Crystal Ale | Big Sky Brewing Company

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Crystal AleCrystal Ale

Brewed by:
Big Sky Brewing Company
Montana, United States

Style: Kölsch

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.70%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by ZAP on 05-28-2004

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Ratings: 41 |  Reviews: 38
Photo of Mitchster
4.57/5  rDev +29.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Big thanks to my beer buddy Patrick for the donation!

Pours out to a sparkingly clear straw golden, forming a rocky bone white head with very good retention and very nice lacing. Very nice looking brew! Carbonation is moderate. The aroma is enticing...white grape juice is ungodly dominant (unlike anything I've smelled in a brew before) with freshly mashed pale malts, husk, very delicate and beautifully floral hops and a slight bit of skunk I can't put my finger on. Wow! The mouthfeel is snappy, very brisk, crisp and refreshingly clean with a light body. The taste is akin to the aroma...the malts are not too sweet and tone-down the grape-juice character...this is all balanced wonderfully by floral hops with an awesome lingering bitterness. Husks linger in the back of the throat and burps are spicy.

This is an amazing, under-rated brew. I was expecting a crappy "cream ale" or "micro-brewed domestic lager". I am ecstatic and could drink this all day long were it available in my area. A wonderful Kolsch and representative of the style. Highly recommended!

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Photo of ZAP
4.22/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A new offering from Big Sky and in my opinion their very best offering....Their web-site pretty much says they spent like 100-years developing this and have no idea what the hell they made but it is good....I'm gonna peg it as a Kolsch despite the caramel like flavors...

It is an Ale but it is very clear...nice gold color....nose is excellent....a sweet caramel aroma...perhaps some honey..set behind a floral hop background....the body of the beer is substantial for a Kolsch....maybe we should call this an Imperial Kolsch....solid full body...carbonation medium...flavors are malty..sweet...caramel is a big component..but the floral hoppiness complements very nicely....

I didn't expect much from this as summer beers aren't my thing and I anticipated a fizzy light bodied ale....I REALLY like this....By far their best beer with Winter Hound #2 and Moose Drool #3

A fantastic Double Imperial Kolsch!!!

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Photo of russpowell
4.18/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This was a pleasant suprise, wasn'ty expecting a whole lot out of this, but was fairly pleased and impressed

Pour golden and clear with a chunky white head, Maintained a 1" head to the finsih with tenacious lacing

Smell: Floral hops, malt, and frutiness

Taste: Malty/husky goodness with floral hops filling in the taste gaps nicely.

Mouthfeel: Balanced and very smooth, carbonation is spot on!

Hope this highly drinkable ale grows distribution roots here in CO Springs, I was pretty happy with 3 of 4 beers on offer, only the most high profile Moose Drool failed to please me. This beer will be in my spring-fall rotation if availible.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.18/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Amazingly bright stop light yellow, steady carbonation bubbles in widespead lines, large puffy white head, evenly bubbled, ink blobby lacing sticks.

Aroma is of dry grassy hay and wheat grains, fresh and clean, floral hops notes and crystalized honey.

Taste is dry and candyish sweet with a nice malty base, slightly bready and chewy in the finish, some floral hop flavors and specks of honey. The malts are quite nice; sticky sweet, candyish, caramel-like but more of a dulled sugaryness. A ton of crystal malts perhaps, hence the name.

Feel is well mannered in smoothness, creamy, nearly full bodied with a very nice finish of nurtured chewy/sticky malts.

Wow, what a treat, a nice surprise, Big Sky has done their homework with this one. One superb drinker. I'm with Zap as I was expecting something light and fizzy, but this is better then one would think. Not sure about style choice on this. Could be a lighter Maibock or Wheat Pale ale, but it does seem to fit the Kolsch style with perhaps a more malt heavy approach. Whatever it is, I like it.

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Photo of TastyTaste
4.13/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Written From Notes Compiled 6/04-8/04:
Bright gold color, medium sized, fast-fading white head, leaves minimal lace on the way down. Smell is of grassy mal, yeast, and faint floral hops. Tastes mostly like a lager. Thin body, perfect amount of CO2. A goo refreshing beer, no matter what style it's called.

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Photo of woemad
4.07/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle purchased at Huckleberry's in Spokane for $1.29. Crystal Ale? Probably some sort of summer beer, but no indication of any particular style. Label features an angler in the middle of an alpine stream, with his trusty pickup parked along the bank and mountains (Bitterroots, Rockies?) in the background.

