Big Rock Traditional Ale | Big Rock Brewery

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Big Rock Traditional AleBig Rock Traditional Ale

Brewed by:
Big Rock Brewery
Alberta, Canada

Style: English Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
This medium bodied Brown Ale fills your mouth with a fusion of toasty malt and sweet caramel up front finishing with a nutty flavour, medium creamy carbonation and mild hop bitterness.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 06-26-2002

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Reviews: 86 | Ratings: 193
Photo of ofYYC
2.89/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Pours a golden brown without much head. What head it has leaves decent lacing on the glass. Smell is minimal, mildly fruity. Taste is also mild. Bready, fruity, overall: uninspiring

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Photo of crflamesfan
4.24/5  rDev +25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a nice smooth beer with light bitters. There are notes of caramel. Not much froth when poured. Clear Amber colour. Overall a very nice beer and will be something I keep on hand at all times.

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Photo of Bunman3
3.5/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Ahhh, Trad. It's entirely possible that I've consumed more Traditional Ale than any other beer brewed in Alberta. The more I think about it, I'm positive that is the case. I'm reviewing this based on my most recent tasting (during the intermission of the Best of Banff Film Festival), along with distinct palate memory. Trad is far from the best brown ale you can buy. It pours nicely, smells like yeast and malt, and has a lovely Caramilk and walnut flavour to it. It's the granddaddy of Alberta craft beer and still a solid choice, 30 years later.

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Photo of Morgluin
3.87/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Has a translucent dark brown colour. There is one finger of head that fades rather quickly, with almost no lacing.

Smell: Earthy aromas of fruits, nuts and a hint of caramel.

Taste: Upfront, there are well-pronounced flavours of fruits, nuts, caramel, faint hops and a sweet maltiness that all tie together nicely. The finish is pleasant, yet unremarkable, with a lingering aftertaste.

Feel: Light to medium body that possesses a murky smoothness, which is complemented nicely by the low amount of carbonation.

Overall: A very solid if unremarkable English brown ale. I would recommend it.

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Photo of CalgaryFMC
3.34/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a light caramel to brown (light for the style) with two fingers of butterscotch foam. Aroma is sweet grainy malt, artificial vanilla extract, a faint hint of earthy herbal hops. Palate is smooth, sweet corn syrup, mellow toasty malt, carnival peanuts, some treacle, vanilla toffee notes, faint earthy hops. Mouthful is quite nice actually, silky smooth and decent body, some chewy malts. An underachieving brown ale that is a decent sessional if one is in an old school pub mood. Lacks nutty punch and swings way towards sweet but mellow malt.

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Photo of Scrylol
3/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

Pours a one finger white head that quickly disappears. Body is of dark ruby color. Looks decent, but a bit disappointed that the head disappeared so quickly.

Not much aroma picked up, but from what there was: slight sweet caramel notes and biscuity notes.

Slight grain notes on the taste, backed by some caramel malt. Bit nutty and dry finish.

Nice amount of carbonation, and goes down real fast and smooth. But, it is way too watery. Very little body to it.

Not a remarkable English Brown Ale.

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Photo of BierStein711
3.65/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On draught, three finger head, frosted glass

No carbonation

Taosty, bready malt, with hop finish for taste.

Smells of bread

Overall, not a bad beer, but its moderate mouthfeel leaves it lacking.
Seems to be an ok beer. I haven't been a fan of brown ales ever, but this beer does not lean me towards them any further.

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Photo of sAws
3.35/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very nice translucent dark brown, however my pour had very minimal head. Smells malty with some caramel hints. Good flavor of deep complex malts however it feels very thin in the mouth with very little carbonation, for me this is the biggest downfall of the beer.

