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Church-Key Northhumberland Ale - Church-Key Brewing Company

Church-Key Northhumberland AleChurch-Key Northhumberland Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

27 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 27
Reviews: 21
rAvg: 2.67
pDev: 21.72%

Brewed by:
Church-Key Brewing Company visit their website
Ontario, Canada

Style | ABV
Cream Ale |  5.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Northumberland Cream Ale is the Church Key classic and the first beer John Graham the owner and Head Brew-master at CKB produced in 2000. A personal homage to the Ontario brewing history, made following a local recipe that was used in the Northumberland Brewing taverns of the 1940s and 1950s. When you hear someone ask for a ‘Church-Key’, they are probably asking for the Northumberland Cream Ale. While cream ales are top-fermented ales, they are brewed as ale though are sometimes finished with a lager yeast, they typically undergo an extended period of cold-conditioning or lagering after primary fermentation is complete. It is also sometimes referred to as a stock ale.

15-20 IBU

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 01-30-2004)
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Ratings: 27 | Reviews: 21 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of mick303

Ontario (Canada)

2.75/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

Light golden colour with a decent cap of white fluffy head. Lots and lots of carbonation.
S - graininess, light, bready, some faint grassy/earthy hops but nothing exciting.
T - really lightly bodied, bready grains, stinging amounts of sharp carbonation and metallic notes. Has a cloying finish. Some harsh lemon and a slim body, with some sour vegetal notes coming through, a bit more heft than BMC but this has nothing notable about it. Finish is wet and has shallow malts.
M - tons of carbonation and a strong metallic feel. Watery body.
Boring, overly carbonated, watery. There is nothing to recommend in this beer, a light ale a half-step above the macros it is trying (admittedly!!!) to emulate. If Church Key wants to convert beer drinkers you have to offer something different not a more expensive/harder to get example of the same watery fizz. They arent necessarily alone on that strategy in ontario sadly, but eventually people are going to be demanding actual craft beers.

Serving type: bottle

12-12-2013 23:49:40 | More by mick303
Photo of atr2605

New York

2.45/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

A-pours a golden very light copper color with a white head with decent retention
S-sweet malt, no hop aroma
T-Pretty faint flavor, bit of sweet malt in the finish, comes across as more of a macro lager with a heavier body
M-medium-light bodied
O-not a bad brew but doesn't strike me as a cream ale. Would drink it if it came my way, but wouldn't seek it out

Serving type: bottle

04-11-2013 00:15:56 | More by atr2605
Photo of kjyost

Manitoba (Canada)

2.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

An English brown ale, eh? Thanks tbeckett! Poured into a tulip around 4C.

A: Copper, clear, light white head with little lacing.
S: Not much here, some vegetal that grows as it warms, with a nice hint of malty sweetness off the top
T: English brown ale or non-descript BMC lager? Hard to tell here. The esters go towards the vegetal. A touch of sweetness from malt with hints of earthy hops. Not much going on here, and certainly nothing I would be wanting to go to again.
M: Crisp, with an odd aftertaste, likely from the vegetal aromas.
O: Now I know why people drink crap beer in ON, if this is a craft option, I too would avoid craft. That said, upon review of their website they medaled with this beer as a cream ale. A cream ale? Still not quite, but at least the description is closer.

Serving type: bottle

10-12-2011 22:11:49 | More by kjyost
Photo of spinrsx

Ontario (Canada)

3.08/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz Bottle

Appearance - Clear amber colour with an average size fizzy white coloured head. There is an average amount of carbonation showing and there isn't much lacing. The head lasted for around 4 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, caramel, bread

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, caramel and a very light amount of hops. There is also a bit of a rusty taste going on. The beer finishes with a malty cookie sweet aftertaste with a slight amount of bitterness.

Overall - The beer definitely isn't a brown ale.. so I'm not sure what's up with that. The taste ins't awful.. it's actually pretty decent considering what's out there for beers from Ontario. It does seems a little bit like a watered down american pale ale, and the rusty flavour kind of ruins it. But regardless, it's not as bad as some of the reviews make it out to be.

