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.

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.

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.

Lost Souls vs. Organic Pumpkin

Week Three: Parallel 49 vs. Nelson Brewing

Week Three: Parallel 49 vs. Nelson 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: Parallel 49’s Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (6.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) vs. Nelson Brewing Co.’s Organic Pumpkin Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)


They both have pumpkin in their names, but today’s Pumpkindrome challengers couldn’t be less alike if I’d tried, instead of leaving this bracket to random chance. And, more than any match up so far, this week’s decision is coming down to personal preference and slightly twisty logic.

Parallel 49’s Lost Souls is on the low end of sweet, with a smooth, mostly chocolate taste — milk-chocolate, not dark. The chocolate’s balanced out with the sort of malty notes you’d expect from a beer of this style, and overall it’s a very cohesive drink. With a short of espresso dropped into your pint, you could drink this at brunch with absolutely no shame.

Nelson’s organic pumpkin brew is much more in the traditional line of things. The pumpkin is quite good here, very fresh and just a little vegetal. It feels like it could have been picked from the patch this morning. The spice blend on the other hand…

Do you remember those little red cinnamon hearts from Valentine’s Days past? This beer doesn’t seem to have the spice balance of the other comers so far. It’s all cinnamon, and when combined with the beer’s moderate sweetness you end up with a finish that’s uncomfortably bulk bin candy.

But, you ask, what about the pumpkin in Parallel 49’s beer?

That’s where the issue comes in, dear drinkers. I couldn’t taste any. If I’m being generous, I thought there were some hints of cinnamon rounding out the chocolate. You could see this more in the line of a chocolate spice bread — delicious, but unlikely to make pumpkin much of a star.

So while I think it’s well composed, very drinkable, and less discernibly flawed, I don’t think I can give Lost Souls the win. If I’d made it my only pumpkin purchase of the year, I’d be pretty disappointed, good as it is.

Nelson’s uneven, but you can’t deny it’s pumpkin. It moves on to round two.

[A note — last year Nelson brewed my favourite pumpkin ale, and I don’t remember this cinnamon issue at all. It could be uneven brewing, or my palate’s developed in the last 12 months, but I think I’ll be revisiting this bottle next fall out of curiosity.]