From fruit-bombed mind-blowers to smoke-heavy Scottish ales, left-of-the-dial beers mark the end of the summer

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      One day, we’ll all look back on the past couple of years as one of the weirdest times in history. Think about this for a second: you’ll have more luck flying to the moon under your own power this week than popping across the still-closed U.S. border in a car to buy a six pack of Pyramid Apricot Ale.

      Given that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic that keeps on giving, what’s the point of reaching for a straightforward lager as the summer winds down? Instead, go out of the box with the following four left-of-the-dial beers.

      Hop Valley Brewing Co. Bubble Stash IPA

      India Pale Ales—especially those produced in the Pacific Northwest—have a tendency to alienate those who don’t subscribe to the mantra “the hoppier the better”. Bubble Stash is crafted to appeal to those who’d like to be part of the IPA party but not if that means cultivating a taste for fresh-cut pine tips and extra-bitter red grapefruit. The key ingredient in Bubble Stash, which has its roots in Oregon but is crashing the Canadian market via its parent company, Molson, is something called Cryo Hops. In industry-speak, Cryo Hops are “the concentrated lupulin of whole-leaf hops containing resins and aromatic oils. It is designed to provide intense hop flavor and aroma, enabling brewers to efficiently dose large quantities of alpha acids and oils without introducing astringent flavors or vegetative material.” Translated: there’s tropical mango and pineapple flavours in each sip of Bubble Stash, but expect a subtle kiss instead of a steel-yourself IPA punch. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest India Pale Ale party, even if you haven’t gone all in.

      Okanagan Spring Terrace Mountain Session IPA

      The label, in cursive script, says IPA, but this Okanagan Spring offering will confuse even seasoned beer drinkers in a blind taste test. There’s some hoppy bitterness on the tail end, but not enough that anyone will mistake Terrace Mountain Session IPA for a legendary Hart & Thistle Hop Mess Monster or Flying Monkeys Alpha Fornication. Instead of a full-blown hop bomb, Okanagan Spring’s IPA pours light and tropical, with the emphasis on light. Think Trident passion-fruit gum or Kasugai mango gummies (which taste great for no other reason than they are imported from Japan, and therefore seem twice as exotic as anything you’ll find on these shores). As an added bonus you can actually feel good about yourself as you imbibe. Partial proceeds from Terrace Mountain—named after an Okanagan spot once ravaged by fire—will aid wildfire prevention and relief in B.C.

      @dennisthefoodie / Dennis Chui

      Superflux Heavy Fruit Berry Blend

      Sometimes weird is not only good, it’s a reminder that the whole point of life is to take chances. With that in mind, Superflux Heavy Fruit Berry Blend is one of the most bizarre beers you’ll ever try. Stranger than the Chapeau Banana Lambic you had at ‘t Brugs Beertje in Bruges, Batch Brewing’s Marrickville Pork Roll, or Scotland’s 67 percent ABV Snake Venom. Heavy is something of an understatement—it’s actually so thick with berry pulp, you can practically chew it. Pour it in a glass and it doesn’t look like a beer as much as a Margarita made with fresh strawberries, or a raspberry smoothie with an extra dollop of yogurt. But, even though it comes off as a distant cousin of kombucha on the finish, Superflux Heavy Fruit Berry Blend is most definitely a beer, albeit one brewed with milk sugar and a raspberry/blackberry/strawberry puree in addition to hops and yeast. And it will blow your freaking mind, for no other reason than, just when you thought no beer would ever surprise you again, this fruit-bombed experiment does. Added bonus: because actual berry chunks end up stuck to the glass, you’ll have zero trouble convincing yourself that you did the right thing by having a beer instead of a smoothie. Or a fresh
      strawberry Margarita.

      Innis & Gunn Islay Whisky Cask Laphroaig

      With fall almost upon us, it’s time to dream of ways to make the most of the season. While pumpkin-spice lattes, Halloween, and a global campaign against leafblowers are all fine starts, nothing compares to the thought of a week in Islay, Scotland. Imagine kicking back on the craggy slopes of the Oa, watching the autumn fog roll in off the sea.

      The beauty of Innis & Gunn Islay Whisky Cask Laphroaig is that you start painting pictures in your mind right from the first sip: remote Scottish cabins where central heating consists of a roaring centuries-old fireplace; made-for-Instagram peatlands of Flow Country in Sutherland; and, um, Islay whisky—smoky, complex, and mind-bendingly unique. The label reads “amber ale”, but there’s an indisputable heaviness to Innis & Gunn Islay Whisky Cask Laphroaig. Chalk that up to 12 weeks maturing in 10-year-old single malt Scotch whisky casks from the Laphroaig distillery. What you get right out of the bottle is gorgeous heavy smoke—bold and unapologetically front-and-centre. Pour it cold and you won’t be disappointed, but let it warm up a bit and you’ll dream of autumn peatfires in Scotland where Madagascar vanilla beans and dark French-roast coffee are part of the undeniable magic.