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Dead Frog Big Stump

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I’ll admit it: I like Spruce Ales. In much the same way that I’m not partial to White IPAs, I am partial to Spruce Ales. So, you should take this review with a grain of salt. Maybe I’m just gaga over anything with tree bits in it, or maybe I hold Spruce Beers to an even higher standard because of how much I lust after them. I honestly have no idea.

Dead Frog is continuing to try and convince the world that they’ve given up their Lime Lager ways, and the Big Stump Spruce Golden Ale is the next in their “no really, it’s good beer, we swear!” series. Okay, fine, the series doesn’t actually have a name but that’s how they’re coming across. And, while the Lime Lager Days definitely are behind DF, their debt to craft beer in general hasn’t quite been paid off yet.

The press material for this beer is frankly incomplete, only hinting at the origin of Spruce Tip Ale with a frustratingly vague reference to Captain Cook’s NorthWest voyage. Spruce Beer was indeed brewed by Captain Cook, who’s on-board brewery mixed spruce tips in with their ale to combat scurvy. While the exact origins of the practice are not known, it is certainly at least several centuries older than Captain Cook. You can learn more on WikiPedia.

For those of you saying WikiPedia shouldn’t be trusted, I’ve got an article you should read.

Secondly, and minorly, the presser mentions that Dead Frog draws their water from the Fraser River. I will chalk this one up as poetic license, for if they’re pulling that brown “liquid” into their brewery we should all get tested for any number of water born illnesses immediately, but I digress.

How is the beer behind the label? Not bad at all. It’s not an amazing Spruce Ale, but it’s fairly competently done, and a great example of an all-too-rare style. Combine that with a beer that frankly pours an attractive glass, and you have a strong contender for your weekend patio pints.

APPEARANCE Pours opaque orange/light brown with thick tight persistent off-white head. Gorgeous.
NOSE Sweet hops with a piney, citrus undertone.
TASTE Creamy mouthfeel. Integrated hops with a long fresh pine end.
STATS 6.5% ABV / 26 IBU / Golden Ale
SHOULD I BUY IT? Either that or cram some tree bits up your nose.

Brewery Dead Frog
From Aldergrove
Name Big Stump
Style Golden Ale (Spruce)
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential n/a
Drink Now
Does it compare to the first Tofino Spruce Tip IPA? Sigh. No. Nothing ever could.
Availability Wide LDB
Cost $5.50-$7.50 per 650ml
Similar Beers Tofino Spruce Ale



There ya have it: cram some tree bits in your beer and you get some metal

Written by chuck

September 11th, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Dead Frog Furious Rocket Friar Man

with one comment

Continuing their tradition of spamming the local craft beer market to see what sticks, Dead Frog recently pushed out two more seasonals, logically sourced from the opposite ends of the planet: an Aussie-hopped ESB and a Belgian IPA.

In addition to making these beers, they were also brave/stupid enough to send me some for review, so let’s get to it.

Furious Friar Belgian IPA

I’m just going to come out and say it: this beer is awful. Many of the constituent components of a great Belgian IPA are here, and the colour and nose definitely get your hopes up. If you were to get that far, and then somehow fail to actually put the liquid in your mouth you might have a favourable impression of this ale, but alas I did run some past my tongue. I regretted this decision immediately.

Okay, maybe that might be a bit dramatic. This beer didn’t scar me for life like, say, Voodoo Donut. Instead, it’s just super hot. The long chain alcohols give you a definite nail polish, fire-water tone that simply doesn’t go away. There are some nice banana/clove esters in there as well, but you don’t get to enjoy them because you’re preoccupied by being worried about going blind*.

* Note: Long chain alcohols, while unpleasant, won’t actually make you go blind. At least not in the levels achievable during normal fermentation.

APPEARANCE Cloudy yellow/amber with just a hint of red. Thin, quickly dissipating head. Pretty beer.
NOSE Faint, light Belgian esters. No hops.
TASTE Harsh hotness that’s only made worse by the heavy handed hopping.
STATS 9.0% ABV / ~70? IBU / Belgian IPA
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you have silverware you need to clean?

Rocketman Interstellar ESB

To be honest, I’m not sure what an “Interstellar ESB” is, in terms of style. Since interstellar space is really just a nigh limitless void of emptiness, maybe drinking this beer will make you go mad from perceiving the infinite? Or maybe it’s a cheeky play in the heavy use of Apollo Hops coupled with not quite knowing enough space history to realize that “Translunar ESB” would be a much better, more awesome-sounding name for this beer. Whichever.

What about the beer, though? After the Furious Friar I was frankly frightened to try this puppy out. I even gave myself a 24 hour no-beer-cation to let my taste buds reset. So, with a fresh mouth and a heaping sense of impending doom I cracked the bottle, poured it into a glass, and did my job.

The result? This is a pretty good beer. I wasn’t sold on it for the first 1/2 glass, but over time the malt backbone did what it was supposed to do: make me want more.

APPEARANCE Pours deep cloudy/almost opaque dark brown with tight, long lasting white head.
NOSE Classic bitter. Good caramel / biscuit malt with well integrated hops.
TASTE Great malt backbone below a decent helping of fruity NZ-style hops (despite no actual NZ hops). Hops aren’t over done, but rather well balanced.
STATS 6.5% ABV / 40 IBU / ESB
SHOULD I BUY IT? Absolutely. Even if you don’t have to forget drinking FF.

Brewery Dead Frog
From Aldergrove
Name Furious Friar Rocket Man
Style Belgian IPA Interstellar(?) ESB
SOA Now None Bronze
SOA Potential n/a n/a
Drink Now Now
Potential as rocket fuel Decent Ironically, none
Availability Most LRSs/some LDB
Cost ~$6-9+ per 650ml
Similar Beers Fernie Snowblind Red Racer India Red, Driftwood Naughty Hildegaard


One out of two ain’t bad

Written by chuck

August 14th, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

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

Tagged with