There are two words, one bad and one good, that are used to describe beer ingredients that sometimes supplement the usual four of water, malted grain, hops, and yeast. “Adjuncts” is the bad word. It refers to other — usually cheaper — sources of fermentable sugar. The megabreweries frequently cut the amount (and expense) of malt by substituting forms of corn or rice. Their explanation is that it makes the end product clear and crisp; purists say it robs the beverage of the flavours that make it such a great drink.

The good word is “additive” and refers to ingredients that enhance the flavour of the beer base. The list of additives is long and ranges from such unusual flavourings as spruce tips and birch sap to better-known ingredients like honey and blueberries. The key to additives is that they should complement, not conflict with or overwhelm the taste of the beer. The words “hint” and “subtle” are positive when describing these beers. “Overwhelming” usually is not.

Last Friday, to start the holiday long weekend, the gang got together to sample four beers with “additives.” It wasn’t intentional, but in searching for a range of flavours, the brews we chose were all from British Columbia.

We started with Fernie Brewing’s “What the Huck,” a huckleberry wheat beer. Slightly pink in hue, it is a light-bodied, crisp, effervescent and refreshing beer. One of the tasters said she wished it were still summer so that she could sit outside sipping it on a warm afternoon. The huckleberry taste, which comes from an extract (have you ever tried to pick enough huckleberries to make even a tart?) is not too sweet, and it certainly doesn’t overwhelm. It’s just the right complement for the base wheat beer.

“Strawberry Blonde,” from Penticton’s Tin Whistle was a disappointment. It used as its base a blonde ale, a style that could be called timid and is often offered as a cross-over beer to entice drinkers of mainstream lagers and light lagers into trying craft beer. There was a faint aroma of strawberries, but all of the four tasters agreed that the additive (whether berries, an extract, or an imitation flavour) really didn’t taste like strawberries. The words “metal,” “artificial”, and “chemical” were used to describe the taste. And the beer itself was bland. No one asked for seconds.

“Apricot Wheat Ale,” from Cannery Brewing, also from Penticton , received strong reviews. “It tastes like beer with just a touch of apricot flavour,” one remarked. Smoothe and unfiltered, it had hop notes that one drinker particularly liked. Here was a beer in which the additive and the base beer complemented each other very nicely. People asked for seconds.

Our final beer, and in many ways the most interesting, was Phillips’ “Ginger Beer.” The label notes that it has “more ginger than Gilligan can handle” (a reference to characters from the long-ago TV sit-com) and draws attention to its “initial blast of flavour and aroma.” When I experienced the aroma and took my first swallow, it reminded me of the soft drink that used to come in those old “stone” crocks. Phillips, who is noted for the “hop bombs” he creates, has created a “ginger bomb.” It certainly is like what you used to drink as a kid, but you have to be of legal age to buy it. Personally, I would have preferred a more subtle use of the additive. But, if you love your ginger, and two of the tasters did, this is your flavour enhanced brew.

The three people to whom I introduced these beers enjoyed them — with the one exception. “What the Huck” and “Apricot Wheat,” the two wheat beers, were the top choices. But everyone agreed that they enjoyed the “Ginger Beer” and would have enjoyed it more had I followed the label instructions and served it along with some sushi.

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