The Sour Sessions

Not only tasty, but totally on point with your life jacket.

Not only tasty, but totally on point with your life jacket.

There are good beers, there are OK beers, and then there are the beers that are so interesting, so different, so jolt-your-tastebuds that you’re wandering around a barbecue at 6 p.m., shoving your pint under everyone’s nose, demanding “try this.”

Right now, Parallel 49 Brewing Co.‘s sour beer lineup manages to encompass all three.

Even in the variable world of craft beer, sours are strange beasts.

Usually fermented with wild yeasts and special bacteria, and sometimes aged for a year or more to develop flavours, these brews can push the limit on what even a reasonable widely-drunk craft beer fan might have encountered in the liquor stores and pubs of Kamloops.

Depending on the beer, a sour can offer the same lip-smacking sensation sour mix brings to a cocktail — minus the heavy sugar and dish-soap fake lemon.

Parallel 49, out of Victoria, is going heavy on the sours this sumer. So far, I’ve picked up three locally. And, to play into all the beer snob cliches, they seem to get better the more specialized and limited they are.

Apricotopus (6.3 per cent ABV) describes itself as a sour saison with apricots, and that’s kind of what it tastes like — in that it’s kind of fruity, kind of wheat-y and kind of tart. While it’s crisp and refreshing thanks to souring bacteria, it’s the least memorable.

More interesting is the Sour White Ale (7.5 per cent ABV) out of the brewery’s barrel-aged series, which seems like the perfect beer to buy the avowed wine drinker in your life.

Aged in Chardonnay barrels, this wild-yeasted beer’s got the richer mouthfeel of wine, a bit of oak and a note of not-quite-ripe pear.

There’s a funkiness here you won’t find in wine (something that’s apparently common with sours), not to mention more carbonation, but drinking it felt like crossing the line into sommelier territory.

Different still from both of these is the brewery’s third anniversary offering, Lil Redemption (6.7 per cent ABV), a sour cherry beer that lives up to its description.

This beer pours nearly opaque red, with inches of lacing on the glass. It’s got a taste to match, pulpy with the flavour of sour cherries and with a gorgeous earthiness courtesy of its wild yeast. Yet, a good amount of carbonation kept it from feeling overwhelmingly heavy.

According to Parallel 49, this one spent two years in Cabernet barrels before the cherries were blended in. While I didn’t pick that up at all in drinking (I’m really not a wine person), the sheer amount of care and time paid off in one of the most complex, interesting sips of the summer.

One night only woes

photo 1photo 2
(L to R: Moon Under Water’s Berliner Weisse and This is Hefeweizen. Also my knitting bag because that’s how I roll.)

If there’s any style of beer that is a total quality crapshoot in North America, it’s the hefeweizen.

For the past couple months I’ve been drinking every heffe I can get my hands on — from an alright Columbus, Ohio offering to a Seattle brew that asked the question: who puts ginger in a hefeweizen? (A: someone who apparently hates the actual taste of hefeweizens, but likes those Lipton nighttime teas a whole bunch).  For the most part, I’ve been disappointed.

Which is why I’ve been dying to try Moon Under Water’s This is Hefeweizen (5.5 per cent ABV). If there’s a heffe with hype behind it in B.C., it’s this one.

So, when my favourite local hipster watering hole Red Beard announced a Moon Underwater tap takeover this past Friday I was there, and This is Hefeweizen was first on my list of beers to drink.

Now I’m almost regretting attending, because this is Hefeweizen blew so much of what I’ve been stuck with out of the water and I’m not sure I can go back.

Like Russell Brewing’s White Rabbit, my other fave so far this year, this beer actually features those notes of clove and banana all lesser hefeweizens only promise. Moon is more mellow and traditional, with a banana flavour that stays clean and true all the way through the sip, rounded out at the end by those spice notes. It’s much less sweet than a lot of heffe pretenders, and more consistent. Where other versions seem to go a bit of kilter the more time you spend with them, the complex, hazy flavour stayed with me until the tail end of the tasting session — when I ordered an appetizer with arugula and garlic and messed up my taste buds hard for about half an hour.

