Saturday’s drinking bright spot.
The Specs: Dageraad Brewing (Burnaby, B.C.) Belgian Blonde
8 per cent ABV, draft
A weekend in Vancouver ought to afford a lot of great drinking — but a weekend in Vancouver with unlimited shitty table wine mostly affords something a little less bloggable.
However, somewhere in the mix of winning an award (gotta get my brags where I can guys) and the post-award hangover, I did manage a quick swing to The Alibi Room, beautiful taphouse nirvana that it is, for a couple of good pints of beer, including a taste of Dageraad’s Belgian Blonde.
Once again, I have to apologize that this is something you can’t get in Kamloops — or anywhere outside the Lower Mainland, really. That’s a shame because it’s delicious and easily among the better strong beers I’ve had this year.
With a cloudy colour and a savoury herbal edge, along with just a whiff of citrus, this beer is dense in taste but surprisingly light on the tongue, not too sweet, and with lots of fizz to keep everything moving. Would that the timing had worked out to allow a few more of these, and a little less of the house white.
(Props to the Alibi too, if only because our waitress told me she thought a community newspaper awards ceremony seemed “cool” and wasn’t obviously lying.)
Finnriver Fire Barrel Cider
Finnriver’s Fire Barrel comes in a cute little stout, round, brown bottle — barrel-like, one might even call it. I’m sure it’s a complete coincidence.
Fire Barrel is made from bittersweet apples and aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, which add a deep amber-orange hue to the cider’s color and a woody aspect to the aroma, with hints of the high-proof fire of the bourbon in the background.
In flavor, it’s an interesting mix of mellow and brash. On the one hand the bourbon shows up right from the start with oak notes and a sense of whisky aromatics filling your mouth; on the other hand, the initial aggressiveness soon eases off into something milder, burnt sugar and vanilla accompanying the sweetness of the cider apples.
At 6.5% ABV, this is a lot less dangerous than some other barrel-aged ciders such as Alpenfire’s Smoke or Sea Cider’s Prohibition, and it inherits a more unique personality from the barrel-aging than my beloved (but much milder) standby, Schilling Oak-Aged.
I think Fire Barrel would go great with a steak dinner — in fact, I’m looking sadly at my now-empty bottle and thinking about how well it would go with the “whiskey steak” recipe that’s one of my personal specialties.
Finnriver doesn’t have a locator function, but they do have an online store (including the perpetually tempting cider club). Check out their offerings! I’m eager to get my hands on some of that Cacao Wine with Apple Brandy sometime.
For most of the last week, I’ve been feeling too guilty to review the thing I’ve been drinking. After all, how much do you want to listen to me rave about something you probably can’t get?
Yep, that’s right, I’m on the Brews Bros. train.
Parallell 49 and 12 other breweries have teamed up for a Blues Bros.-inspired 12 pack, and I’m in love. For the past week and weekend, I’ve been super excited every night to pick my one or two beers out of this box and sample some new flavours. Even the beers I wasn’t super excited about (I would have liked to have seen a few of the IPAs swapped for other styles — maybe a porter or another pilsner or pale ale?) were elevated by the anticipation, the surprise and, I’ll admit it, the size.
Committing to a full bomber of a beer you’re not stoked on can be a lot to ask, but less than 350mL is a breeze. In many cases I was left wanting more.
Standouts were a Basil IPA collab with Storm Brewing (basil oil and mellow hops felt like an echo of pizza and beer in the best way, and since basil and grapefruit pair awfully well there’s more sense here than you might expect) as well as a tripel with Moon Under Water and a saison with Dageraad. The nitrogenated smoked brown ale produced with Persephone I’m drinking right now is also way better than I’d expected from something that was not my preferred style at all — the mouthfeel really is wonderful, even if I can’t pour this puppy for shit.
If you’re in Kamloops, alas, I’m not sure if this is available. From what I heard this was a single order for a few of the stores in town — though if you have an excuse to visit the coast, Parallel 49 is stocking bottles at its tasting room. Fingers crossed that I’m wrong about availability, because this a lot of fun as a venture, and absolutely worth your time and tastebuds.
Schilling Cider & Bad Rider Reviews: two great tastes that taste great together.
One of these days I’m going to write a whole review from Schilling’s Cider House, because they get a fair amount of stuff on tap that you can’t buy bottled or in a growler, but today I just wanted to pick up a couple things to review (and a bottle of Honey Bear because I had a craving), so here we are with today’s subject: Schilling’s Berry Cider.
