While east coasters, central Canadians and west coasters may disagree on some of the key issues that affect our country, as a brewing nation, our craft brewers have united on the Pale Ale front. Canada’s most popular microbrewed beer style owes its heritage to English versions of this top fermenting category of beer, but in theory, some regional variances have developed over time.
Over the last couple of decades, the west coast has developed its own Pale Ale style, which tends to have amplified hop character, which translates to citrus and floral notes on the nose and a long, bitter, dry finish. Central Canadian and east coast versions are, by and large, more English in style, with emphasis placed on the balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness. But beer, unlike wine which relies on grapes grown in a specific area, is not restricted to place. Many of the key ingredients including malt and hops travel well, providing individual brewers the freedom to make their own interpretations, no matter where they reside. Canadian Pale Ale is ultimately a reflection of the freedom of choice of the brewer to make the beer the way they want. What’s more Canadian than that?
East Coast: Propeller Pale Ale
Propeller’s John Allen ushered in a new era of Halifax microbrews when he opened Propeller Brewing in 1997. Along with Garrison Brewing, Propeller has been a stalwart of the local craft beer scene for nearing two decades.
There’s no denying the English nature of this brew, as it offers up a mix of caramel and toffee malt character balanced nicely with spicy and earthy hop notes.
Central: Amsterdam Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA
When I lived in Toronto, some 20-odd years ago, Amsterdam Brewery was an old-school micro. The now three-decades-old brewery is putting on a fresh, young appearance with an India Pale Ale that abounds with resinous and citrusy hop notes that are more than balanced by robust sweet malt flavours.
West Coast: Granville Island English Bay Pale Ale
Here’s a good example to prove that west coast origins do not necessarily equate a hop bomb. This mild version of Pale Ale focuses on malt sweetness more than hop bitterness. This beer makes a good entry point for those transitioning from lager to ale.