Barley Mowat 

Extreme Reading

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Got a beer snob on your Xmas shopping list, and are running out of ideas? Assuming that special someone is at least partially literate, you could plausibly pick up a copy of Adem Tepedelen’s The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers. This 208-page, picture-heavy, full colour tome is a veritable encyclopaedia of craft brewing’s obsession with redefining the edges of what qualifies as “beer.” Page after page yields beautiful, well laid out summaries of rare or interesting beers, and a detailed review of each.

What this isn’t, per se, is a book. Blurbs on individual beers rarely last more than a single page, and occasionally interviews with metal musicians are thrown in because… well, because Adem writes the Brewtal Truth column for Decibel Magazine, and it’s on theme, that’s why. The end result is a more like a series of beer/music pamphlets loosely collected around a single theme than anything that could be confused with The Great Gatsby (which is a book, not a movie, dammit).

The highlighted beers are chosen for one or more extreme qualities, like extremely high ABV, containing more hops than eight lesser brews, or a desire to kidnap the Reinheitsgebot, shoot it in the head, and dump the body out in the woods somewhere. What beers are not chosen for is quality (many of the highlighted beers are virtually undrinkable, with the occasional great one thrown in for spice), but let’s face it, a 200-odd page book that does nothing but blather on about how awesome the beers contained are, and how the author got to drink them (and you likely never will) wouldn’t exactly be a good read now, would it?

The mini-summaries of each beer are fairly well written; Adem has more literary talent than many other beer columnists out there and it definitely comes through in the prose. Even Adem’s talent for spinning a yarn, though, doesn’t make up for the main drawback of this book: it’s a top ten list in print form (okay, fine, a top ~200 list), and it reads like one. Don’t fool yourself, reading about a single beer will be great fun, but reading the whole book cover to cover just isn’t a thing you’ll do in one sitting, if ever.

Ultimately, though, I like this book. Adem’s reviews aren’t critical (he seems to like most of the beers, including the obnoxious Rogue Voodoo Maple Donut), but finding beers you like isn’t what this book is about. Rather, this book is a great source for beers that will instill in you the same core urge which drives you to smell the long-expired milk: raw, morbid curiosity.

In short, is it worth a damn? Yes.

Zero points for cover design–sorry Adem, but this is ugly.

Buy it now: Amazon: $16.02 ($9.99 Kindle), iBooks: $11.99, Chapters: $15.85 ($10.79 for Kobo)

Written by chuck

December 17th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

Zombie Frog

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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

Tagged with

Parallel 49 Braggot, Sahti Claws, Toques of Hazzard

with one comment

Another big ole dump of seasonals from Graham With and the brew crew at Parallel 49, and another triple review by me. P49’s massive brewing capacity fuels their penchant for mass-dumping beers on the market in triplicate. Where most breweries can only afford to dedicate brewing capacity to a single one-off at a time, P49 apparently has no such constraint.

The giant fermenters are apparently pumping out enough Old Boy, Hoparazzi and Gypsy Tears that the little vessels can be handed over to interesting one-offs. And by “little” I mean “25hl conical fermenters”–tanks large enough to be a regular micro-brewery’s main line. It sure is nice to live in a province where a single brewery can profitably produce literally hundreds of hecto litres of beer at a time.

But I digress, on to what I think of these latest releases.

Sahti Claws

Sahti is a traditional Finnish beer that relies upon Juniper berries for bittering instead of (or in addition to) hops. I know all this because I just read it on Wikipedia. The concept of Juniper-infused beer is an intriguing one; perhaps this beer will finally bridge the gap between gin and beer? One can only hope.

APPEARANCE Dark–almost brown–with a very tightly laced, off-tan head.
NOSE Piney, resiny hops dominates completely. Is this the Juniper or the Simcoe or the Juniper? No one knows.
TASTE Sweet, intense hops, but virtually absent malt/sugar body. Fairly one-dimensional.
STATS 7.7% ABV / 35 IBU / Juniper-infused
SHOULD I BUY IT? Meh. There are better beers out there, and this can be roughly simulated by throwing an ounce of gin in an okay IPA.

Toques of Hazzard

As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of White IPAs. I fully admit this is a personal flaw rather than anything inherently wrong with the style. I just don’t get all a-tingly over these beers as I find the melange of flavours to be almost haphazard (except the juicy, fragrant Powell Street Citra White IPA).

Does jacking up the typically already high ABV to extreme levels change that for me? Not really. However, some of the citrusy sweet awesomesauce that makes Powell Street’s White IPA so appealing can be found in Toques, and that does score it some points.

APPEARANCE Pours cloudy orange-amber with a persistent, tight white head. This is a pretty beer.
NOSE Orange peel with a yeasty punch in the back. Definitely intriguing.
TASTE Bright citrus tang over thin, almost wheaty malt. Strong candy-like sweetness almost completely masks the very high ABV. This is a dangerous beer.
STATS 9.2% ABV / 76 IBU
SHOULD I BUY IT? Ya know what? Definitely worth a try. If you buy two, though, it WILL sneak up on you.


Another weird style? Why not? Braggot is a half-beer, half-mead concoction that seeks to combine the best of both worlds. Unlike the Sahti above, I didn’t have to go look up this definition since the beer world has been all abuzz over Parallel 49’s Braggot for about a year now. We’ve been gossiping about this beer so long because it has spent ten months slowly aging in barrels. That should be enough information to influence your purchase decision right there–assuming you can find any of the beeswax dipped bottles at your local LRS.

APPEARANCE Deep auburn, almost black. No carbonation. Thin, quickly dissipating head. High alcohol shows legs.
NOSE Rick oak/vanilla. Some sweetness lingers from the honey. Low hops. Some caramel.
TASTE Sweet and rich with a curious spiciness and high viscosity/luxurious mouthfeel. Hits most of the dark fruit checklist: plum, date, caramel.
STATS 10.2% ABV / 8.5 IBU / Braggot
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes, yes, oh dear me, yes. Good luck with that, though.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Sahti Claws Toques of Hazzard Braggot
Style Shati Imperial White IPA Braggot
SOA Now n/a Bronze Silver
SOA Potential n/a n/a Silver
Drink Now Now 2015-2018
Availability Most LRSs, some LDBs and at the brewery Uh… Darbys, maybe?
Cost ~$7 / 650ml ~$8 / 650ml ~$15 / 650ml
Similar Beers None Every other White IPA None

Nothing more silver than honey, sez I.

Written by chuck

December 9th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with