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Railway Takes a Turn Down Rye Avenue

I had a couple conversations recently with Canmore-area residents on matters not related to beer. Both times they volunteered their early opinions on recently opened Canmore Brewing. BOTH of them highlighted that their favourite beer from them is their Railway Avenue Rye IPA. The fact two people whom I don’t believe know each other and completely independently offered up this endorsement was interesting to me.

As it turns out I still had a can of the Railway left over from my recent trip to that part of the world (read here and here). I remember enjoying the beer in the context of a small sample while chatting with co-owner Brian Dunn. The praise from unexpected quarters seemed a good excuse to give it a closer examination.

Before I jump into the tasting notes, I want to first pause and note the growing trend on the prairies of breweries trying to do something “different” with their IPAs. Different kind of ingredients, experiments with different hopping regimes and the adoption of regional styles not seen here before are all efforts being made by a range of brewers. I argue this is a sign of the market’s maturation. A few years back if you put out a decent IPA, you were edging into rarefied air in terms of the prairie beer scene. Today, lots of breweries have solid IPAs. To stand out you need to start offering some flavour and character that is a bit unusual. The need to stand out can have its excessive and outrageous elements, but on the whole I think local breweries are approaching their IPAs with creativity but not too much out-of-the-box thinking.

Canmore’s Railway Avenue is such a case. Rye IPAs are in no way new, but you would be hard pressed to find more than a couple examples around these parts. So, it is noteworthy Canmore went with a rye-d up version for their initial core listings. In theory the rye should add a sharper, earthier malt character to the beer that, depending on hop choice, creates a balance and contrast.

So, how does Railway Avenue fare in a more focused evaluation. Overall, pretty good.

It pours medium copper and builds a big, loose white head that hangs around to the bottom of the glass. That big white head gives it an attractive appearance.  I pick up a piney hop aroma combined with a soft grainy sweetness accented with some honey and biscuit. Soft fruit lurks in the background. First impression are of a fruity, fresh beer.

The first sip reveals toffee and biscuit upfront along with some grainy sweetness. I also detect a bit of light toasted bread as well. The middle sharpens with a piney hop note. Along with the hop, I also taste a a sharp grain character that builds as the beer works its way back. The finish is moderately dry and hoppy with a piney, American hop character. The angular grain also works through the finish which I attribute to the rye.

I wouldn’t say this is a perfect IPA. If  forced I might say the bitterness impression could be higher and I might dial back just a touch on the more bready malt character. Overall it offers an interesting flavour profile. Pine hops with a toasty malt combine well and the sharp rye accent creates interest. The beer has some interesting, unique flavours that are worth a second second glass. You know, just to be sure.

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