Time to drink my words

Shoutout to the B.C. Liquor Store employee who told me to get this one chilled, but not too cold. You get a much better sense of the yeast that way.

Shoutout to the B.C. Liquor Store employee who told me to get this one chilled, but not too cold. You get a much better sense of the yeast that way.

The Specs: Bad Tattoo Brewing Co. (Penticton, B.C.), Dia de Los Muertos Cerveza Fuerte 2014
9.2 per cent ABV, 750mL, limited edition

OK, OK, let’s get it out of the way: Today’s beer of choice is not only a strong beer, it’s a damn 9 per center — which is nearly as high as we can go before we enter the murky territory of barley wines.*

So, yeah, I’m not over strong beer after all, but drinking Bad Tattoo’s new limited offering reminded me it’s not so much the alcohol content that counts as how you use it. And Bad Tattoo, I’m coming to realize, really knows what it’s up to.

What’s most surprising about this beer is how sweet and boozy it smells — and how normal it actually tastes.

So many of the strong Belgians I’ve tasted lately have this almost rotten fruit flavour to them, but Dia de Los Muertos Cerveza Fuerte is concerned with other flavours. Dark and dense, it’s another of those hearty bread-style beers, all rye toast and nuts. Despite the smell, I didn’t find it particularly sweet — nary a vanilla or caramel tone here. This is a savoury beer for sure.

According to the bottle copy these bad boys have more than a full pound of malt per 750 mL and two strains of yeast. Of the two, it’s the yeast that stood out most for me, and tipped the beer from good to fascinating.

To call a beer fermented is to state the obvious, but you can taste it here in a way that I’ve not experienced often, similar to the notes of a good sushi-joint soy sauce or a well-crafted kombucha.

While it’s got some fizz to it, this is one heavy beer, best drunk very slowly over the course of the evening while making a slow slide from couch to floor (just because this beer isn’t upfront about its alcohol content, doesn’t mean it’s not there). Or you could share it with friends, I suppose, but since this is an extremely limited 1,200 bottle run you’ve got a built-in excuse to horde it all to yourself.

On a final quick and shallow note, I’ve bagged on Bad Tattoo a bit for its regular series bottle designs, but these black, long-necked, wax-dipped bottles are things of beauty. I’m tempted to stick a candle in the empty and use the light to illuminate a garret as I write gothic novels.

*Riders, do I dare? I considered a bottle at the shop today but I am mad skeptical about anything that is not wine but feels the need to identify itself as such.

Judgement will get you nowhere

photo 2

So fizzy.

The Specs: Bad Tattoo Brewing Co. (Penticton, B.C.) Los Muertos Cerveza Negro
650mL, 5 per cent ABV


Bad Riders, we’ve been apart too long. Between the election I’ve been covering for my day job and a trip back to Alberta (where I drank much craft beer but made few notes), this blog hasn’t got its usual loving.

Luckily my fridge still contained one bottle that didn’t make the trip back to Wildrose country with the others on my top shelf. Why?

Well… ok. It’s shallow, but direct your eyeballs to the photo on the right side of the screen. Now look at that packaging.

As the B.C. brewering field gets more and more crowded, more and more brewing companies are stepping up their design. To pick a notable example, Fernie Brewing Co. went from a more homespun label to a modern, colour-blocked approach this year, briefly making me think the brewery might have something more exciting to offer than in years past (spoiler: not really).

Bad Tattoo’s label, by contrast, feels pretty dated compared to bottles from Barkerville, Tofino, Central City and other breweries that have passed through my kitchen as of late. With a teensy, hard to read logo and an awkward layout featuring an undersized picture it doesn’t speak of confidence and care.

Which is a shame, because Los Muertos Cerveza Negro is actually pretty good.

The taste profile is similar to quite a few of the stouts and porters I’ve been drinking as winter sets in — malty, with a mild milk chocolate flavour and some sweetness — but with a much lighter mouthfeel, hint of acid and enough of a hoppy finish to make it clear you’re drinking a lager.

And compared to your average stout it’s wildly carbonated. My bottle in particular was so fizzy that even a week’s rest in the fridge wasn’t enough to keep it from exploding a bit when I popped the cap.

Overall, it was a pleasant surprise. I’ll have to keep my eye on these guys after all. According to the company’s website, Bad Tattoo also does apple soda and rootbeer brewed in house, which I’m embarrassed to admit I want to taste even more than the rest of their beer lineup. Would that the craft soda market were half as well developed in B.C.


Yeah, it's even kinda pink.

Yeah, it’s even kinda pink.

The Specs: Tin Whistle Brewing (Penticton, B.C.) Strawberry Blonde Ale
5 per cent ABV, 650mL, seasonal (I think. It’s hard to tell with this company)

This is the story of a good beer that made me think bad things.

I was about halfway through my first glass of Strawberry Blonde Ale when it first popped into my head: “This is a girl beer.”

This beer — this nice, very drinkable beer — was making me sexist.

