Plowman's Ale - Grand River Brewing

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Plowman's AlePlowman's Ale

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51 Reviews
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Reviews: 51
Hads: 82
Avg: 3.72
pDev: 13.71%
Wants: 0
Gots: 3 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Grand River Brewing visit their website
Ontario, Canada

Style | ABV
American Amber / Red Ale |  4.70% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: crwills on 09-15-2007

This is a big, bold beer that is loaded with five types of hops but also backed up with a hearty grain that establishes balance and body. This deep copper coloured beer has beautiful spicy and a slight citrus hops note right from the start with a rounded malt finish accompanying the hop bitterness.

Immediately after pouring the beer, you will notice a full, rocky head form at the top of your glass that preserves all the flavour and allows the slow release of the hop focused aroma. As you drink and enjoy your beer you will notice the head take on a thick and rocky appearance as it creates some wonderful lacing down the side of your glass. All signs of a well made traditional style beer.
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Reviews: 51 | Hads: 82
Photo of EricVonStein
3.3/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

aggressive pour gets half an inch of off white head that settles to a film quickly. Nice orange amber colour and a little opaque.

sugary sweet caramel right away on the nose. brown sugar, malts are dominant. some light dates and prunes.

malts upfront with decent rye grains and sweetness that transitions in sour then bitter pine hop finish. Dry on the end. Tastes watered down, very liquid and light on body. dry bitter lingers.

Overall the nose is a little interesting but this brew turns out just average. An easy drinker that checks the boxes of an ale, but perhaps a bit too easy of a drinker. Not a lot of complexity or depth. Still, its got some good character, even if underdeveloped.

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Photo of superspak
3.78/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle into pint glass, bottled on 3/13/2015. Pours crystal clear deep orange/copper color with a 1 finger dense off white head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Spotty soapy lacing clings down the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of caramel, toffee, toast, brown sugar, brown bread, light nuttiness, grapefruit, orange zest, light pine, herbal, grass, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/bready malt and moderate citrus/earthy hop notes; with solid strength. Taste of caramel, toffee, toast, brown sugar, brown bread, light nuttiness, grapefruit, orange zest, pine, herbal, grass, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Good amount of herbal/piney bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, toffee, toast, brown bread, light nuttiness, grapefruit, orange zest, pine, and herbal/grassy earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Very nice robustness and complexity of dark/bready malts and moderate citrus/earthy hop flavors; with a nice crisp malt/bitterness balance and no cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and body; with a very smooth, fairly creamy/bready, and lightly sticky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is well hidden with zero warming present after the finish as expected of 4.7%. Overall this is a very good amber ale. All around good complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/bready malt and moderate citrus/earthy hop flavors; and very smooth and crisp to drink. I definitely got some English yeast character from this, but the estery qualities were very well restrained. A nicely enjoyable offering.

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Photo of ONUMello
3.08/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a pint bottle dated 3/3/14 poured into a pint glass
A: Transparent light orange color with a generous 1+ finger head that lingers
S: Generic hops/malts and a metal aroma as well
T: Some pleasant hop/malt notes come through up front but that metallic note comes through big time on the finish and lasts a while... not so pleasant
M: Light-bodied, unremarkable
O: I think this was past its prime or a bad bottle. I really hate rating it this low given every review here is better. I'll try to find a fresher bottle or the brewery itself isn't so far away & I'll re-review

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Photo of DaveBar
3.9/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased at the LCBO for just under $5.00 for a 500ml bottle. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass

A- Opens well and pours a great head that is gone pretty quick. Dark gold almost brown color. Filtered clear

S- Good nose here. Lots of hops and malt.

T- Nice malt/hop balance. Overall a nice blend that has no real stand out hop.

M- Nice IPA. Good and dry but creamy

O- Rather good beer after some not so good experiences from these guys. Well blended and balanced. Will buy again

Food Pairing

This nice little IPA went well with....... Chicken in a mushroom cream sauce.


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Photo of Khaz
4.31/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Grand River Brewing is a small brewery located in southern Ontario. Situated in the town of Cambridge, Ontario, this brewery is nestled close to the nearby Grand River. Cambridge was formerly called Galt, Ontario and only became Cambridge in 1973. Plowman's Ale is full of flavour which I like. I prefer this one chilled to what I would describe as cold.

