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McNeill's Champ Ale | McNeill's Brewery

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44 Reviews
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McNeill's Champ AleMcNeill's Champ Ale

Brewed by:
McNeill's Brewery
Vermont, United States

Style: American Pale Ale (APA)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Champ Ale is a West Coast style pale ale. Also somewhat citrusy, it has notes of concord grapes both in the flavor and the nose. Made from a blend of British and domestic malts, it has a light red or pale rose color and very high drinkability.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 02-17-1998

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Reviews: 44 | Ratings: 61
Photo of cavedave
3.72/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a slightly cloudy light amber, with a quick to leave off white head that places a bit of lace, and settles to a lively skim.

Smell is yeasty tart, bready like an English bitter, and some floral and lemony citrus hop in a nose that is lighter side of medium strength.

It tastes like a bitter also, but with a tart edge, some caramel, then that English hop fade out herbal bitter at the end, here with some lemony/citrusy bitter added. This is an APA? The simple flavors combine in a balanced and delicious way, esp as it nears room temp.

Nice mouthfeel, very low carb., full bodied for style, and a long fairly clean finish. To nitpick there is just a bit of the lemon taste buildup on palate.

Drinkability, rated against others in style, suffers. Ten better in this style easily spring to mind.

Impression: Another well made McNeill's beer that is good, esp. for price, and tasty, yet not a standout.

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Photo of madjr80
3.26/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I bought a 22 ounce bomber for 2.75, so it was not a bad deal. It is listed as an American pale ale, but it is not really true to the style. It has a funny yeasty/citrus tang to it. The color was a pale amber. The texture light with enough of carbonation; head retention is just about average(thin lace).A bit weaker on the hop than expected. Overall, not a bad decision, but a 22 ounce bomber is enough for me.

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Photo of BeerNinja007
2.69/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

22oz bomber was $3.69 at the Lebanon Co-op grocery. Label notched to indicate best before last day of February. No year is indicated, so this info is of minimal value. Served cold in a chilled pint glass.

A: A rigorous pour gives 1" of off-white foamy head on top of a mostly-clear pale golden-yellow brew. Minimal lace.

S: Light tasty aroma of honey, apricot, green grapes, hay, florals.

T: Much more hoppy and dry than I expected from the smell. Mostly dominated by a big note of bitter orange and lemon, then some yeastiness. Barely any malt at all, far too bitter with no backbone. Finish turns a bit tropical, bitter pineapple or mango.

M: Dry, thin, a bit fizzy. Acidic and unrefined.

D: It has a good hoppy bite but lacks any balance with malt or sweetness. Fizzy hop water. Plus there's a complete disconnect between the smell and the taste, which are nothing alike. I'm not too interested in finishing this, it is a chore to drink. Dumped the rest.

A perusal of other reviews shows my experience to be atypical. I previously speculated that McNeill's may have problems with consistency/ reproducibility and this seems like even more evidence. Drink at your own risk. :/

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Photo of albern
3.67/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is a good APA, not brilliant but good. The tartness of the beer really shines through as it settles in. The beer pours a really cloudy, dirty water, no make that filthy water light brown, with particulates mostly at the bottom of the glass. There is a decent creamy, slightly fizzy head, with some lacing. The nose imparts more hops than you will find in the taste. The nose is very enticing and it hints at a really well balanced beer with a nice bready malt underbelly.

The taste is good but doesn't quite live up to what the nose was leading to. There is a nice slighlty floral hop, maybe a bit of drying leafy hop, with some thick malts underneath. There is some herbal texture to the malts. The defining feature is the lemony, tartness that comes through on top of the hops. There is a slight acerbic quality to the beer and a bit of mouth puckering with this one. The beer has some body, and dries up in the finish. The lemony tartness overly predominate this beer. It's good, but not brilliant.

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Photo of jlindros
3.87/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours light creamy and bubbly head. A hazy pale almost glowing wheat orange color.

N: Nose is quite nice and complex. It has some creamy malts, and a decent pale malt aroma. Hints of fruit and... grape?... and a nice hop aroma, with some grassy, chewy, and fruity hops.

T: Starts with a malty bite, some nice dark toasty malts, a really nice malt flavor actually. It then comes through with some light pale bitterness and some light grassy and spicy hop flavors. Those hop flavors are then followed with some fruity and juicy hops. More earthy malt flavors mingle. A slight citrus orange peel flavor comes through a little on the end, but isn't too bad yet.

M: Somewhat light body with good carbonation.

