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  • Writer's pictureCalgary Brewery Tour Guy

Big Rock Brewery - Best Brown Ale in Canada by YYCTOURS Calgary Brewery Tours.

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

In this series, YYCTOURS will be breaking down the judging categories for all the Calgary and Alberta brewery winners at the 2023 Canadian Brewery Awards and Conference.

Big ROck brewery traditional Ale Gold medal 2023 Canadian Brewery Awards by YYCTOURS Calgary

2023 Canadian Brewery Awards

British Brown Ale - GOLD

Big Rock Brewery - Calgary, Alberta.

Traditional Ale

Best Brown Ale in Canada

The BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) was formed in Colorado in 1985 as a way to design a set of parameters on how to judge beer at local homebrew competitions. It was created by the American Homebrewers Association and the Home Wine and Beer Trade Association. Over the years, the BJCP expanded their guidelines to cover beer styles from all over the world, and in doing so, became the recognized governing body for judging beer and other fermented products. Although the guidelines are not an official bible of all things beer, they are accepted as the go-to source when judging.

The Guidelines cover beer from forgotten historical styles all the way up to hazy IPA’s and are revised every few years as the industry evolves. They provide style descriptions, ingredient traditions, the beer history and give the certified judge the information and parameters they need to determine whether a beer meets the requirements for that style.

BJCP Guidelines 13B- British Brown Ale

The British Brown Ale category in the 2021 BJCP guidelines falls under section 13 ‘Brown British Beer’ which also includes Dark Milds and English Porter. The current British Brown Ale category is one that focuses more on modern versions of the beer, as its precursor, London Brown Ale is nearly extinct as a beer style. The London Brown Ale was created in the early 1900’s and was a much sweeter version of today’s interpretations. It can be found in the guide under ‘Historical Beer’. British Brown Ale should also not be confused with American Brown Ale (19c) which like any American version of a European beer has more hops.

When judging any beer, judges are looking for: Overall Impressions (10pts), Aroma (12pts), Appearance (3pts), Flavour (20pts) and Mouthfeel (5pts).

For an overall impression of a British Brown Ale, they will be looking for a malty, caramelly beer without roasted flavors like a Porter and any hint of roasted malt would be considered a fault resulting in a point deduction. The beer should be balanced and flavorful and usually a little stronger than most average UK beers.

The aroma should be light and somewhat sweet, with hints of toffee, nuts, light chocolate and low to moderate caramel, with possible fruitiness which should not dominate.

Appearance will be dark amber to a reddish brown. These colors are best observed by holding the beer up with a light source behind. The head retention should be low to moderate lasting and off-white to light tan in colour.

Flavour, which rightfully provides the most points, should offer low to moderate malt sweetness, with a light to heavy caramel character, and a medium to dry finish. The beer may also have a nutty, toasted, biscuity, toffee, or light chocolate character with medium to medium-low bitterness.

The mouthfeel should be medium to medium light with medium to medium high carbonation.

Optional in this beer style are low to moderate fruity esters and a low amount of hops which should be light earthy or floral.

Judges can expect this beer to have a more malty balance than British Bitters, to be stronger than a Dark Mild and to have less roast than an English Porter. The modern British Brown will also be stronger and much less sweet than London Brown Ale.

This year’s Best Brown Ale in Canada winner Big Rock Brewery, has brewed Traditional Brown Ale since 1985 and is one of the oldest breweries in the province. Big Rock also has a brewery in Toronto.

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