Breaking With Tradition
While a certain amount of exploration and experimentation is required when developing, refining, and broadening your taste for craft beer, we all have a special place on our palates and in our stomachs for our old favourites.
Those are the beers that first opened our eyes to beer (craft or otherwise), the particular brews we shared among friends at special occasions, or perhaps those local-made, seasonal favourites. All of which we use to keep ourselves grounded in a world of Imperial-thises, Infused-thats, and those mouth punishing Hop-bombs and Malt Whales.
Being a Calgary local means I had the good fortune of starting my foray into beer with Big Rock Brewery and, quite naturally, their English Brown Ale - Traditional - holds a very special place in my heart.
When rumblings of a hopped up version of this classic started earlier this year, the excitement was almost palpable (regular readers will know me as a confessed hop-head). As the suspense grew over the coming months, so did a slight anxiety…how would a bigger hop profile affect this favourite of mine? Will it do the name ‘Traditional’ justice, or tarnish the reputation?
At long last we will have our answers as Big Rock starts September with the release of the Rad Trad pack; featuring two hoppy takes on the old classic, The Anarchist and The Cascadian.
Offering a choice of English-styled and Pacific Northwest-styled hops, this one-two punch delivers two untraditional takes on the Traditional.
Let’s take a look at each!
Hops: Challenger, Progress, Fuggle and Golding
At first glance, The Anarchist appears almost (if not totally) identical to regular Traditional. The red-amber hued body and low carbonation of the old favourite present a comforting visual.
Things are not so status quo once digging in!
The nose presents some of the sweet malt of “basic” Trad but with a chorus of earthiness and small undertones of spice and these themes continue through the body.
Far from one dimensional, the hop profile provides rich (almost dank) earthiness and floral undertones that seamlessly melds with the sweet malty body expected from Trad. Good tasters may pick up hints of botanical / juniper, no doubt from the Progress hop addition. The experience is punctuated with a dry finish, something very different for a Trad!
The overall experience is very complete and well balanced. The dry finish may throw a few who try it, but this quality is arguably my favourite of this beer. No doubts remain after The Anarchist, this ‘Son-of-Trad’ should proudly bare the family name.
Hops: Cascade, Chinook, and Citra
As with The Anarchist, things appear very unassuming at first. The Cascadian perhaps possesses a little more carbonation and slightly stronger head than its brother and father, but overall maintains the colour and appearance of Trad.
But again, that’s where most of the similarities end.
This time the nose provides all the aromatics of the delectable Pacific Northwest IPAs we all know and love. Any malt aromas are quickly moved aside and replaced with the sharp and tangy citruses and resinous pine of the Cascade/Chinook/Citra blend.
The body carries all of that citrus and pine flavour through and The Cascadian could hold up against some well known West-Coast IPAs. The usual bitterness that accompanies these hops is somewhat attenuated by the Trad’s malt character and some sweetness makes it out on the finish.
No arguments here, this is Trad on a big hop diet. Perhaps not as well-balanced as The Anarchist, but that’s not the point either.
Bound By Tradition
Based upon the same grain bill as regular Trad (Pale, Caramel, and Black Malt), the two Rad Trad offsprings could almost write the textbook on how impactful hop blends are to a beer. Each producing a very different beer than the other, and both being wildly different that the standard Willamette and Galena-based Traditional.
However, both ‘Sons of Trad’ maintain the same rich, malty notes as the ‘Father’ and provide a wonderful juxtaposition of flavours.
If I had to pick just one to be my favourite, it would have to be The Anarchist. Though The Cascadian has great flavour, the Cascade/Chinook/Citra blend is maybe a little predominant these days and The Anarchist provides a nice change.
Although you could probably get me to start the petition on replacing the current Big Rock IPA with The Cascadian.
Rad Trad is currently available as a mixed 6-pack (three of each), pick it up while you can!
Remember, don’t drink more. Drink better!