Poured a light, transparent gold color that's just shy of being pale enough to look like a nasty pale lager, with a very big, sudsy head that took it's time going down. Lots of bubbles rocketing to the surface.

Smell is of floral hops and sweet malt. More going on here than you'd find in a cheap piss beer, which is what I feared when I saw the color during the pour. Maybe this will work out...

Definitely better than I thought this would taste. The taste starts out with a jolt of sweet malts, with a coupling of mild, floral hops. There's also a slight grapefruit-like taste lingering in the background, and an earthy wheat flavor. There's a slight dryness throughout. Considerably more complex than I would have guessed.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a certain creaminess I didn't see coming.

This seems like an ideal hot weather beer for complex tastes. I haven't had enough kolsches to really know the style, but it does seem reminiscent of the one I've tried (it's just not a style I find much around here), but with more going on. Hopefully I can get this in a 6er or 12er for the next barbecue.

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Photo of budgood1
4.03/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

pours out a bright and clear golden colour with a thin foamy head leaving wisps of lace. aroma is grainy, sweet and malty with a few whiffs of grassiness and hops. tastes really great after an extremely hot day in the sun slaving away. lots of light sweetened maltiness with an assortment of intermingling fruity and grainy side flavours to really quench a thirst. the body of this beer is medium to slightly more than medium full; with a rich, smooth creamy mouthfeel that makes it quite quaffable. a hint of bitterness just for show in the finish...and a lingering flavourful aftertaste that is a bit sweet and sour.

lots of character to this kolsch style ale. this really hits the spot as far as satisfying a raging thirst. a nice summer time ale.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.98/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Minimally dusted sunflower gold topped by an ivory cap that looks both lightly creamy and cottony soft. Rapidly popping surface bubbles barely outpace the carbonation feeding the head's underside, resulting in an extremely slow deflation. Squiggly splotches of lace appear on the upper portion of the glass with meatier chunks farther down.

The nose is pleasantly summery. It consists of lightly sweet grain and fruity hops with an herbal undertow. Crystal Ale is on the mild side with regard to flavor, but then most kolschs are. I guess a little palate adjustment is in order. As in the nose, herb-dusted orchard fruit is dominant. The beer starts out mildly sweet and minimally spicy and finishes gently bitter and tending toward dry. All in all, a good use of Crystal hops.

Although the body/mouthfeel is light (still well within bounds for the style), it actually has more heft than it appeared to have initially; especially as the carbonation fades. Most lighter beer loses mouthfeel as the ounces disappear. It's refreshing to see one go in the other direction.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Crystal Ale, in large part because the style isn't noted on the label and I was unaware that it's a kolsch until I started this review. It's good beer though and would probably be in my summer rotation if Big Sky would only extend their distribution area one more tier of states to the South.

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Photo of bditty187
3.95/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bright, amber-gold in hue, lazy animation dances towards the white head. At the apex the bubbly head reached almost two fingers in height. Impressive. The head retention was good; it slowly faded to a loose cap. Subsequent lacing was very spotty and hardly noteworthy. There is nothing unusual about the appearance. The potency of the nose is modest; unless a Kölsch is done to perfection the aromas are often loose and simple. Well, just by smelling this I’m not sold that this is a true Kölsch, anyway. The aromas are weakly malty with some underlying grain, wild flowers, floral hops, and a suggestion of caramel/honey covered fruit. The bouquet is pleasant enough even if it doesn’t say much or that loudly. The palate is very similar to the nose. This is okay. There is a nice biscuit malt backbone with trace caramel flavors. These characteristics are the main focus of this beer. Secondary are pleasant flavors like honey, flowers, hints of grass, and some faint candied fruit. The construction of the palate is simple but purely genius. I have no complaints. It is very refreshing, mainly because it is straightforward. Upon tasting this I have no doubt that this is a great stab at a Kölsch. Hop bitterness is moderate but it balances the beer wonderfully. Medium in body, light but appropriate carbonation, the mouthfeel is very agreeable. This beer is wonderfully drinkable. I could easily sit back and quaff a six-pack of these. It is too bad I only purchased one bottle when I was in Burnsville, MN. When I seen more, I will buy more. It is worth a try, IMO, for a good summer or lazy day quaff.

