Last week I was checking my Facebook feed for any new beer news, as I usually do as soon as I wake up on one of my days off from work, and discovered that the founder of Big Rock Brewery, Ed McNally, had passed away.
McNally was a pioneer in the Canadian craft beer industry when he created Big Rock back in 1985. While Ed was on his barley and cattle farm in southern Alberta, he read about the rebirth of the beer industry throughout the United States. Breweries there were starting to boom throughout the country, using the Bavarian purity laws or the best-sourced ingredients around.
McNally thought that Alberta needed some "real beer," and sure enough, Albertans thought the same thing. Thanks to his vision, Big Rock is engrained in the Canadian beer landscape. I don’t know many beer drinkers who haven’t tried a Big Rock product or two in the past.
Heck, Brandon’s official celebratory beer for the big 125 was a special lager by Big Rock — Assiniboine 1882 Lager — which honestly I didn’t care for, but it was still great to see a brewery paying tribute to Brandon’s anniversary.
So, let’s toast to Ed McNally’s legacy and Big Rock. With McNally’s vision, Big Rock is now one of the largest Canadian-owned breweries.
This week’s featured beer is Big Rock’s Rhine Stone Cowboy Kölsch-style ale, a German-influenced take on Czech-style pilsners.
Rhine Stone combines German Hallertau hops with Canadian malt, topped off with Vienna malt that gives it a mellow flavour — making it an ale that wants to be a lager. At 4.6 per cent, it’s comparable in ABV to standard lagers and Kölsch ales.
The weather is starting to get a bit chilly, so my taste buds are wanting something a bit maltier, a bit heavier, a bit darker — but for all intended purposes, it is still summer until all the leaves have dropped.
Rhine Stone pours a very light pale straw yellow, which is quite a bit lighter than your standard lager. It reminds me more of a gluten-free lager as they tend to be extremely light in colour as well.
There is a minimal amount of carbonation, and a light amount of foam on top that diminished nearly instantly. Looks like your standard ale-that-wants-to-be-a-lager.
The aroma is light, filled with straw, with a bit of autumn afternoon crisp leaf scent, and notes of light lemon, a light amount of fruit and a bit of a yeastiness — unfortunately, a bit too light for my nose.
The flavour, on the other hand, includes a touch of sweet maltiness and a dry straw bite from the barley and Hallertau hops, which leaves a bit of a straw and light bitter aftertaste on my tongue.
You can taste a little bit of lemon — light, yet a bit hoppier and maltier than your standard Canadian lager.
For a beer geek, this would be too light and not enough, but for your average Manitoban beer drinker, this would hit the spot.
This isn’t one of Big Rock’s best products, but I think of Big Rock as Canada’s Boston Beer Co. (a.k.a. Sam Adams) — they make craft beer for the beer geeks like myself, but also craft lagers and pilsners for the average beer drinker.
I like that Rhine Stone has a nice sweet maltiness to it and that it’s easy to drink, but if I were to pick up a sixer of Big Rock, I’d immediately go for the Traditional Ale — I love that stuff!
Available at the 10th Street Liquor Mart and in Virden for $12.52 per 330mL six-pack.
There are no new beers on the horizon for a few weeks, but I would absolutely love to see Big Rock bring their Alchemist series beers to Manitoba. I have a bottle of their Freyja’s Field Mead waiting for me in the fridge, but apparently it was never sold in stores in Manitoba.
The Alchemist series has special limited batches of over-the-top brews, such as a Cherazz Belgian Fruit Ale brewed with sour cherries and raspberries, or Cuvée Bru, an experimental grape beer brewed with Pinot grapes from the Okanagan.
Sure, those don’t sound OMGTASTIC to the average beer drinker — but they sure do to me!