Select Page
These ‘session’ ales miss the mark

These ‘session’ ales miss the mark



So-called session ales are popping up all over Ontario’s craft beer scene, and that should be no surprise. With the success of Muskoka’s Detour session beer, other brewers have scrambled to emulate the mildly hoppy, yet immensely drinkable, pale ale style.

But just because a brewer puts the word “session” on their can, doesn’t mean you’ll want to rush out and fill your fridge. Not all session ales are created equal.

Sawdust City Brewing’s Golden Beach Pale Ale is one such ‘session ale’ that misses the mark. It has all the markings of a sessionable brew – or lower alcohol beer designed for extended drinking – but none of the taste. It rates at a 4.5 per cent ABV and 25 IBUs.

The Gravenhurst-based brewery boasts its Golden Beach Pale Ale is “our hoppy session ale” that’s “loaded with juicy citrus hops and aromas of lemon and fresh cut grass.” Loaded is bit of an exaggeration. It had the vague whiff of hops, but far off, like in a passing car. I kept waiting for flavour that never came.

To my mouth, the beer tasted watered down. And not in a good way. I’m hoping the can I had came from a bad batch, and isn’t what Sawdust City intended when they came up with the recipe.

I fully expected a hazy brew. But I didn’t expect chunks of sediment floating around in the bottom of my glass. If this is summer in a can, I’ll pass.

Sadly, this was the second session ale I’d had this week that didn’t deliver on its promise. The first was Bobcaygeon Brewing Co.‘s Common Loon APA, a American-ale style brew that was the definition of a session beer: 4.6 ABV and 40 IBUs.

But the beer I sampled, from the can I picked up at the LCBO, tasted more like a run of the mill Molson Canadian. Where was the hops, the tropical fruit and citrus flavours I was promised? I expected a lighter beer, but this was all but vacant.

My guess is it’s a quality control issue. This tepid brew couldn’t be what Bobcaygeon intended as their flagship beer.

What Sawdust City says:

“Sunshine yellow in colour and the hazy hue of an August afternoon, this easy drinking American Wheat Ale is summer personified. Loaded with juicy citrus hops and aromas of lemon and fresh cut grass, each sip from this delicious wheat ale will transport you back to those long, lazy days of summer.”


Autumn meh?

Autumn meh?



When you find yourself in the vicinity of Royal City Brewery, say, at the Grotto or Gawley’s Performance Centre, it always pays to poke your head in and see what’s new on tap.

We happened to be in the plaza for a Halloween party, and after the festivities, as I was buckling kids into car seats, Greg took two empty growlers into the brewery to fill with something seasonal. He sampled the Autumn Ale and thought I’d enjoy it since it tasted “sweet and spicy”. The other growler we took home was filled with the 100 Step Stout — review to follow soon!

Since a growler contains enough beer for four pints, it’s best to save opening it for an occasion when you have others to share it with, or say, on a weekend. So, the following Friday seemed like occasion enough. I was excited since I didn’t get to try the sample at the brewery. Unfortunately, by the third sip, we both realized a growler was far too much of this beer for us.

Sweet tasting it is, and definitely spiced. Too spiced, in my opinion, with a punch of cloves dominating my palate. (Sidenote: I’m particularly sensitive to cloves after some dental work years back — clove oil is a traditional healing method for tooth pain — but Greg agrees that this was too much spice even for him.)

Sadly, this was not an enjoyable beer. Maybe it needed the right “time and place”, and luckily most other brews to come out of Royal City are delicious, but we will return with this empty grower soon and take a gamble on another adventure.

Here’s how Royal City describes their Autumn Ale: Brown Ale with Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, and Spices – 6%