Worth a note as well is Moon’s Berliner Weisse (3.2 per cent ABV), a nice lower-alcohol sour option that reminded me of my Tom Collins and whiskey sour drinking days. It’s got a super-light profile and made late-evening patio drinking bearable even in the Kamloops heat.

Light Side of the Moon and Hip as Funk, were good as well, though both are less engineered to my own personal tastes.

But, here’s the dilemma: Now that I’ve started to fall for this Victoria-based brewery, I have no idea where to find any of what I liked again. While I’ve seen Moon’s stuff for sale locally, it’s only the IPA (whatever) and the dunkel (not a summer option in my books). Kamloops, take pity on a humble beer blogger and stock this stuff outside of one-night events.

Watermelon win

Not quite a full glass per bottle, but there's a lot of 'em.

Not quite a full glass per bottle, but there’s a lot of ’em.

The Specs: Parallel 49 Brewing Co. (Victoria, B.C.) Seed Spitter Watermelon Wit
5 per cent ABV, 6-packs


I was skeptical, I’ll admit it. A good beer that really tastes of watermelon didn’t seem possible to me.

But, it is and Seed Spitter’s it. This stuff is really nice as Kamloops creeps into the 30s and I start spending my time in front of the fan whenever I’m in my apartment.

The beer gets a bit of natural sweetness from the watermelon, but mostly captures the slight sharpness of the fruit as you take those last bites closer to the rind, as well as the juicy, refreshing quality of the melon. There’s a bit of wheat to finish it off, which plays nicely with what comes first, and then you’re done. Wham, bam, simple and super light and very summery.

I tend to hold off on buying six packs because a) who has time to dedicate to six of one beer when there’s so much craft out there and b) a lot of craft’s just get to be too much after a couple bottles.

This probably won’t last past Monday — at the latest.

Drink ALL The Hefes!

unnamed-1 unnamed-2 unnamedThe Specs (pictured above, L – R): Hoyne Brewing Summer Haze Honey Hefe (5.1 per cent ABV, 650mL);  Howe Sound Breweing King Heffe Imperial Hefeweizen (7.7 per cent ABV,1L); Russell Brewing White Rabbit Hoppy Hefeweizen (6 per cent, 650mL)

In journalism, the joke goes, three of something makes a trend. Spot three dudes with man buns? Trend. Three local residents cheesed off about sidewalks? Trend.

So, three hefes mean my drinking habits are a trend too, right? I’d agree — if all three of those beers had actually been hefeweizens. Yes, that’s right Bad Riders, there is a traitor in our fridges. Two of those beers are delightful takes on one of my most favourite summer styles and one of them is basically a honey wheat ale thing waiting to dash all your drinking-related hopes and dreams.

There are very few things I want from a hefeweizen. I like big, super bright banana flavours and sweetness in a not excessive amount. Maybe a little complexity to round things out, but I can be flexible on that.

Which is why I’m so perplexed by Hoyne’s Summer Haze, which doesn’t taste anything like I’d expect. As I implied above, it’s more honey and ale, nothing that particularly says hefeweizen to me.

OK, I figured, maybe I’m drinking this too chilled. But leaving a resealed bomber on the counter to come up to temperature is usually enough to release any flavours I’ve inadvertently ruined with my awful 60s-issue apartment icebox. Not so here.

I don’t think Summer Haze is a bad beer. Had I approached it on different terms I think I would have enjoyed it. But what the heart wants, the heart wants, and it turns out what I really wanted was White Rabbit.

Man, this is such a good beer. I didn’t think hops would contribute much to a hefeweizen, but it’s a bit like a sprinkling of salt over a dish. That little bitter citrus edge seems to define all those banana and clove flavours so much more. It’s the only beer where I really got the real, murky clove flavours so often advertised on bottle copy and rarely delivered for the less-trained (i.e.: my) palate.

There’s also an interesting haziness to the sweetness of this one — much in the same way eating a banana differs from chomping into an apple. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased more.

The one Kamloops-specific downside here? It’s not the easiest bottle to find. I’m only aware of one liquor store carrying it, and my last sweep of the government stores was no help.