It’s odd, because I’ve reviewed many a fruit beer on this site and this has never occurred to me before. Raspberry beers in particular are mainstream for all genders.

Yet there’s something about this light, somewhat sweet, not too bitter strawberry beer that makes me vaguely embarrassed about recommending.

Maybe it’s strawberries themselves. Your usual beer berries are assertive, tart. Raspberries and blackberries. Strawberries are more commonly found in creamy pink liqueurs and wine spritzers.

And there’s no denying that this is a strawberry beer. As with my last Tin Whistle selection, Peach Cream Ale, this is a beer that tastes exactly of its eponymous fruit. The strawberry here is so potent I would have sworn I could feel seeds grinding between my teeth as I sipped.

But, Strawberry Blonde is also fairly smartly balanced. Where other berry beers can get weighed down by their sugar, blonde ale is light in the mouth, with a finish of beery bitterness that I was not expecting.

It strikes me as a good gateway beer. The brew you could hand the friend who drank a lot of Boone’s Farm or Arbour Mist in their misspent youth, but never developed a thing for beer.

Maybe that’s the problem. I think of craft brew as a lot of things — but craft beer for people who don’t love beer? Sounds almost sacrilegious.

Obviously, that’s a bullshit attitude. A craft beer can be inventive and well-brewed and still appeal to those who aren’t living a 24/7 malt-and-hop lifestyle. Otherwise, all we end up with are trends like that one a few years back, when every IPA had to be so hoppy you couldn’t force half of them down without a glass of water as a chaser.

So give Strawberry Blonde a shot. Hell, if you really want to double down on the girly, serve it with a salad heavy on green vegetables, which seem to pair well. Both are delicious.

Girls have good taste.

The final throwdown

blackberry porter

The dark horse of the fruit beer series — in terms of colour, if nothing else.

The Specs: Cannery Brewing (Penticton, B.C.) Blackberry Porter
6 per cent ABV; 650mL;  regular series

The problem with reviewing a really good beer is sometimes all you want to do is yell about the one facet you love.

So what’s the thing I love so much about this blackberry porter?

“It’s purple.”

Well, no, not literally purple, as you can see in the photo. But there’s no other word for me that better describes the taste.

That should be a bad thing. Purple traditionally means cough syrup and grape Tylenol and Grower’s Orchard Berry (which I rag on unduly, considering I want to make Phoebe do a taste test of the stuff one of these days…)

But here purple gets to make up for past sins. This is a beer with a deep, rich purple finish that’s all berry.

Like a raspberry beer, the blackberry is quite tart, but I’d say the berry flavour here is more robust than what I’ve experienced with most craft berry beers — in keeping with blackberries themselves, which I’ve always thought of as more of a punch-you-in-the-mouth fruit than their red contemporaries.

The berry note here is jammy and round, the way fruit flavour might present in a really good red wine. Purple.

It’s a beer that benefits from a slow, considered sipping over conversation, in part because the jam notes will stay distinct even if your palette’s like mine and not that great after the first five tastes.

Unlike most of the beers in the fruit beer throwdown, this one doesn’t need a hot summer day and a patio for maximum enjoyment, either. I can see this being very nice at the end of a long day in late October or November, when you’re looking for a gentle reminder of summers past.

[For those of you wondering, that’s right, the fruit beer reviews are at an end. For the next while I’m going to pick things based on my usual metrics of ‘something shallow about packaging’ and ‘ooh, what’s that?’]

The strange tale of Peach Cream Ale

Peach Cream Ale

Penticton, you sure know how to confuse a lady.

The Specs: Tin Whistle Brewing Co. (Penticton, B.C.) Peach Cream Ale
650mL; 5 per cent ABV; seems to be year-round

Guys, I want to bathe in this beer. Or maybe not bathe — stickiness factor — but daub it behind the ears and on wrists, perfume style. I would buy candles that smell like this beer. Junior high-aged Andrea would buy large bottles of a body mist version of this beer for dousing herself with after gym class.

When Tin Whistle claims to have captured the aroma of peaches, they are not screwing around. Within a minute of popping the top off the top of the bottle, my workspace smelled like I was being a responsible adult and eating fruit, instead of making tasting notes about beer after eating popcorn for dinner for the second night in a row.

The peach flavour is natural, not chemical like candy, and dominates the beer.

It’s not so much the fruit is overwhelming, as there’s very little to taste in the way of malt or hops. I feel like it’s what you’d get if you soaked sliced peaches in Pabst Blue Ribbon, spa-water style. What didn’t work for me so much is that this beer also lives up to the cream part of its name. The milky finish took some adjustment for me and felt a bit strange in a beer that was so un-beery in taste.

All told, I’m not sure if this was pleasant but not really my thing, or if I want to buy 50 bottles of Peach Cream Ale and mail one to every beer drinker I know to try to get some consensus.

But if you like very pale ales and want to try something unusual, I think it’s worth the $6 or so it’ll set you back, if only for the cologne factor.