Tasting Beer – Okanagan Spring, craft pack? We called it variety pack in our day…

Long week at work, but on the upside of things, I’m now mobile for once in my life. Owning (well the bank does own most of it) my first vehicle. Probably another musing post on this later.

My room mate, Cary (www.tgcg4.com) found in the liquor board store, a craft pack, and one to indulge in the finer things and expand taste picked it up.   Brewers usually send these packs out to stores to test market brews or certain types of beers, see what kind of feedback one would get from new styles. This craftpack however, seemed more like a marketing gimmick for the brewery to show what they actually do… which in my opinion should be a variety pack.

Brewery is Okanagan Spring, which is most likely owned by Sleemans, I could tell by the taste and body. Researching shows that Sleemans bought out the Okanagan back in 2006. I do recommend Sleemans Honey Brown as a good summer brew over any of the current ‘White’ beers that now come out with orange and/or coriander finishes.

There were 4 different types of brews, used multigrain french bread with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to cleanse tastebuds, and to keep the whole process fresh. Besides my room mate, two other friends who haven’t done tastings before were interested. Labels are iconic and easy to identify, think these are marketed towards professional tasters to provide both symbolism and a basic process of what it was.

First we started with 1516, which is described as ‘Our Bavarian Lager’.  The ‘flavour’ text describes this as a Two Row, Canadian and Bavarian Barley, Hallertau and Saaz Hops, Bavarian Yeast, Pure water. Which all sounds great and exotic. I didn’t read that. I only smelled the off skunk aroma off the head, and after first taste, was reminded of Bohemian. Warm Bohemian that is stored behind the bench seat of an old 70’s ford which is there for when the day is done working the back 40 acre. Good clean light gold color, no precipitate. If you are a fan of Pilsner, try this out, you may enjoy it. I couldn’t stand two mouthfuls of it though.

The next was the Lager. Great color, decent head on pour. Flavour text calls it ‘Rich and hoppy’, ‘well balanced, clean taste’. Yep, that’s it. Lager. This has to be one of the most run of the mill beers I’ve ever tasted. It was so generic, there was absolutely nothing that stands out for this brew. It makes Mr.Rogers look like a meth addict. More information on the label shows they started this formula in 1985 as one of their best sellers. I can imagine so, as it’s so bland the mass market will pick it up. If you want a really safe beer to call generic, go with their lager. Only thing that two of us noticed, was a slight metallic aftertaste and finish. Think that might have been leftover from the 1516 though, as we didn’t cleanse tastebuds inbetween brews. Truly forgettable.

Next up, Pale Ale. Which is a name I really don’t agree with for this brew. Now, this is one of the darkest pale ales I’ve EVER seen. It is definitely one step beyond an amber, like you were looking at an amber through lightly shaded sunglasses… but it’s nowhere near to being a porter or bitter in terms of taste. By far, this is my pick out of the ‘craft pack’, if I were to go back to selection again, this would be it. The body is like a heavier amber but nowhere near being stout,  interesting blends of flavor play off pallete and nose equally. Molasses on the first taste, soon blended into small hints of chocolate. The hops flavor doesn’t overpower but sits nicely in combination with other upper fruity tones. By far, a fall brew to have on hand, at all times. If you can’t tell, I’m quite satisfied as this is the most interesting out of the whole pack. They have their roasting/malting process down perfectly for this brew.

Finally, the Brewmasters Black Label. Now, my friends are not one for stouts or dark brews. There was the first look ‘Okay, I’m going to do this’, then there was the second sip which a few more grimaces. I do enjoy a dark brew though. I however, look forward to a well poured Guinness. I’ve yet to find a place in Saskatoon that pours it properly, which includes temperature. IT SHOULDN’T BE SERVED THAT COLD! It is my celt genes which allow me to ‘chew’ my beer as I’ve been teased upon many times in the past. Onto the brew, colour, this is really dark, almost true stout dark. Another interesting brew, but one that I won’t go back to, but I will recommend to others, just on the experience on the taste. I was surprised at the lack of head on this, it seemed weak and flat. On one mouthful, the familiar extra roasted was there, and I was expecting the same body as a stout… but it wasn’t there. At most it was like the Pale ale, or any average amber. Confused I took another sip, then got the same molasses and roast malt flavor, but it ended weird. Really weird. It ended clean like the Lager and then no aftertaste. Which goes against everything I know and see on this brew, that it should be that comfortable blend of caramels, roasted… but end with the cleaner lager body as well? I recommend this one as well, just for the experience. I wouldn’t stock this on hand if I wanted a stout. That I leave for my true love, Guinness.

Other thoughts on the tasting. At times, it seemed that you could taste the similar brew throughout all four of them. Could be the water, could be the tanks, could be the same shovel used to move the barley and hops. Even though the 1516 has the bavarian yeast, it really needs the finer cultures that the belgium beers use. And with a listed change of ingredients, there should be a huge difference between the flavors and body, but unfortunately there isn’t. I could easily see, that one base brew (can you say generic Lager?) was split up and then extra ingredients were added to flavor them to each brew. I can’t prove any of this, I’m just theorizing off of what my taste experience was like. Think this maybe the problem with sticking with one company for 4 different beers.

Overall not a bad evening of tasting, for those who have never done this before, I do recommend it. There has even been theories and speculation that some friends of mine would like to start a podcast, video for testing out certain brews. Think we’ve got a lot more planning to do ahead first.

Now if you don’t mind me, I’m going to go find a sound clip that I can use every once and a while to play at the top of my speakers.BRAND NEW CAR!!!

I’m still here,


And yes, my desk is not the perfect backdrop, but its the only picture I could get without the blurriness.


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