Church-Key Northhumberland Ale | Church-Key Brewing Company

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Church-Key Northhumberland AleChurch-Key Northhumberland Ale
37 Ratings
Church-Key Northhumberland AleChurch-Key Northhumberland Ale

Brewed by:
Church-Key Brewing Company
Ontario, Canada

Style: Cream Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.00%

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

Added by BeerAdvocate on 01-30-2004

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 37 |  Reviews: 25
Reviews by thehyperduck:
Photo of thehyperduck
3.18/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

341 mL bottle from a six-pack picked up at the LCBO; coded H161313:37 (I am guessing August 16 2013). Served ice cold.

Pours a clear, pale golden-amber colour, topped with one finger of frothy, soapy white head that recedes steadily over the next few minutes. A thin cap soon results, with a modest ring of lacing. Fairly sweet, uninteresting aroma that includes grainy malts, corn, honey sweetness and some bready notes. Not all that encouraging...

A drinkable ale, but not much more than that. This is a fairly bland stock ale, but about what I'd expect from this pseudo-style - bready, pale malts, grainy sweetness, a touch of honey, and some vaguely floral, earthy hops at the finish. Slightly bitter aftertaste, with some metallicity. Light-bodied, with moderate carbonation appropriate for the style - this is as sessionable as any macro lager or blonde ale, and equally dull.

Final Grade: 3.18, a C+. Church Key's Northumberland Ale is a pretty forgettable brew. Priced like a craft beer, but tasting more like an industrial blonde - I can't think of any convincing reasons to select this one over cheaper alternatives like Molson Export, Sleeman Cream Ale, etc. I'd drink this again if someone else were buying, but I'm not going to be spending money on it again. Most BAs can probably skip this one without losing out on much.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of Popsinc
2.16/5  rDev -21.7%
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.

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Photo of beerhunter13
3.75/5  rDev +35.9%

Photo of JohnnyBarman
2.26/5  rDev -18.1%
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.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.28/5  rDev +18.8%
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.

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Photo of Sammy
1.93/5  rDev -30.1%
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?

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Photo of DaveBar
3.63/5  rDev +31.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Purchased as a single at the LCBO. Served at 4deg C in a tulip.

A- Opens well and pours a small head that is gone pretty fast. Dark gold. Filtered

S- Pretty good hops and a goodly amount of malt.

T- Good malt backbone. Not a complex beer. Just a refreshing moderate flavored beer

M- Pretty dry. Good aftertaste

O- Pretty good. Will not buy again as there are more beer out there to drink!

Food Pairing

This pretty good beer went well with..... chicken wings


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Photo of baiser
3.04/5  rDev +10.1%
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.

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Photo of spinrsx
3.1/5  rDev +12.3%
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.

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Photo of RedAleMan
3/5  rDev +8.7%

Photo of mrmanning
2.27/5  rDev -17.8%
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.

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Photo of atr2605
2.49/5  rDev -9.8%
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

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Photo of Brody1714
3/5  rDev +8.7%

Photo of mikemands
3.23/5  rDev +17%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Photo of cfalovo97
3/5  rDev +8.7%

Photo of SenorBiggles
2.9/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The smell and initial flavour aren't great, but aren't unconvincing. Pretty grainy, with some metallic and orange juice flavours. However, it quickly fades to an unsatisfying, watery aftertaste. Not a whole lot to like here.

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Photo of soju6
2.63/5  rDev -4.7%
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.

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Photo of bryehn
3.25/5  rDev +17.8%
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.

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Photo of Ericbeech_87
3/5  rDev +8.7%

Photo of crwills
3.52/5  rDev +27.5%
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.

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Photo of Viggo
3.06/5  rDev +10.9%
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.

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Photo of Jaisell
3.28/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Photo of Pmicdee
3/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Photo of Cwrw
2.18/5  rDev -21%
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.

 1,180 characters

Photo of DrJay
1.41/5  rDev -48.9%
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.

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Church-Key Northhumberland Ale from Church-Key Brewing Company
Beer rating: 2.76 out of 5 with 37 ratings