Pugnacious Pale Ale | Grand River Brewing

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Pugnacious Pale AlePugnacious Pale Ale
60 Ratings
Pugnacious Pale AlePugnacious Pale Ale

Brewed by:
Grand River Brewing
Ontario, Canada

Style: American Pale Ale (APA)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.50%

Availability: Summer

Notes / Commercial Description:
The Pugnacious Pale Ale is an American Pale Ale brewed with four healthy doses of cascade hops added throughout the boil. This punchy yet balanced pale ale is loaded with character from the citrusy cascade hops to the sweet yet light malt backbone.

This Pugnacious Pale Ale is 4.5% ABV, 45 IBU and straw blond to copper in colour. Great for a night on the patio shared between friends.

Added by peensteen on 08-17-2011

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 60 |  Reviews: 35
Reviews by MeisterBurger:
Photo of MeisterBurger
2.88/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Yet another tragically awful label from Grand River.

Pours a clear mahogany yellow topped by a thin but dense head. A collar of head persists. No lacing.

Aroma is grassy and earthy with butterscotch and caramel and mineral water. Incredibly muted.

The taste is...odd. It tastes a bit like a German lager and a bit like an English ale. Floral bitterness. Earthy. Characteristically minerally in the finish thanks to GR's hard water, with something powdery and sugary lingering. Buttery notes with a worty unfinished aspect to it. Biscuity, caramel sweetness underneath. Chalky aftertaste.

Medium body with prickly carbonation.

I'm not sure where others are getting citrusy hop characteristics and according to the brewer it has "4 strikes of cascade hops in significant quantities". I get none of that and wouldn't class this as an APA at all.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.11/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Single bottle from the LCBO. Bottled August 3rd.

Poured into a nonic. Amber, clear, decent frothy head, a bit of lacing.

Nose is unmistakably Grand River - metallic water - with a mild malty, caramel and slight hoppy character. Reminds me a great deal of their winter lager or the malt backing to their Highballer pumpkin ale, but its not really an APA smell.

Malty, metallic twang, caramel, a bit of hops to the finish, but again this is quite mild. Thin bodied, mild carbonation, slightly chalky. Tasted a great deal more like a red lager or an English bitter than an APA; unfortunately it has too much in common with other Grand River releases. I agree with some of the dissenting reviewers, as I can't really say I get much of a hop presence either. Stack this brew against any APA from the states and there really isn't any resemblance. That being said, I'm generally a big fan of Grand River and so this brew was still quite drinkable. It just isn't close to what I was hoping for.

I worry that Grand River's brewing potential is limited by their local water source - while the hard water proves excellent for their German and English lagers, it seems to make brewing much of anything else a real challenge. More hops next time, and perhaps a bit more body to it would help the next batch pull itself away from the standard base.

Tastes fine, but when rated to style this was a real miss for me.

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Photo of mintjellie
3.53/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brilliant amber orange in colour. Fine-textured eggshell head lacks a little in retention but leaves a pretty lace. Malty aroma redolent of freshly baked bread with faint earthy undertones. On tasting, bready character is overlaid by a hop flavour that is predominantly leafy and only slightly citric. The balance swings more towards the malty side. Still, it finishes with a pronounced bitterness. A very English sort of pale ale. Light bodied with low carbonation. A decent and drinkable session bitter. Fresher than any imported bitters sold by the LCBO.

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Photo of Sammy
3.41/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Somewhat like a pale crossed with a lager. Easy mouthfeel. Trademark Grand River mineral bitterness and some hoppiness. Nothing special to smell or to look at (yellowish although decent head). Good drinkability.Fresh bottle at LCBO, bottled this month. Seems higher abv than listed. So-so for the style, but decent "bitter lager" blonde style, really.

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Photo of augustgarage
3.4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Courtesy northyorksammy (thanks!) - poured from a 500mL bottle into my Samuel Smith nonic. Bottled August 3rd, 2011.

Brilliantly clear pumpkin orange liquid with light amber highlights. Very faint beige collar and surface slick with poor retention.

Tamales, and crackery malt notes in the nose suggest a touch of DMS perhaps, but not in an unpleasant manner. Hops are conspicuously absent. Takes on a candy corn aspect as it warms.

