Red Racer vs. Jumpin Jack

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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.

Good versus average

Prohibition Ale

That blindfolded pig is on every bottle, btw. Cheeky, Prohibition.

The Specs: Prohibition Brewing Co. (Kelowna, B.C.) Bootlegger Ale
5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL, regular series

It’s the straight-ahead, nice-enough beers that are really the hardest to write about, and such is the case with Bootlegger Ale.

After a summer featuring quite a lot of pilsner, pale ale, hefeweizen and PBR (What? You have to take something to all-night barbecues) it feels a little strange to be drinking an ale this dark.With its deep amber colour, Bootlegger feels like a properly fall beer in most respects, save its carbonation. Beer this fizzy seems like a summer concern. I’ve been having a bad week for pouring beer to begin with, but I’ve not built up a head like this on a pint in a while.

As far as taste goes, it’s fairly sweet with a bit of acidity to keep it from being fully weighed down. I wouldn’t say I found either the hops or malt of it particularly pronounced, though they’re both present and distinct.

And… that’s about it. Yup. Review over. Go home.

There’s not a thing bad about Bootlegger, but I can’t get worked up one way or another.

Were I a Kelowna-ite looking to support the local craft brew scene, I’d probably order this one with food sometimes. But, as a Kamloopsian I don’t know if I see much call to pick this one up on the regular — and no, that call has nothing to do with the supposed rivalry between the Tournament Capital and the Little Apple.

Bootlegger is the wheat bread of beer. It may be a good every day pick, but it’s not going to compete with a showcase full of macarons and cream puffs.

(That’s not entirely metaphorical, actually. Drinking it felt an awful lot like eating a slice of darker bread. Again, a perfectly pleasant job, but who writes home about the bread basket?)

Ultimately, it’s a strong enough showing that I’m happy to investigate Prohibition Brewing Co.’s other offerings, but I don’t know that I’ll be back to this well any time soon.