Review: Rickard's Red India Pale Ale (IPA)

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Sometime approximately two and a half years ago I believed that the Rickard's brand at Molson was on its way out. The newest additions to the brand back then were the Blonde and Dark ales, which were released a few years earlier. It kind of made sense that the brand would diminish over time as Molson was really pushing Granville Island Brewing's beer from coast to coast. I felt that Granville Island was going to become the new Rickard's, the new "go to" pseudo-crafty beer that the average beer drinker would have on tap at mom & pop pubs or chain restaurants. Well, Granville Island's popularity soared quickly here in Manitoba, while the Rickards brand gradually disappeared.

Pubs eventually stopped selling Rickard's White in favour of Labatt's Shock Top Belgian-style Wheat Ale, even though Rickard's had a better product.. and now that Molson is bringing Blue Moon to Canada as "Belgian Moon".. so it looked like the Rickard's line was done for good. That was then - in the past year they've brought out a few new seasonals including Rickard's Lederhosen, Rickard's Radler - which is one of the best radlers I've had in 2015, and now Rickard's Red IPA.

When I first heard about Rickard's Red IPA, I didn't know what was Molson's intent - this could easily confuse beer drinkers as Rickard's Red is already a successful beer as it is.. but it turns out that the India Pale Ale is part of a new series of seasonal "Red" beers as part of the "Rickard's Red" series of ales. For some reason, the label on Rickard's Red IPA can reminds me more of a Redd's Apple Ale or a Bud Light Apple more than a Rickard's Red, so perhaps it won't confuse drinkers as much as I initially thought.

This isn't the first India Pale Ale that Rickard's has released - they previously had an India Pale Ale back until around 2006 when Rickard's White replaced the IPA in the Rickard's Taster Pack. I barely recall much about the IPA other than it was very easy to drink, a hint of floral notes and no bitterness to it. Back then, I wasn't an IPA drinker so beers I considered bitter back in 2006 may not be perceived the same way now.

Now onto Rickard's Red IPA, it's an English-style IPA that tops out at 5.7% ABV, 40 IBU - so it's not that bitter, but it may be a nice transitional IPA for those beer drinkers who want something with a bit of hops to it, but dislike hop bombs of some craft IPAs on the market.

Now onto my review!

Appearance: Rickard's Red IPA pours a rich caramel-red ale with a great deal of micro-carbonation. There's about half a finger of yellowish-to-beige head on top that's not going anywhere, yet sticks to the side of the glass as the beer slowly goes down. To me, it looks a lot like your standard Rickard's Red.

Aroma: Surprisingly aromatic and mildly hoppy. It's not overbearing like some hop bombs out there, but it has a nice balance of hop/malt presence. There's a light-to-mild amount of fresh cut alfalfa and pine that's reminiscent of some of my favourite IPAs and a light citrusy note of grapefruit, which I'm really liking. A bit of a caramel maltiness, light bready notes. Quite light but coming from Molson, they're more liberal on the hops than most of their brews.

Taste: There's notes of caramel and fresh baked biscuits that remind me of the original Rickard's Red ale, followed by a bit of a spice to it - possibly a hint of pepper and clove. There's a bit of hop presence that gives off a piney bitterness, but it's quite a bit toned down compared to say.. a Red Racer India Style Red Ale - nowhere near as bitter. It's very easy on the palate, a bit creamy on the palate and leaves a bit of a grassy aftertaste at the end.

Overall Thoughts: This isn't a hop bomb snob's IPA, rather it's the kind of India Pale Ale that the average Manitoban beer drinker would drink at a pub with friends as they're eating wings and watching the Jets game on TV. One of the biggest complaints I've heard from friends and beer drinkers in my neck of the woods is that they don't care for IPAs because they tend to be overly bitter. This one certainly has a good hop presence with a hint of alfalfa, pine and even grapefruit, but it's not overpowering. For an English-style IPA, it's a tad hoppier than Wells IPA, and certainly much more of an IPA than Alexander Keith's IPA will ever be.

Will I drink this again? Yeah, I probably will. The Rickards line of beers was one of THE brands of beer that turned me from a lager drinker into a craft beer drinker. While it's not in any shape or form a craft brand, I'm not disappointed if that's the best option on tap - just like how I settled with Rickard's Red (in a glass boot!) at Montana's last night because it was either that, or Shock Top, and frankly - Shock Top sucks and Rickard's Red is still very drinkable to this very day.