Quite biscuity on the palate, with hints of orange marmalade as well (hops finally?). Crumpet dough, waffles, and alfalfa round things out suggesting more of an English Pale Ale or a weak English Bitter perhaps than a true APA. Slight diacetyl perhaps, but again, not unwelcome in the context of the flavor profile.

Light-bodied, moderately carbonated, and soft.

Highly quaffable, but misses all the marks for style...so difficult to rate really.

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Photo of bryanzk
3.89/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Photo of Powers30
2.9/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

Photo of LanceH
3.41/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Photo of heebes
3.42/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

500ml bottled Aug 3rd.
Part of the OCB feature oneoffs.

Pours a medium clear amber with half finger of head, frothy off white which dissipates quickly. Nose is caramel malts, slight amber scent to it, light hop presence. Unmistakingly GR. Taste is mostly all malt backbone with a bit of hop bitterness into the finish. Hard water feel, light and thin on the body.
Overall, a nice decent change for Grand River, lacking in hop presence for the style; certainly closer to an English pale. Refreshing for the end of summer. Time to go cut some grass, I'll take the remainder in the bottle with me.

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Photo of DaveBar
3.8/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Purchased at the LCBO $4.85 500ml bottle. Served at 6deg C in a draught glass.

A- Opened well. Nice light head. Pours clear light amber

S- Excellent! Hints of citrus, orange peel and malt

T- Not as good as it smells! Nice APA. NBA special but ok. Adequate all around.

M- Pretty good. Nice bite on the tip of the tongue and the bitterness lasts

O- Pretty good. Would like to try on tap if I see it. Worth $2.50 473ml can if that comes out

Food Pairing

This nice British rendition of a pale ale paired well with... spicy tuna sushi roll.


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Photo of Stocean1
3.43/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - light amber colour - one finger head with little retention and a wee bit of lacing

S - light malt with some grassy hops - caramel

T - follows the scent - similar to the Plow Man with a lower hops profile - plenty of hard water taste

M - slightly bitter - light body and carbonation - almost creamy smooth - very drinkable

O - a very sessionable ale - seems a little closer to the english version in taste and feel - a nice brew although I was hoping for more from Grand River on this one

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Photo of paxkey
3.15/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

very dull bottle art. most uncreative and uninspiring. especially when considering the beer name. heres hoping they put all their creative efforts into the juice.

bottle date aug 3 2011.
poured straight into a pint glass. 2 fingers of head. a little on the soapy side. body is amber honey hazy.

a little funk in the nose. malt comes off right away but i am looking for hops aroma. hops are coming through, west coast style citrus but kinda muted. toasty grassy notes.

beer is on the buttery side and not in a fantastic way. finishes dry and malty with a final hop bitterness lingering.

middle has some of the juicy hop flavors.
nice body to the beer. refreshing and drinkable.
not a bad beer but nothing memorable.

the butteriness is a definite detractor.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a dirty amber color ale with a nice thick off-white foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of citrus and bitter hops typical of Cascade hops. Taste is mostly dominated by your typical Cascade hops notes of citrus and bitter. Malt backbone is quite dry and noticeable though doesn’t overshadow the hops profile. Body is quite full with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Well done with good drinkability while staying within the style guidelines.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
2.66/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottle dated August 3, 2011 poured in to Sierra Nevada pint glass. Very fresh!

A - Transluscent light to medium amber colour with a half finger of bubbly white head.

S - Sweet caramel and floral hops are predominant and seemingly in good balance. Certainly not reminiscent of an American pale ale, as advertised but pleasant nonetheless.

T - Follows the nose. Caramel and bready malts with mildly bitter floral hops. Some earthy notes are present as well and linger slightly in the finish. Although the hop presence is good, this doesn't taste like a dry-hopped beer (especially considering the freshness) and this doesn't taste like an American pale ale at all. It tastes more like a Bitter or an English pale ale.

M - Medium body with light to moderate carbonation and a slight chew.

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Photo of CurtisD
3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of papat444
3.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to TheSevenDuffs for this one. Glad to see they've improved on the look of their labels as this looks a lot better.

Poured from a 500ml. bottle, bottled Aug. 31, 2011.

Appearance: A slightly cloudy orange-copper body. Good start on the foam but the lasting power isn't quite there. Nice lacing though.

Smell: Fresh hops, grass, citrus and melon.

