landscape, porters will get you a degree of experimentation I don’t see from other dark styles like stouts, and there’s generally no risk of ending up with a glass of something grassy, soapy and over-hopped, as has happened to me more than once with IPAs and ales.

With that fondness in mind, I was expecting good things from Red Truck’s limited edition ’46 Porter, with its silver medal from the Canadian Brewing Awards and its very charming bottle label (exhibit no. 150 in the ‘Andrea is a shallow drinker’ case).

But, instead, here I sit wondering only this: what the point of making this a strong beer?

In the right circumstances, a little booziness is fine and dandy in a beer. The little edge of Goose Island’s Sofie is one of the reason it became my favourite American beer of 2014.

Here, however, I don’t know what the extra alcohol is supposed to be adding to the mix.

Where this porter smells like it should have a round, dark coffee taste in line with a good after-dinner espresso, and the malt mix would have me expecting some caramel or vanilla tones, the actual flavour here is… a little brittle. Coffee, but more like the store brand stuff I’ve been brewing because I’m too lazy, post-new year, to grind beans.

Oh, and booziness. We’ve got that.

Compared to other porters I’ve tossed back, it doesn’t feel as interesting, as dynamic. But it’ll get me cut slightly faster if I want, so I suppose there’s that.

You’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s worth the sacrifice.

Crispin – Pacific Pear

Crispin Cider Pacific Pear

Crispin Cider Pacific Pear

IT’S HERE! After the months and months of longing and searching since the Seattle Cider Summit, I finally found some Pacific Pear on shelves — at Bartell’s, of all places. And to my great delight, it is entirely as delicious as I remember.

Pacific Pear is made entirely from pear juice, not a mix of apple and pear juice as many perries are, and it really shows. Its aroma is cool and flowery and sweet but not cloying, the pear notes immediately distinct, and in the glass it’s a very clear, very pale yellow.

The taste of this cider is a glorious pear explosion, bursting on your tongue and all through your mouth. In addition to the pure-pear-juice composition, the low alcohol content (only 4.5% ABV) also leaves much of the fruit sweetness intact. This is a sweet cider, of that there’s no question, but it’s light and refreshing rather than heavy or syrupy.

It’s a real shame I only saw this in 4-packs of 12oz bottles, because what I’d really like is to be able to fill up a growler with this stuff. (Over and over and over again…)

To be clear: though I know it can’t be to everyone’s taste, I recommend this cider really without reservation. I loved it when I tried it at the Summit, I love it today, and now that it’s shown up on store shelves near me I look forward to loving it on a regular basis in the future. Run, don’t walk, to locate some for yourself on Crispin’s website here.

Portland Cider – Hop’rageous

Portland Cider Company Hop'rageous

Yeah, still showing off the BR mugs. :)

Through fondness and lucky timing, I’m developing a reputation at my local liquor store for being the keg-killer of their dedicated cider tap — I killed the last two they had, and we’ll see if I can make it three for three with Portland Cider Company’s Hop’rageous.

Hop’rageous is 6.8% ABV, a clear gold in color, and brings serious citrus and bitter notes in both aroma and flavor — not surprising since Portland Cider Company says it’s not only made with Citra hops but that they also added in orange peel.

No doubt thanks to the orange peel, for once I can pick out that there is a particular type of citrus taste instead of being unable to pin it down to anything in particular.

The orange comes through more in the aroma, the bitterness more in the flavor — yet neither the orange nor the bitterness are overpowering, and the cider stays pretty light and fresh overall. Not overly tart or acidic or sweet, but well-balanced.

I still like it less than, say, their Kinda Dry, but that’s just a matter of personal bias against hops in general. For a hopped cider, it’s pretty decent.

Hop’rageous is currently only available on draft according to Portland Cider Company’s website, but you can look for some near you.

Seattle Cider – Oaked Maple

Seattle Cider Oaked Maple

CHECK OUT OUR AWESOME MUGS! Does anyone want one? Let us know!

As you can tell, we’re having a hard time getting back into the swing of things here at Bad Rider. But your regularly scheduled reviews have returned! (Hopefully. More or less.) First up in the new year, a cider I tried earlier in the winter which made me immediately think, “I have to review this because it’s so strange.”

My last interaction with maple in cider was Woodchuck’s spring seasonal, which was (to my own great surprise) not particularly to my taste. Usually I will be first in line for anything with maple and brown sugar.

Perhaps it’s something specific to maple in cider, because this Oaked Maple is also…weird. It starts off well enough, with a straightforward apple aroma and some of the oak notes underneath.

When I taste it, I get maple — but scarcely any sweetness. Which is bizarre, right? Maple should be sweet! I have a hard time wrapping my head around something tasting like maple but not being sweet the way maple-flavored things generally are.

Other than the strange non-sweet maple taste, Oaked Maple is fairly tart, and a little bitter. The bottle copy says it’s fermented with oak chips and raisins, and there is something of wrinkly dark fruit about it, an aftertaste like raisins picked out of a cake.

Seattle Cider needs to keep their website up to date (AHEM), as it currently only lists Pumkin Spice and PNW Berry as the available seasonals, but you can still use their locator to track yourself down some cider here.

Best of 2014 – Cider Edition

While the cider scene isn’t as rampant as the beer scene, even here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s really seen a boom over the past few years. The rise of gluten-free awareness and consumables has helped, I’m sure, as cider is gluten-free by nature.

Starting up Bad Rider Reviews has made me appreciate just how much good cider is out there, and just how diverse the field really is.