Compare that to the final beer of this trio, King Heffy, which is pretty much everywhere now that summer beer season’s begun.

I didn’t find the King quite as complex as White Rabbit, but it does what I ask. The banana is bright, the sweetness just right. I think the wheat is a bit more pronounced here than in White Rabbit, and it’s not as smooth-tasting overall, but there’s a reason this big guy’s a liquor store staple.  And, hey, who’s going to turn down a bottle with enough room to contain a third glass of that delicious summer nectar?

A radler by any other name

"She's an easy radler, she'll get a hold you you believe it..."

“She’s an easy radler, she’ll get a hold you you believe it…”

The Specs: Bowen Island Brewing’s Easy Radler
3.2 ABV, 355mL

Today’s Bad Rider post is brought to you by the Google search ‘what’s the difference between a radler and a shandy?’

You smarter beer geeks are already laughing, but for the rest of you on the same page as me: Nothing, other than country of origin. Per a variety of sources, radler is the favoured term in Germany, while shandy is preferred by the British. In both cases, it’s traditionally a combination of beer and lemonade, ginger ale or other mixer of your choose.

The reason for the confusion is fair enough, I think. Every shandy I’ve ever had has been OK to dreadful, and my one radler experience — Parallel 49’s Tricycle Radler is one of the great summer beverages. I mean, it’s basically really good grapefruit juice that gives you a little buzz.

Bowen Island’s offering make the shady-radler linkage clearer. Like other commercially available, pre-mixed shandies it’s lemon flavoured. Unlike most of the competition it doesn’t immediately taste like dish soap from the glass you didn’t rinse quite as well as you thought, so props there. But lemon’s likely to be more divisive, because the amount of sweet required to make a palatable mix is a lot higher than what seems to be required for grapefruit.

The extra sweetness and a thinner mouthfeel more reminiscent of soda made Easy Radler feel much more of a piece with what’s coming from the bigger breweries, though it’s miles ahead in terms of flavour. At the end of the day, I’ll stick with grapefruit for my needs, but of the options out there this one’s not half bad.

Rhubarb Fields Forever

Table saison, meet table cloth.

Table saison, meet table cloth.

The Specs: Lighthouse Brewing Co. (Victoria, B.C.), Jackline Rhubarb Grisette
5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL

Table saisons (a.k.a. grisettes) are popping up fairly consistently this spring. Parallel 49’s excellent Brews Brothers 12 pack offered not one but two takes on the style, and now here’s another Victoria brewery with an offering.

From what I understand, a table saison is meant to fill a place similar to that of a session ale — light, eminently quaffable, and made to be put away in large volumes. With a little more flavour than their session counterparts, I’m all for a table saison craze. Please, brewers of B.C., I will take as many of these as you throw my way.

(Of course, only in the craft brewing industry would a beer with this much alcohol be considered a “table” style, which Google informs me ought to clock in at less than two per cent ABV. Then again, would you put down your hard-earned dollars on classy near beer? Yeah, me either.)

Lighthouse’s offering is the second rhubarb-based beer I’ve tried from the company, and compared to last year’s Rhubie Rhubarb Ale, a big step up.

Where Rhubie required a certain amount of straining to find the main ingredient, Jackline is up front. The beer captures both the tartness and bitterness particular to fresh rhubarb, rounding them out with some sweet wheat. Unlike some saisons I’ve tried (Central City’s excellent Detective Saison springs to mind), this one doesn’t go in for spicy notes, but the rhubarb consistently interesting on its own, giving the beer an almost citrus, almost sour quality all its own. Add in plenty of bubbles and a good, clean finish, and you’ve got an entirely refreshing brew.

Really, you’ve got to give Lighthouse the nod for innovation in the field of rhubarb beer if nothing else. These guys are pretty much blazing the trail alone, and our pints are better for it.


How I spent my Vancouver vacation, by Andrea, age 28

Saturday's drinking bright spot.

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.)


We’re putting the band back together

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.

The OK beers

The bubbles!

The bubbles!

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.

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.

Central City Stories

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.

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.