Taste: Grassy hops, bitterness kept in check, bit of a mineral taste, good bite. More on the fruit side with very mild grapferuit and orange pulp. Some tea-like aspects to the flavor.

Mouthfeel: Good carbonation, bitterness leans to dryness a bit but overall it seems quite solid.

Overall: Hops are laid back. It feels conservative and nothing really stands out though it's still tasty.

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Photo of Caudalie
3.5/5  rDev -0.3%

Photo of spinrsx
3.48/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

500ml Bottle

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

Smell - Malts, hops, caramel, bread

Taste & Mouth - The beer has a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, caramel, and some dry hops. There is also a slight citrus taste.. either oranges or grapefruits. The beer finishes with a malty slightly bitter dry hop aftertaste.

Overall – This is a very tasty beer but at the same time is really forgettable. I'm happy I gave it a shot but I wouldn't pick this one up again.. maybe if it was a little less expensive.

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Photo of Mr_Rocca
3.5/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of RedAleMan
3.5/5  rDev -0.3%

Photo of SandS
3.5/5  rDev -0.3%

Photo of liamt07
3.68/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from the LCBO, 500ml into a pint glass. Bottled August 18, 2011.

Pours a lightly hazy orangeish-copper, finger or so of off-white head, which fades to a thick film and a collar. Moderate lace. Nose of some orangey hops, mild citrus and pine notes and caramel. Some breadiness as well. Somewhat tame, but not unpleasant for an APA. Taste has the breads and caramel hit the palate first, with some more orangey and citrusy hops coming in right after. Mild bitterness that hangs a round a bit, in addition to some metallic or hard water notes. Medium carbonation and a just-lighter-than-medium mouthfeel. Easy drinkability, as I've found with most (if not all) GR brews. Simple and effective, but lacks the depth and complexity of a lot of higher pales. As others have suggested, this has qualities more akin to an English bitter or pale and should probably be re-categorized as such.

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Photo of SebD
3.6/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of apples, citrus, grassy hops and sweet caramelly malts.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has that apple/citrus taste, along with a slightly grassy bitterness and sweet caramelly malts.

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

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

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Photo of Mousel
3.74/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Photo of thehyperduck
3.57/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4.5

500 mL bottle from the LCBO; bottled on May 28 2012. Glad I managed to grab the last bottle on the shelf because I've wanted to try this one for a while - Grand River is one Ontario brewer whose products I rarely find fault with.

Pours a translucent honey-amber colour, topped with one finger of creamy white head. It takes a few minutes to dissipate, leaving behind a smooth cap and decent lacing. The aroma is a bit weak in intensity but otherwise pleasant - some toffee or caramel malt sweetness is evident, alongside some grassy hay and light citrus. A decent start, but I am far from blown away.

And unfortunately that seems to be a persistent theme - the flavour profile is fine, but it's on the mild side and not all that interesting. Bready malts with some light toffee sweetness provide the backbone, with some earthy, piney, vaguely grapefruit-like bitterness that becomes more of a factor toward the finish. Slightly dry aftertaste that doesn't linger long. Light-bodied and disappointingly watery, with weak carbonation for the style. The high drinkability is probably the best feature of this brew.

Final Grade: 3.57, just barely eking out a B grade. From my own entirely subjective perspective, Pugnacious Pale Ale is probably the weakest Grand River offering I have yet tried. That being said - APAs are a fairly straightforward style, and this is a perfectly serviceable example. It's just not a memorable one. The light 4.5% abv and balanced flavours make this a worthy session option, but this one's a little pricy for that to be realistic. This one is worth a try, but in the future I'll probably just stick with their Plowman's Ale if I'm in the mood for a hoppy, sessionable ale.

[Updated Sept. 27 2013]

Decided to re-visit this one, in case the last bottle was just off. This one was dated Aug. 13 2013. There's nothing especially wrong with this beer, so I bumped the score a bit - it tastes fine, and if you're in the mood for a maltier, sessionable pale ale you might want to grab a bottle or two. Still, it's not a very interesting brew, with a flat mouthfeel and lacking any sort of aggression from the hops. Given those facts and the $3.95/bottle price point, finding a superior pale ale isn't that difficult.

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Pugnacious Pale Ale from Grand River Brewing
Beer rating: 3.51 out of 5 with 60 ratings