It’s a mild 5.5% ABV and a clear ruby in color — not a dark ruby like red wine, more like a rosé. It smells kind of like breakfast: a slice of buttered toast slathered with raspberry jam in your hand, a glass of apple juice beyond, on the table waiting for you to take a sip.
As you might expect from any cider with berry fruit, the taste is sour, tart, sharp with acid but also sweet. It’s a fruity, cheerful, summertime sort of flavor to me, and it gives an edge of eager enjoyment to days like today, when the sun is bright and the sky is clear and it’s not quite summer yet but you can tell we’ve turned the corner.
I’ve never seen this stuff bottled or canned, so unless you can come by the Cider House here in Seattle, I think you’re more or less on your own if you want to find some. (I’m just gonna say, though: it’s a beautiful day in the Emerald City.)
Apple Outlaw Ginger Bite
This cider was a surprise when I showed up to my local liquor store expecting the tail end of Sonoma Cider’s “The Hatchet” (which I meant to get around to reviewing but just kept drinking instead). Apparently my streak of being the one to kill off their cider kegs has ended; someone else did the honors for the Hatchet.
Ginger ciders seem to be all the rage these days — Angry Orchard’s got one, Schilling’s got one, Finnriver’s got one, Number 6 Cider’s got one, Reverend Nat’s got one, and I’m sure I’m even missing a few — but they’ve never particularly been to my liking, as I’m not a big fan of ginger in general. Still, it’s a pretty common segment of the cider market so I figure I’d better knock one or two out of the way here on Bad Rider for the sake of comprehensive coverage.
(I may even consider trying a ginger beer, a trend picking up steam here in Seattle in particular, for comparison.)
Of course, not all ginger ciders are created equal. Some are mild, but Ginger Bite goes hard from the start; the aroma reaches out and grabs you from the glass.
The flavor is fairly sweet under the sharp fire of the ginger, but there’s not much in the way of subtlety to it. You want a ginger cider, with lots of ginger? Here you go. If you’re pairing it, make sure it’s something that’s definitely going to go with lots of ginger. Several varieties of Asian food would probably do.
You can look up a retailer that carries Apple Outlaw here.
The Specs: Four Mile Golden Ale/Lighthouse Brewing Barque Strong Golden Belgian Ale (both hailing from Victoria, B.C.)
4.6/8.2 per cent ABV, 650mL
So I’m a lying liar who lies because neither of these are wheat beers. And maybe that’s why I’m not as excited by either of them as I could be.
Four Mile’s offering is a really gorgeous colour — very dark, honey gold — and described as “crispy” and “tart” on the bottle copy. It’s certainly got an acid kick, but there’s nothing particularly standout about it. Like a lot of ale bottles I buy at random, it’s more upscale, cleaner-tasting Alexander Keiths than anything. It’s not a particular letdown, and I think this beer could do do you pretty well on the summer cookout circuit, but it doesn’t exactly lead to an overflow of words.
This also works as a by-comparison of the light in my kitchen at noon and 7 p.m.
Since I’ve got a bit left (yay, day drinking), I think I might take Four Mile up on its suggestion to beer cocktail this stuff. I think a little grapefruit juice might give this some bitter bass notes that would round it out nicely.
Lighthouse’s offering I liked a bit more, but I think I was just hoping for something it’s not — a Canadian answer to Goose Island’s amazing Sofie.
Like Sofie, Barque is bright gold and bubbly, but its fruitiness is sweeter and less bright. Think pineapple and banana, with a bit of grains. I found it had a pretty decent heft and body, but it’s not very boozy tasting for the style or the ABV. This one’s probably worth giving another go with my expectations set in a more accurate place.
Smoke was recommended to me a while back at the same time as Alpenfire’s Glow rose, and between the two of them and the Pirate’s Plank Bone Dry I think you can really get a good picture of how broad Alpenfire’s repertory is. They’ve got a good thing going on over there, though their pricing does tend to set the expectation that they would.
Smoke is a clear amber and a whopping 16% ABV – for as smooth as it drinks, I was expecting something more in the 7-9% range. It’s a surprise for me because Smoke is considerably less brash and aggressive than Sea Cider’s Prohibition, which clocks in at “only” 12.5%.
