The Sip: Ranking Vancouver Island Brewing’s Summer Mingler

The brewery comes in hot with some summer brews. 

May 9, 2019

By Nathan Caddell

Few things get my attention beer-drinking wise than an efficient, smartly laid out mingler pack. That goes double for a seasonal mix. After all, if you’re not drinking in accordance with the weather in B.C., then I’m really not even sure what to tell you.

If a brewery can hit the right combination on a 12-pack mingler, it can often establish itself as my go-to beer for the season in question. Massive stakes, I know.

Which brings us to Vancouver Island Brewing. VIB has recently gone through something of a radical rebrand. And while we’re not going to say it was needed, it is very much welcomed.

After a misstep last year and an attempt to launch VI Brewing, the newest move features cans that are more similar to the brewery’s old designs, but given a fresh, colourful look.

The company is also getting much more experimental with the actual beer. Which means things like a Nanaimo Bar Imperial Porter and a lychee saison.

So my interest naturally was piqued with the brewery’s release of its Summer Outpost mix pack. Would it be able to capture the moment (and, more importantly, my heart)?

Here’s a fully correct and bulletproof ranking of the beers in VIB’s summer mingler, which will run you approximately $24.20.

4. Juan de Fuca Cerveza

A try at a sessionable, easy-drinking lager, it never quite works. Too heavy to pull of the classic Mexican lager, and not enough flavour to work as anything else, it’s a bit of a miss.

Which is unfortunate, because it’s hard to have a strong summer mingler without a solid entry in the lager category. Can VIB recover with the rest of the pack?

3. Twisted Stalk Blackberry Helles

Another stab at taking a classic kind of beer from another country and giving it a twist. This one is more successful, as the German Helles is a medium-bodied lager. It’s not often paired with fruit and the choice to do so with blackberries is, pretty bold.

And it… struggles to really find its lane. The fruitiness feels somewhat artificial, probably due to the fact that it doesn’t really mix in well with the beer. There’s something that just seems off. It’s refreshing enough, though, and makes for a decent (if avoidable) addition to a summer pack.

2. Broken Islands Hazy IPA

This is the one beer that’s also in VIB’s winter mixer, and with good reason. It’s a cloudy, flavourful IPA that is seemingly emerging as the brewery’s flagship product. It has a ton of citrus—always welcome in a hazy IPA, and is perfectly balanced at six percent alcohol.

These beers are “in” right now, but VIB comes as close to perfection as any.

1. Magic Hour Grapefruit Gose

Did I ever think I’d be extolling the virtues of a beer that comes in at 2.4 percent alcohol? No. A younger me would probably ask if what I was drinking could even be counted as a beer with that feeble percentage.

Alas, as I head heroically into my thirties, there’s a relief to be found in a lower percentage beer. In fact, I find my self in the position of being able to do things after having a couple tall cans of this. Which is a welcome, weird sensation.

You mean I can play softball without being hammered? I can hold a conversation with my in-laws after spending the day playing pitch-and-putt with my pals?

And it doesn’t hurt that, unlike many of the radlers you’ll find on liquor store shelves, the grapefruit gose is incredibly refreshing but not overly sweet. It’s got a perfect touch of grapefruit and is clean and crisp.

Ladies and gents, we’ve got an early candidate for B.C. beer of the summer.

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