Barley Mowat 

Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

without comments

We’ve all made promises we regret: those decisions made in the spur of the moment that come back to haunt us later. Maybe we had one too many, or perhaps even many too few, but regardless of your state of mind, the promise stands and your future self has to honour it.

Well, I did one of those. Some time ago I made a promise to review all the readily available Amber Ales at the LDB. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but somehow these things are never quite as good as you imagined them.


Like my sweet eBay bike. I wound up regretting the horns the most.

Still, I promised to do this, and do this I must. Time to pinch my snobbish nose and take one for the team. And thus I went to the LDB in search of four widely available Amber Ales to inflict upon my palate and the palates of my friends.

I walked out of the liquor store with these candidates: Tree Thirsty Beaver, Lighthouse Race Rocks, Stanley Park Amber and Vancouver Island Seadog.

With the help of the actually-qualified-to-do-this Jenn Gardy, I constructed a single blind taste test and submitted a group of my most non-beer snobby friends to a side-by-side comparison test, with the hope of ranking each beer from 1 to 4 (first through fourth).

The results? Mixed. The actual scores ranged all the way from 2.2 to 2.6 when averaged out. If you’ve taken some stats, you know not to play the lottery. You also know these results are a complete wash. No one beer was measurably better than the others, and frankly all of them were pretty bad. Consider that no beer was more strongly correlated to a high score than it was to the glassware it was served in (wine glasses make beer better, by the way, I have proof).

So what did I, our own inhouse member of the elite beererati think? What’s my professional opinion? Buy something else is my opinion. Why are we fucking around with amber ales when Central City’s whole lineup is just as generally available? Who made this challenge anyways?


Oh. Right. Fuck you, me.

Well, here goes. My notes on these beers are as follows:

  1. Tree Thirsty Beaver — Not bad. My pick of the litter. Decently balance between malt and hops, but no real character to be found.
  2. Lighthouse Rack Rocks — Also well balanced, but a light sniff of DMS put this into second. Another can was better, but that wasn’t the one I judged.
  3. Stanley Park Amber — And here we find the cliff. Hops? What hops? All sweet all the time. Ugh. Beer can’t be sweeter.
  4. Vancouver Island Sea Dog — Oh shit, yes it can. Really? You’re calling this “beer”? Honestly I’m not 100% certain this isn’t contaminated. Just a vile mess of syrupy sweetness.

There, are you happy now? I kept my word. Ugh. And no, I won’t do the lager half of this test. That was always a “maybe.” Next time I do a tasting it will be a best-in-bc IPA-off between Driftwood, Lighthouse, Central City and Tofino. I’ve earned it.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, both Lighthouse and Vancouver Island have contacted me to investigate the reports of off-flavours. Now, I might not love these beers, but I do absolutely love how these breweries have reacted: admit that something might possibly have gone wrong and look into it.

Sure, all this might just be a result of me not having a great palate for this style or beer, or maybe Jenn messed up the samples, but at least let’s talk about it. Too often the result of negative press is the company ignoring or, even worse, trying to discredit or silence the source. By tackling this stuff up front, openly and honestly, the worst case scenario is that I just gained a lot of respect for both breweries. Y’all should too. Good on ya, guys.

Written by chuck

June 4th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

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