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Photo of BuckyBeerBeaver
3.59/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Brew #2 of 6 purchased from Grand River's retail store in Cambridge, Ontario. Plowman's Ale came in a brown 500 ml bottle with a ‘bottled on' date of December 10, 2013 and was 4.7% alcohol by volume.

Plowman's poured a slightly hazy dark amber colour with notes of ruby, and plenty of visible carbonation bubbles. Pouring produced about 1” of thick, beige tinted foam that lasted for several minutes before fading to a 1/8” foam cap which left some attractive lacing all down the glass. Certainly a good looking beer. Its aroma was fairly mild, likely due to the ever present foam cap, but bitter grapefruit and sweet malt aromas were detectable. Plowman's taste began with a malty sweetness which quickly gave way to a strong grapefruit bitterness which lingered for several seconds as an aftertaste. I'm glad that there is some malty sweetness up front to mitigate the hop bitterness somewhat. The mouth feel was an interesting contrast of the creamy foam cap and what is a relatively light bodied beer…but the combination works. The carbonation was just enough to give the beer a bit of a bite. I see that Plowman's Ale sells for $3.25 per 500 ml bottle when available through the LCBO.

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Photo of SebD
3.7/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: It has a nice hazy golden/orange color to it. It has a nice off-white head that dies down somewhat fast and leaves little lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of sweet bready malts, caramel, some fruitiness, (apple juice almost) and faint earthy hops.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a some sweet bready malts, caramel, some nuttiness, slight fruitiness (citrus and apple) and an earthy bitterness.

Mouthfeel: It has a low carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with good flavors and aromas.

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Photo of hopsolutely
3.53/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A very malt-forward British-style red ale. Surprised to see it listed on this site as "American"? No hint of hops outside of the dry finish. and how much of that is a result of Grand River's hard water versus the personal taste of their brew master, I'm never sure...

Pours a beautiful, clear red with decent head and moderate lacing. Aroma is malt-forward with a metallic undertone. The taste has the sweetness of caramelized malts followed by some bittering complexity. Bottled several months ago, so that may also play a role.

Definitely a sessionable ale, although prefer it on draught and not as "American" as I'd personally choose.

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Photo of korguy123
3.7/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle into tulip.
Bottled March 15th, 2012

A- Clear dark amber with red hues. Finger width off white head. Lacing is spotty.

S- Toffee, caramel, sweet cookies, subtle floral hop.

T- Caramel, slight sour dough, toffee, coffee and bitter floral hops in the finish.

M- Medium bodied, slightly chewy, good carbonation.

O- Solid amber, really glad it's a super fresh bottle.

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Photo of ssmack
4.15/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25


Slightly cloudy light amber with fine creamy head that last through the drinking.


Carmel and grainy malt with hops in the background.


Bitter chocolate and burnt malt at first then a long hoppy aftertaste.


Smooth hoppiness.


Well balanced. A taste that starts quite malty with a long hoppy ending.

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Photo of Digimaika2
3.73/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Clear reddish-copper with a creamy eggshell coloured foam head. Healthy retention and lacing.

S: Toffee, molasses, baked bread, nutty qualities, citrus, and spice. A full aroma that's full of spice and all things nice.

T: Spice, bread-like malt, sweet toffee, faint citrus, and a general nuttiness. Overall quite bitter from spice but with enough of a toffee and bread sweetness. Easy to drink.

M: Medium body with a moderate carbonation. Appropriately creamy and semi-buttery.

D: Tasty offering from Grand River. I would pick this up every once in a while.

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Photo of scott451
3.7/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass. A clear dark amber with a two finger bubbly tan head. Good head retention. Some patchy lacing.

Sweet fruity malt smells. Some caramel. A big burst of sweet malts up front in the taste. A more complex bitter finish with a wash of sweet caramel after.

Medium body. Very nice overall. Good flavour and well balanced.

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Photo of thehyperduck
4.08/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

500 mL bottle; packaged on August 24, 2011.

An aggressive pour produces a copper-brown coloured brew, topped with nearly three fingers of foamy, off-white head that gradually seeps away over a period of many minutes. Good retention, and tons of lacing on the sides of the glass. It has a pleasant aroma of bready malts, caramel sweetness and some citrusy hops. Reminds me of bergamot tea.

