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Review: Cannery Brewing Blackberry Porter

A 20 oz. pint glass filled with Cannery Brewing's Blackberry Porter. There's still a bit left in the bottle.

It’s hard to win with fruit beers.

Some are sweet and sticky, verging on a cooler or cider. The best ones in this category are bursing with ripe fruit with a trace of malt and hops; the worst are the ones that hit you over the head with nasty, tinny, cloying artificial flavour better suited to an alco-pop.

Then there’s the flip side: a whole range of beers so concerned about accidentally burying the flavour of the beer that they hardly add any fruit at all. The world is too full of insipid lagers with a pink raspberry tint, or overly robust, hoppy beers that outcompete any subtle fruit flavour added to them.

It’s a fine line to walk, and there are far more fruit-beer failures than successes.

Granted, a few brewers get it right. Belgian brewer Floris makes a super-fruity fruit beer called Ninkeberry (likely too sweet for some, and not beerish enough for others), and Edmonton’s own Alley Kat Brewing makes a beautifully balanced apricot beer known as Aprikat. The former is sweeter than the latter, but neither one is afraid to show their fruit.

From the very first sniff, the Blackberry Porter from Cannery Brewing in Penticton, B.C., announces itself as firmly in the fruit-forward category. The nose is juicy blackberry and roasted barley, with a whiff of alcohol. (It’s not a light beer by any means.)

The first sip lets you know that you’re drinking beer, not a cooler. The blackberry and the porter compete for attention, all the way from the start to the finish. The not-overpowering sweetness contrasts with the bitterness from the hops and the astringency from the roasted barley. It’s a complicated dance between the two elements. And it’s delicious.

Paired with a dessert, I’d go with chocolate ice cream with berries, or maybe mocha cheesecake. With food, you’ll need something to stand up to it. A flame-grilled steak, possibly drizzled with a wine (or blackberry wine) reduction? In fact, this might be a curious beer to cook with.

Be warned that this isn’t a quick sipper. You’ll need time and patience to appreciate it.


Cost: $5.59 per 650 mL (22 oz.) bottle at DeVine Wines and Spirits.

Value for cash money: Not bad. It’s a big bottle, and it’s an interesting microbrew.

Availability: Spotty in Alberta. Probably better in B.C., where it’s from.

Nutrition?: It’s beer.

Beerish power: 6.5 % a.b.v.

The verdict: Not some limp beer-tinged cooler. It’s packed with fruit flavour without shying away from a whole heap of beer taste. Good stuff.


  1. Ah ok, I’ve been meaning to try that, along with Unibroue’s Ephemere Black Currant(a white ale with currants). Or the Ephemere Apple might be alright too…summer’s the right time of year to try both! And The Sugarbowl has the Ninkeberry…have to drop by & try that as well. Oh, Brewsters has just started a summer fruit beer series called Fruit Hog, I read about in Mark S.’s On Tap blog. Among their planned fruit(s) are Ruby Red Grapefruit, Watermelon & Tangerine.

    I was really disappointed with Alley Kat’s Brewberry this year. There’s just a teeny tiny bit of blueberry. Like you say too concerned about accidentally burying the beer flavour.*rollseyes*

  2. Black Currant Ephemere? Curious! I’ve tried the apple before (the Sugarbowl used to have it on tap), as well as the peach. Should be great, given the brewery’s record.

    If you’re by the Sugarbowl, they’ve recently added a curious variant of fruit beer to their draught selection: radler. It’s a beer style that involves mixing beer and a fizzy drink (usually sparkling lemonade) in roughly equal portions. My wife came back from a trip to Europe with a taste for radlers. The one they’ve got at the Subarbowl is a pre-mixed grapefruit radler. I don’t love it, but it’s another take on adding fruit to beer.

    While I like Alley Kat’s Brewberry, I agree that it could easily use more berry taste. Something closer to the Aprikat level of fruit would be grand.

  3. You were right on! I stopped into Wunderbar just south of Whyte on 101st street & had a bottle – very nice blackberry flavour. And at 6.5% I was able to extend my leadup to Canada Day with a Quebec beer, a Peche Mortel…two fine Canadian beers!:-)

    • Glad you liked it! And Péché Mortel is crazy! Good crazy, I mean. You don’t see imperial stouts all that often, and the coffee adds a whole different je ne sais quoi. One bottle feels like two, both in flavour and strength.

      If you’re looking for another curious Dieu du Ciel brew, try Rosée d’Hibiscus — it’s very unique. They may still stock it at the Sugarbowl. For Dieu du Ciel six-packs, try Devine Wines on 104th Street. 🙂

  4. The Peche Mortel has long been a favourite of mine & I see it even impresses south of the border as this Kansas City resident/reviewer testifies.

    (or if the link doesn’t work, Google ‘Mark Starr Peche Mortel’…lol, I like his ‘my mouth is break-dancing’ comment – & his general enthusiasm,)

  5. Oh just tried another Cannery beer(actually ‘ale’ that I’d been meaning to try for awhile). Their Naramata Nut Brown Ale – very nice English-style mellow malty darker cola brown ale. Reminded me somewhat of the Hockley Dark from Ontario-bit darker tho, http://www/ Find it routinely at Keg’n’Cork on 38th ave & 99th street(north wall of their cooler.,,variety of Canadian beers).

  6. Rats! Missed that… that should do it!

    • I successfully tracked down a can of the Hockley Dark at Liquor Depot in Garneau. Good stuff.

      Also, my friend and colleague Mark Suits (of the EJ’s On Tap blog) is, if I’m not mistaken, a fan of the Naramata Nut Brown from Cannery. I’ve tried it, and I remember it being good. Their maple stout is also yummy, though that’s more of a winter sipper. Good IPA, too.