Moosehead’s Small Batch Brewery Gets Bold #BrewedAwakening
When Moosehead’s ‘Small Batch‘ brewery (it’s all relative, really – 20 barrels doesn’t look that small to a 5 barrel brewer) opened last year there was a lot of speculation about whether they’d brew conservative beer styles, or go ‘out there’ with beers that challenge the palates of the current beer crowd.
Early results were mixed, as the initial beers ranged from a rather neutral but stylistically correct brown ale to a strangely thin and pale, yet high alcohol stout and a really decent bock. Now that they have got to the packaging stage, it’s useful to look at the lineup of beers they chose to release.
First, though, a comment on the packaging. On the heels of the recent rebranding of their core brands (Lager, Light and Pale Ale), which was quite radical as they had barely changed for decades, they released a series of Small Batch beers, with packaging that recalled nothing of the other Moosehead brands. In fact they look like something out of the microbrewery world, like maybe what you’d see from Collective Arts or Fredericton, New Brunswick’s trailblazing Trailway.
The designs are rather abstract yet symmetrical, colourful but all with a white or black background. They are quite sharp, but it is interesting how far removed they are from the Moosehead branding. Here they are, with my notes on each beer.
Ten Penny is a reboot of an old brand (est 1934) that my father used to drink when I was a kid in Nova Scotia. It is labelled as a Stock Ale, which is a rather modestly hopped (25 IBU) ale, more English in style than West Coast. I like this beer. It seems a bit more flavourful than the old Ten Penny, but not so bitter or full that it would scare off a mainstream ale drinker.
London Stout is another reboot, and like Ten Penny, a part of their Heritage Series. They first brewed this in 1929. The modern version is 40 IBUs and 5.5% ABV, and is quite smooth and easy drinking. It’s a big improvement on the boozy, see-through stout they released when the Small Batch brewery first opened.
Sugar Bush Black Lager is a limited release as part of their ‘Canadian Home Grown Series’ and has a Quebec Maple Syrup component. Style wise, it reminds of a German Schwarzbier, but on the mild side in terms of grain bitterness and hopping (25 IBUs) and with a sweeter finish.
Their Stone Fruit White IPA, also a limited release, and Canadian Home Grown (it has BC apricots), is a Belgian witbier-influenced ale with lots of fruity character and modest bitterness (40 IBU, 6.2% ABV) for an IPA.
The last in the initial release is the Mountain Spruce Golden Ale, another limited release, Canadian Home Grown beer, brewed with spruce tips from New Brunswick as well as piney west cost hops. It is indeed golden in colour, and light (20 IBUs, 4.5% ABV) and fresh on the palate, with a rather subtle nose. The palate though, is quite spruced up, although nothing like some of the super intense versions brewed these days.
In summary, this lineup was quite pleasing, and just radical enough for the old Canadian brewery to indicate that they are truly willing to push boundaries, and allow their Small Batch team to make some pretty cool stuff. Drinkers should look forward to future releases.