Slam Dunkel

Normally I take the photo before I take a sip, but this smelled so unique curiosity got the better of me.

Normally I take the photo before I take a sip, but this smelled so unique curiosity got the better of me.

The Specs: Whistler Brewing Co.’s Winter Dunkel
650 mL, 5 per cent ABV, limited release

So, Bad Riders, how do you feel about chocolate oranges?

Depending on how you answer, you’re likely either going to love or hate Whistler Brewing Co.’s Winter Dunkel.

When I say chocolate oranges, I don’t mean any old orange and chocolate combo here. I’m thinking specifically of those foil-covered, milk chocolate, “whack and unwrap” balls that tend to appear in the candy aisle as the holidays get nearer.

If you’re in any way unenthusiastic about a beer version of that candy, Dunkel is probably not the brew for you.

On the nose, the beer is all fresh orange zest and milk chocolate, and there’s plenty of the same on the tongue. I say milk chocolate for a reason. The flavour’s on the sweet and creamy side, withs none of the bitterness or deeper cocoa notes you might expect with a darker chocolate.

There is, however, a little bit more going on with this beer than pure candy.

Thanks to the addition of coriander, this sweet-to-start beer actually has a finish that walks the line between savoury and spicy. Typing that out, I feel like it shouldn’t work. But it’s somehow right, in the same way that Mexican hot chocolate benefits from an infusion of chili pepper.

Without the coriander I suspect Winter Dunkel would be a little too sweet, verging on artificial. But, with the movement from candy to spice in each sip the beer stays interesting far longer, to the point where I was disappointed when my testing bomber ran out.

Another surprise — compared to Whistler’s other annual cold-weather offering, Chestnut Ale, the Winter Dunkel isn’t nearly as sweet or as heavy as I was expecting. That’s a relief. Dunkel has enough going on without piling on the richness.

(Sorry about that punny headline. I couldn’t help myself.)

Creative Anachronism


Uncommon sky, meet common kitchen counter.

The Specs: Whistler Brewing Co. Big Sky Uncommon Lager
5 per cent ABV, 650mL, seasonal


We’ve got more than 90 breweries in B.C. these days, and yet here I am back at the Whistler Brewing trough.

What can I say? Big Sky has a dandy story. Quoth the bottle copy:

“Back in the 1890s, before refrigeration and modern brewing techniques, lagers were hot fermented in the warm western climate — much like an ale is today. What was common then is uncommon today.”

Whistler promises as “hop forward clean finish” and I have to say, they’ve delivered. This is the most literal interpretation of hop-forward, clean finish you could hope to find.

On taking a sip of Big Sky you’re immediately hit with all of the beer’s flavour. And where the back of the sip, your end notes, your aftertaste, should be there’s… nada. Instead, you have the strange experience of the hop taste just sort of evaporating out of your mouth, even as you still feel like you’re drinking. It’s like Jesus in reverse — beer into water, with maybe a hint of metal.

It’s pretty entertaining. The slower your sip, the more pronounced the experience is. It took me entirely too long to get through a glass of this stuff because I was trying to see how far I could push the sensation. And you don’t have to worry about feeling weighed down when you’re through your first pint. Big Sky is its own palate cleanser.

But, I feel like the punch of beer flavour at the front doesn’t allow for complexity. The toasty and hoppy flavours end up trampling all over each other, stifling their best characteristics. I found myself wishing Big Sky could cool its jets, give me more time to get a handle on its flavours before everything swept away.

Faults aside, if you can still track down a bottle (this was one of Whistler’s summer releases, though I found a good batch of it at one of my local stores) I’d give it a go. Makes a heck of a party trick if you’re the right kind of dork.