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Sgt. Major India Pale Ale

June 9, 2009


A Majorly Bitter Brew

Anthony Says:


The good people at Scotch-Whiskey Brewing Company have been up to some interesting things out there in Fitzroy Harbour. Between the throw back stubby bottles and hand drawn labels (featuring handsome portraits of dogs and old-timey British redcoats), they put out an attention grabbing line of brews. Intrigued, I had to see if the substance matches the style; having sampled their excellent Imperial Stout and Irish Porter, these guys definitely supply the goods. Nevertheless, I had yet to try the stern-faced, mustachioed Sgt. Major and his IPA until this review.

Sgt. Major pours a light copper brown- almost amber in appearance- with virtually no head and minimal carbonation. The nose is dense and earthy, highlighted by a palpable smokiness and a hint of something metallic. The mouthfeel is pleasantly crisp, although slightly flat and a tad on the watery side for my taste.

Similar to its aroma, Sgt. Major’s flavor is big on hops and light on malts. Undertones of caramel aside, bitterness rules the day here; the spiciness and citrus flavors familiar to North American IPA enthusiasts are pretty much absent. At the same time, however, the initially sharp bitterness passes off the palette quickly, leaving a refreshingly crisp aftertaste that belies a 5.5% alcohol content.

It seems to me that the folks at Scotch-Whiskey wanted to leave no doubt that Sgt. Major’s is an IPA. Unfortunately, by sacrificing other flavors in favor of hops, the result is a one-dimensional brew that is big on bitterness and not much else.



Gatlin Says:


I’ve enjoyed this beer many times both from the bottle and on tap. Some have speculated that this is neither an English IPA nor an American IPA. Some have even suggested that this beer could be described as a Canadian IPA. Part of me deep down thinks that this beer may be closer to the historical IPA, which sailed the oceans hundreds of years ago, than any other beer around today. Whatever the case may be, two things are very much clear about Sgt. Major:

1) It is difficult to characterize in terms of style

2) It will likely only be enjoyed by those who like their beer bitter

Technical Rundown:

  • Container: 341 mL, brown glass stubby bottle
  • Alcohol: 5.50% by volume
  • Colour: NA (dark copper)
  • Bitterness: 68 IBU


I was very aggressive with the pour, resulting in a 1.5 finger, off-white, foamy head. Decent lacing was visible as the head casually receded to a large-bubbled film. The body was a great dark copper, with very little visible carbonation. A beautiful cascading effect filled the glass when I gently swirled it. This is a very nice looking beer.

The smell was very, very bitter. It was so bitter that when I inhaled deeply from the glass an astringent taste could be sensed in the back of my throat. Scents of resinous pine dominate, underscored by subtle citrus and floral notes. Some caramelly malts and molasses can be detected under the mass of bitterness.

The taste here is pure and raw bitterness. Extremely astringent and dry. Any malt flavours were subdued and slightly woody, although some hoppy notes of pine and sour grapefruit could be noticed. This tastes like more than 68 IBU. I found this beer to be quite drinkable overall, but then again I’m also a bitterness nut.



Some Final Thoughts

Anthony Thinks:

  • Big hop flavor and scent
  • Pleasant bitterness that passes off the palette quickly
  • Surprisingly crisp and drinkable


  • Mouthfeel is a little flat and watery
  • Flavor profile is basic compared to other similarly priced IPAs
  • A little boring for a session beer (although quite drinkable)


3 stars. Although rather conservative in comparison to some of the other IPAs being churned out lately, Sgt. Major’s is a nice beer. If the hops were slightly more flavorful, rather than purely bitter, this would be far more drinkable brew and an exemplar of the style


Gatlin Thinks:


  • Intense bitterness
  • Quality craftsmanship
  • Stubby bottle (come on, you know they are cool)


  • Way too bitter for the average beer drinker
  • Kind of narrow in the range of hop flavors represented (not much more than just plain bitterness)
  • Could be more balanced


This is a 3½ star IPA. I would say 4, but the lack of depth in hops flavours detracts from the beer overall as an IPA. This would have been much better if a few hop varieties (not just Chinook – a high alpha acid variety) were used for finishing. St. Major’s is a great beer for a seasoned IPA drinker looking for a bitterness overdose


So, What’s On Your Mind?

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