Its aroma is rich with the booze-soaked smoky wood of the barrels and thick, syrupy apples. It is a bit… much, and not up everyone’s alley, but I certainly like it well enough.
The heaviness carries through to the flavor, which is intense and sweet, with a sharp, aromatic undertone like harder liquor, a little fiery, that could come either from the barrel-aging or from the high alcohol content. This is absolutely a sipping cider, not a chugging cider, and if you’re going to pair it with food, make it something that’s really going to hold its own.
You can locate some Alpenfire for yourself here — or consider stopping by their farm! It’s definitely on my list of road trip destinations.
Why is my Detective wearing glasses? Because when the woman at the liquor store tells you that you look like the character on the beer bottle, you damn well make her accessorize like you do.
The Specs: Central City Brewing’s Detective Saison
6 per cent ABV, 650mL, special release
It’s a shame Central City’s new comic book line of beers got hit with a plagiarism scandal straight out the gate, but dozens of B.C. news headlines about Detective Sarah Saison’s resemblance to an existing comics character did get me interested in bumping this beer to the top of my only-ever-wheat-beers list. (There are at least two more to go. The heart wants what it wants, guys.)
(Also, beer in a minute I swear — but I would’ve guessed Saison was a riff on DC’s Maggie Sawyer, which says something about the character design of tough as nails cops…)
Detective pours a bright, foggy yellow with plenty of bubbles. There’s not much sweetness here and only a bit of fruit, in favour of wheat and spice. The pink peppercorn the brewery’s added is the distinctive note here, and I quite liked it. In addition to the kick it gives the beer, there’s an almost herbaceous quality here that’s intriguing, if a little hard to put my finger on to describe.
Central City’s going to have four of these character-themed beers out this year, with Mayor Kolsch up next. The brewery’s pretty much never disappointed me to date, so I can only imagine we’ll return to this project when the next bottle drops.
I’m still tickled by Bull Run’s logo.
It’s been a few months since I last reviewed Bull Run (their Gravenstein Single Varietal). I wish I’d thought to pick up another bottle of that cider to try next to the Powerhouse Dry, as there are definite similarities when I look back over that review. Does the Powerhouse Dry feature some Gravensteins? Is it just a family resemblance between Bull Run ciders? Hard to say. (Sure, I could ask, but that takes all the fun out of it.)
Powerhouse Dry is a clear gold in color and clocks in at a respectable 7.4%. Right off the bat, it smells dry — a cheesy, farmyard sort of smell. The bark is worse than the bite, though; it’s not as aggressively wood-like as, say, Alpenfire’s Pirate’s Plank Bone Dry.
It’s dry, no doubt of that, but it’s a much milder dry cider. I’m a fan of the Pirate’s Plank, don’t get me wrong, but a lighter, more unobtrusive dry cider — that still carries a distinct personality — like this is more likely to be a good pairing with a wide variety of foods. Though with that musty aspect to it it’s definitely not going to go with everything. Probably a charcuterie spread would work well.
Bull Run has a cider locator here, though as I mentioned last time, it only covers the Portland area, and clearly they’ve at least made it up to Seattle, so don’t lost hope if they don’t have any locations listed near you.
The Specs: Driftwood Brewery’s White Bark Witbier
5 per cent ABV, 650mL, regular series
Sunlight? Daylight savings time? Bah. You can tell it’s spring because all I want to do is drink wheat-based beers.
Driftwood’s offering actually felt like something my cider-drinking partner in reviewing might enjoy (if she didn’t hate all beer) — or at least, like something a very occasional cider drinker could almost mistake for same.
Light, quite dry and with a tartness that’s more Granny Smith apple than traditional orange to my tastebuds, White Bark’s not a particularly loud offering in this beer style. The coriander here is fairly subdued, and while there’s brightness and sharpness here like I said, it doesn’t remind me of orange, particularly. It’s also a very short sip, if you know what I mean — while some beers linger on your tongue long after you’ve taken a drink, White Bark is content to get gone pretty quickly.
The plus here is it’s easy to drink this stuff without feeling weighed down by the taste — something that can be a plus in a warm-weather beer, and I might like more when it’s really scorching in the summer — but compared to the other Driftwood offerings I’ve tasted this one seemed a little subdued. I mean, Fat Tug’s basically a two-pint guitar solo. White Bark is more backyard barbecue playlist. Not bad, certainly, but not quite what I expected.