Square Nail Pale Ale | Publican House Brewery

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Square Nail Pale AleSquare Nail Pale Ale
Very Good
66 Ratings
Square Nail Pale AleSquare Nail Pale Ale

Brewed by:
Publican House Brewery
Ontario, Canada

Style: American Pale Ale (APA)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.60%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Square Nail Pale Ale, a west coast style pale ale that finishes off with a gentle bitterness. At 5.6% alcohol it is a full flavoured ale brewed with Saskatchewan malted barley and Crystal malts along with several large additions of Cascade hops to give the beer an assertive bitterness and Aroma. It is named after the hundreds and hundreds of square nails that we found during the first phase of the building renovation. No doubt these nails were hand crafted by many of the local blacksmiths in Peterborough in the mid-1800's.

Added by grub on 10-15-2008

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 66 |  Reviews: 29
Reviews by biegaman:
Photo of biegaman
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Little about Square Nail is pale - it has the brightness and fiery orange-amber complexion of a torch. Looking at it, you'd think it was part of the Olympic ceremonies. All its flashiness does little to affect clarity but the beer's head, now somewhat disintegrated, has left sheets of lacing so dense that the glass looks as though it were wrapped in toilet paper.

So many people are intimidated by hops. Why? Tell me what's so unpleasant about a beer that smells like fresh flowers and citrus fruits? Aren't those the cornerstones of every hand soap and potpourri company? And what's not to love about a bouquet like this one that combines those fresh notes with sweet, malty flavours of biscuit and toffee? Delightful!

What really turns most people off about hops is their bitterness. That I understand (don't agree with, mind you). But it's a common misconception amongst casual beer drinkers that hoppy beers are necessarily bitter - Square Nail turns that assumption on its head. This flavour is loaded with flower petal, peach, and marmalade flavour but has hardly an ounce of bitterness.

Indeed, this mouthfeel seems nowhere close to the brewery's stated 43 IBUs; the whole palate is far too awash in creamy caramel and crunchy nut brittle notes to notice any trace of pithiness in that grapefruit flavour or much of any resins in those hints of pine. Everyone has a different definition for "smooth" but, in my mind, this simultaneously zippy and biscuity beer is it.

It's a special thing when a brewer can offer so much hoppiness without elevating the intensity of the beer. Indeed, Square Nail is a solid and sessionable pale ale, one that showcases lemony, citric, and piny hops with more purpose than to merely highlight their potency. A wonderful recipe. Now that it's available in cans repeated purchases are a no brainer.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Volo.

Poured into a nonic. Pale amber-golden, nice and bright, steady thin head, clouds of lacing. Nice lookin brew.

Nose is caramel, mild hops, a bit of orange or peach.

Solid APA, mild citrussy hop finish with a bit of grain. Caramel, peach, some other fruit notes, some grapefruit.

Medium-light bodied, really nice feel, good carbonation for a light zip at the finish.

Good APA - been happy with my recent experiences with new Ontario breweries and their pale ales, and this is no exception.

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Photo of Tuckersmth
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

Photo of Sammy
3.89/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Clear C hop aroma. Citrus taste, understated carbonation like a cask ale. Grapefruit, like great IPA.Reinforcing his is the Mahogoney brown colour and the slightest crown of a head. Some dot lace. Good bitternss, an American IPA in older times. Medium mouthfeel.

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Photo of Fun-Gus
4.37/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Publican house pale ale

Feels super Canadian, with grains from the prairies, using crystal malts from Saskatoon. The noblest of cnadian hops, Cascade with its signature citrus notes. The balance is good between bitter and grainy sweet. There are some fruity notes from the ale fermentation.The bitterness is unusual and sharp but seems to be quenched with another quaff. Low enough alcohol to be sessionable. Interesting enough to keep imbibing. Canadian enough to justify. its a beer I like to say defines this area and i'm lucky to afford it.

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Photo of DaveBar
3.8/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Purchased at the LCBO for around $2.50 for a 473ml can. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass

A- Opens well and pours a nice white head that lasts. Super dark gold.

S- Ok hops for a pale ale. Not dry hopped much at all

T- Good hops. Nice malt. Good balance. Not a bad beer

M- Dry yet creamy. Tart aftertaste

O- Pretty good IPA Will buy again

Food Pairing

This nice beer went well with...... Fish and chips.


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Photo of StormAles
3.63/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.16/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Can: Poured a light copper color ale with a large foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of light citrusy notes with grainy malt notes. Taste is also dominated by light citrusy notes with grainy malt bill and some light bitter finish. Body is about average with good carbonation. I thought the hops profile fell short for the style.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Volo. Served in a pint glass.

A - Light amber with a nice yellow glow.

S - Slight citrus hops with some sweet malts balancing them out.

T - Some floral and citrus hops up front balanced by a sweet malt back. A nice hop kick for a pale ale. A bitter floral hop finish that lingers.

M - Light body, lightly carbonated.

D - A very good beer; one that I would definitely buy again.

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Photo of WillAndSarah
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%

Photo of DutchcdnTEXAN
3.78/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of ssmack
3.65/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Clear dark amber colour. One and a half inches of white head made up of large bubbles. Medium carbonation. Good lacing and retention.

Sweet, angelfood cake malty aroma with the tiniest hint of hops.

Complex taste. Caramel malt. Then herby bitter hops comes over the caramel and makes a cardboard taste that fades to a strong bitterness in the back of the mouth.

Medium feel with bite.

Good west coast IPA. Not true citrus hops. A generic bitterness. Weak aroma.

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Photo of mrnobody
4.52/5  rDev +19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

1.9 liter growler poured into a Duvel tulip. One of two growlers of this received from my 4 year old nieces for xmas!

