Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chai Beer Bungle

It is no secret that beer has reigned the beverage scene here on the West Coast for the past four or five years. Coffee was all the rage during the 1990s, fueled by the ubiquity of Starbucks and the promotion of single origin roasts. Residents of the Pacific Northwest went gaga for superfruits around the turn of the century, with pomegranate and blueberry juice hitting the shelves. And the 2000s saw the rise of an increasingly lavish trend in mixology develop. The second decade of the twenty-first century has been all about wobbly pop, and the countless ways in which this pop can make one wobbly.

I am the first person to become inappropriately excited over new beers, and I have a particular fondness for seasonal beers. I like pretty much every pumpkin beer I try, and I am also partial to ginger and unusual saisons. But every year these seasonal beers just keep getting more and more outrageous. This year, for the first time, I started dismissing many beers for being too interesting, and criticizing breweries for alienating their fans with over-the-top concoctions. New Belgium's Coconut Curry Hefeweizen was a spicy failure, and Wynkoop Brewing's Rocky Mountain Oyster Ale just shouldn't have been made.

Unnecessary Testicle Beer
While chai-flavoured beer is more understandable than curry or testicle, it still put me on the defensive. I really do like chai tea though, and we all know I love beer, so I wanted to try (and like) both Big Rock's Life of Chai and Whistler's Chai-Maple Ale. Neither of these were "bad" but they definitely didn't work. The Life of Chai was a dark copper colour and was essentially an amber ale with a bouquet and subtle finish of cardamom and rose. It was a fairly light ale though, and was also highly carbonated, which helped with drinkability. The Chai-Maple Ale was a dark oxidized bronze colour with an unpleasantly sweet aroma. It also tasted more like chai than the Big Rock ale, which was perhaps due to filtering the beer through tea after fermentation rather than adding ingredients to the boil, which is the approach Big Rock took. In both cases, I found the initial few sips interesting and then wanted to move on. This seems to be the case with many seasonal and experimental beers. In my opinion, the consumer should be able to drink a pint of most any beer (yes, including barley wines), but I didn't want to do this with either of these tea-based brews...and I definitely don't want to do it with a beer made from bull balls.

Spicy, Interesting, and Undrinkable

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins", "Life of Chai", "Cheakamus Chai-Maple", "Chai beers"

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