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Twin Creeks Flow in Different Directions

Photo courtesy of Liquor on McLeod

Alberta breweries Ribstone Creek and Bench Creek have recently engaged in one of the more interesting collaboration projects we have seen in a long time in the province. Under the moniker Twin Creeks (get it?), they have released The Hermit, an English Brown Ale spiced with nutmeg, molasses, dates and vanilla. So kind of a winter ale with a twist.

The trick is that rather than gather at one of their breweries and jointly brew a single beer, they instead used the same collaboratively created recipe but brewed separate versions at their own respective brewery. The result is, theoretically, the same beer brewed on two different systems. To be scientifically accurate the differences are two-fold. First there is water. In each brewery they are drawing on different water sources. Second, there is the brewhouse and procedures each brewery uses. The shape of the kettle and fermenters can make a difference. Subtle differences in temperature, presssure, brewhouse efficiency and water chemicals can, potentially, change the flavour of the beer, as can slightly different techniques used by the brewers.

This collaboration tests those technical differences. Plus, personally, I love the opportunity to do a side-by-side tasting. So, bring it on!

For the record, I tasted both beer on the same day they were delivered to the liquor store. Due to a scheduling difference, I picked them up from two different locations, but I estimate they had the same amount of time to settle before I opened them. I ensured they were at the same temperature and were poured into a glass of similar design. That is about all I can control in these circumstances.

Their appearance gave me my first double take. The Ribstone version was a very clear dark reddish brown that formed a loose white head. The Bench Creek version was also reddish brown, but possessed a slightly hazy hue that moderated the appearance. I also noted that it built a less substantial, off-white tightly beaded head.

The aromas were more similar. Both offered up strong aromas of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, hints of nutmeg and vanilla and a light fruitiness. The Bench Creek was noticeably more fruity but otherwise they smelled like sisters.

But in the flavour things go sideways. I can’t say anything other than that they are two different beer. And that statement surprises the heck out of me.

The Ribstone Creek version starts with a clear toffee note with some nuttiness and dark fruit. The middle sharpens a little bit, bringing in a stone fruit character. I also pick up subtle hints of nutmeg, molasses and vanilla silkiness. The finish brings out the vanilla and adds some stone fruit to the feel. Overall it has a fairly clean finish.

As it works out the Bench Creek version starts similarly with toffee, some light sugary sweetness but also offers a light earthy spicing. The middle brings out a noticeable spicing that reminds me of nutmeg, clove, molasses and vanilla. The finish is moderately dry with a noted spicy linger. It has a more complex finish.

What am I to make of this rare side-by-side tasting?

First I am surprised at how obviously different they were. I was primed to find subtle differences between the two beer. Instead, it jumped out at me in no uncertain terms. There are very different beer. The Ribstone version presents as a slightly complicated brown ale. It is very clean and flavourful. The Bench Creek version, on the other hand, assertively accents the spicing combinations.

What creates the difference? To be honest, I am not sure. Some short back and forth with one of the breweries suggests they have slightly different techniques for adding the spices, but I don’t have a definitive answer for this question.

What I do know is that the outcome is fascinating, and I really hope they try this again at some point in the future. I am heartened that our beer market has advanced enough that two breweries can play in this fashion and not only get away with it, but be embraced by consumers for doing it.

Which is my favourite? I am too smart to fall for that old chestnut. Both are well-brewed and present interesting flavour combinations. They are also decidedly different beer. Which you prefer will be entirely about personal taste preferences. So you’ll forgive me for not answering that one.

Instead I encourage you to go out and do your own side-by-side taste test of them and decide for yourself which you prefer.



4 comments to Twin Creeks Flow in Different Directions

  • Chad

    These days: it seems like everyone spices, smokes, coconuts, or adds fruit to either a porter or a stout. I’m glad to see a brown ale finally getting some special treatment. IMHO, the darker roasted malts in porters and stouts tend to mute or overshadow attempted spicing or flavours… while a brown ale allows flavours to show through.

  • Vince

    Are they sold together from the two different breweries, or do you have to get different 4 packs?

  • Agree Chad. My favorite brown is from the Monks in Red Deer and I will pick up the occasional Blueberry infused 6 pack but that as far as I go. Watermelon !!! what the hell is that ? Happy New Year to all.

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