A: Pours a clear bright orange with one finger of white head. Little retention but nice lacing.

S: A nice amount of Cascade hops, not overpowering but like sticking your nose in a bag of hop pellets.

T: Again, this is all about the hops. Sports an impressive bitterness and drinks more like an IPA than an APA.

M: This is the light side of medium, the carbonation is the perfect level.

D: The drinkability is fantastic. Ontario's best APA.

I just brewed an attempt to copy this beer, can't wait to see how it turns out.

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Photo of Canada_Dan
3.08/5  rDev -18.7%

Photo of papat444
4.02/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a can, filled Feb. 12, 2016.

Pours a nice copper, slightly hazy body. Earth hops reflected in both aroma and taste. Bitter grapefruit also present in the flavor. Creamy and very nice, will grab this again!

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Photo of patre_tim
3.14/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

A: Copper unfiltered with no bubbles, 2 fingers of off white creamy head resembling foam on the ocean, honey comb lacing.

S: Apples, peaches, fruity, tea, apple candy, light musty scent, malt, dough.

T: Sweet, very hoppy. Seems to be two hop editions evident. One is big and spicy but dull and bitter, not fruity, the other is fruity like peaches and apples.

M: Medium syrupy resinous body, little carbonation.

O: Not bad. Flavours are a little separate and slightly incongruent in my opinion, but it’s a nice brew. Drank in Uxbridge June 1st, 2014.

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Photo of spinrsx
3.44/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

16oz Can from the Ottawa LCBO for $2.75

Appearance - Copper colour with an average size off-white coloured head. There is an average amount of carbonation showing and there is some good lacing. The head lasted for around 3-4 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, hops, caramel

Taste & Mouth - There is an above average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, caraamel, and hops. There is also a slight apricot sweetness.

Overall - What the.. I got thrown off by the 'West Coast' text on the can. Nothing west coast about this one, just a regular english style pale ale.

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Photo of Mr_Rocca
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%

Photo of RedAleMan
3.79/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of liamt07
4.04/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Volo, served in a pint glass.

Poured gold with a finger of off-white head. Moderate lacing is left on the glass, but only a touch of head retention. Nose is fairly fresh and hoppy; some pine and more subdued citrus hops are employed quite nicely. Some light orange and clementine as well. Light breadiness/grain comes with the malt, but not a lot otherwise. Taste is relatively straight forward, yet well excuted. Nice pale malt base with similar hopping to the nose, a bit more pine and citrus also. Medium length finish, with a medium carbonation. Good drinkability and well done. One of the best pale ales from these parts.

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Photo of Mousel
3.93/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of thehyperduck
3.91/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tallboy can picked up at the LCBO; packaged Jun 27 2015 and served slightly chilled. I've been hearing this one's name get dropped for years - but as far as I can tell, this marks the first time that this Peterborough-brewed beer has been sold in this neck of Ontario. Listed at 5.5%.

Pours a crystal clear orange-amber hue, producing an inch of frothy, resilient off-white foam at the surface. Head retention is quite good, as it takes the better part of ten minutes to seep away in its entirety, caking the glass with ring after ring of lacing as it does so. A thin cap survives on top, alongside a wide, foamy collar - this is a very visually-appealing pale ale. Nice show from the malts on the nose; bready and biscuity, with toffee candy sweetness and some lightly toasted qualities showing through. The Cascade hops provide some contrasting herbal, floral notes and just a hint of citrus.

This is a very solid, full-flavoured pale ale with a prominent malt bill and just enough hoppage to sort-of justify the use of the "West Coast pale ale" descriptor. Toffee and caramel sweetness, alongside some bready, biscuity malt flavours and a bit of apricot characterize the first half of the flavour profile, though the hops take over by the time you reach the back end. Citrusy nuances are a bit more pronounced here than on the nose - a mix of orange and grapefruit, with some floral, earthy notes rounding out the finish. Bittersweet aftertaste that doesn't linger too long, with a somewhat nutty quality to it. Medium-bodied, with moderately low carbonation levels that provide a smooth, mostly satisfying mouthfeel. Not exactly sessionable, but at 5.5% it sure goes down the hatch pretty effortlessly.

Final Grade: 3.91, a solid B+. Square Nail Pale Ale has apparently been a popular brew for years - popping up occasionally in discussions revolving around Ontario craft beer aficionados' favourite pale ales - and I am glad to have finally had the chance to enjoy it. The hop profile is nothing interesting (or special) for the style, so I can understand why others may not be as enamoured with it as I am - but the fact is, I am still really digging this pale ale. It all comes together extremely well, and I recommend it highly. It'll definitely enter my pale ale rotation, assuming it remains available locally.

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Photo of grub
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

64oz growler purchased at the brewery oct 11/08 and sampled oct 12/08.

pours crystal clear deep reddish copper colour. the small dense whate head drops fast and leaves spotty lace behind.

aroma is good. toasted multi-grain bread. biscuit. bit of pine. touch of fruity esters. bit of alcohol. really like the light toasty component.

taste is good. medium bitterness level. toasted multi-grain bread. bit of biscuit. touch of pine. bit of orange rind. tangerine. light alcohol. touch of nutty character. just a hint of fruit, mostly in the citrusy hop component.

mouthfeel is good. just under medium carbonation level. medium body.

drinkability is great. very good balance. nice light nutty and toasty character that i liked. a solid apa that i'd happily drink on a regular basis.

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Photo of cfalovo97
3/5  rDev -20.8%

Photo of Hoppy_McGee
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

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Square Nail Pale Ale from Publican House Brewery
Beer rating: 3.79 out of 5 with 66 ratings