I have fallen in love with Central City’s Red Racer Pale Ale. This modestly priced brew retails for $10.40 in BC liquor stores, although often times I find it on sale for $8.95 – a few dollars below most BC craft beer. As a result of finding this hidden gem tucked away beside a range of under appreciated beer, I have begun a quest in search of the best “value priced” beer in BC. Over the next few weeks I will purchase, drink, and review all “value priced” Pale Ale available in BC – any beer over $10.40 will be excluded. If you have any beer recommendations please let me know.
Pale Ale is one of my favourite styles of beer, but only when brewed to style. Pale ale should be pleasantly malty with a mild sweetness that is balanced by a noticeable hop flavour and aroma. Most serious brewers offer a version of pale ale, although this style typically varies a great deal – as long as the brew is pale and ale it may be correctly, or incorrectly labeled pale ale. Choosing pale ale also helps to eliminate the large contingent of over proof lagers brewed for the sole purpose of drunken tomfoolery. I want to review beer that is brewed to taste great – with plenty of room for tomfoolery on the side. Pale ale is the perfect style of beer for this challenge.
First up for review is Hells Gate Brewing Pale Ale, coming in at a whopping $8.95 for six cans. Hells Gate Brewing is owned by the Mark Anthony Group, the owners of Mission Hill Winery and a range of spirituous beverages. Hells Gate is a new brewer in the Vancouver region, and has launched this new brand with a small teaser campaign. This means their website contains only a small description of their two new brews and an online postcard from their Brewmaster. I hate teaser campaigns.
I bought this beer thinking it was pale ale; after all it is labeled pale ale, but their website claims otherwise describing it as Canadian Style Amber Ale. Adding to the confusion, the text on the can states, we cold age our beer to lock in the flavour. I’m not sure what this means. Cold aging sounds a lot like the lagering processes, but I have no idea what lagering has to do with locking in flavour and why the Brewmaster would lager ale? But this is about beer, not my distain for Hells Gate’s confusing communication strategy.
This beer pours a light copper, not quite amber, with a small white head that dissipates quickly. Don’t look at head retention too much here; my glass may have been improperly rinsed after washing with soap. The hop aroma is almost impossible to find, but I’m sure it is there somewhere. This pale ale has a somewhat sour aroma with a hint of toasted bread. The flavour is on the sweet side and is poorly balanced – again the hop flavour is hard to find. There is a subtle toasted bread almost dough like flavour – this was a pleasant surprise. This beer finished with a lingering sour note. Overall, this beer tasted more like a cross between cream ale and light amber ale, not pale ale.
I can’t say this beer is a winner, but it is better than most overpriced macrobrewed beer. In time, I’m sure Hells Gate will work out the kinks in their system and offer great beer – its just not there yet.