Big Rock: The Grasshopper & Rhinestone Cowboy Comparison

Admittedly I have said that a large portion of Big Rock’s beers taste incredibly similar; perhaps it’s the proprietary yeast they use, maybe it’s a recipe that’s slightly altered from beer to beer or a combination of the twobut regardless it’s been something I’ve noticed for a while. Now, before I delve into the meat of this post, let me be frank, this is not slight against Big Rock. Regardless of your opinion of this brewery anyone with a head on their shoulders can attest that Big Rock forged a path for every subsequent craft brewery to follow, providing a diversity in beer styles in an era when light lagers were simply all that was available, and for that, Big Rock, we salute you.

The two most suspect beers in similarity, in my opinion are Grasshopper, their Kristalweizen, and Rhinestone Cowboy, their Kolsch.

Regarding appearance, the untrained eye might not see a difference in colour. Both beers feature a bright, clear golden colour but on closer examination Grasshopper is a slightly darker hue.  Upon examining the aromas of these beers again, at first no difference can be found immediately but after continuous comparison Grasshopper has a slightly sweeter, more estery nose, while the Rhinestone Cowboy is lighter, crisper and has a faint floral hop aroma.

When it comes down to the taste it took numerous people a few sips before being able to distinguish between the two beers. Ultimately, Rhinestone Cowboy is lighter in mouthfeel, more effervescent and finishes crisper compared to the sweeter, yeastier Grasshopper.

Overall, the differences are marginal, albeit still there and maybe that’s fine. Maybe these beers aren’t meant for the hardened Imperial stout veteran, the guy whose palate has been demolished from to many double and triple IPA’s or the person sipping a 15 year old sour from a teku glass. Grasshopper and Rhinestone Cowboy – among many other light crafty options, not specifically from brig Rock  – are for the hardworking  masses of people looking for an uncomplicated but flavourful pint from a local brewery to toss back after a hard day. These beers aren’t intended to be deeply analyzed and picked apart from every angle and I’m sure everyone in the craft beer community can appreciate  that sentiment.


Tofino Kelp Stout

My family went on holidays to Vancouver Island when I was a kid. Having only ever seen the prairies and the Rocky Mountains everything about Vancouver Island was spell-binding to me. Family holidays were always an educational endeavor considering my father spent his youth digging in the dirt looking for bugs and beetles and grubs which led to a career as a microbiologist. Some of my earliest memories are from this trip, including walking along the beach during low tide and having my pop teach my brother and me about all the new, strange and wonderful things we found on our ocean side strolls. I was particularly interested in all the seaweed strewn across the sand and the old fella was more than happy to explain everything he knew about this weird, slimy plant -which is actually algae, a plant-like organism- and how it fit in on the grand scale of things.

I don’t think I’d ever consider adding algae to a beer either to improve the flavour but I suppose if someone is always around something like kelp I’d imagine they’d want to experiment with it. Lord knows I put far worse into my body in my college days so I’m fairly certain it’s not going to be this blackish brown – or is it brownish black? – stout.  Especially when it smells so damn tasty, poison doesn’t smell this good. Poison doesn’t smell like like roasty fresh coffee by the seaside, it couldn’t. Poison doesn’t taste like briny, roasty fresh coffee by the seaside, it doesn’t have a creamy, milky, silky mouthfeel and a mild, lingering bitterness, how could it? It’s not poison at all, it’s a wonderful, brilliantly creative stout tinged with biscuity, burnt caramel flavours and the kelp adds an extra dimension of vegetal, umami notes.

Tofino’s Kelp Stout pairs perfectly with recalling childhood memories, singing sea shanties, shaving a drunken sailors legs with a rusty razor and cool evenings by a nice fire in a remote location where Cthulhu can’t find you.

RateBeer 59/100

BeerAdvocate 85/100

Untappd 3.74/5

Our Score 3.75/5



Steamworks Winter White Stout

Before we begin let’s avoid the unnecessary pretentious puzzlement and head scratching over what a white or golden Stout is, I’m sure that if you’ve managed to find your way here you can determine how this beer was made.

Flecks of sediment are suspended in the elegantly golden body of this uncommon Ale like a snowstorm caught in a glass. Sumptuously rich notes if coffee and chocolate dominate the nose with hints of chickory and vanilla in the background with more of the same on the palate with medium carbonation and a surprisingly full mouthfeel finishing bready with hints of white chocolate. This beer plays tricks with my mind, more than what I was expecting. The flavour belies to something darker and richer than the sparkling sun flower hued liquid suggests and perhaps that’s for the best. In my experience very often people have a predisposition to anything dark, assuming it will be overwhelmingly intense in flavour and in some cases that might be true but very often stouts can be incredibly approachable even for the novice beer drinker. With this beer being as shiny and bright as it is I hope this will get more people to enjoy the fascinating style of stouts.

Steamworks has far surpassed my expectations and preconceived notions of what this beer would be like with flying colours, a genuine unicorn beer in its confusing paradox and rarity, albeit demonstrably beautiful in that same paradox. Pair this beer with know-it-all beer geek friends, quiet nights by the fire or that channel on TV that shows a fireplace or days that seem entirely too mundane and monotonous. If I’ve learned anything from this beer its to never judge a book by its cover or label or…just by looking at it. Just try the beer and make conclusions from the visceral experience. You know what I mean.