Serving type: bottle

08-24-2011 19:06:33 | More by spinrsx
Photo of tbeckett

Ontario (Canada)

2.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Birthday present sixer from last week. Had one but didn't get to review so here it is.

A - NOT brown. Odd for a BROWN ALE. Pours a slightly dark golden colour with good carbonation. Bright. Initial two finger head faded to a cap or white, soapyness fast. No lacing and a very thin cap of retention.

S - Sweet grain, corn, some floral notes, earth. Mostly sweet grain.

T - No rich malt, nuttiness, or any other EBA characteristics. Sweet grain, some floral notes, and a sweetness that's a little much.

M - Good carbonation, medium body, and a lingering dry kinda sweetness.

O/D - This isn't a Brown Ale at all. It's not a good lager or blonde either. Just a sweet grain, one-dimensional beer. I'll find someone to drink the others.

Serving type: bottle

07-30-2011 23:19:33 | More by tbeckett
Photo of bryehn

Ontario (Canada)

3.23/5  rDev +21%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This is not a brown ale by any means. Described on box as a stock ale similar to those produced in Eastern Ontario/Southwestern Quebec in the 1940-50s. It has much more in common with an American pale ale, so I'm treating it as such.

BB of Sept. '11, I think this may be a completely different recipe that what's been listed/reviewed here thus far.

Poured a nice deep golden colour to a moderate frothy head settles as a thick film and there is a fair amount of visible carbonation.

Has a sweet, toasted malt aroma with a honey-like tone and a sort of earthy character and a freshwater note to it. Slightly faint, but smells quite fresh.

Rather light in the taste department. Quite dry at first before sweetened toasted malt comes through on the tongue. Could definitely use more character, but there's nothing offensive in there.

Mouthfeel is on the thin side, but very crisp and extremely easy-drinking. Slightly malty, resin-like taste and feeling on the finish.

Rated as a brown ale it's terrible, but treated as an American IPA or stock-style ale, I find it decent. Seems like it would make a great patio or session beer and I'm glad I tried it and will likely buy it again, though it is a tad pricey.

Serving type: bottle

05-20-2011 16:54:39 | More by bryehn
Photo of kwjd

Ontario (Canada)

2.78/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours an amber colour with thin white head. Smells quite bready, in a way that overpowers anything else. Flavour is a bit bland, lots of bread, no real sweetness or bitterness. Carbonation was ok though. I certainly don't plan on having this again, but had to try it once.

Serving type: on-tap

09-30-2010 15:34:35 | More by kwjd
Photo of JohnnyBarman

Ontario (Canada)

2.23/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

On tap at C'est What. My first offering from Church-Key.

Poured a rich golden hue, very light for the style, with some visible carbonation and a thin head with some retention.

Nose was citrus, honey, light hoppage. Floral and fruit notes as well.

A very fruity, grainy ale with something vegetable-like going on in the back. Had a very strange taste to it that I couldn't quite put my finger on, and certainly didn't care for. Desperately out of balance; needed either a bigger hop presence or something. Tasted more like a blonde ale than a brown. I ordered a spicy dish for lunch that actually paired well with this, but for the wrong reason - by numbing my tastebuds a little I could actually finish the pint.

A bit watery, slightly oily, good carbonation.

A strange-tasting ale (if one could ever call it an ale) not something I would pick up again. Something about the whole construction just felt off. Pass.

Serving type: on-tap

08-19-2010 16:51:23 | More by JohnnyBarman
Photo of soju6


2.65/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

A: Light golden color with a small head that fades to some lacing.

S: Fruity aroma with a hint of sweetness.

T: Taste seems to be of grain with a dry finish.

F: Fairly light body.

D: Goes best with food. Pretty bland, expected more for this style of ale.

Serving type: on-tap

08-16-2010 17:31:51 | More by soju6
Photo of biboergosum

Alberta (Canada)

3.3/5  rDev +23.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On-tap at C'est What.

