Barley Mowat 

Zombie Frog

with 15 comments

It’s an awkward situation. When do you step in and say something to a friend that obviously has a problem? “I swear I’m better” they’ll say, or maybe throw down “it was just that one time” as if the promise to not do it again somehow excuses projectile vomiting over the interior of your new Audi.

Remove “friend” from that example and sub in “brewery you kinda don’t like” and you have a good idea of the situation now presenting itself with a certain up-valley brewery. Dead Frog–long the laughing stock of the BC craft beer industry for their curious insistence on producing beers that somehow manage to mock themselves–has had an epiphany.

Holy shit! This beer’s awful.
Why didn’t anyone tell us before we drank it?

The management and brewing staff woke up one day, presumably partially dressed in a cold alley downtown, and saw the wreckage of their poor decisions in the cold, harsh and sober light of day. First their eyes fell upon a case of Mandarin Orange Amber, and they felt regret.

Kicking the offending ale to the side only revealed an unsold palette of Pepper Lime Lager behind it. As the enormity of taking beer style queues from freaking Budweiser sank in, they slumped in a depressed heap upon the only nearby soft surface: a shipment of hoodies emblazoned with “Do it froggy style” and “Nothing goes down like a cold, dead frog.”

Strangely, the “Slippery as a swarm of frogs!” shirts sold out.

Only then did the seriousness of their predicament, and the reality of what they’d become, finally set in. When did they become the brewery that sold awful beer to frat boys? Where did they go wrong? How could they fix it?

Or, at least, that’s how I like to imagine how it went down, but I drink a lot (don’t worry, though, it was just that one time–and I’ll clean your car, Jenn). What I do know about Dead Frog, though, is that they have axed all the items I just mentioned, and have pledged to do better from now on.

Doesn’t that sound familiar, though? Wait, yes, it sorta does. Dead Frog even won a coveted Beerdie last year for “most improved brewery.” When I handed out that award, I expected that a year later we’d have seriously good beer flowing out of Abbotsford, and maybe even something barrelled. The barrels didn’t materialize, but something happened recently that got my attention.

That something was Rick Green’s decision to join Dead Frog. Rick Green joining something lends that something enough beer-geek credibility that I suddenly find myself curious. Rich Green also offering to send me a sample of every beer produced by that something changes that curiosity to downright interest.

If beer can make baseball interesting,
imagine what it can do for a brewery!

In short, a brewery can claim to be reformed all they want, but the beer is where the rubber meets the road (or where the ale meets my mouth, I guess). So here’s the goods: a short review of all of Dead Frog’s beers. Every. Single. One (except their summer season, what with it being winter and all). I’ve even sorted them from worst to best.

Winter Beeracle
Just kill this sickly sweet gong show of a beer, already. Don’t reformat it again. Don’t brew it again. Just let it die.

The Festive Winter Saison
I’ve yet to find a black saison that does it for me, and this mangled mess of flavour isn’t going to be the one that changes my mind. The spices confuse the saison yeast to produce something analogous to mixing all the pop flavours at 7-11.

The Classic Nut Brown
One of Dead Frog’s oldest beers, and one of their most boring. A completely meh nut brown that fails to impress with its malt character–the primary thing a nut brown should be impressing you with.

Colin Jack Memorial Antidisestablishmentarism Amber Ale
Sure, I get it. Colin liked rum. Too bad beer doesn’t (or, at least, this particular beer doesn’t). The rum ended up confusing an okay amber base.

Super Fearless Imperial IPA
I loved Fearless when it came out, mostly because it was a seriously good beer from the Dead Frog of yester-year. Super Fearless, despite its name, is not super. It’s not even that good, but merely okay. Okay might have gotten the old Dead Frog rave reviews, but I expect more from you guys now.

Commander Imperial Stout
Decent Impy, but not great. I suspect a bit of cellaring time might improve this, but no one will ever find out since there’re so very many better Impys out there in BC.

Valiant Belgian IPA
A decent Belgian IPA, but nothing amazing. Think “Hoperation” instead of “Le Freak”

Fearless IPA
My opinion of this beer has declined somewhat since last year, but I firmly believe the beer has not. If I was blown away that DF could produce a beer like this in 2012 I’m disappointed that they haven’t done a lot better in 2013. This is a good IPA in a province full of amazing IPAs.

