Today we have a selection of our thoughts on some of the available options in one of the most popular craft beer categories, India Pale Ales. For a refresher on the beer style see Mike Di Caro's article from last year's 30 Days of Ontario beer. Mike chose to write here about the Dead Elephant Ale, Church-Key's West Coast Pale Ale; Mark Bylok tackled Muskoka's Mad Tom; and David Ort shared his thoughts on Beau's Beaver River IP Eh?
Railway City Brewing Company's Dead Elephant Ale
Price: $2.60 for 473 mL can
As much as hops are the star attraction of an IPA, drinking some modern ones can feel like crashing into a citrus orchard on a runaway Pine-sol truck. The ones I enjoy most aren't shy about their use of hops, but they also have an increased maltiness to balance that refreshing bitter hop bite. Railway City's Dead Elephant Ale—named in honour of St. Thomas' beloved circus star Jumbo—is one such beer. Although not quite as big on the hops as the name evokes, this English-style IPA still delivers the hop hit that makes the style so refreshing. It draws you in with a citrus-tropical combination of sugar-dusted grapefruit segments, mango and orange blossom before delivering the IPA signature floral and citrusy hop aromas. When you take a sip, those fruit flavours combine with a toffee maltiness and give the beer a balanced base of sweetness before finishing dry on a hoppy, spicy grapefruit note. Its mild hoppy flavour means it's unlikely to floor IPA-loving hopheads, but it's a solid gateway beer for your curious lager or pale ale drinking friend.
Church-Key Brewing's West Coast Pale Ale
Price: $13.75 for 6x 341 mL bottles
One of the off-shoots that has evolved from the IPA is the American Pale Ale. This style was developed by craft brewers on the west coast a little over 30 years ago. Wanting to showcase the newly developed local hop varieties, innovative brewers began brewing bigger, bolder hop-forward pale ales. Campbellford's Church-Key has an LCBO available West Coast Pale Ale, that's inspired by those beers. In this beer the pithy grapefruit and herbal, grassy hop aromas are the first thing to hit you. Underneath there's a touch of tropical fruit and malt flavour to back-up the hops before it finishes on a metallic and grapefruit pith flavour note. The body, citrusy hops and mild malt flavours of this beer don't hit the high levels of the best big and bold piney, citrusy and slightly sticky American Pale Ales. Although not unpleasant, it's a little more timid than what the growing local craft beer drinking population has come to expect from the style.
Muskoka Cottage Brewery's Mad Tom IPA
Price: $2.95 for a 473 mL can or $13.50 for 6x 355 mL bottles
This is a very drinkable IPA (you'll want more than one!), that starts off with unusual flavours that'll surprise you, but after a few sips, it becomes quite sensible and pleasant on the palate. The trick is having the citrus hit you from the nose, to the palate, right down to the finish, giving an otherwise sweet and bitter beer a beautiful balance for the summer-time heat. Great for the patio.
Beau's All-Natural Brewery's Beaver River I.P. Eh?
Price: $4.35 for a 600 mL bottle
When Steve Beauchesne and the rest of his team at Beau's set out to make an IPA for their Spring seasonal they took the British style and added influences from North America. Unlike the West Coast Pale Ales I find the Beaver River gets more of its citrus bite from the flavour of grapefruit pith than juice. The tropical citrus plays nicely with cedar-resin stiff upper lip in the background. It is a seasonal for Spring (and we only have a couple weeks left) but the LCBO is flush with a supply of this beer despite my best efforts.
Written by Mike Di Caro
Michael Di Caro covers all things vinous at Spotlight. His lover affair with Ontario wine began over a decade ago and he’s been in front of tasting bars trying to sweet talk staff into pouring a taste of a library wine or the latest unreleased bottle ever since. Since good wine can’t be made without great grapes, you can also catch him amongst the vines trying to persuade the winemaker into revealing his/her next big thing for you on Spotlight. His epicurean tendencies don’t just stop in the glass either. During the rest of his free time you can find him searching for the perfect bowl of Dan Dan noodles, exploring the city’s best tasting menus or baking cookies and mucking about in the kitchen.