Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Night Beer: Two Pales from Great Lakes

Great Lakes Brewery of Toronto is one of my favourite Ontario brewers. All their beers strike me as having a Canadian malt character, and there's something to be said for that since Canada isn't a traditional brewing nation. One of my favourite beers from them is their Devil's Pale Ale. I've also picked up a new West Coast Pale (read American hops) from GLB called Canuck Pale Ale, appropriate for the Olympics.

Devil's Pale Ale
Great Lakes Brewery
Toronto, Ontario
English Pale Ale

Like screw cap wine, canned beer has a bad rep. It shouldn't. And like wine, the reason it shouldn't is that it's better at keeping the beverage in top condition. Without exposure to light, canned beer is much less likely to become skunked. So don't be afraid to try canned beers... unless they say Budweiser on them.

Devil's pale pours a dark orange/red. This is atypical of pale ales, they're usually, well, pale. The darkest they usually get is a light red. Finger thick head, not much in the way of lacings.

Malt stands out on the nose. It's quite sweet, darker caramel tilting towards toffee, but there's also a touch of toasted malt, which gives off the aroma of fresh bread rather than the coffee notes of roasted malt.

Comes out with a nice hit of malt. It's an interesting malt profile. There's an English fruitiness to it, but it doesn't hold back on the burnt caramel flavours. It provides a great backbone to the beer and adds a nice complexity once the English hops kick in. Moderately hopped, slightly piney. The thin finish is a disappointment, all the flavour just seems to drop off right away.

Devil's is a standby for me. It's a distinctly Canadian take on a pale ale, combining characteristics of both English and American styles.

Canuck Pale Ale
Great Lakes Brewery
Toronto, Ontario
American Pale Ale

A new release from Great Lakes, just in time for the Olympics. Fantastic graphics on this bottle, love it. Should give you a good chance to contrast the American and English Pale Ales, it's not often you get the chance from the same brewery.

It's a beautiful beer. Pours a light amber, with a big marshmellowy head about two fingers thick. Lacings are thick and plentiful. Very visible carbonation.

Whereas the Devil's Pale Ale is all malt, this gives you a big hit of American hops on the nose. Piney with a touch of citrus, thinking grapefruit.

True to the aroma, this is a pretty straightforward beer, and I'm pretty sure it was built that way. It's hop heavy in the front, in fact it's pretty much just the back of the tongue active here, picking up some heavy, for Ontario, hop bitterness. It's difficult to pick out the malt here, a slight bit of caramel, but it's a bit unbalanced. Some have complained about strong diacetyl notes (diacetyl is a byproduct of fermentation that registers as butter or butterscotch), but I don't find it that bad, just slightly slippery. Like the Devil's, and other GLB brews, the beer is a bit thin in the finish and lacks any lasting aftertaste.

This is a rare beer for Ontario, the craft beer market has many English style Pale Ales, but very few highly hopped American ales. It's not a bad beer, I'd just like a little bit more grain to bolster the body. Very sessionable though, an easy drinker.

Enjoy the opening ceremonies!


  1. Funnily enough, I had my first 666 just a couple nights ago in a current run through a number of PAs and your tasting notes have managed to capture bang on exactly how it hit me. Tonight it's a Marston's Pedigree Classic English Pale Ale, which also harbours a nice hoppy zing in the flavour that I find builds in enjoyment if I let it come up a few degrees from the refrigerator's chill. However, my stomach and I are presently having a bit of a disagreement on my adding a pint of beer to a full fish and chips dinner at a local pub that I washed down with an exceedingly disappointing "Rickard's Pale". In hindsight, I think it's a bar menu typo and they probably meant it should be consigned to a bucket. Cheers and Happy "Family Day" Long Weekend to any Ontarians in the room (unless, like me, you're an Ontarian in a border city who has the misfortune to work in an office on the Quebec side, in which case, Happy every other Friday tippling right back atcha!)

  2. It's been awhile since I last had the Marton's, but I remember not liking it much. In all honesty I'm not a huge fan of English hops. I love English malt, but the hops just don't float my boat in large quantities. Another thing about the Marston's is, if I remember correctly, a touch of sulphur in the water that I wasn't crazy about.

  3. Hmmm... Maybe that's what was disagreeing with the fish 'n' chips.