When a beer aficionado offers you inside info on where to score a four-pack of the enigmatic Superflux beer, you best take heed and follow their inebriated advice. Such was the case on a Friday evening last month. I was drinking at the Twin Sails brewery bar in Port Moody when the info fell into my lap.
My first Superflux experience was completely blind. I had a stein of their Colour & Shape IPA at Bestie a while back and became an instant fan (despite my proclivity for other less traditionally bitter and piney styles of beer). This was a juicy, hazy and dangerously drinkable (ABV 6.8%) epiphany in a ceramic, face-sized mug. Still, at the time of the Port Moody incident, I didn’t realise just how precious the info I had inadvertently been vested with was…
A bit of background: Superflux is formerly known as Machine Ales. It doesn’t have its own facility but rather does short-run stints piggybacking out of established breweries. Previously, the roving rogue brewers operated out of Callister and Dogwood breweries. When I contacted Dogwood mid-March about Superflux, they were tight-lipped and convincingly naive about where the operation was planning to set up shop next.
In the modern world of craft beer, good branding is just as impactful as the type of hop or strain of yeast used. So when something as beautifully branded as Superflux appears on scene, it’s no wonder that the interest of Vancouver beer nerds gets piqued. Their psychedelic-stickered cans are almost shockingly unassuming, especially considering their relatively high price point – a four-pack of tall cans costs roughly $20.
But is it beer-lust or beer-love? The thrill of the hunt or the actual yen for flavour?
What’s especially frustrating and equally compelling about Superflux is the seeming randomness of their affiliations. Although they have retailed at Brewery Creek, the staff at Firefly had never heard of them on my last visit. They have been seen on tap at Burdock & Co. and Bestie, two restaurants with a conceptual gulf between them that one could drive a beer truck through. The latter was quickly tapped out on my last visit, but offered up a hot tip that Don’t Argue – the pizzeria on Main Street – was doling out the coveted brew by the can. By now, of course, all of this is old news. I’d tell you where to find it if I knew.
According to a recent Instagram post, Superflux claims that it isn’t purposely making it difficult for consumers to find its beers. Instead, we are assured that the intentions of the humble brewers are noble and even, maybe, an altruistic act of community-building. If I’m reading it correctly, they would prefer that people strike up conversations with beer-drinking peers, brewers and small retailers in order to suss out the information they seek. In their own words:
Hey Folks! We get a lot of questions about where and when our beer can be found. We’re not ignoring you (well, we’re sort of ignoring you), we simply can’t respond to everyone, and more importantly, we don’t know exactly when each of our fine accounts will put our beer on tap or on the shelf, and we don’t want to lie to you (the ignoring is hurting us both enough already). But that’s why we don’t normally list accounts. We don’t want to send you on a wild-goose-chase, either. So, please follow our accounts below, and watch their feeds for info, OR BETTER YET, go in and visit them, or call, or shake some hands and make friends with them, or (our favourite), set up some sort of clandestine surveillance system so that you get real time spy-level intel.
Regardless of how genuine or manufactured their image is, Superflux has quickly won cult status in Vancouver. For evidence of this, look at when it last completed a batch of Happyness IPA out of Strathcona Beer Company on East Hastings. They sold out of their supply of cans within hours of making them available. Superflux then retreated back to its elusive Insta-hideout, teasing its next drop like the brewing equivalent of Banksy.
For fools like me whose eyeballs weren’t glued to their feed for the announcement of their March 31st release, the only evidence of the event was a flow of Happyness from one of Strathcona’s taps (available for pints but not growler fills). I shelled out the $9 for a pint and somewhat quashed my feeling of loss when Superflux stocked up their local retailers shortly thereafter. The taste of Happyness is closer to the IPA family than Colour & Shapes was. It didn’t leave as indelible an impression on me, but it was still a solid, well made beer. I’ve had one eye on the @superflux feed since.
When they announced their latest brew, Rainbow Machine IPA, a few days ago I was at Strathcona immediately and found myself hardly the first person in line. Each of the men ahead of me had at least one four-pack in hand and the remaining fridge-load was looking meagre. When it was finally my turn to purchase, I put the lean on the person working the till. Was there any more not in the fridge? Yes, but only a couple of flats. Did they have a purchase limit per customer? No. When did she expect to sell out? Within the hour, probably.
Bounty acquired and (rainbow) stripes regained, I resisted the urge to blow my budget and stock up before even having put lips to can. Would there be treasure or fools’ gold at the end of this adventure? Or just the satisfying taste of pride knowing that I’m one of the first to have snagged this exotic unicorn of beers? Fortunately, the release also coincided with an overdue day of sunshine; so I parked my butt at my neighbourhood park in Mount Pleasant. Beer always tastes better in these optimal conditions, so I feel pretty confident that my first Rainbow Machine experience is prime. Still, I had four of these canned rarities, so just in case the weather biased my experience I tested the beers out in other environments: a temperature-controlled movie theatre, for example, and two out of glasses in the neutral surroundings of my own humble abode.
My subjective conclusion in all three scenarios was that Rainbow Machine wasn’t in the same realm as the first crushable Superflux experience that hooked me (likely an impossible achievement), but that doesn’t mean my interest in pursuing the brand has waned. Far from it. The beer tastes like an adult grapefruit-ade with hops — all summery and juicily delicious. It would go down well as a substitute for grapefruit at brunch, or simply in the park on a sunny day with maybe a bag of chips. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to test these theories in the near future. I’m willing to put in the legwork, if only I can find the beer.