MacLean’s Pale Ale, Hanover, Grey County, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 5.2%) LCBO $3.10 (473ml can)
When I was a regular at Toronto’s fantastic Communist’s Daughter this, in its draught form, was certainly my beverage of choice. Having never previously tasted it, I was immediately drawn to its malty tones. Coming from Scotland it’s no real surprise that my beer palate is thus slanted, as Scottish beers were historically built around a malt profile due to hops having to be imported. I still have vivid teenage olfactory memories of days sitting in classrooms with the aromas of malted barley from nearby breweries seemingly engulfing the entire high school. Ahhh, such halcyon days… it’s a wonder that we didn’t all develop an aversion to such smells.
Nevertheless, the canned MacLeans Pale Ale, far superior to the rather gutless Farmhouse Blonde IMHO, is a damn fine example of Ontario Craft Beer, and one that has recently become a bit of a cottage staple, getting really close to my “sweet spot” with its 5.2% alcohol.
This signature brew from the Grey County brewery is made using a combination of UK malts, English Fuggles and Golding hops, with a special strain of English ale yeast. The resultant beer has been brewed since 1993, and is a regular tap in most bars once you start getting a bit north of Toronto, particularly into cottage country and right up the Bruce Peninsula. It’s just a shame that we don’t see it more regularly in Hogtown, as it is stridently bolder and maltier than most common taps.
Pouring an attractive red/amber hue in the glass, it’s tempting to think of this as a “red ale”. The carbonation is medium, and it forms and retains a decent head with just a little lacing (there’s usually more with draught.)
Malt is the dominant character on both the nose and palate, but there is a reasonable hoppiness going on in there too. Baked bread, caramel, and a certain fruitiness play supporting roles here, but the Pale Ale isn’t particularly complex. Your first glass may seem a touch sweet, but once your palate adjusts to its charms you’ll find that it can be quite sessionable. A most enjoyable brew.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he goes through a lot of this stuff.