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?

Such Ale, Very Winter

Looks like a little, felt like a lot.

Looks like a little, felt like a lot.

The Specs: Howe Sound Brewing Co.’s Father John’s Winter Ale
7 per cent ABV, 1L, seasonal

There came a moment as I was scribbling notes about this beer, when I realized I’d forgotten to snap a photo.
Grabbing my half-empty solo cup and bottle, I attempted to set up the two in a way that would allow for our the beer section’s sort of shot.
No dice. I’d drunk to deep of the festive brew. And while there was enough ale left in the bottle to fill up the cup to appropriate levels… well.
If I pour it, I have to drink it, I thought, and snapped the pic as was.
All Howe Sounds brews are, due to their 1L packaging, a whole lot of beer.
But Father John’s Winter Ale would be a whole lot of brew even if served in a shot glass.
If gingerbread cake batter and beer had a torrid affair, I imagine their offspring would have a similar weight and density. This is a beer that feels thick on the tongue and heavy in the stomach. A cup of it has a richness that might sustain you through several months of winter hibernation.
The flavour profile — ginger and nutmeg, brown sugar, honey and malt — doesn’t exactly lighten the load. It’s quite sweet and while there’s lots of ginger here it doesn’t add brightness. I felt like the ale could have used something else to break up the taste. Maybe a hint of citrus, or a bit of vanilla, as you see in other winter beers.
Instead, it’s much of the same all the way through.
Whole lot of the same.
Add in the higher ABV, and I found a glass of this (OK, half a solo cup) to be as much as I could take.
I followed it up with a different beer that, while not great, was just slightly lighter and slightly more varied and breathed a sigh of relief.

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

Organic Pumpkin vs. Pumpkineater

Last stop before finals —  Howe Sound vs. Nelson

Last stop before finals — Howe Sound vs. Nelson

It’s the semifinal round of Bad Rider’s Pumpkindrome. So far, Phillip’s Crooked Tooth and Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale are headed to our three-way finale showdown. Which brew will be the last to join?

The Challengers: Howe Sound Brewing Co.’s Pumpkineater vs. Nelson Brewing Co.’s Organic Pumpkin Ale

The Shock Top versus Red Racer debate came down to craft versus commerciality. Today’s Pumpkindrome semi-final, on the other hand, leaves us pondering a different question.

What matters more in pumpkin spice beer — The spice? Or the pumpkin?

There’s no denying Nelson’s pumpkin is some of the best flavour in the entire bracket, with a just-plucked-from-the-patch freshness. But, the spice in this organic ale is a one-note, almost chemical cinnamon.

Pumpkineater’s pumpkin, meanwhile, is the least interesting thing about it. As I mentioned in round one, the notes of anise, ginger, clove and spices other brewers don’t take the risk on gives this ale a complexity that stays past the first sip, though they also make the squash flavours in the beer harder to locate.

While I’ve tended to defer to beers that prioritize our round, orange friends — it’s not called the Pumpkindrome for nothing — this time around I have to go the other way in my pick.

Pumpkineater was a fan favourite well before the pumpkin trend got off the ground in Canada, and it’s easy to see why it’s held its own among the upstart brews and challengers to the throne. Howe Sound simply makes a more interesting beer, one that held my attention beyond the first glass.

Can it go all the way to number one? You’ll find out soon enough…

Harvest Pumpkin vs. Pumpkineater

Week Two: Prohibition vs. Howe Sound

Week Two: Prohibition vs. Howe Sound

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 Two.

The Challengers: Prohibition Brewing Co.’s Harvest Pumpkin Spiced Ale (5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) versus Howe Sound Brewing Co.’s Pumpkineater (8 per cent ABV, 1L)


I took my first sip of Prohibition’s Harvest Pumpkin and went into a panic that the beer had somehow spoiled in my refrigerator. That about set the tone for this round.

Compared to our last pumpkindrome outing, today’s beers appeared a little more in line with each other — both different degrees of the same orange-amber colour, both bubbly. But, one has a business being in this competition and one made me kinda sad.

If someone served me a glass of Prohibition blind, with no up-front info, I might have guessed it was a pilsner having a very bad day. It’s got those sweet, corny notes and the mouthfeel I associate with pilsners but holy cats is it ever sharp. My first couple sips were overwhelmingly citric acid, and that never much died down. If there was either pumpkin or spice to be tasted under all that, I never managed it.

Howe Sound, meanwhile, makes some interesting choices with their pumpkin offering. Specifically, I’m talking about the cloves and star anise in their brew — two unusual spices choices that come through fairly strongly in the beer. I also caught notes of the other usual pie spices, ginger in particular, but it’s that very subtle, fresh hint of liquorice and clove that I’ve always noticed most in Pumpkineater.

With a number of unusual flavours and about a medium sweetness (not to mention that 8 per cent ABV), it’s the kind of beer the benefits from a slow drink to suss out all the complex flavours.


while it’s a great spiced beer, I’m not sure it seems that pumpkin-like. While I got a whiff of pumpkin on the nose, there’s not much of it in the glass, and the spice mix doesn’t immediately make me think pie the way some of the others in Pumpkindrome have. It moves on to round two, but I’ll be curious to see how it stacks up to some of our other challengers in the days ahead.

Four Fruits, Six Opinions

Nothing but the classiest taste-testing environs for Bad Rider.

Nothing but the classiest taste-testing environs for Bad Rider.

The Specs: Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Co. (Squamish, B.C.) Four-Way Fruit Ale  
4.4 per cent ABV, 1L; regular series

The question I asked as I doled out plastic cups of beer to my co-workers one Friday afternoon sounded like a simple one: “What fruit do you think is in this?”

And for another beer, it might have been easier to answer. But we were dealing with Howe Sound Four-Way Fruit Ale, so instead I got a lot of…


“Pear, I think?”

“I’m thinking something more citrus, like grapefruit.”

And, in one case — “Almonds.”

Ok, so that co-worker didn’t hear me say ‘fruit,’ but still…

Four-Way Fruit is a mix of mango, passion fruit, pomegranate and raspberry — a combination that sounds like it could be the basis for one of those Sesame Street ‘one of these things is not like the other’ segments.

As we sipped our way through our samples, I found myself thinking about those grocery store juice blends that are advertised as raspberry cocktail, but mostly contain apple and grape juice concentrate.

In the same vein, Howe Sound’s four fruits fuse together into something completely different from the sum of their parts.

Without the benefit of the ingredients label in front of you, this could easily pass for a peach or pear beer, with an unusual, tropical edge.

But with the cheat sheet some of the truth starts to emerge. Mango is the dominant flavour, and while I’m not sure I ever did taste the pomegranate or passion fruit, but there’s a nice raspberry round off that manages to stay on the right side of the tart/sour divide.

Beyond its mysterious fruits, the brew is very carbonated compared to many of its fruit beer contemporaries, and on the lighter end of the spectrum, which keeps it from becoming cloying or sryupy.

As far as odd summer beers go, I’m calling this one a winner. Since it’s already September I’d advise drinking while you can still feel the rays on your face. Though it’s a year-round beer, I’m betting Four-Way Fruit is at its best before the mercury drops.