I like it when I get pleasantly surprised. We can all fall into the trap of thinking we know what is going on with a particular brewery. That is because, like people, breweries do have a personality. We come to expect certain things from them. Some are careful and measured, others more adventurous and experimental. Some lean toward hops while still others seem to do malt well.
A classic example is Granville Island. They have been around a long time and I suspect we all have a well entrenched sense of their tendencies. I have long found them to be reliable but not particularly boundary pushing. Even their seasonals have matched that overall pattern. That is why I did a bit of a double take upon taking my first sip of their latest release, Swing Span Amber Ale. The beer, the first in their new Under The Bridge series, was not what I expected it to be. Enough so that I made it the topic of my latest Vue Weekly column, which you can read here.
I’ll admit I didn’t do much research before opening the bottle. The name seemed self-explanatory. I was fully anticipating a malty red ale with caramel and toffee notes. Well, not so much.
This is an American Amber Ale, in that the hops play a much more central role than most ambers we see around. I do get some soft toffee at first, but that is quickly overtaken by a fruity, citrus hop flavour and bitterness. I found I quite liked the hop dimension, both for being assertive without being overpowering and that it had a tropical flavour without that bite you get from more grapefruit-y hops. The flavour reminded me of mango and passionfruit – sweeter and more rounded.
It may or may not be a stellar example of an American Amber, but there is no question it comes out of that Northwest hop tradition. It has a sharper and edgier profile than almost anything I have had from Granville.
And what an interesting surprise that was!
Nice to know that as Granville works its way through its middle-aged years, it still knows how to stretch things out a bit. And throw us beer geeks a curve ball now and again.