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Photo of Gusler
3.92/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-Tap @ Papago
The beer fresh from the tap is a nice clear blond color with a big fluffy white head that dissipates slowly leaving a fine curtain of lace to cover the glass. Nose has a fresh crisp hint of hops, sweet malt, quite appetizing; start is somewhat sweet with a pleasant grain profile and the top light to moderate in feel. Finish has a stern acidity, hops potent and the aftertaste dry, a real nice drinking beer; I had three pints, just damn good.

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Photo of akorsak
3.9/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A 12 oz bottle from Liquid Solutions.

A: The kolsch pours with a deep yellow color, crystal clear (and therefore spot-on with the name). The head was sufficiently large on pour and leaves some decent lacing in the glass.

S: The kolsch has a surprisingly assertive hop character, showing off a dry crisp zatec-like body. The malty body nicely supports the hops, showing off a grainy and fruity element. I am very pleased with the ale, as I was worried about getting a thin malty mess.

M: The assertive hops and sweet malts are nicely paired, creating a smooth and enjoyable brew.

D: Damn, I wish I lived in Montana, this is a real sessioner.

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Photo of cokes
3.85/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Golden hued with a modest white fluff retreating rapidly to the outmost edges of the glass.
Malt-heavy nose for such a lightish ale. Smell of Maibock, caramel sweet with herb bitters.
Begins with a caramel-laced breadiness. Again, this hints havily at a maibock. Turns grainier by midway, as fruit attempts to squeek out but has little success. Nevertheless, some pears to manage to edge past the parched grain. Possibly some wheat hues in here as well. Ends with a wildflower and lemon herb hop snap, then a lightly lingering caramel-pear sweetness.
Generally medium in stature with moderate carbonation. Plenty drinkable to boot.
A fairly unique creation. Somewhere in between a kolsch and maibock, with some American blonde/wheat ale traits tossed in.

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Photo of BillyB
3.83/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a bright straw yellow with a thick, foamy white head. Very clear.

Slight bitter taste with a hint of lemony citrus and faintly sugar-cookie/biscuity maltiness. This is a nice balance between bitter and malt where neither is overwhelming but both show their character.

Very light/thin bodied. Very soft.

A very drinkable beer.

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Photo of battlekow
3.82/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big Sky's Moose Drool and Scapegoat Pale Ale seem to be pretty popular around here; some places even stock cases of the former. Haven't come across this one nearly as much. It's pale, orange-yellow that could be described as "piss-colored," but I'll be a gentleman and call it "apple juice." Smells and tastes malty; nothing especially interesting going on here, but it is quite refreshing. It's frequently said that a beer would be good after mowing the lawn--well, I just did mow the lawn, a huge expanse stretching from my back door to the Milwaukee River, and this beer hit the spot afterwards. Personally, I prefer this to Big Sky's summer seasonal, the Summer Honey, as a beer on a hot day. If you like spices, though, go for the Summer Honey.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.8/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Big Sky's Crystal Ale delivers a crystal-clear golden ale that's sweet, refreshing, and tasty! It's bright white head drops quickly and it leaves little lace, but its brilliance and glowing, golden highlights help to make up for that. Sweet, honeyish malt greets you in the nose with a cusp of floral Hallertau hops; and the flavor is almost exactly the same. It's very clean in both the aroma and flavor; and it's nicely balanced towards sweet malt with a restrained hop bitterness and floral and delicately spicy hop flavor. It's very easy to drink, and with an alcohol content of 4.7% you could have a few; although there's not really enough complexity or finesse to lend it any more drinkability. In a word.... quaffable!

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Photo of HopHeadKen
3.8/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanx to friends from Valporaiso, IN for saving one of these for me.

Good PFFFtttt when the cap comes off; Pours clear golden yellow with a decent amount of thick white foam head that soon dissapates to a thin lace and ring around the glass.

The bottle contained a small amount of sediment, so I am guessing that it might be bottle conditioned.

Light malt and subtle hop aroma; and first taste is a mild hop flavor, somewhat citrus; this beer is smoothe with a hop aftertaste.

Not BIG hops like an IPA, but smoothe. I cannot identify the variety. Mt Hood ? Amarillo ?

Good as a lunch beer with a BLT - cold on a hot summer day !
Would be glad to drink more.

