Tasted!: Great Western Brewing Original 16

I have a soft spot in my heart for Saskatchewan’s Great Western Brewing Company. It’s a workers-owned co-operative that was founded when one of the big Canadian breweries was going to close down their Saskatoon plant, but instead sold it to the “Original 16” worker-owners. That was over 20 years ago, and today GW is a fixture on the Prairie beer scene. How can you not love that story?

But let’s face it, they don’t brew the kind of beer meant to appeal to fussy guys like me.

Still, when a bottle and a can of the new Original 16 Canadian Pale Ale arrived at my door, I had high hopes for it, despite having previously read drivel like this. It certainly looks sharp, whether in can or bottle, as you can plainly see, and the press release description from brewmaster Viv Jones is refreshingly free from ad-talk, if you can ignore his ill-advised “highly drinkable” comment. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Viv, you know what’s also “highly drinkable”? Water!)

Pale gold of hue, and ironically with better and longer-lasting carbonation than the just-reviewed and “microcarbonated” Molson M, it has a soft aroma with notes of honey, lightly candied citrus and melon, leading to a light and off-dry body with some definite lemony fruitiness, a most gentle bitterness and a drier, very faintly walnutty finish.

I had been told before tasting this that, according to a reputed “inside source,” the flavour profile GW was going for in developing this ale was Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, Labatt’s famous east coast IPA-that-isn’t-even-close-to-an-IPA. If that is indeed true, then Jones and company have failed, since this is much superior to Keith’s. Hell, it actually tastes like an ale, which is more than I can say for the Maritime pretender.

Compared to a Central City Red Racer Pale Ale or Black Oak Pale Ale, on the other hand, Original 16 will be left in the dust. Which likely also means that it will appeal to a lot more Prairie beer drinkers than would either of those other two very fine brews.

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