F: FInishes with a nice light pale bitterness that builds a bit, then adds more of the spicy hop quality and can be somewhat dry. Then it gets a somewhat unpleasant bitterness, like biting on an orange peel as that orange peel citrus flavor goes way over the top. Overall it's a nice pale ale, with some nice hop flavors, lighter fare, great malt flavors, and refreshing. The only real issue is that strong orange peel bitterness.

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Photo of alpinebryant
4.28/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy dark marigold color with a creamy white head at first that quickly turned to a few larger bubbles in the center of the glass and a ring around the glass.

A stonger citrus aroma of lemon and some grapefruit. Smell is great with a nice malty scent as well.

Tasted like a well bittered APA, there is a nice light sour bite that is enjoyable but balanced out with the bittering hops. some dry bite at the end and a lemon flavored sweet flavor as well. More grapefruit flavor in this beer than I have tasted in any other - period. The Grapefruit really comes out because this beer is not overhopped to some ridiculous IBU rating to sell bottles. As for the dragon on the label though I have not quite figured out its relevance. Maybe the dragon likes to drink Champ Ale?

Strong carbonation and a nice finish. I bought 4 bombers from a grocery store of McNeills on the way back from VT and I am beginning to think that was a great idea...

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Photo of puboflyons
3.4/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

From the 1 pint 6 fl. oz. bottle with the date clipped at February on the label without a year listed. Sampled on December 28, 2009. It pours a cloudy copper yellow with an overwhelming and long lasting puffy cream head. The aroma is strong on yeast, the sign of an unfiltered brew. There are some clean hops lingering around the background a bit. The mouthfeel tends to be thin to medium. A tart and sour taste that leaves an aftertaste that was unappealing to me. I guess I have a hard time giving it as high a rating as previous raters.

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Photo of scootny
3.71/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A lightly cloudy golden honey with a prodigious shaving cream sticky head. Retention is quite good and the glass is well decorated as I drink. Lots of yeast suspended but not much carbonation.

Smell has an orangey note with citrusy hops and a caramel malt base. A bit of yeasty bread.

Taste is sourdough bread malty with grapefruity sharp hops. A light spiciness and a return of sourness, this time gently tannic in nature. Finish is dry and firmly bitter. Lots of grapefruit skin and a light malt lingering in the mouth. Feel is finely carbonated in a lightly tingly way and somewhat crisp. Weight is moderate.

Quite quaffable. A nice one with dinner ( fish sticks, asparagus, garlic mashed, and lentil pilaf this evening ). Good for a ball game.

Thanks to The Rowan for this Vermont treat.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
3.95/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This nice APA was a hazy orange color with a thick white head that retained well. It had a citrus aroma, and an outdoorsy scent. Grapefruit taste, not much in the way of malt. A crisp beer, a little too carbonated for me, but would still drink it again.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.33/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Another gem from McNeil's. I have really been plowing through their lineup lately to say the least. I think this is the 6th or so I have had and I have one more left for tonight. Split with my brother in law over dinner, this one was consumed on 10/13/2009.
The pour was fairly nice I have to say. Nice golden amber in color with a good three inch head that quickly collapsed on itself and left behind only token amounts of lacing but kept a good bit of carbonation working up from the bottom of the glass throughout to make sure you kept yourself interested. Light aroma, hints of dry citrus notes, grapefruit maybe? A touch of light pineapple and a good bit of grain to balance it out. As I reach in to take a sip it just leaves me looking for a little bit more. It is nice and clean, crisp, dry and with a good hop kick right up front I would have just wanted a touch more to go on for me. Starts with a nice dose of grapefruit and light  orange flavor that quickly blends in with a bready taste and a nice touch of light grain. But then it just kind of all muddles and fades into one another and never really comes back to where it needs to be. Clean and dry finish and nothing really terribly heavy about it, but I was really just looking for that one more little punch to make this one excellent.
Overall a solid, seasonable and workable pale ale, but I just wanted a little bit more out of it. Would not turn it down but it needs a little work. Still good though.

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Photo of deereless
3.26/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Lots of frothy foam sticking to the side of the glass, quite opaque, a dirty gold color; 4.25, S: Heaps of citrus, noticeably grapefruit, I realize this is an APA, but I smell a dry crispness that I associate with a sour ale - 3.00, T: Some orange or grapefruit zest, solid hop bite, mild grainy sweetness, the sour on the nose creeps into the palate - 3.50, M: Medium bodied - 3.00, D: A decent beer, misses on a couple of marks in my opinion but I'd drink it again - 3.00

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Photo of indiapaleale
3.8/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I was up in Brattleboro, Vermont the other afternoon and stopped in at McNeil's for a pint. They had this on tap but I didn't get a chance to try it. I had opted for their Ruby Ale. Before I left town though I stopped in at the Brattleboro Co-Op, which is a great place to buy beer, and picked up this bottle for only $2.99. What a great deal for some fresh, locally brewed beer!

