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VIB Absolute Darkness

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This will be my last BC Beer Review for a few weeks. Adventure calls, and this time it takes the form of South America. I might live-blog about crappy Bolivian beer from a dirty La Paz warehouse during some downtime after being kidnapped, but I’ll likely save it all up for one big complaint post when I get back.

In the meantime, though, I stumbled upon some VIB Absolute Darkness this weekend and decided to give this more recent entrant in the growing BC CDA category a go. Sure, the label says “India Dark Ale” but “India Dark Ale” and its cousin “Black IPA” are just code words for the more contested “Cascadian Dark Ale.”

However, expect things to get significantly less confusing from here on out since Steamworks has graciously agreed to let everyone use “Cascadian” in a beer’s style name so long as they don’t use it as the name of the beer. Seems fair to me, and hat-tip to Steamworks for doing the right thing. Had the labels for this beer been printed last month instead of in December, it likely would have been properly labelled.

Anyways, enough political background. This is a beer review, and review beer I shall. VIB’s bomber series has had a few hits (Flying Tanker, Iron Plow) and a few misses (Dough head), so where does this guy fit in? Hit or miss? Well, slots in solidly in the miss column.

Slap “CDA” on a bottle and you expect certain things from the beer. Like hops, hops would be nice. Sure, there are some hops there, but not the big PNW aromatics or structured bitterness one expects from this style. The roasted malt of a CDA is also not quite there, as instead of a satisfying toasted oat flavour we get burnt molasses with a solid chemical punch.

Okay, fine, but surely that thick high sugar body that defines a CDA has to be there, for all that roasted molasses to be present? Nope. Somehow they got all that malt into there and still created a thin watery body.

If you ignore the label, and really love burnt malt, then you might enjoy this as a slightly strong (6.5% ABV) stout, but other than that its just a mess. Pick up a Howe Sound Gathering Storm instead. I’m disappointed, but at least VIB seems to be trying. If you don’t produce an off beer once in a while you’re not challenging your brewing team hard enough. Keep trying guys.

Tasting notes:

NOSE Burnt molasses, tobacco and a bit of leather. Capped off with an unpleasant chemically finish.
APPEARANCE Opaque black with a thin, quickly dissipating tan head. (Textbook CDA)
TASTE Roasted, nay burnt, malt. Body is watery and thing. Hops are there, but hidden behind the ash/charcoal of the malt, with no aroma or lingering bitterness to attest to them. Mmm… ash.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Nope. Lots of better CDAs, stouts, or just other beers out there.

Coles notes:

Brewery Vancouver Island
From Victoria
Name Absolute Darkness
Style Cascadian Dark Ale
SOA Now None Awarded
SOA Potential Not a cellaring ale
Drink Don’t.
VIB Bomber Batting Average 0.500 (2/4). Good enough to try #5 on sight.
Availability Widely available at LDB
Cost $5.50 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers Howe Sound Gathering Storm (out now), GIB Ltd Release CDA (out this summer)

Written by chuck

March 18th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Beers

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Don’t Drink Green Beer

with 15 comments

Hi everyone,

It just me, your friendly neighbourhood bearded beer snob, here with a Public Service Announcement for everyone ahead of the giant party that is St Patrick’s Day Long Weekend. I know I’ve ranted about this before, and I know your time is valuable, and for every second you spend reading my dribble you could be painting yourself green and drinking irresponsibly, so I’ll keep this short:

If you drink green beer, I will hunt each and every one of you down individually, murder you and, depending on how much green beer you drank, your entire extended family. Okay, fine, I probably won’t go medieval on your collective asses but I will, at an absolute minimum, frown at you while shaking my head. And perhaps express how truly disappointed I am in you.

Truth be told, Green Beer is just plain awful. Bars make beer green in one of two ways: they either pour massive gobs of green colour dye into the thing, or mix in blue curaçao. Neither of these endeavours are renowned for making beer better. In fact, not only do they make the beer much worse, adding a giant bucket of high fructose corn syrup to beer also makes the next morning a sad affair (what, exactly, did you THINK food colouring was made of?).