Not especially complex, but very tasty nonetheless. Bready malts, a bit nutty in character with some caramel sweetness as well. Good earthy, citrusy hop bitterness to balance this, once again very reminiscent of earl grey tea/bergamot; both floral and fruity. The earthy bitterness lingers on the palate in the aftertaste for a few seconds. Medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation levels that give the brew a solid bite. Creamy, maybe a little buttery/slippery on the tongue, and very smooth. Gets much tastier as it starts to warm.

This is the first beer I've tried from Grand River, and I found it highly enjoyable. Easily one of the better ambers available in Ontario, this is a very satisfying, balanced, and sessionable ale that I will surely pick up again some time. Recommended.

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Photo of spinrsx
3.7/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500ml Bottle

Appearance – Clear copper colour with an average size fizzy beige coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation visible and there is a fairly good amount of lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, tea, caramel/butterscotch

Taste & Mouth - The beer has an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, caramel/butterscotch, and some light hops. The is also a bit of a tea flavour going on. It ends with a malty caramel sweet aftertaste with a little bit of a lingering hop bitterness.

Overall – A very nice easy drinking beer with a pleasant sweet and malty taste. It's well crafted and I'd buy it again. I'd also be interested to try this one on tap/cask.

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Photo of bryehn
3.86/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a nice copper amber colour with a large and frothy tan coloured head that leaves rings of lace and settles as a collared film.

Nice dark fruit and bread aroma that has a metallic or mineral-like note to it when first poured. Once that wears off, fresh grains and chocolate can be smelled. Also a slight nuttiness and diacetyl after warming.

Surprisingly complex in taste. Sweet and toasted malts, chocolate, sweetened raisin, caramel and smokey wood are capped with a solid and bitter floral hop finish.

Creamy, bready mouthfeel with a strong earthy note. Fairly heavy mineral and grain characteristics. Dry aftertaste with a hint of caramel.

Solid offering from Grand River, which should be no surprise. Also is one of the better red lagers in Ontario and paired well with salty snacks, soft, mild cheese (mozzarella) and deli meats (salami, ham) best.

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Photo of Stocean1
3.55/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured a one finger head into a pint glass at the kiwi - fluffy head with little retention - some nice lacing - amber copper colour - pretty clear

Smell is malt, caramel, grapefruit, grassy hops with some floral notes

Taste is malt and caramel up front, orange zest and grapefruit subtle notes, grassy hops in the finish with a mineral twang (it is grand river after all)

Medium bodied brew with some carbonation and a nice amount of bitterness - relatively smooth

Overall - decent on tap with a little less metal twang but I think I get more flavour from the bottled version

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Photo of tbeckett
3.91/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes.

A - Poured dark copper. Good strong carbonation. Half finger beige, creamy head. Bright. Great lace and solid retention.

S - Caramelly with bread and citrus.

T - Caramel is less with more citrus and light earth. Bread.

M - Fairly well carbonated and good medium body for the ABV. Bitterness is light to medium.

O/D - Very drinkable. Tankhouse-like. A very sessionable Grand River offering, like they always are.

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Photo of
4.03/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - golden brown with ornage highlights and a large rocky with excellent retention and lacing.

Smell - Malty aroams of buttered toast and caramel with earthy, grassy hops and a hint of citrus.

Taste - Sweet caramel malt upfront with assertive bitterness through the middle, and a toffee finish.

A very good British-style ale.

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Photo of Kartoffeln
3.83/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep, coppery amber-red with a dense, beige head of average size. Retention is good, and the head leaves plenty of sudsy lacing as it dissipates to a thin cap of foam.

S: Hops up front with floral, fruity, and especially citric aromas - mainly orange and grapefruit. Slighty sweet and bready biscuit malts with a definite nutty character and caramel undertones round out the scent.

T: Sharply citric (orange zest and white grapefruit juice) hops tempered by a fresh, fruity character hit the mouth at the same time as nutty biscuit malts. Milder, bready caramel malts follow with a lingering nutty undertone and floral, slightly woodsy hops.

M: Medium-bodied with creamy yet crisp carbonation to keep things refreshing and moderate the slightly sticky mouthfeel. The citric hops come through a bit too strong for my liking in the finish and tends to overwhelm rather than balance the flavour profile.

D: I've got qualms with the weak nose and balance skewed towards the hoppy finish, but it's otherwise a very solid ale, both flavourful and sessionable. Certainly worth trying.

