Canadian beer travels part deux: Big Rock Brewing

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I present to you my tasting notes on some of the best that Big Rock Brewing has to offer in 2012:

Scottish Style Heavy Ale & McNallys Extra Irish Red
  • Carol Dekkers
  • Scottish Style Heavy Ale & McNally's Extra Irish Red
Scottish Style Heavy Ale (ABV 7 percent) and McNally's Extra Irish Red Ale (ABV 7 percent). On the advice of Allistair of Big Rock Brewing, I tried these two compatible brews alongside of each other and found them both to be highly complex and polished brews. The burnt caramel notes of the McNally's Extra provided a smooth finish, but my personal preference was the Wee Heavy caramel/toffee notes with no residual scotch aftertaste of the Scottish Style Heavy Ale. Michael Jackson (noted beer reviewer, not the pop star) reviewed McNally's Extra years ago and classified it as one of the top North American brews. Had I not paired the tasting alongside of the Wee Heavy, I would likely agree. Either of these two brews would be a fine addition to a winter evening (with hearty roast beef) - in Canada or in Florida.

Black Amber Ale (ABV 5 percent). Distinctively black in color and bitter-chocolate-mixed-with-coffee in taste, this brew fit in well as part of the Signature Series. Lingering notes of dark chocolate lasted long after the first taste and provided a soft finish to the sharpness of the coffee flavors. I usually shy away from deep black brews (some stouts and porters are simply too molasses and heavy malt flavored for my taste). This one surprised me by its overall smoothness from first taste to final pour. If we could import the Black Amber to Florida, it would likely become a trusted favorite.

Rye & Ginger Ale (ABV 5 percent) part of the Brewmaster's Edition of brews. I am not generally a big fan of Rye based beers but the hint of ginger seduced me into trying it. The taste of rye dominated any strong ginger flavor, (which, unfortunately other ginger beers often allow to overpower.) For fans of rye based beverages, this golden brew might become a favorite contender because of its smooth finish and lack of bitter aftertaste.

Rye and Ginger
Grasshopper Wheat Ale (ABV 5 percent). Grasshopper Wheat was one of the earliest brews to be introduced after the original Trad(itional) Ale, and remains one of the staple recipes in the Big Rock lineup. Grasshopper Wheat is a definitively wheat ale with strong wheat and barley flavors that blend and balance the crisp mountain water. Grasshopper is a straw colored brew with a strong wheat aroma that reminds me of German styled wheat ales - but lighter than those I've imbibed in Germany. Grasshopper Wheat is often served with an orange or lemon slice, but it's flavor is fine on its own. I think I could drink more than a few Grasshoppers since it doesn't leave any feeling of bloating (a good thing in this girl's books!).

Big Rock IPA
Big Rock IPA (ABV 5.5 percent). Allistair of Big Rock informed me that this IPA "dry hopped," meaning hops are added after the fermentation period. While I am not an expert on IPA's worldwide, the dry hopping process used to brew the Big Rock IPA results in a distinctly smooth flavor and a less-than-normal perfumey/floral aroma. I loved this brew. It was bronze in color and clear - definitely a departure from the typical IPA's I've had in Florida (such as Southern Tier or Stone Brewing IPAs), and the taste was as well. The richness of the dry-hopping provided for a smooth, organic, IPA flavor with the absence of the harsh aftertaste present with typical U.S. made IPAs. The difference with this IPA lies in its organic, almost "fresh-market-like" crisp aroma coupled with its smooth, absolutely "polished" IPA flavor.

I plan to bring back a sampler pack of Big Rock Brewing cans to the U.S. to share with fellow craft beer lovers who do not have the chance to visit Alberta anytime soon. If you are traveling up to Western Canada - Alberta, in particular, make sure to stop in at Big Rock Brewing. You'll find the taste distinctive, fresh, and well worth the visit! I'm going to stop in again before I leave Alberta in the coming days - maybe I can even convince a few Big Rock reps to visit Florida for the upcoming Tampa Bay Beer Week in early 2013...

Next stop - Edmonton, Alberta and Alley Cat Brewing. Watch for Part Trois (Three) of my Western Canadian Craft Beer tour.

click to enlarge Big Rock Brewing Specialty Sampler - Carol Dekkers
Carol Dekkers
Big Rock Brewing Specialty Sampler

click to enlarge Big Rock Brewing Specialty Sampler - Carol Dekkers
Carol Dekkers
Big Rock Brewing Specialty Sampler

Big Rock Brewery is the most original and oldest (celebrating 25 years) craft brewer in Alberta. It was my pleasure to include them in my informal microbrewery tour this week.

Big Rock Brewing based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada does right with big, bold, robust brews and an open arms approach to visitors. I was hooked on Big Rock before moving to the U.S. years ago, but my latest encounter cemented the deal. Traditional Ale remains the steadfast helmsman brew of the Big Rock lineup, but there are a number of new recipes that are quickly taking the western Canadian market by storm.

When I visited with Big Rock Brewing for lunch last week, I enjoyed several brews featured as seasonal offerings on taps at the Big Rock Grill, taking home a sampler six pack of some signature series brews.

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