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Photo of BrewAskew
4/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Greetings from Canada. Pours up to a fizzy buff head and clear light brown color. Aroma is a pleasing blend of toasty, sweet malt and a hint of hops. Flavor is a complex blend of with a toasted malts, caramel, nuts, butterscotch and enough nondescript hops to balance the whole thing out. Mouthfeel is light. Overall, I really liked this beer and would have some on hand at all times if I could. Also noteworthy was that this beer was sampled in Calgary where it was likely just days from the brewery so it was very "fresh" tasting.

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

355ml Can from the Beer Store

Appearance - Light brown/copper colour with an average size fizzy beige coloured head. There is an averahe amount of carbonation and there is some decent lacing. The head lasted for around 3 minutes.

Smell - Malts, caramel/butterscotch, hops

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, caramel and some light hops. There is also a light amount of fruit esters and a nuttiness. It ends with a malty sweet aftertaste.

Overall - Definitely the best beer I've ever had from Big Rock. It's very drinkable and has a nice balanced taste. I won't rush out to buy more, but I'm glad I gave it a try. It's along the same lines as the Creemore Springs beer.

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Photo of tonyf55
3.87/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

From a bottle into a Big Rock pint glass

Visual (3.5): High clarity dark amber beer with a robust and rolling one to two finger head. The dusty light brown head quickly disappears and leaves a very light lacing on the glass.

Aroma (4): Dominantly malty with breads, grains and toasted smells. An undertone of wood smokeyness sticks in the nostrils after. Surprising.

Taste (4): Sweet malt flavours continue right through with little to no hop bitterness. Passive touches of brown sugar, maple, and almond dryness roll across the tounge. Leaves a sweet, almost chocolate, aftertaste.

Mouthfeel (3): Light and fairly watery with a slight creamy finish on the tounge. Carbonation is almost non-existent, contributing to the creamy finish, and an alcoholic warming lingers at the back of the mouth and throat.

Overall (4): My favorite local brown ale and a flagship beer for Big Rock. Great value for the price having a very enjoyable taste while still bring extremely drinkable.

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Photo of evlu1441
3.45/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I've had this beer many times, and it is very common throughout Alberta. I had a pint of Newcastle right before this at a local bar, and decided to go make some tasting notes. On tap, in a pint glass.

It has a very dark amber colour. Looks brown under most light, and not a lot of light gets through, though it is filtered and completely clear. There is a nice finger of creamy off-white/toffee tinted head that settles town to almost nothing after a few minutes.

The aroma is fairly faint, but a slight toasty maltiness comes through. I imagine that the aroma improves as it gets a bit warmer (mine is ice cold at the moment). There is also a slightly sweet smell of caramel that mixes with a tiny bit of an alcohol smell. Quite pleasant if not very intense.

The flavour is quite nice. A nice toasty malt flavour fills the mouth to start and gives way to some light sweetness. There is a definite nutty flavour here. Some hop bitterness comes through towards the end.

Overall, this is a very nice session ale. It's miles ahead of the newcastle I just had. I'll have to remember to have this more often when I go out!

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Photo of WoodBrew
3.64/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

In Calgary for a conference and tried the Big Rock Traditional Ale. The appearance was quite good. A rich amber color and thin white head that laced on the glass. The smell was a little undescripted, could smell the hints of malt. The taste was really nice. A good malt and caramel character made this beer quite easy to drink. This made the mouthfeel very easy and could session this beer with no problem.

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Photo of Converge
3.82/5  rDev +13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

341ml poured into a 16oz pint glass.

A - Slightly under a finger of beige colored head after an aggressive pour. The ale itself is a maple brown hue with a tinge of orange. Nice foamy cap left on top, and nice lacing left behind.

S - Smells delicious! Tons of bready and caramel malt. A touch of sweetness, but the scent is predominantly a full and robust aroma. Nuts, brown sugar and toffee are definitely present.

T - Very bready and caramel-like upfront. Flavorful malt and slight hoppy finish make it feel quite balanced and enjoyable. Brown sugar is also still noticeable.

M - Excellent mouth-feel. Rather light carbonation with a medium bodied feel to it. Easy and smooth finish.

