Rating → 84 points
Stats: American Pale Ale. 4.9% ABV. 38 IBUs. Burlington, Ontario.
Size: 355mL bottle
Colour: Golden straw (chardonnay) — clear except for profusion of heavy particulate that grows with the pour.
Mouth Feel: Medium, very natural carbonation; light start and a refreshingly bitter finish.
Price: $12.75 (6-pack)
Pairing Notes: n/a
So if experience begets desire — and I’m not sure if it does, but let’s just assume it does — then when I saw this flirtatious offering from Nickel Brook brewing, I thought, hmm, will it deliver on the promise?
My previous experience with the brewery and their Headstock IPA was a solid A- … so I was intrigued as to what their take on the American Pale cousin to the IPA would deliver.
A look at the fine details on the colourful bottle, however, might provide to temper expectations: 4.9% ABV and only 38 IBUs, both low for the style. In fact, I’m not sure when I last had a pale ale under 5% other than Amsterdam’s “Cruiser” ale which was developed as a “sessionable” all-day beer.
Still, the point of all this is to experiment and discover, so the most I was going to lose in the deal was $12.75. I could live with that so I brought the naughty neighbour home ….
I have to say, the pour left me with more with eyebrows on the ceiling than with a smile. It pours a tender gold but if you completely finish the pour, the lees from the unfiltered fermentation will pour a milkiness into your glass. Again, this doesn’t effect the taste, but you may rather a clean pour. Not that this bothers me, but it’s rare in a 355mL bottle to see this much precipitate pour out. The pour does suggest a medium-low carbonation with tighter natural bubbles: the head builds gradually and finishes with a lot of lacing on the glass. Still, it’s the colour that struck me as ‘wrong’ which would be acceptable though rare in an IPA (but Le Castor’s Yakima IPA is a good example of where looks are deceiving), the more typical malty backbone of an APA would suggest a much darker beer. Still, the mouthfeel works here and there is a good buzz on the tongue and some nice creaminess in the middle before the beer finishes very dry.
Off the nose, there is clearly citrus (grapefruit and orange) and some biscuity smelling yeast. Not a bad impression, I admit.
The first taste? Ample and surprising. Not exactly what I’d expect. Orange zest is predominant with some resiny pine to finish. But, yes, surprising flavours in here and I’m not really sure whether I like it or not. It’s interesting. Something faintly like hay rounding out the sweetness with a bit of saltiness like licking a barnacle (or so I’d guess) by which I mean some limestone-like minerality mixed with salt. As complex or unstructured as the flavours are, where the beer quickly loses its stride is in the middle where the beer washes out — the low alcohol, the light almost non-existent malts, and the low carbonation combine for a beer that while it starts promising, disappears, only to reemerge with a late finish. And yes, for a beer that is a very unrestrained 38 IBUs, this has a surprising bitter finish — but this is largely because there aren’t that much in the way of malts to distract or pull away from hops, so the hops produce the effect of a rhythm guitar missing one or two strings. Plucky, yes, but not quite right.
If you were to ask me, I’d say this is a better example of a Belgian IPA than an American. Indeed, as an American, I think it fails dramatically. However, if you take style out of the equation and just measure it on the basis of “Do you like it?” the answer is yes, this is a tasty beer. However, for all the high-priced flirtations you’re going to get, no matter how you slice it, this beer isn’t amazing enough to warrant the spend or the time and if I were you, I’d hold for true love, not a suggestive label.
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