RateBeer –

BeerAdvocate –

Untappd 3.69/5

Our Score 3.75/5


Mikkeller Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter Grand Marnier Barrel Edition

Barrel aged beer…who among us isn’t a sucker for that stuff? I’d be hard pressed to name a barrel aged beer I’ve had that wasn’t at least pretty good, likewise with beers from that wacky Mikkeller. Even if you don’t like Mikkeller – and why the hell don’t you?- even their biggest critic has to admit to the brewery’s creativity.

I’m going to cut to the chase here. This beer, this beautiful beer, is liquid brilliance.  Throw out every common conception of what a porter is and maybe keep less than half of them. I was loo Lets begin with it’s gorgoues appearance. Vicki Volt mistook this beer for a dessert, for chocolate pudding with chocolate mousse on top. It’s so pretty to look at.  The complexity is phenomenal. Boozy, beautiful orange notes outweigh the tired, boring choclate, coffee and bready aromas. I was expecting this beer to taste like the best choclate treat at christmas, which unless you’re some Godless heathen is a Terry’s chocolate orange, but I was mistaken by a landslide. This beer is tart with orange and woody like a barrel that uses to hold orange liqueur that most likely originated from France. These delightful, subtly tart citrus notes are followed by more orangey goodness, so much in fact that I skipped my daily vitamin C supplement. After the initial burst of orange comes the toasty, roasty dark chocolate and cold pressed coffee. These flavours meld together on the aftertaste into a spectacular display of flavour fireworks. I think the worst thing about this beer is that I hadn’t tried it sooner. If you enjoy oranges, orange liqueur, dark beer, original beer, creative beer or bottles that have slightly tacky, slightly classy orange foil do yourself the ultimate favour and pick this beer up.

RateBeer 92/100

BeerAdvocate –

Untappd 3.73/5

Our Score 4.5/5


Steek & Oak Red Pilsner

I’m sure those of you who have read my previous reviews are well aware of my opinion regarding pilsners but for those of you who may not, the TLDR version is that pilsners are an oft ignored and scoffed at style of beer that deserves more respect. With a pilsner there’s no hiding, it has to be done with absolute precision, especially considering how long they take to make.

New West’s Steel & Oak is part of the crop of new breweries from BC’s lower mainland with a solid line up of beers and a definite and distinct style to their branding. I’ll be honest, I have been looking forward to seeing Steel & Oak in Alberta since the brewery opened their doors and they’ve lived up to the hype I heard from my peers across the Rockies.

Steel & Oak’s Red Pilsner is self described as being caramel, spice and crisp and they’re not lying on any account. The nose is incredibly unassuming with vague, ambiguous notes of toffee, caramel and maybe somewhere in there is some sort of faint floral, spicy hop notes. This wasn’t a good start. I was fearing the worst, maybe I had chosen poorly. Maybe this was the one beer, like so many craft breweries have on their portfolio, that is very, plain and simple and easy to get on tap at nearly every bar and restaurant, something clean and very basic that alludes to be far more complex or interesting than it actually is. How could such a beautifully copper hued Lager let me down? It didn’t. The flavours are full, robust with a clean finish. Those toffee and caramel notes I found when I stuck my nose around the glass showed up in spades along with a nutty quality and a pleasant roastiness accented by an unexpected spicy hop bite. This beer pairs well with the end of a long day, watching Don Cherry spew senile diatribe on Hockey Night in Canada,  or if you need to rekindle your faith in pilsners which you should because pilsners can be fantastic just like this one is.


RateBeer 44/100

BeerAdvocate –

Untappd 3.55/5

Our Score: 3.75/5


As many of you are aware by now the two beers for Chritmas Eve from each calendar were Phillips Krampus Nacht and Central City Jitter Buzz. Krampus Nacht is a curiously spiced Christmas beer with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, almond paste, marizpan and maraschino cherry reminiscent of a European baked christmas treat I can’t exactly put my finger on, it was a pleasant deviation from the traditionally over-spiced beers with big notes of cinnamon, clove and ginger. Jitter Buzz, besides being a terribly creative play on words, is a big imperial coffee stout with a nearly milk-stout like mouthfeel and a slight sweetness. While the Krampus Nacht was a delight, the Jitter Buzz took the cake and ate it and then left no cake for anyone else. This results in a tie between both beer advent calendars and instead of going into a sudden death overtime or some sort of tie breaking shenanigans let’s just appreciate this situation for what it is.

I began this journey to ultimately reveal which calendar was better, instead I learned that both calendars have good things about them and both calendars have things that I understand won’t be changed but wish they would, such as packing regular offerings in these premium packs. A few standouts for me were the sours from Parallel 49: the Rock the Bells and Bodhisattva were a couple of my standout favorites from either calendar. I got to finally try Phillips’ black Belgian style IPA, The Puzzler and it was fantastic. But most of all I had fun, and when you get right down to it, isn’t that the whole point? Too often we get wrapped up in tiny details of beer and forget that originally, when we decided to take our first sip of beer, whether it was a can of Bud or a chalice filled with Westvleteren XII, it was for fun.

To both teams, excellent job this year! I’m excited to find out what you guys dream up for next years beer advent calendars.


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