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.

Bon Voyage


I’ll admit it, this is another bottle I bought at least 50 per cent for the label.

The Specs: Central City and Four Winds Brewing Co.’s Maiden Voyage
6 per cent ABV, 650mL

If there was any kind of storyline to Bad Rider’s beer section in 2014 (other than the bit where an election somehow made me too busy too drink) it was the slow erosion of my ‘I’m not into hoppy beers’ claims.

While I’m still not one to reach for an IPA, with Maiden Voyage I think I have to admit I enjoy hops.

And for this beer, you’d have to.

Maiden Voyage starts off with hops, then hits you with a bitterness that lingers. And lingers. While the hops are sharp and bright to start, it’s the bitterness that stuck with me most through drinking this.

I suspect this makes it “challenging,” or at least, that’s how I’d describe it to the many avowed hop-haters I talk beer with on a regular basis. But I’ve gone through a couple bottles of this now and for some reason I can’t stop going back to the well.

It might be the woodsy notes — to me it’s got a taste reminiscent of pine, though everyone else I know who’s tasted it says that’s because I apparently don’t know what cedar (which the beer was aged in) tastes like. The spiciness of the wood rounds out the beer’s other flavours, though since it’s not exactly subtle I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just as challenging for some drinkers as the rest of what’s going on with Maiden Voyage.

It’s also got good carbonation, and after a month of mainly porters, stouts and winter ales with the heft of molasses it’s nice to drink something a little lighter for a change that nonetheless feels like a cold-weather beer.

The story of Maiden Voyage itself is pretty cool: according to the Georgia Straight, the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild paired up a larger craft brewer (Central City) with smaller Four Winds Brewing Co. to produce a beer that would have been out of reach for the smaller partner.

It wasn’t immediately clear for the guild’s website if this kind of teamwork is going to become a regular occurrence, but count me in for future iterations, should that be the case.

Pumpkindrome: The Finals

What? You try finding 18 glasses in an office.

What? You try finding 18 glasses in an office.

The Challengers: Phillips Crooked ToothHowe Sound Brewing Co.’s PumpkineaterRed Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale


After way, way too much tasting, it all comes down to this.

Over the past weeks I’ve gotten a little too close to these beers, developed some personal prejudices and a few too many opinions. So, for our Pumpkindrome finale I decided it was time to call in the big guns, to assemble a crack team of —

OK. I just asked my co-workers if they wanted to drink beer on a Friday.

Together, six of us sipped our way through a sorta-kinda blind taste test of our top three beers. The results were near unanimous. Let’s count ’em down.

3. When faced with solid competition, none of us could figure out how Red Racer had made it so far in the challenge. The hoppiest of the three beers, it garnered a less than enthused reaction in a room filled with IPA-deniers (my people, truly). This particular bottle seemed to have a slightly grassy finish as well, which didn’t sit well with the pumpkin. “Not my style of beer” was about the nicest comment, with several panellists saying they didn’t enjoy the beer at all.

2. Howe Sound performed valiantly in Pumpkindrome, winning praise from me all the way along for its complex spices. But, at the end of the day it wasn’t able to capture the hearts of most of my co-workers. “I like the way it tastes,” said one. “But I would get sick of it so fast.”

Only my editor staunchly defended Howe Sound as a number one pick, calling it smoother, creamier and richer than everyone else’s number one choice, “with a sweet kick that reminds me of a good honey brown.”

1. I had a feeling Phillips was going all the way the first time I tasted it. It’s bright, light qualities seemed to hook my co-workers (sans editor) too. “It’s a slam dunk,” said one, with another calling it the best-balanced between pumpkin and beer.

While I’ve complained about the difficulties of innovating with pumpkin beer, Phillips is a bit of a different breed — light and not as sweet than many of its competitors while still maintaining both pumpkin and spice flavours. If you do prefer something darker, however, you won’t go wrong with Howe Sound.

Personally, I knew where the win had to go as I was sneaking another glass while my co-workers made their tasting notes. The Crooked Tooth was gone before we’d finished tabulating the results.


Your winner: Phillips Crooked Tooth

Your winner: Phillips Crooked Tooth

Red Racer vs. Shock Top

Redemption round (for me, I mean) — Red Racer vs. Shock Top

Redemption round (for me, I mean) — Red Racer vs. Shock Top

It’s the semifinals of Bad Rider’s pumpkin battle, and it’s time to explain the rules for our next section.

Since I never did track down the right number of beers for an even bracket (Kamloops was experiencing some weird beer stockage issues for much of early October, but that’s another, much whinier post), we’re headed into round two with five beers on the block.

Thus, I’ve decided my favourite of the competition thus far gets a bye.

So congratulations Phillip’s Crooked Tooth! You move to round three. Phillips was our first week winner and impressed me with its balanced mix of spices and pumpkin. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a tough one to beat when we reach final three.

As to the rest of our brews, best wishes and spices.

The Challengers: Shock Top Pumpkin and Red Racer’s Spiced Pumpkin Ale 
(Click through to see the original matchups that brought these two to our semifinals.)

I’ll be honest, this was over in a sip.

As I mentioned last time, Shock Top is not my bag. Too thin, too chemical, way too sweet, it’s here in Round Two by the virtue of another beer’s failure.

If you’re in the mood for a pumpkin beer and you have the choice between these two contenders? For the love of Good and beer, pick Red Racer.

The craft option is only medium-sweet with a darker, more caramel edge to its sugar. It’s mild on the spices, as is Shock Top, and the pumpkin is a little one-dimensional compared to some beers in its class, but it’s a thoroughly solid pumpkin offering. I’d recommend it on mouthfeel alone, over Shock Top.

Will it stand up to our other two finalists? That’s a question that’ll have to wait for the finals.

Red Racer vs. Jumpin Jack

photo 2

Week Four: Red Racer vs. Tree Brewing

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.

The challengers: Tree Brewing Co. Jumpin’ Jack India Pumpkin Ale (6.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) vs Red Racer’s Spiced Pumpkin Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)


One of the more frustrating aspects of Pumpkindrome is that I feel like I’m penalizing innovation. On the weekend, it was Parallel 49’s chocolate and pumpkin porter failing to make the cut. This week, I’m having similar struggles with Tree Brewing’s marriage of IPA and pumpkin.

Here’s the problem, I think: pumpkin is not a particularly bold flavour. Add something strong, like IPA-appropriate concentrations of hops or chocolate, and you mask it. If you’re not amping up the spices to compensate, it doesn’t take much to lose any sense of your original purpose.

Jumping Jack is a darn bold IPA, too. While I’ve somewhat come around on my no-way-IPA stance lately, thanks to some delicious brews (most notably Gigantic Brewing’s offering out of Portland), this is not my kind of IPA. Forget nuance, this is all hops — and hops in a concentration that makes me think soap, not beer. If there’s any pumpkin here, I can’t find it. Probably because I’m too busy wincing.

Red Racer’s take on pumpkin beer, meanwhile, is as textbook as you could find, from its pumpkin pie smell to its spice blend. Here, as with other contenders, it’s mainly a cinnamon effort, though there’s a sense of ginger and nutmeg in the blend as well. I’d call it mid-sweet, but it’s really pushing that definition. And while the pumpkin isn’t as well-developed as I’d like, it’s definitely there.

It’s a perfectly good beer. Does exactly what it says on the label. And yet, I feel a bit bad that once again, I can’t give the risk-taker a bump. I’d love to taste a beer that marries IPA’s assertive hops with the pumpkin’s interesting, savoury freshness. Tree’s ain’t it.

Red Racer’s onto round two.