The Bold Belgian Pale Ale
Okay, maybe they have done better. I believe I’ve had this beer before, but I don’t recall it tasting as great at this guy. Good balance between the Belgian esters and the malt. Not too overwhelming, but that’s why it’s in a six pack.

Immaculate India Golden Ale
A decent, sessionable ale with good hops bite and a little citric brightness for something different. Definitely would pick this up again, once the weather warms up a bit.

The Session Vienna Lager
Oh yeah, I did that. I called out a lager as their best brew. In short, this is a fantastic lager, displaying excellent malt character and a nice hoppy finish. There’s even some smokiness present.

Wait, you’re saying that I shouldn’t have sorted them dark to light and drunk them all in one sitting?

If that doesn’t sound like a glowing endorsement, well, it’s not. They aren’t there yet, but they are trying. What can DF do better? First, pick a naming style and stick with it. Are all your beers The Something or just Something? I’m confused at the best of times, and when I’m buying beer even more so.

Second, drop the slogans. I know Rick told me that the slogans are “no longer a focus” but you need to just get rid of them. Branding designed to sell lime lagers to idiots by the case-lot cannot be reused to sell belgian IPAs to beer snobs in single bombers.

Third, keep up with the honest and open recipes. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but DF puts all their ingredients and specs online (including malt and hops varieties plus IBU).

Forth, simplify your branding. Labels with annoying gits on them staring back at me do little to inspire confidence in the beer inside the bottle. Likewise, a deceased amphibian is not a great thing to find adorning a food product. I know y’all want to keep the Dead Frog branding, but abstract that shit.

Fifth, keep trying. Your efforts have been noticed (by me, at least), and I want you guys to make great beer as much as you do.

Written by chuck

December 11th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Breweries

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15 Responses to 'Zombie Frog'

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  1. Appreciate the feedback, Chuck. If the Nut Brown is one of our most boring beers, that’s progress indeed! I remember when, not so long ago, it was one of the best. Onwards!

    Rick Green

    12 Dec 13 at 11:32

  2. @Rick – I was thinking the same thing, to be perfectly honest. Also, frankly the three beers starting with Bold are fantastic. Keep up the good work!


    12 Dec 13 at 11:39

  3. Winter Beeracle is one of Graham With’s contributions to Dead Frog, I believe. Certainly not the high point of his career.


    14 Dec 13 at 01:12

  4. I quite enjoyed the Commander for its licorice flavours (and am enjoying an Immaculate right now) and bought another bottle to lay down. Will see how it fares next Christmas.


    16 Dec 13 at 22:05

  5. I didn’t design the Winter Beericle. It was one of Derrick’s recipes from when he had a ubrew. I did brew it though! I think it went through many changes since then too. I only got to design one beer without shackles when I was there. Good times though 🙂

    Graham With

    17 Dec 13 at 11:05

  6. @Graham – Which one was your original?


    17 Dec 13 at 16:32

  7. Citra IPA. Although that changed over time too.

    Graham With

    17 Dec 13 at 19:10

  8. Thanks for the correction, Graham!


    19 Dec 13 at 00:05

  9. Just to clarify a couple of points, the Winter Beeracle is not the Christmas Beeracle. It is a completely different recipe that was created by Tony Dewald and Tim Brown a year ago. This year’s Beeracle has been modified from that. The Citra IPA recipe, on the other hand, was never changed.

    Rick Green

    19 Dec 13 at 16:24

  10. Oh yeah! It was the Christmas Beericle! Thanks for the correction Rick. Awesome to hear the Citra IPA is still the same.

    Graham With

    20 Dec 13 at 14:18

  11. Although looking at the DF website, there are Columbus hops in the Citra IPA now…

    Graham With

    7 Jan 14 at 15:25

  12. @Graham – Well, that… uh… make sense?


    7 Jan 14 at 15:50

  13. The specs on the website come straight from the brew sheet. Nothing was altered. According to that, it wasn’t a single-hop IPA. That said, the Citra IPA hasn’t been made for some time.

    Rick Green

    9 Jan 14 at 12:50

  14. @Rick, well that makes sense. The lack of ellipsis and question mark changes the tone of my comment 🙂

    Having said that, please make the Citra IPA again. And send me some 🙂


    10 Jan 14 at 15:26

  15. Request is noted and will be passed along.

    Rick Green

    26 Jan 14 at 15:52

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