D - Certainly the most enjoyable Big Rock brew I've come across yet. Simple but flavorful taste and easy to drink.

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Photo of thehyperduck
3.16/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I'll be blunt - I like most brown ales, and this fondness probably derives originally from Big Rock's Trad, which is almost certainly the first of the style (and probably the first non-yellow-fizzy-macro beer) I ever tried. This stuff is commonplace in Alberta, but hailing from Ontario I had never seen it at the time and it remains a reliable treat. This is the first time I've had a can of this stuff, so we'll see if the packaging affects the taste at all.

Trad is a deep reddish-brown colour, technically translucent but too dark to see anything through it. I was a little chintzy with the pour but still wound up with a half-inch of creamy beige head. It lasts about a minute before dissipating to a cap with some lacing on the sides. Smell is faint, of sweet malts, caramel/toffee. Like most of Big Rock's flagship beers, none of the smells jump out at you, but they're at least somewhat appealing.

The taste is kind of the same way: alright, but nothing to seize your attention. Some sweetness with a bit of a tang afterward. Brown sugar, caramel malts. Almost unnoticeable twinge of hop bitterness in the finish. The sweetness isn't exactly cloying, and the beer itself is only medium-to-light bodied so there's no problem throwing a couple of these back. I didn't notice any metallicity or other funkiness from the can, which is good. Carbonation is middling.

Same Old Trad - it is what it is - an average, fairly easy-to-find Canadian brown ale. Craft beer enthusiasts will probably not be especially impressed, because frankly there's not a lot to it, and there are other EBAs that deserve your time more. It's simple, sweet, refreshing, and the flavours harmonize nicely. At least worth a try, and a good "layman's ale" if you're trying to introduce someone to beer that isn't BMC.

[Updated August 7 2014]

I picked up a six-pack of this just for old times' sake. Nostalgia was probably tainting my original review - this is drinkable, but in all honesty it's not much better than the pseudo-macro stuff (think Rickard's or Keith's). Finding better brown ales is not very difficult, especially in this province.

Final Grade: 3.16, a C+.

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Photo of spree92
3.65/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured on tap intonation Nonic glass. A clear, dark amber with a thin skimming of head that left pretty good lacing. The smell replicates the taste of sweet toffee, malts and sugar candies. This was a smooth, creamy beer that was easy to drink and enjoyable. Overall, a local brewery that I would support if all beers were of this quality.

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Photo of mountsnow1010
3.11/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - Brown with a nice head. "Darker" as described by the waitress.
S - Meh, nothing really. Hints of grain.
T - Slight maltiness but nothing extremely outstanding. Distinct lack of sweetness.
MF - Clean, crisp. nice.
O - Eh. This is alright. Average, at best. Nothing really outstanding. I've had several EBA's that are much better and much more flavorful.
Cool having a beer from Alberta, though.

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Photo of oldp0rt
3.55/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Delicious brown beer with a nice head that stays for a bit.

Beer is a nice caramel brown and not over carbonated.

This beer smells very sweet but after the first sip you notice that it doesn't taste as sweet as it smells so you can have a few in a row without a problem.

Did the trip to the beer store for this and I just might pick up another 6 next time I go.

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Photo of marty21
3.48/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a light brown/copper with one finger worth of off white head. Settles to a nice cap and leaves a couple spots of lacing.

S: Caramel malt with maybe some hints of dark fruit.

T: Caramel malt with a bit of sweetness in there. Also some dark fruit.

M: Light carbonation with a light to medium body.

D: This is probably my favorite offering from Big Rock so far but that's not saying a whole lot. Their beers aren't bad but they aren't anything special. This one had the most complex flavor and aroma compared to the other ones. This would be a good session beer and a good choice in a bar full of macro beers.

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Photo of CrazyMike
3.95/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown appearance with moderate head. Has a caramel, malty smell. Picked up fruitiness and floral hops.