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Photo of mac56
3.77/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bought this at the local muni here in town - no freshness date, so no way of knowing how long it's been on the cooler shelf. Deep golden color. Moderate head that faded away quickly leaving moderate lace. Slightly floral aroma. Well balanced taste, slightly sharp, very quenching. Full satisfying mouthfeel. I could drink quite a few of these.

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Photo of ADR
3.7/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Something new from Big Sky, one of a replacement series for Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout, though I hope they try a new and better Stout sometime...

Bright darker gold, almost luminous then chill hazing. Head is scant with about 20 seconds of duration. Laces in punctuation marks. Wild honey aroma, very sweet. Flavor is the epitomy of malty, seems to confirm the pale malt the name imples, being quite stuffed with treacle, brown sugar, trace of fig, slight nuttiness late, and lots of light caramel. Body is thickish, carbonation, lower. Hardly a trace of discernible hop. Not very refreshing to me, pretty unidimensional and not really balanced, but makes a definite statement. I like it in a different kind of way.

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Photo of RJLarse
3.63/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I picked up a six-pack of Big Sky Crystal Ale at a grocery store, to taste, review and enjoy. I poured this beer in to a pint tumbler.

Pours a light an orange/gold color and is crystal clear. A foamy two-finger head forms and is quite resilient, lacing the sides of the glass nicely.

The smell is mild, cereal, with herbal notes like fresh mown hay.

The taste is a cereal or biscuit flavor up front, followed by a sweet herb or vegetable flavor, grass or hay, and a mildly bitter hop finish. The flavors are reasonably well balanced.

The mouth feel is light, crisp and refreshing. The beer is moderately carbonated.

This is a very drinkable beer. Smooth and light, it would be a refreshing choice on a hot day. I’m not much on the style, but this is a good representative of it. One of the better brews I have had from Big Sky.

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Photo of Mark
3.56/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This refreshing beer was a pale gold and was topped by a thick white head. Lacing was good. Grainy aroma, almost pils like, with accent on malt. Strong malt base with a slight hop zing. A bit biscuity as well. While not too heavily hopped, it has a good long finsh which I found a bit interesting. Refreshing beer but a bit too lager like for me. I slightly suspected this but was hoping for something a bit more ale like in substance.

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Photo of SixpointJMH
3.55/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I was hoping to find a different offering from Big Sky but this was the only option available so I gave it a whirl and it wasn't half bad.

It pours a crisp golden colour with a bubbly foamy white head atop the liquid.

Aroma is semi-sweet and grainy with a nice basic balance of malt and hops. There's a hint of chalky spiciness in the mix here as well.

The flavour is basically more of the same. It's subdued but flavourful. The sweetness permeates throughout with a bit of a caramel and sugar candy flavour, and it blends well with the malt flavour here. There is a touch of floral flavour from the hops but it is only faintly noticeable. Mouthfeel is light and crisp and easy drinking overall.

This one was basic but thirst quenching and pretty well made. It won't wow you but it gets the job done.

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Photo of Tballz420
3.55/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

This one is a plae straw gold color, nice bubbly white head on the top. Scent is fruity/lemony. Light malts up front, lemon influence. Touch of flowery hops in the back round it out. Thin mouth. I alway like to see the brewers interpretation of this style, this one isnt bad but i would rather have the Schells. Still would be great after mowing a few lawns.

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Photo of BeerRun13
3.55/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a mostly clear, almost pale golden color. Small white ring with lots of bubbles from below.
Malty with some pungent hop aromas.
British hops and a slight citrus flavor. More of a pungent bitterness.
Light bodied. Good carbonation. Nice bitterness throughout.
I would have guessed British Pale Ale before Kolsch. Not bad at all, but I didn't get that Kolsh yeast character.

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Photo of d5001986
3.5/5  rDev -0.6%

Photo of GClarkage
3.5/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

11/08/04- Sampled at the Big Sky Brewery on tap.

*from notes in August 2004.

Appearance- Poured with a generous head and very slight lacing. Kind of a pils color except a bit darker.

Smell- Smell of grains and grass. Maybe a hint of sweetness. Some kind of fruit but can't remember.

Taste- Was very crisp and lots of malts and hops. A bit sweet at the same time also.

Mouthfeel- Was a bit over-carbonated. Although, it did go down very smooth. Just remember those bubbles all over my mouth.

Drinkability- A very nice summer beer. Would be fairly easy to consume many of these over a hot summer day.

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Crystal Ale from Big Sky Brewing Company
3.52 out of 5 based on 41 ratings.
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