Champ Ale's label has a picture of a jester along with "Champ" who is the creature akin to the Loch Ness Monster who is supposed to lurk in Lake Champlain.

Pours a deep, golden color with a few inches of thick bubbly white head. Its got a hazy, almost "soft" appearance.

Smells a bit citrusy, a bit sour and a bit like lemonade. There is also a sort of strange yeasty smell to it.

The taste is sort of sour at first, as soon as it hits the tongue. I was worried for a second that it might have been off. However, it appears that it is just a citrus flavor from the hops. As it warms I begin to pick up some fruit flavors and an almost Belgian saison spiciness to this beer. Lots of flavor packed into what brewery owner, Ray McNeill, simply referred to as a "pale ale" when I asked about this at the bar.

Great stuff at a fantastic price!

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Photo of jdhilt
2.78/5  rDev -23.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Explodes out of bottle for a five+ finger white head that fades slowly to a ring leaving some lace. Clear amber color. Strong carbonation and medium bodied. Grapefruit nose. Flavor is sour peach and grapefruit, lingering bitter aftertaste from the hops. $2.99 for a 22oz bottle from Beverage Warehouse Winooski, VT.

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Photo of SaintPeter
3.8/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours an explosion of head. Careful attention to detail is needed when poured as not to end up with a beer table cloth or a slick bartop. A tad over carbonated.

Pretty, fluffy off-white head. It jiggles like a fat person's belly when laughing. Silky look to it. Carbonation bubbles are flowing. Head shrinks at a medium rate and leaves an island of foam in the middle of the glass, if not disturbed. Amazing lacing, almost uniform macramé on the inside of the glass. One of the most impressive I have ever seen. The lace twinkles in the light like miniature diamonds. Wow! Hazy amber/copper color with streaks of red. Still a layer of foam hiding the beer under it's cap after a few minutes of recession with champagne-esque bubbles streaming from the bottom of the glass. Foam coats the glass fully all the way down to the last sip. Extremely impressive.

So much going on here: sour cherry, hibiscus, grape skins, sour apples, crushed pepper corns, antique furniture, Belgian yeastiness, vanilla, citrus fruits, tartness, hints of Flemish sour ale aged in oak.

Sourness initially, like a sour ale, morphing in the middle to hoppiness and then being balanced with malt. A lager perception for an instant. Finishes with green grape skin tartness and a lingering coat in the throat of warm alcohol, oatiness and hops. Resembles a sour ale mixed with a pale ale or English bitter. The mixture is rough, though.

Watery, light and soft mouthfeel. Not what I expected from the creamy head and bold fragrance. Average.

The acridness that shows it's face just as promptly disappears making it easy to drink. Could have a pint, but not more. Lots of varying flavors and amalgams: lager, ale, hops, citrus, sourness, woody, etc.

The aroma and appearance are world class, but the taste and feel of mouth are all over the place and unbalanced. With McNeill's it is a tad difficult to predict what you are going to get--A world class beer or a homebrew gone awry. This one sits on the fence.

May pair well with equally as powerful foods--blue cheeses, meats, et al.

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Photo of erosier
3.85/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

L: Pours a golden orange color with a small and almost non-existent head white head that leaves little lacing down the glass.
S: Smells of sweet malts, nice floral and some citrisy hops as well.
T: Tastes like the nose - very nice sweet malty base, and then a big citrisy/floral hop flavor at the end.
M: Smooth, refreshing, but it seemed a bit raw. Nice flavors though.
D: Pretty drinkable, I enjoyed this one alot.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.01/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I got this bottle in a trade with Vermonthiker. Thanks Tom!

My first sample from McNeill's:

It pours a hazy orange gold with a 1 finger head of foam. There's some good lacing here and the head retention is very good.

The smell is light but nice. I'm getting some fruity notes along with some caramel sweetness and some citric bitterness.

The taste is definitely fruity. I can taste some pear, some lemon, maybe some orange, a bit of malty sweetness in the background, and it finishes quite bitter and with a slight sourness. This has a real grapefruity kick at the end and like I said, it's very bitter....but nice.

It has a medium mouthfeel that's on the lower end of medium, and it's on the medium side with the carbonation. Most unusual tasting American Pale Ale because of the flavours here and because it's only 5.5%abv, it makes for a pretty darned good sessionable Ale. I see the sticker on the bottle says $3.99 for the bomber..that's an oustanding price for a very pleasurable APA indeed! Well done McNeill's and thanks again Tom!

