Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99! (Limited time offer, US delivery only)

Big Rock Traditional Ale | Big Rock Brewery

Your Rating: None

Want it   Got it 
Big Rock Traditional AleBig Rock Traditional Ale
197 Ratings
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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 197 |  Reviews: 87
Photo of thehyperduck
3.16/5  rDev -7.1%
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+.

 2,155 characters

Photo of spree92
3.65/5  rDev +7.4%
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.

 339 characters

Photo of mountsnow1010
3.11/5  rDev -8.5%
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.

 398 characters

Photo of oldp0rt
3.55/5  rDev +4.4%
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.

 364 characters

Photo of marty21
3.48/5  rDev +2.4%
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.

 625 characters

Photo of CrazyMike
3.95/5  rDev +16.2%
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.

 417 characters

Photo of scott451
3.33/5  rDev -2.1%
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.

 429 characters

Photo of kwjd
3.29/5  rDev -3.2%
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.

 503 characters

Photo of QuestionableScum
3.3/5  rDev -2.9%
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.

 444 characters

Photo of biegaman
3.73/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

 1,826 characters

Photo of decimator
3.45/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

 392 characters

Photo of seand
3.6/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a translucent reddish brown with a small amount of off white head. Just a little retains, not enough to leave much lacing.

S: Lightly sweet, with brown sugar and some floral tones.

T: Relatively light, slightly sweet with just a touch of hops on the finish.

M: Medium bodied, medium to high carbonation.

D: Drinks quite easily, wouldn't be a bad session beer.

 372 characters

Photo of DoctorStrangiato
4.22/5  rDev +24.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured a 341-ml bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance - light amber with a thin 1/8-inch sustaining head. Light carbonation with only modest lacing.

Smell - cidery, hoppy smell over a nice roasted barley. Some sweeter malts detected on further nosings.

Taste - I really like the taste of this beer. Very even, a nice roasted malty flavour with a good nutty taste to follow up. Hoppiness is very light but consistent.

Mouthfeel - fairly even overall without too much carbonation. I do find that most of the other Big Rock beers I've sampled seem overcarbonated.

Drinkability - goes down very easy and is not boring. I can pack several of these away with no issues. Nice to get the nutritional information on the box as well!

 727 characters

Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.58/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Was given a six pack of this from a brewery rep - going to be hard giving a bonus beer a low score, but I'll try to be impartial!

Pours a medium amber colour, leaving a thin ring of head that's lasted throughout the glass. Lots of sticky lacing too. A good start!

The nose is caramel up front, possibly a bit of yeast as well. Not too complex, but decent.

The taste is a blend of caramel and nuts, followed by a slightly acidic finish. Perhaps a bit of fruit flavour in the middle: apple and mild cherry.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin. This coupled with the colour and the taste composition really leads me to categorize this as an English pale, rather than a brown.

Actually, a good little ale, great for a session. I had no problems drinking this, and will enjoy the rest of my 6 pack! Not the best brown (pale?) out there, but certainly a fine brew.

 851 characters

Photo of ludachris
2.96/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Got this one courtesy of TheHammer. Thanks pal.

Pours a crystal clear deep honey amber with burning, golden amber higlights. Two finger light tan head. Good retention and decent patchy lacing.

Smell of watered down caramel, funky candied malt, light fruity esters and a dry nutty backing.

Caramel, toasted malts and a distinct nutty flavour (almost acidic) upfront followed by a wet biscuity malt finish and again with a light astringent bite. The astringency is the most prominent taste appearing randomly throughout.

Mouthfeel isnt really anything special; light bodied and wet from start to finish.

Overall, seems like an average EBA at best. Appearance and drinkability are the highlights but both the nose and taste are watered down and bland. There's plenty of room to pack more flavour in for sure. Much rather have Rogue, Black Oak or Garrison's EBA offering.

 872 characters

Photo of TheHammer
2.98/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Another part of the big rock mix pack I got from a friend at work. Three down, two to go.

Appearance: Poured with a solid thumb of head that sadly did not retain nor laced at all. Carbonation looks solid and the beer is fairly clear for a brown ale although still manages to boast a nice dark brown copper color.

Smell: It took a little bit of warming, but boasts a nice caramel scent with a solid sweet malt backing. However there is a slight acidic undertone which I could do without but fairly solid still.

Taste: Big rock seriously needs to do something about it's malts because that funky molasses like malt taste has returned, as it permeates the entire beer. However at least with this offering it is somewhat tempered with a nice bitter nutty end.

Mouthfeel: This one leaves a slight dry nut aftertaste, which is nice good but it also leaves this lingering, well I want to say filmy but it's thicker then that, and I want to say sludge but I wouldn't say it's that pronounced. Anyways good transition from malt to bitter but room for improvement.

Drinkability: Well it is going down already no stomach problems, but it does have some gas issues. However that can be made up for the fact it is decent enough going down and decent refreshment.

Final Thoughts: I'm noticing a trend with Big Rock, and that is that funky malt flavor. All in all this was a decent beer, but I wouldn't say I was impressed by it by any means, and would not buy this beer if it wasn't in the mix pack. Worth a try, but not much more.

 1,524 characters

Photo of wordemupg
3.47/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

341ml bottle pouted into 400ml dab glass sept23 2009

A crystal clear deep copper, with a two finger head that falls very fast and leaves very little lace.

