I chanced across this beer on tap at the Wellington Gastropub before Christmas and I quite enjoyed it on tap, so when I saw it in the LCBO a few weeks later, I bought a 6-pack with the promise to review it. I’ve since drank it twice and my conclusion of this beer remains the same both times: “watery.”
The first time I drank it was after drinking a Smashbomb Atomic beer, so I defended the beer and wagered a second chance was in order. After all, as you recall, the Atomic comes in at rocking 6% and the Church key is only 5%, so it stood to reason it would taste watery by comparison. However, with a clean palette, the verdict remains the same.
The beer pours beautifully and produces a nice head of micro-carbonated froth. So while the bubbles are small, they are plentiful but the well-poured head all but disappeared after I got this far in the blog: which you should read as fast. Another sign leading to a “watery” verdict.
The colour is a light, clear copper. Not much in the way of ambers or reds, so I’d also reason the malts are light. Again: watery.
The aroma, however, is a delightful warm and somewhat spicy aroma and comes from the west-coast hops that give this brew its name. A first taste is decent with a bit of peach or stone fruit – but it fades very quickly to what I can only describe as a sudsy, almost soapy, watery finish with a mild bit of hoppiness as an aftertaste. There is a bit of sweetness as well, almost honey if I was to choose. Ultimately, if you want a bigger taste, you quite literally need a bigger mouth full of the stuff to fully wash over the whole tongue.
As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of this beer, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad beer – just not to my personal taste. It is balanced, but on the lighter end of a pale ale. So if a light pale ale is to your taste, this beer may well suit you. Church Key calls it a “pale ale” and this is accurate, full-stop – it isn’t, nor should it be confused with, an IPA or American Pale Ale, even though the appellation of “west coast pale ale” is synonymous with this. Rather, I think this is closer to English Pale Ale if anything. I enjoyed it more on tap which isn’t entirely surprising, but I think a part of this was that I was quickly quaffing my pint with a breads and oils. So if paired with, say, a sweeter coleslaw, fried-egg sandwich, or a chicken burger, I think you might be surprised at how well the beer works.
Overall, if you like a bolder beer for sipping by itself, I’d give this one a fair rating though, personally, I would likely pass it up in favour of something stronger.
Stats: Pale Ale. 5% ABV. Campbellford, Ontario.
Colour: Light Copper. Filtered.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation which fades quickly.