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Photo of Brad007
4.05/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a pale/light amber color with a two finger head that recedes. Aroma is nice and malty upfront with a decent hop bitterness to it. I can smell a faint hint of mint as well. Hmm. Taste starts out biscuity and malty and then fades into a mild hop bitterness that isn't too dry on the tongue.

A second sip confirms many of the things I suspected in what appears to be a well-balanced version of the American Pale Ale style. Very nice beer.

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Photo of oberon
3.97/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into an imperial pint glass a hazed light copper color with a thinner white head atop a few chunks and floaties swirling when I got to the bottom of the bottle,nice subtle aromas some floral/citric hop along with biscuit malt a nice even mix.It sorta reminds me of an old school craft American pale ale it has a healthy dose of citrusy,resiny hop but a firm slightly caramel malt base hold up through to the finish.A solid pale its food friendly and has enough subtle complexity to keep me wanting more.

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bomber purchased at North end Market in Brattleboro, VT.

AP: Golden hued amber, very active(good to see) nice 1" tall, foamy head, good retention, Nice legs too!

Nose: Ultra sweet hops, fruity and mildly citrusy.

Taste: A tasty, tart and slightly fruity hop taste dominates. A mild malt flavor appears then finishes with a nice leafy-hopped bite.

Mf: Medium body, feels rather thick but displayes plenty of bubbles and has a big fresh bite. The constant foamy head gives it a nice added smooth feel.

DA: Mmmm...

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Photo of cracker
3.25/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

From a 22oz bomber, best before date 11/?? (year is conspiciously missing). Pours a golden yellow hue with little to no head. Smells of biscuit and some sweet malt. Little hop aroma. Taste is very tangy and citrusy but not from bittering hops. Light carbonation. Somewhat strange sensation on the palate. Drinkable but not one of the better apa's I've had. Maybe past it's freshness date I admit.

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Photo of Hibernator
3.98/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

McNeill's Champ Ale
22 oz brown bottle
Best before April notched on the side label
Served in a 20 oz tulip pint glass

* Purchased at the Co-op in Brattleboro, VT *

Pours a light, hazy brown color with a thick head on top. Random trails of sticky lace leave patterns on the glass.

Light and fruiy nose. Hints of apples and hops.

Clean and grainy mouthfeel with a really nice hop finish. The hop presence gives way to flavors of fresh peach and Macintosh apples. The hop finish also leaves a nice bittering effect. Extremely smooth and creamy.

Yet another great beer from McNeill's brewery. Nothing over the top here, rather a straightforward and consistent session based APA.

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Photo of Hhawk06
4.23/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this one out of a 22 oz. bomber, although I don't think they sell it any other way. It poured quite attractively, that was darkish golden in color and very carbonated. The head was cloudy, largely beaded, but surprising quite sustaining. The nose was solid as well, as it displays a soft hop aroma along with a bready freshness. The drink itself was very well balanced in the mouthfeel with a straight medium body. The soft floral hops are countered exquisitely bye a crisp maltiness, almost like a cracker. The brew itself is definitely balance driven and it is very well achieved. It finishes freshly, dry, and with a bit of orangey smoothness. The remaining faint and soft hop bouquet is very elegant and impressive. Excellent.

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Photo of Sammy
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A solid drinkable pale. Enough C hops to give off a citrus smell, great big creamy long-lasting head. Well malted, good with lunch. Citrus taste and aftertaste dominated. Not too bitter so was popular.Good amount of hops. Middling mouthfeel. Well done.

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Photo of FLAbeergutinMASS
3.5/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bomber purchased from the brewery with no freshness date. Seemed to have many bottles on hand, so I figured they must go through a lot of it. I can see how.

Should be considered an EPA. Very bland in color. Nice lacing. most likely due to its freshness?!?!?!?!

Peachy clean taste. For an EPA (which is what it is) has a fair amount of bitterness that accompanies it.

First McNeil’s beer I've "officially" reviewed. Craft yes, good yes, try again? Yes. Average at best.

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Photo of Hagbard
3.71/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy deep golden color with some reddish highlights. The beer is not transparent. A thin, soapy, white head forms. The aroma is subtle with a hoppy presence. Slightly fruity. Thankfully, there is more to the taste than their is to the aroma. The taste is very hoppy up front. Immediately a bitterness asserts itself with a florally background. The bitterness mellows a bit allowing some citrus juiciness to assert itself. This beer is seriously hoppy. Much more strongly hopped than most of the more mainstream, tamer IPAs. In fact, without knowing better, I would have assumed this was an IPA. I really like this beer as it has some really nice hop flavor, however it isn't something I would grab when looking for a nice mellow pale ale. If I'm looking for hops...bring it on!

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McNeill's Champ Ale from McNeill's Brewery
3.63 out of 5 based on 61 ratings.
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