I am on round number two in my search for BC’s best value priced beer. I picked up a six pack of Bowen Island Brewing Extra Pale Ale at the liquor store for $8.45 earlier this week. With help from Chris and my lovely wife I am now down to the last can, which I am nearly finished with at this very moment.
I bought this beer assuming it was brewed on Bowen Island, which I think is a fair assumption, but it is not. Bowen Island Brewing started out as a small cottage brewery off the coast of Vancouver on Bowen Island. The brewery changed hands multiple times in the late nineties eventually to become a brand owned by the NorthAm Group. The NorthAm Group is one of BC’s fastest growing brewing companies owning three popular BC beer brands; Bowen Island Brewing, KB, and Whistler Brewing all brewed in Kamloops at the KB Brewery.
The good people at the NorthAm Group are playing a sneaky game by selling beer, all of which is brewed in the same facility, under three separate brands with different pricing. I am intrigued by the similar reviews that KB, Bowen and Whistler Pale Ales share on Beer Advocate and Ratebeer.com. If all three brands are brewed at the same facility and under the supervision of the same brewmaster how can they be dramatically different from one another? Bowen Island, KB and Whistler all offer a Pale Ale – but are they different? Does Whistler beer use more expensive higher quality ingredients? Beer drinkers have a right to know this pertinent information.
I tried to get to the heart of the matter by sending an email to Bowen Island and KB Brewing – none have replied as of yet. Perhaps there is a perfectly good explanation and each brand is brewed with completely different recipes or my sources are incorrect and all three brands are completely unrelated, but without a response from the brewery I have no way of knowing. This unimpressive display of customer service is not making their beer taste any better. I have no desire to drink beer brewed by a company that is not honest with their customers. Over the next week I am hoping to solve this puzzle – I will post any new information as soon as possible. In the meantime, I have put together a breakdown of the three NorthAm brands:
Bowen Island Brewing – local value priced beer
KB Brewing – quality BC craft beer
Whistler Brewing – premium craft beer, leveraging Whistler’s international reputation
By now, the last glass of Pale Ale has vanished and I am feeling all the better for it – time to review. Bowen Island Brewing Extra Pale Ale is a surprisingly impressive beer for its price. It is a rich, copper coloured English Style Pale Ale with good head retention. Upon pouring, the beer releases a powerful aroma with sweet caramel leading the way followed by earthiness and a mild floral note. Similar to the aroma, caramel flavours are quite dominant but are somewhat balanced a medium hop finish. I would prefer this beer to be hoppier, but I tend to like hoppier beer. It was a bit thin, lacking any significant body. It is nice to find a pale ale from the Pacific Northwest that does not have a strong citrus flavour, not that I don’t like citrusy hops, it is just nice to change it up now and again.
This is a great session beer that is well suited for students, the unemployed (like me) or people who are just plain cheap. However, until I get to the bottom of NorthAm’s game of smoke and mirrors I do not feel comfortable recommending the beer to anyone.