S some caramel, malt and burnt sugar

T as it smells with some nutty flavors not bad but not great

M not too light, not too heavy with mild carbonation

D easy enough too drink, don't go looking for this one but pick one up if your ever in Calgary

Trad is the industry's standard here in Calgary, nothing worth bragging about but nothing too be ashamed of either

 522 characters

Photo of mintjellie
3.62/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Copper brown with a finger of white head. Head fades quickly to a thin ring around the edge of the glass and a spot in the middle.

Very sweet aroma. Caramel and brown sugar. A hint of some non-descript dried fruit scent.

Sweet caramel on the palate, as the nose suggests. Mild burnt sugar. Bitterness in the finish is extremely mild and hard to pick up on before it warms a bit. A little bit of butterscotch makes its way through eventually as well.

Body between light and medium. Low carbonation. Smooth and easy to put back. Easy drinking and sessionable.

 560 characters

Photo of berley31
3.47/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured with a small, off-white head that disappeared quite quickly to a haze on top of the beer. No lacing. Body was very clear, and dark amber in color. I enjoyed the aroma... light malt and hops, with something else quite pleasant that I couldn't put my finger on. Body was light to medium on the palate, and slightly oily/creamy, with lively carbonation. Nice flavor that starts off slightly sweet, but finishes with a light bitterness, yet short duration. Overall a pretty enjoyable beer that would make a good session ale (although there seems to be some confusion from different sources over exactly what class of beer this is).

 634 characters

Photo of Grunewald
4.29/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - poured from a 341ml bottle into a pint glass. The color is a clear copper/orange with a white head that fades to a ring.

S - caramel apples, dates

T - sweet nutty flavors. Watermelon on the tip of the tongue, then a taste of candied apple as it hits the back.

M - lasting medium carbonation

D - I'll need to pick this up again and add a proper appearance note, but as for the other aspects of this beer I was very impressed.

 432 characters

Photo of Shadman
3.45/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The brew that probably started the 'micro' industry here in Western Canada at least.

Reddish brown in colour, clear, with a decent head that receeded quite quickly.

Roasted malt, hint of floral hop, touch of cinninom...

Touch watery @ first, bit of a bite on the toungue from the carbonation. Flavours come through shortly afterward. Nice roasted malt singed with a totouch of smoke. Hop bitterness balanced this out nicely.

I'm certain there are better examples of this style out there, but I find this beer to be so damnned drinkable, when I am in the mood for anything from Big Rock...

 594 characters

Photo of manchester81
3.5/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 341 ml bottle into a glass mug.

The beer is dark amber in colour, small head, good lacing. Not a strong smell, but mostly sweet. Taste is sweet, hints of apple, decent finish. High carbonation, thin mouthfeel.Drinkability is fairly high, a good session beer.

Big Rock calls this an English Brown, and I think that is a better description than APA. It compares well with Newcastle, maybe a touch better. Overall, it is fairly average, but a safe bet. It is available everywhere in Alberta, and a good alternative to the big macros.

 546 characters

Photo of Jimhillsb
3.26/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Poured out of a 12 oz brown bottle into a regular old pint glass.

The beer is super clear, with a nice fluffy initial head. This quickly subsides, though the brew remains effervescent throughout. Color is somewhere between amber and a new penny.

Smelled less enticing. Not necessarily skunky, but definitely a bit like spoiling grain/ a 2 hour old bowl of corn flakes.

This ale is a middle of the road example of an English brown ale. Its a bit like a newcastle, but with a somewhat richer flavor. Rich malts, light hops, which are more apparent as the beer nears the end. The balance is good, and it is definitely something i could session on all night, especially because drinking this out of bottles would preclude me from having to smell it.
Mouthfeel is somewhat thin... fairly bubbly for this type of ale...
Overall the beer is on my growing list of decent, but sessionable Canadian micros.

 900 characters

Photo of nighthawk
3.38/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a sixer of cans from the NSLC, not my usual stuff, but looking to try something new to me.

Pours a clear copper, with darker mahogany hues near the middle. Head is off-white, almost yellowish, generous at first but dissipates to a thin ring fairly quickly. Some lacing is left as I consume.

Some mild sweet malts, with buttery and fruity hop notes. A bit subdued.

Taste is malt-centric. Sweet bread and caramel up front, turning to buttery near the middle before a hint of hop bittersweetness and a slightly nutty finish. As the beer warms, a spicy hop flavour comes through.

Mouthfeel is smooth, fairly creamy, and medium-bodied. Carbonation is light, but still felt.

This beer is pleasant to drink, inoffensive, middle-of-the-road, but tasty nonetheless. I'll note that I'm not reviewing this as an APA, as the brewer doesn't consider it one. It's closer to an english-style brown, and it hits pretty square in the middle for that style.

 954 characters

Photo of prosper
3.73/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A good middle-of-the-road ale. Nothing particularly distinctive, but the overall finished product is pleasant. And it's NOT an APA; being far far more in the vein of a Newcastle and the like.

Served in 20oz Nonic glasses at a local pub.

Very clear. Medium brown in colour. Thin tan head, some lace.

Smells pretty nondescript. Slightly malty, slightly tart. Not much in the way of fruity esters and no hops.

Taste is of a medium-sweet caramel malt, with some faint nutty grainy flavours that takea while to become apparent. No noticeable hop character, and mild hop bitterness. Finishes rather clean.

Mouthfeel is about perfect, I think, for this style. Medium to medium low carbonation and a light-ish body.

It's characterful enough to be interesting, but no so much as to impede drinkability.

 800 characters

Big Rock Traditional Ale from Big Rock Brewery
Beer rating: 3.4 out of 5 with 197 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.