Thursday, 10 July 2014

Threefer A Side by Side (by Side)

Beer # 139 Alexander Keith's Hop Series Cascade

Beer # 140 Alexander Keith's Hop Series Hallertauer

Beer # 141 Alexander Keith's Hop Series Galaxy

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Owned by Labatt Brewing Company a Subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev LTD
Pale Ale 5.5 % ABV Brown Glass bottle 341 ml
$2.16 (Canadian) At LCBO  ($12.95 for a Six Pack)

Twitter: @alexanderkeiths

Ok... I am going to admit something that is very difficult for me to say out loud. I used to love Keith's. There... I said it. I experimented in college with other beers and Keith's... well we went steady for a long time. But that was a different time and Keith's was a different beer. Alexander Keith's Brewery in Halifax used to be proud, strong, and free. Then they signed a distribution deal with Labatt Brewing Company. And they were smart in the beginning. Keith's insisted that their jobs stay in Nova Scotia and all the Keith's beer that was shipped across Canada was brewed in the same plant Keith's had been brewed in since 1820. However, the brand exploded. Keith's was on fire, everybody wanted it. The brewery expanded, still more beer was needed. I think there was a time when it was almost impossible to find a bar that DIDN'T have Keith's on tap. I guess the demand finally outstripped the supply and eventually the brewery sold out to Labatt's . Ever since that time, Keith's has been different. After selling one beer, and one beer only for almost 200 years There was a Keith's White, and a Keith's Amber, and a Keith's light. Then came the Hop Series. and we won't even discuss the "FLAVOUR INFUSER!" 

Keith's my old beloved, is floundering. Like the time you know you local bar is about to go bankrupt because they suddenly start serving breakfast. Sadly this reeks of desperation. However, like a late night drunken text I am going to see Keith's again, one more time for you dear reader. Mainly because I miss the beer it used to be, and partly because I am intrigued by trying a beer that has been hopped three different ways.

So the idea behind the hop series, is that they have taken the Keith's standard IPA and used one varietal hop per batch. One American, one German, and one Australian. And the task at hand is to see how the same beer changes when exposed to the different hops.

Okay... what are hops? Hops are a small bud that grow on a vine that is related to the Cannabis plant (yes... that means Marijuana!) Originally added as a bittering agent and a preservative for beer, each different variety imparts a different flavour. Let's talk about the three at hand:

Cascade... USA

Developed at the University of Oregon in 1971 the Cascade hop was bred from an English Fuggle hop, a Russian Serebrianker hop and an unknown third hop..Named for the Cascade range of mountains that runs through Oregon, the hop was first used commercially by New Albion Brewing company (Now defunct) as a signature hop in their American Pale Ales (1976). Cascade is notably for it's floral fruity aromas.

Hallertauer... Germany

It is not said which variant of the Hallertauer hop this is but I am guessing it is the Hallertauer Mittlefrüh, which is the classic Bavarian hop variety. If you have had a German lager, you will recognise this spicy, bitter hop.

Galaxy... Australia

Created in 1994 this hop is noted for it's strong piney and tropical fruit aromas. Passion fruit, citrus, and pineapple.

Enough with the botany... onto the tasting!

Family Photo

Oh... and yes I had to break out the Riedel Wine glasses because I apparently do not have three matching beer glasses...


Darkest of the three. Copper to amber in colour with a short lived off white head made of medium sized bubbles. The nose is fruity and green. some floral notes, petunias geraniums. First sip is apple, raisin some floral toasted malt, some caramel. Aeration brings out a bright green herbal and floral hop aroma.


Orange to copper in colour with the faintest hint of green. The small off-white head is short lived also and similar sized bubbles. Nose is spicy, and bready, like winter baking, Cinnamon and clove.. First sip is more spice this time leaning toward the cardamom. A little rain watery, it feels like an ale and a German lager are competing for time in my mouth. The hops remind me of Bitburger, or other such German lagers. I feel conflicted tasting it. Aeration and finish is very lagerish, spicy, grainy, watery.


Orange in colour again but slightly darker than the Hallertauer, and also the hint of green is definitely stronger in this one. Head is almost identical to the other two, off-white, small to medium sized bubbles and not very long lasting. Aroma... wow! What a difference. Pine tree and oranges. It reminds me very much of Christmas as a child.the malt is also evident in the aroma more caramel  and roasty, toasty bread. First sip is candy orange and pine. Smooth very drinkable, the malt plays second fiddle to the hops. The grain and sugar is there but very muted. Citrus and pineapple through the middle. Pine tree and medicinal herbs are evident in the aeration.

Impressions: Fail, So-so, Pass, Exceptional 

                          Cascade             Hallertauer                Galaxy  (Out of 6)

Cost:                            5                         5                            5

Colour:                         5                         5                            5
Beer Style:                   4                         4                            4
Re-Order:                     3                         2                            5
Experience:                  4                         3                            5

Final Thoughts: 

Cascade: Smoothest of the three, bordering on a west coast ale. PASS

Hallertauer: Identity crisis, not sure if it is a lager or an ale. SO-SO

Galaxy: Most flavourful, most interesting Best of the three, only one I'd really be willing to buy again. High PASS.

I am reminded of a saying. Something about putting lipstick on a pig. In the end you still just have a pig. Keith's has gone rapidly downhill since Labatt purchased it outright. and the Hop Series, while it was a good idea, is probably not going to do much for the brand. Even worse is the "New Flavour Infuser!" Nothing says we don't give a shit about making our beer taste better than inventing a thing to let you try and make the beer taste better.
The Flavour Infuser... Not Ever Coming to this Blog

Is the hop series worth a try? Well yes, and no. If you are a Keith's, fan like I used to be, then I imagine you will appreciate the subtle nuances, and I admit it is interesting to see the difference changing the hops in the same beer makes. But truth be told... it's a marketing gimmick, by a brewery who is merely a footnote in Canadian brewing history by now. Buy local...



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