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.


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.

Best of 2014 — Beer edition

By all accounts 2014 was a huge year for craft beer in B.C. According to a December report from The Province, 17 new breweries launched in 2014, enough to put the total number in British Columbia alone at more than 80. And with more in the works, it looks like the province is on track to crack 100 breweries in 2015.

Here at Bad Rider, your faithful reviewer discovered a number of new faves, took her first stabs at hop appreciation, and drank more fucking pumpkin beer than anyone should ever be required to imbibe. Talking about myself in third person aside, it was a heck of a lot of fun.

But, with only four months of reviews to fall back on, and a local government election which interrupted beer-side scheduling, any real look back at my favourite brews of 2014 has to go outside the parameters of this blog. Consider it bonus content.

For me, a best-of beer isn’t just tasty in the moment. It’s the sort of beer you want to purchase again and again, even as weird and fascinating new releases crowd  into the best spots at your local liquor emporium. They’re the beers you text message friends and co-workers to recommend while half cut, or drag everyone you know out to sample first-hand.

Not all of them are flashy, but all of them are definitely worth the time.


It’s the sort of thing I’d never even considered reviewing for this blog, but man did Phillip’s Blue Buck ever turn into my craft brew of choice on non-review nights. With its pleasantly hoppy but not overly bitter finish and medium body, it’s such a solid choice when you want a beer that can deliver some interest without requiring too much of your attention. I fished a lot of these out of sampler packs during after work hangouts, and it was my go-to choice for meeting friends for strictly one (OK, maybe two) pints on weeknights.

Hon. Mention: Red Racer’s Pilsner, which graced every picnic this summer that was too highbrow for PBR.


I bought six bottles of Goose Island’s Sofie this year, which is more than any other bomber in my life, probably. But, because it hails from Phoebe’s country, it never merited a full review. Bright yellow, bubbly, a bit fruity and a little sweet, it works well with veggie-heavy cuisine (more important than usual, when the reviewer is vegetarian) and the champagne-style bottle is great for presentation.


While I’ll always love Whistler Grapefruit, Cannery Brewing’s Blackberry Porter was one of my best finds of the year. Jammy, smooth and full of flavour, it’s completely unlike most of the fruit beers I tasted this summer, and one of the small number of brews where the fruit seemed less stunt and more an obvious enhancement.


I need to buy more of Lighthouse Brewing’s Seaport Vanilla Stout. The beer — smooth, packed with pure vanilla bean, but not too sweet — is like the best beer milkshake without the heaviness (or lactose) of dairy. It’s been on my mind constantly since I reviewed it.


Red Collar Brewing’s Trippel, a light-coloured but syrupy 9 per cent-er, taught me and many of my co-workers a valuable lesson about the value of pacing oneself and knowing the alcohol content of your drink before you swig. I don’t actually think it’s my favourite Red Collar beer — that may be the Doppelbock going on tap in February, or the Mild, which I haven’t yet imbibed enough times to call with certainty — but it’s a brew I’ve gone back for multiple times and had a few interesting evenings out of as a result. And what more can you ask, really?


Less pumpkin, more anything else at all seriously never again what were you thinking Andrea.

And now for something completely different

In the chocolate vs. vanilla wars, I'm siding with Seaport.

In the chocolate vs. vanilla wars, I’m siding with Seaport.

I know you’re all wondering about the Pumpkindrome, but my expert panel (well, “expert”) has yet to convene. So, in the meantime, here’s something else I’ve been enjoying when I get sick of squash.

The Specs: Lighthouse Brewing Co. (Victoria, B.C.) Seaport Vanilla Stout
5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL, limited release


Actually, speaking of sick, this is a beer I was fully expecting to be irritated with by the end of my first pint.

If no one had told me what the special ingredient in Lighthouse’s special edition stout was, I feel fairly confident I’d have figured it out on my own. With a strong whiff of pure vanilla on the nose (think extract, not candy) and an equally strong vanilla finish, it’s hard to miss.

But my first impression of Seaport was less “pure Madagascar vanilla beans” and more chocolate bar. With its notes of coffee and mild chocolate combining with the vanilla finish, Seaport tastes like nothing so much as a Crispy Crunch-Coffee Crisp hybrid. (Americans, I believe you call such items ‘candy bars’ and do not experience the joys of Coffee Crisp. For this I can offer only my apologies.)

Given these are among my favourite chocolate choices, I was predisposed to enjoy this beer, but I figured after about half a glass I’d start to get irritated. As I’ve mentioned in past, really sweet beer is decidedly not my thing.

But, here’s what I noticed on further sipping — Seaport isn’t a particularly sweet beer. The vanilla is deceptive, offering the illusion of sugar where there is none and acting in the same way citrus notes do in other varieties of beer. With vanilla to cut the usual heaviness of stout, this beer doesn’t get heavy and stays light on the tongue.

When I reached the end of the glass, it was disappointment I felt, not relief. Lighthouse has done something a little different and decidedly tasty here.

Rhubarb beer: good for drinking, bad for puns


If nothing else, Rhubie wins the cute beer label contest hands down.

The Specs: Lighthouse Brewing Co. (Victoria), Rhubie Rhubarb Wheat Ale
650mL; 6.2 per cent ABV; seasonal

While I’ve been trying not to prejudge any of the beers I drink for Bad Rider, I didn’t have high hopes for Lighthouse Brewing Co.’s Rhubie, which I’d heard some bloggers complain didn’t taste anything like the fruit it’s supposed to contain. After the whole What the Huck experience I’m wary of fruit beer that seems to sub sugar for flavour.

[Ed. note — What ‘What the Huck’ experience you might ask? Check back Tuesday afternoon to find out…]

Thankfully that’s not the case here.

I think what may make it easy to discount Rhubie’s rhubarb flavour is that rhubarb in its raw, unsweetened, unseasoned form doesn’t appear on a lot of menus. Sure, the internet tells me it’s a thing (in smoothies — of course), I can’t say the idea of eating what amounts to a sour, tough and pink celery knockoff really appeals. Fruit crisp all the way.

But that’s the place where the rhubarb flavour in Rhubie is coming from, and here it’s a welcome addition.

If you’re looking for it, the rhubarb seems to show up most at the top of a sip as a very green, almost grassy flavour, that gives way to a crisp wheat beer with some Pilsner affectations.

It’s not a particularly aggressive fruit profile, and if you’re looking for something on the Peach Cream Ale end of the fruity spectrum you’ll be disappointed. Ditto if you’re picking it up mainly for the novelty factor of hey, rhubarb in beer.

But if you’re a wheat ale fan more than a fruit beer fan this is actually a pretty solid pick.

Remember that green top note I talked about? It has the benefit of making the beer very, very drinkable. The lighter, tart flavour of the rhubarb seems to break up the sips, making it one of the more refreshing wheat beers I’ve had recently.

For only 6.2 per cent ABV, this seemed to have one heck of a kick to it as well, but that might have had something to do with me finishing the bottle in what is now record time for one of these reviews.