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Photo of cyrenaica
3.18/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

500ml bottle
4.7% ABV
I tried this beer on May 5, 2011 after purchasing from the Queen's Quay LCBO outlet in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The beer poured a translucent brownish-red with a rocky tan cap that laced well. The aroma was sweet caramel malt, and weak floral hops. The mouthfeel was medium bodied with medium carbonation. The flavour is quite hoppy with a malt sweeetness in the middle - I was hoping for better.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.63/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled on May 19/11.
Poured in to Pint Glass

A - Medium amber colour; translucent. One finger of bubbly khaki coloured head.

S - Sweet caramel malts initially in the nose with a slight bitterness coming through from the hops that carries a slight floral smell.

T - A nice bitterness comes through at first with some floral notes. A significant caramel/toffee malt flavour rounds out the flavour profile and provides a good compliment to the bitterness with some sweetness as well.

M - Medium body; somewhat creamy and almost full bodied at times. Light carbonation.

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Photo of peensteen
3.77/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep amber colour, slight white head, little touches of lace. Smell is malty, caramel notes, hop bitterness, citrus is there as well, grapefruit. Taste is of big chewy malt, toffee, good hop bitterness, slight citrus in the aftertaste. Medium to full mouthfeel, slightly oily at times, good carbonation on this one. Good brew and I liked this very much, solid as usual from Grand River.

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Photo of biegaman
3.9/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Plowman's Ale, befitting to its name, looks a quaintly rustic beer, a country brick tone that turns a bright Canadian maple leaf red when held into the light. Clarity is far less a concern than carbonation, which there is little evidence of. Some sign of life is observed on the surface, however, where a low-tide current washes over with sandy grains of off-white.

A delicious nutty-sweetness slides into your nostrils like a tired man does his recliner after a long day's work. And there it rests, quiet but contented. A spritz of grapefruit essence lingers like an old-lady perfume, lending the caramelized malts a refreshing candied fruit counterpart. The smell is far from substantial, but does a possess a certain charm.

Plowman's Ale has a flavour that cuts right to the chase: sweet, toffee-ish malts coated in a sticky, resinous goo. A grilled grapefruit/roasted orange peel flavour saturates the palate briefly in citrusy tang before quickly parting ways to soft and biscuity maltiness. It's an assertive taste, making the most of its generous, inherently pleasant hop bill.

Grand River makes nothing but ample yet sessionable beers. Still, this may be both the most ample and the most 'sessionable' (taking some liberty with the term) of all their offerings. It's the kind of beer you could finish in less sips than you have fingers on your hand and, while you'd be satisfied leaving it at that, another pint would be more satisfying.

Plowman's Ale is indeed a drink that would suit a plowman: it's a substantial, flavorful ale, abundant in both hops and malt, and tremendously quenching and far too easy to throw back. Although I bet it'd be extra gratifying after a hard day's work, it's been greatly enjoyable in a relaxing, quiet-evening setting. Is there a wrong time for a beer like this?

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Photo of liamt07
3.73/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle form the LCBO, bottled on April 15, 2011. Into a pint glass.

Pours a ruby red, with maybe some amber highlights. Soapy and sticky white head, leaves a bunch of webbed lacing here. Nose is bready and malty, some earthiness. Very mild citrus/grapefruit too potentially? Taste has a bitter citrus bite with more bready and earthy like malts. Caramel notes too. Lingering bitterness from this but not substantial. Medium body and carbonation. A decent amber overall.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.76/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've had this beer so many times before, I'm surprised I haven't reviewed it yet. This was one of my first craft beers that truly surprised be with its earthy bitterness; I'm interested to see how I feel about it now.

500mL picked up from the brewery, bottled January 25th. Looks like they've completely changed over their bottling artwork for all their regulars.

Poured into a Grand River conical pint glass. A striking amber hue, the pour leaving a foamy inch of head that displayed great retention. Lots of sticky lacing as well.

Nose is that distinctive, metallic tang seen in other Grand River brews (not much they can do about the water supply), with herbal hops, caramel and malt.

Earthy and flavorful, with a nice herbal/citrus hop finish. Malty, but not overly so. A nice sipper, full of flavor.

Medium bodied, creamy, nice pinprick carbonation.

A perennial favorite of mine from Grand River. A solid, flavorful red ale that displays a surprisingly diverse profile of earth, bread, herbal and bittering hop flavors. Best on tap, but bottled fresh from the brewery itself is always a treat as well.

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Plowman's Ale from Grand River Brewing
84 out of 100 based on 51 ratings.