One of the finds this summer that made me most happy is discovering boxes of Gahan beer on my favourite liquor store shelf. Gahan, now officially called PEI Brewing Company, is, as you might guess, the red island’s only brewery. (Actually a nanobrewery just opened a few weeks ago, but you get my point). The brewery maintains the Gahan line-up but is expanding with a line-up using another name.
It has had a good reputation for many years, but its beer remained sadly out of reach. Even when I was in Halifax I couldn’t get my hands on it. I know I could have driven the few hours to the island, but time was too tight to allow it.
They have recently expanded and have decided to increase their distribution, which means to good old Alberta as well. So when I saw them, I immediately picked up a couple of their four-packs (of 500 ml bottles). I sample the Island Red, an Irish-style Red Ale first, as that is their signature beer (although not their best-seller – much like Alley Kat’s Full Moon). After the first bottle, I decided to use the second bottle to turn into a column for Vue Weekly that ran last week and which you can read here.
The aroma was surprisingly subdued, but the very first sip was a wonderous thing – toffee and nuttiness balanced by a delicate toastiness, all with an underlay of fruitiness. The beer sharpens as it moves back and finishes both sweet and dry simultaneously, something I consider a key characteristic in Irish Reds. That initial “wow” of the first sip eventually subsided by the end of the glass into a more restrained “nice”.
It is not a perfect beer by any stretch – it has a grainy harshness in the middle that is distracting, for example – but it quickly jumps up the list as one of the better Irish Red Ales I have ever sampled.
With such an encouraging start I hope to work my way through the remaining 4 Gahan beer available (all five of their mainstays are here). Even if they do not live up to this one, it is yet another reminder to me that Canada quietly makes some amazing beer in some of the most unexpected places.