Additionally, as the base beer moves away from macro shiite towards better craft beer (and therefore darker beer) more of said adjuncts are required, and well, you get the picture. Let’s just say that green food dye was never intended to be consumed in large quantities. Neither, for that matter, was blue curaçao.

As well, augmenting your beer simply for the sake of turning it green is just plain rude to the kind, bearded folk who slaved over hot kettles to produce this beer. They get up regularly at four freaking AM to make the best beer possible for your lazy asses to enjoy at 7pm “after a long day’s work” (while said brewers are STILL at the brewery). Pouring dye in your beer makes brewmasters cry, is what I’m saying, so don’t do it.

Thank you. You may now return to your regularly scheduled spontaneous debauchery. Put on a stupid green hat, get at least partially nekkid, but please drink your beer as the brewer intended. Your taste buds, and your hangover, will thank me.

Best Wishes,


Written by chuck

March 15th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Focus on the LDB VI

with 12 comments

Wow. Sometimes you start an unrelenting campaign against a large corporation suspecting that you’ll go to your grave sixty years hence having tweeted at them every day to stop calling their lager an IPA with no effect (seriously, though, keep up the good fight, Lynn).

And sometimes that campaign has an effect and something changes. Or, more likely, something changes for reasons completely unrelated to your blog and its five articles calling out the LDB for never advertising craft beer. Whatever, they have an ad up now and I’m taking credit.

Yup, if you go over to the LDB’s website right this instant and look, you’ll see a big old ad for BC Craft Beer right there in the main rotator, and first in line at that!

Surely, though, this just links through to an 18-pack of Canadian on sale, right? I mean, that’s beer what is crafted in BC, and that’s about as deeply as the LDB considers such things, no? Well, I got news for ya, beer geeks, the linked packs are… well… uh… sorta okay. They’re okay.

M-E-H. Meh.

And that’s something to be happy about, as it represents a huge improvement over previous efforts. Let’s take a look at these puppies:

The “Craft Pack“: Whistler Whiskey Jack Amber, VIB Beachcomber Blonde, Nelson Old Brewery (Pale), Russell Cream and Lighthouse Fisgard 150 Bavarian Lager. Sure, it’s a solid meh on pretty much all accounts, but none of these beers are straight up bad.

UPDATE: See Anthony’s comment for the real contents. Sigh.

What about the “Craft Can Pack“? Tree Thirsty Beaver Amber, Phillips Blue Buck Pale, Fernie Griz Pale, Cannery IPA, Red Racer Pale, and Mt Begbie Kolsh. Whoa. Some good beers in there.

Sure, the LDB put together a description of these beers with such care and attention that they:

  • Omitted three brewery names
  • Omitted four beer styles
  • Misspelt two brewery names
  • Completely forgot one of the bottles

This yields a batting average of 0.333 for overall accuracy (Seriously? “Lighthourse”? “Vanvouver”? Are you paying the web staff in free booze?) but hey, it’s craft beer on the front page, right?

So we’re done here? All is good? Well, no, not even close. Just because the LDB has elected to not completely ignore us, I’m not about to fawn over them, forgetting the months of abuse we’ve endured. Us Craft Beer fans aren’t going to put this one glimmer of semi-respect up on a pedestal and proclaim all is well. Keep it up for six months, though, and we’ll talk.

So where does this put the running total for ad space?


Wine: 3
Beer: 1
Spirits: 1
Corporate: 1
Mixed: 1 (32% Spirits, 47% Wine, 21% Beer)

Running Total:

Liquor: 10 (+1)
Corporate: 12 (+1)
Wine: 27 (+4)
Beer: 2 (I gave ’em some credit for the mixed ad)

Lastly, I know I like to end these articles with a highlight of good beer at the LDB, but I will give them a hat tip here. They’ve done this job for me this time, so go have a gander while it’s up.

I’ll stop permanently when those ad numbers approach even.

Written by chuck

March 13th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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