My devious plan of dragging Andrea into this with me has also worked out perfectly, as I suspected the beer reviews would tend to bring in more readers than the cider reviews (especially now that we’re in a real live newspaper holy crap), so I feel the blog is more of a success overall than it would be if it were just me.

I’m looking forward to a whole new year of reviews to come!


Hands down, the mellow and distinctive Oak-Aged from Schilling. It’s so good it wins two categories. Not too sweet, not too dry, just an all-round solid cider — and from a great local outfit, to boot. I’m really glad this is in their regular lineup instead of being a seasonal or limited edition.


Since I haven’t actually had that much imported cider, it’s not hard to call this for Sea Cider’s excellent Prohibition, but it would be a strong contender even if the field were larger. Sweet and sharp, with a strong flavor and a dangerous bite, Prohibition is a stunner. Literally, if you’re not careful.


Since all cider is fruit cider, I can hardly pick just one, and I wanted an excuse to call out Angry Orchard’s Elderflower cider somewhere on this list. Why don’t more people make elderflower cider? Why doesn’t Angry Orchard produce it year round? My woes are neverending.


SIGH. As much as I love Angry Orchard’s Elderflower, at least I know it’ll be back; I’m still in mourning for Crispin’s Steel Town being gone forever. When I first tried it I thought it tasted kind of odd and squashy, but it lingered in my mind and the next time around I really fell for it. The blend of favors and the way the taste changed as it warmed up kept me coming back for more, right up until it was gone.


Toss-up between Crispin’s Lion Belge and Pacific Pear. Both are pear ciders; Lion Belge is one of Crispin’s higher-end ciders like Steel Town, and you’ll see a review of it later, whereas Pacific Pear I just cannot find in any local store for the life of me, and I’ve been on the lookout ever since I tried it at the Seattle Cider Summit.


I have a few:

  • Visit local cideries! There’s several, such as Finnriver, within range of a day trip, and every summer I regret not getting out of the city more often.
  • Spend more time at the Schilling Cider House. Just looking at their menu makes me excited for all the things I haven’t yet tried.
  • Track down and review more Canadian ciders. Sea Cider is great but I know there’s more out there. Andrea keeps threatening to send me the terrible cheap grocery store stuff from BC.
  • Explore homebrewing my own cider — I just laid down my first keg to ferment this afternoon. I may indulge in an occasional review of my own cider as the year progresses, if things go well (or spectacularly badly).
  • Maybe put a photo in my section of the About Us page? We’ll see.
  • And if Andrea thinks she’s not going to get a box and/or car trunk full of US pumpkin beers this fall, well, she’s got another think coming.

Best of 2014 — Beer edition

By all accounts 2014 was a huge year for craft beer in B.C. According to a December report from The Province, 17 new breweries launched in 2014, enough to put the total number in British Columbia alone at more than 80. And with more in the works, it looks like the province is on track to crack 100 breweries in 2015.

Here at Bad Rider, your faithful reviewer discovered a number of new faves, took her first stabs at hop appreciation, and drank more fucking pumpkin beer than anyone should ever be required to imbibe. Talking about myself in third person aside, it was a heck of a lot of fun.

But, with only four months of reviews to fall back on, and a local government election which interrupted beer-side scheduling, any real look back at my favourite brews of 2014 has to go outside the parameters of this blog. Consider it bonus content.

For me, a best-of beer isn’t just tasty in the moment. It’s the sort of beer you want to purchase again and again, even as weird and fascinating new releases crowd  into the best spots at your local liquor emporium. They’re the beers you text message friends and co-workers to recommend while half cut, or drag everyone you know out to sample first-hand.

Not all of them are flashy, but all of them are definitely worth the time.


It’s the sort of thing I’d never even considered reviewing for this blog, but man did Phillip’s Blue Buck ever turn into my craft brew of choice on non-review nights. With its pleasantly hoppy but not overly bitter finish and medium body, it’s such a solid choice when you want a beer that can deliver some interest without requiring too much of your attention. I fished a lot of these out of sampler packs during after work hangouts, and it was my go-to choice for meeting friends for strictly one (OK, maybe two) pints on weeknights.

Hon. Mention: Red Racer’s Pilsner, which graced every picnic this summer that was too highbrow for PBR.


I bought six bottles of Goose Island’s Sofie this year, which is more than any other bomber in my life, probably. But, because it hails from Phoebe’s country, it never merited a full review. Bright yellow, bubbly, a bit fruity and a little sweet, it works well with veggie-heavy cuisine (more important than usual, when the reviewer is vegetarian) and the champagne-style bottle is great for presentation.


While I’ll always love Whistler Grapefruit, Cannery Brewing’s Blackberry Porter was one of my best finds of the year. Jammy, smooth and full of flavour, it’s completely unlike most of the fruit beers I tasted this summer, and one of the small number of brews where the fruit seemed less stunt and more an obvious enhancement.


I need to buy more of Lighthouse Brewing’s Seaport Vanilla Stout. The beer — smooth, packed with pure vanilla bean, but not too sweet — is like the best beer milkshake without the heaviness (or lactose) of dairy. It’s been on my mind constantly since I reviewed it.


Red Collar Brewing’s Trippel, a light-coloured but syrupy 9 per cent-er, taught me and many of my co-workers a valuable lesson about the value of pacing oneself and knowing the alcohol content of your drink before you swig. I don’t actually think it’s my favourite Red Collar beer — that may be the Doppelbock going on tap in February, or the Mild, which I haven’t yet imbibed enough times to call with certainty — but it’s a brew I’ve gone back for multiple times and had a few interesting evenings out of as a result. And what more can you ask, really?


Less pumpkin, more anything else at all seriously never again what were you thinking Andrea.