by: Stephen Beaumont
The folks promoting Big Rock sent me a six-pack of the brewery’s flagship Traditional Ale this week, along with some assorted swag. There was no press release, just a couple of postcard-sized promo pieces, and little suggestion as to why the package was shipped. Presumably they want me to write about the beer.
Usually, with me, such efforts do not work. This time, they did.
Not because of the swag, mind you – I really don’t need and will never wear a Big Rock mesh-back baseball cap – but because of that which matters most, the beer. It has been a long time since I last sampled a Trad, as the beer is commonly known, mainly because it’s not a beer that jumps to mind when I sit down at a bar or restaurant. Returning to it after many years, I’m thinking that perhaps it should, or at least it should on occasion.
In 1994, I described Traditional Ale in my Great Canadian Beer Guide as being fruity, mildly bitter and somewhat floral in its hopping. In the second edition of that same book, published in 2001, I described it as “dryish, lightly nutty and fully quaffable.” Returning to the beer, I think I was correct on both counts.
Trad is both fruity and nutty, and caramelly, too, but with a drying hop bitterness that, yes, does have a vaguely floral aspect. And while I don’t recall the brewery previously referring to it as an “English-Style Brown Ale,” as the label now declares, neither do I find that description to be miles from fact.
But it’s the last part of my 2001 description that prompted me to write this appreciation, the “fully quaffable” part. Because that is what makes Trad a bit of a treat, with its slightly nutty, slightly cocoa-ish, slightly bitter and fully drying finish making the drinker inclined towards another mouthful before the glass even hits the bartop. Some folk call this “drinkability,” a word I detest, but whether you call it “drinkable” or “quaffable” or simply “more-ish,” Big Rock Trad most definitely is that. In spades.
With the multitude of beers on the market today, each clambering for notice with greater or different hopping, odd fruit or spice additions, souring or barreling, it becomes easy to overlook the joys of a relatively straight-forward, well-made and, frankly, pretty damn tasty beer like Trad. There are great benefits in taking pause to reconsider beers that have survived for over three decades.
A corner dedicated to bringing you insight from industry author and beer connoisseur, Stephen Beaumont.