This beer appears a clear medium golden hue, with one finger of soapy white head, which leaves a consistent wall of lace around the glass as it fades. It smells of light barley malt, and floral hops. The taste is sweet white grain, and floral, earthy hops. The carbonation is moderate, the body average weight, and it finishes more or less dry, and clean.

An all right, if fairly unremarkable, session ale.

Serving type: on-tap

03-16-2010 00:22:35 | More by biboergosum
Photo of mrmanning

Ontario (Canada)

2.25/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottle samples from brewery and at home-Pours a golden body with a crisp clean looking white head. Aromas are not all that strong, but a sweet citrusy and hoppy smell is what I got. Tastes a little weak, but slightly bitter. Light bodied, and very refreshing.

Serving type: bottle

11-10-2009 16:52:48 | More by mrmanning
Photo of MeisterBurger

Ontario (Canada)

1.95/5  rDev -27%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Pours a light honeyed brown with a wonderfully bright white head that dies down and doesn't stick around for long.

The smell is bright, highly subdued mind you, but fresh with hints of apple juice from concentrate. Overall there's not a whole lot to say here in terms of malt, yeast or hop aromas. You know. The three main components of beer's aroma and flavor. If I get any of the three it's a bit of yeast.

The taste is a bread-like toffee, but I'm being generous, because really I'm picking up more pear like esters with a subtle hop flavor that could really use some serious help here. It's fruity and again almost has a bit of an apple juice taste and is sweet and sour more than sweet and bitter. It's almost as if someone mixed one part Sir Perry to two parts Molson Golden with just a splash of club soda and Apple Cider Vinegar and called it beer.

Mouthfeel is um..okay. I guess.

Yeah, even a beer that's intended to please the masses should taste more like a beer than this.

Serving type: bottle

07-07-2009 02:07:02 | More by MeisterBurger
Photo of allergictomacros

Ontario (Canada)

2.28/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Pours a clear gold with an inch of frothy white head. Nose has a sharp fruitiness and honey-like sweetness. Odd flavour - yes, fruity, a bit tart with a sweet edge. Overbalanced on the estery side without anything to counterbalance. Not really very impressed with this one - perhaps a case of being too light and having defects show through?

Serving type: bottle

03-12-2009 05:11:43 | More by allergictomacros
Photo of Viggo

Ontario (Canada)

3.05/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a clear amber/orange, thick white head forms, lots of lace, good retention, looks pretty decent. Smell is grainy, lots of malt, vegetables, some citrus, light sourness. Taste is similar, very dry and grainy, lots of vegetables, big of bready caramel, balanced finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied with medium carbonation. Not as bad as I have heard, but the vegetables are kind of strange.

Serving type: on-tap

11-06-2007 03:01:47 | More by Viggo
Photo of crwills

Ontario (Canada)

3.53/5  rDev +32.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

When had fresh, this beer isn't bad. Pours a cloudy yellow, not as pale as light macros but reasonably so. Look unfiltered. Decent sized white bubbly head when poured at the right temperature.

Aroma is faint, but mostly floral. I don't detect any adjuncts... mild yeast, no hops to speak of, some clover or other field flowers, and a little bit of fruit (maybe pineapple?).

Taste is not too bad. Mouthfeel is actually really nice. Smooth and oily (almost a little overly so). Very mild floral hops, fruitiness is not present in the flavour. Tastes very 'fresh,' although there's a slight metallic edge to it on some sips. There's some other unusual flavour in there I can't identify that separates this beer from other similar ones. Not a bad flavour.

Oh, and just to note -- I'm not reviewing this as though it were an English Brown, because it very obviously isn't. Probably an American Blonde Ale, as it's definitely lager-like.

