Barking Squirrel. The flagship beer of Toronto’s Hop City Brewing. It has been on Alberta shelves for a few months now, and now also available, I believe, in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I decided to review it for my latest Vue Weekly column (you can read it here). It is an amber lager not unlike Sam Adams Boston Lager. I guess that puts it into the Vienna range, if were to force it into a box, but that doesn’t seem quite right. Amber lager is likely the best description.
It is a reddish-amber beer with an enjoyable caramel, toasty malt sweetness to it. It is clean, crisp and with enough body to hold your attention. Very little hop character (maybe that angry squirrel should be holding a handful of malted barley rather than a hop cone), but it doesn’t promise any either. I find it a nice example of a simple, unobtrusive, modest beer. Good flavour, well made, delivering a straight-forward, enjoyable pint. I could see this as a nice starting beer before hitting those IPAs, stouts or Belgian ales over the course of an evening. It might also fit well for those starting out on their beer explorations – it keeps that reliable lager cleanliness but just brings out the malt character a bit.
It also one of the growing number of craft breweries that package in cans, which may spark a debate, but whether you consider that a good or bad thing, it is most certainly a trend.
But, now, back to that name. Why? I understand the importance of cute to help a new beer stand out, and clearly the folks at Hop City want to have irreverent, off-beat names (Mr. Huff, Loud Mouth Pale Ale, 8th Sin Black Lager are others in their portfolio). but I don’t get it. I am not trying to be obtuse or overly literal, but squirrels don’t bark. I am just saying.