Has a sweet caramel taste, picked up a taste of nuts and grain as well. Hops are light. Has a suprisingly light body with moderate carbonation. Aftertaste is light and bitter.

Overall this is a drinkable and refreshing beer with some decent characteristics. This is a worthy beer from Big Rock's collection.

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Photo of scott451
3.33/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served in a pint glass. A clear amber brown with a thin creamy head which soon diminished to a thin layer. Good lacing.

Floral hops and sweet malts in the smell. Taste was fruity malts up front, then a diminishing of flavour. A mild dry hop finish.

Well carbonated, medium body make for a nice drinkable fresh glass of draught. Nothing outstanding, bus as one of the most commonly found taps in Alberta, you could do far worse.

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Photo of kwjd
3.29/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

On tap at The Imperial Pub in Toronto. Pours an amber-brown colour with very thin white head that dissipates to nothing pretty quickly, leaving almost no lacing. Smells of sweet caramel, toasted barley and very mild hop aroma. Flavour is quite sweet. I have a soft spot for this beer as I used to drink this when I was a teenager in Alberta, but going back to it I realize there are much better examples of the style. Objectively, not worth drinking again. Emotionally, I have a soft spot for this beer.

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Photo of QuestionableScum
3.3/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Pours clear brown with copper notes, and an off white head.

Smell- Smells of roasted malts, sweet malts, and a little bit of graininess.

Taste- Sweet malts and roasted malts as it finishes, with a slightly metallic hoppy finish. Not much else, as far as I can tell besides a little bit of bready graininess.

Mouthfeel- Thin, and a bit watery, but not terrible or bad by any strech

Drinkable- A very sessionable beer, albeit very average.

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Photo of biegaman
3.73/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at The Iron Goat, in Canmore.

Chestnut is a lovely tone for a beer and, for some inexplicable reason, seems fitting for one labeled 'traditional ale'. Highlights run only skin deep and away from the light the beer can appear, even if momentarily, opaque. Its head, a buttermilk-like lining, is of a handsome khaki colour that would probably go well with brown dress shoes and a nice cardigan.

Big Rock Brewery has one gear in which they operate and they rarely shift; they make ordinary, fairly emasculated beers aimed at a mainstream audience. Traditional Ale, however, might be the exception, at least if its bouquet is any indication; genuine, hearty and full-bodied maltiness is a rare occurrence but apparently not an impossible one.

A blend of pale, caramel and black malts lends flavours of dried cranberry, toast, brown sugar and a colossal amount of delicious, sweet, chewy nuttiness. Not much of the sweetness lingers, however, as an undercurrent of three (very English) hop varieties sever all cords with an earthy, bitter exclamation point. It tastes like a good brown ale should.

The beer's personality is not loud, but at least it has one. Regardless, this is brewed in the English fashion and emphasizes, not volume, but melody. Indeed, the sweet nuttiness and dry toastiness of the malts and the earthiness of the hops all marry perfectly with one another, resulting in a rich medley of flavours. And I'm putting this track on repeat.

Big Rock Traditional was in fact at the top of my drinking 'playlist' on a recent trip to Alberta. Part of that had to do with the fact that it was so widely available, in particular in establishments that otherwise didn't offer half-way decent beer. But hey, in the world of widely distributed commercial beers, you can do a lot worse than this. A lot worse.

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Photo of decimator
3.45/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

355ml can poured into a pint glass.

A - Poured a clear amber with a cream coloured head. It quickly reduce to a long lasting thin cap with some lacing being produced.

S - Bread, caramel, hint of toast and a hint of herbs.

T - Plenty of sweet caramel & molasses upfront with a mild bitter & nutty finish.

M - Just feels average.

D - Quite drinkable. One of the better brews from Big Rock.

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Big Rock Traditional Ale from Big Rock Brewery
3.38 out of 5 based on 193 ratings.
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