Serving type: bottle

09-17-2006 19:52:10 | More by crwills
Photo of Cwrw

Alberta (Canada)

2.15/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Thanks to 42ndtourist for the sample. From Campbellford, Ontario comes Church-Key Brewing. The Northumberland Ale label is fairly plain, showing a brown church on an almost peach-coloured background. It poured with a big styrofoam-white head, and is this beer unfiltered? This bottle certainly was, I could see the haze floating freely in the tangerine-coloured beer, and the bottom of the bottle shows substantial sediment. This beer is super-hazy. Decent lace. Overall, the appearance is nice enough, if not quite what I expected. This is NO brown ale, though. Mainly vanilla-like malt on the nose, a little sour, like Big Rock's Traditional Ale. The malts smell allright, but there is almost no complexity to the beer whatsoever. Grainy sweetish malt, a little caramel, and no detectable hops. As I taste, I sincerely hope this beer is spoilt. Watery, tart and lacking any ale tastes whatsover. What is this? The beer tastes like lemon-water. The mouthfeel is thin and watery, and the drinkability is nill. There must be something wrong with this beer--tell me there is. If this is the way the actual beer tastes, shame on Church-Key. Not acceptable. I hope my sink is thirsty.

Serving type: bottle

11-03-2005 09:08:48 | More by Cwrw
Photo of Sammy

Ontario (Canada)

1.95/5  rDev -27%
look: 2 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Fishy smell, pale yellow and thin head. Close to a drain pour. Thin with a tad of graininess and grassiness. Did C'est What serve this up appropriately? No substance nor taste. sweetness and bitterness, grassy. Doesn't work. Tried it again 2.5 years later, why is this being carried anymore?

Serving type: on-tap

03-23-2005 00:59:46 | More by Sammy
Photo of baiser


3/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First off, this is definitely not a brown ale. It is more of a pale ale than anything.

Poured a pale yellow colour, with a small head, little retention, no lacing. Served in a Church Key pint glass at Volo Caffe.

Taste was quite distinctive, but not something I would call 'pleasant'. It took me a while to find the words to describe the taste, but in the end I settled on 'almond-like' taste. The end is dry, grainy and moderately hopped.

Overall a less than average ale. Would not have again. I've tried the maple cranberry wheat too...overall I'm losing faith in this brewery.

Serving type: on-tap

08-14-2004 04:25:31 | More by baiser
Photo of Popsinc

Ontario (Canada)

2.15/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

By the looks of things, this was hardly a brown ale or amber ale at all. This looked like a pretty generic pilsner to me. In fact, the comparisons didn't end there. Pale yellow in colour. Almost no nose whatsoever...maybe some grain. The taste was bland with sweet hints of corn. A very light body that was neither crisp or complex. Either i was served the completely wrong beer or Churchkey made a really bad ale.

Serving type: on-tap

06-30-2004 02:48:39 | More by Popsinc
Photo of DrJay


1.38/5  rDev -48.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Clear yellow colour with a very thin white head that quickly disappeared. Some spiciness in the aroma, reminiscent of noble lagering hops without the depth of character. It had a medium body, appropriate for a pale ale. The flavour was not enjoyable at all. Mostly just bland with a slight bit of bitterness, the dominant flavour was sourness that lingered on the palate and continued to build through the pint. Two of us tried to finish it, and we ended up leaving a third of a pint on the table.

Serving type: on-tap

06-25-2004 23:00:34 | More by DrJay
Photo of TerryW

Ontario (Canada)

2.05/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours crystal clear and bright, bright golden yellow. No head, no lace. Except for a few bubbles this could pass for a glass of apple juice.

Putting your nose to this could throw you for a loop. Grassy and hoppy, but smells like it's been run through a horse. I can appreciate a touch of the barnyard in a beer, but this is over the top.

Dry mouthfeel, hops up front and some lingering hops, but doesn't really offer anything else. Too rough and harsh. Unpleasant vegetal odours, slightly sulphorous.

Sorry. Just does not work.

Serving type: bottle

01-30-2004 20:19:28 | More by TerryW
Church-Key Northhumberland Ale from Church-Key Brewing Company
68 out of 100 based on 27 ratings.