Behind Your Favourite Craft Beer:
Port Rexton Horse Chops IPA
One reason Port Rexton’s Horse Chops IPA was such a hit this year is because – despite the worldwide trend of beer lovers devouring hoppy, grapefruity, tongue-rasping “West Coast Style” IPAs – no one on the island was brewing one. And that was exactly why Port Rexton made Horse Chops one of their core beers.
“We love citrusy IPAs and the province definitely needs one made here, so it’s going to be sticking around.” This is a beautiful, expressive, memorable IPA. In addition to it being the favourite beer of Overcast readers, it also happens to be the favourite of both Sonja and Alicia – owners of Port Rexton Brewing – who have noticed that visiting beer enthusiasts from all over the world declare Horse Chops their top pick from Port Rexton’s sampler flights.
As for the curious name, it’s drawn from one of Newfoundland’s many curiously named nooks and crannies (we do have, after all, place names like Joe’s Nose, Cow Head, Dildo, and Blow Me Down). This IPA is named after a point of land at the north side of Trinity Bight that extends east of English Harbour. Sonja’s parents owned a sailboat, and she recalls her father talking about sailing around the rough waters just off the cliffs of Horse Chops.
“The name captured us, and being an IPA that has that citrusy and bitter bight, it seemed a proper thing to name it from a place in Trinity Bight.”This IPA is medium-bodied and bold, with a dry finish. It has loads of tropical fruit and floral aromas from having been generously dry-hopped with mosaic hops.
Your Favourite Commercial Domestic Beer Has a Long and Complicated History
India Beer was initially created and brewed by a local microbrewery called Newfoundland Brewery Limited (1893-1962), and it remains the sole beer from that legendary local brewery that is still brewed today.
When Molson bought out Newfoundland Brewery Limited in 1962, Newfoundland Brewery had been making several beers, but their top three were India Beer, India Pale Ale, and Irish Cream Porter. Molson kept on brewing India Beer because it was so beloved here it would have been silly to discontinue it. According to one retired Molson employee “it was a 20% brand, and it was a Gold Medal Winner at an international beer tasting show in the 1970s.”
And yes, you’re reading this right: India Beer and India Pale Ale were two separate brews that once coexisted: India Beer was a lighter, easier-drinking version of the fiercer India Pale Ale. Which is to say, India Beer is NOT an IPA, despite what many people presume. It is a lager.
Nor is India “named after the dog on the label,” as is common urban myth about this local beer. India Beer existed for a very long time before that Newfoundland dog appeared on its label, so, if the dog’s name really is India, it’s more likely the dog was named after the beer, than the opposite.
Likewise, the expression, “Get dat Indi-ya,” i.e., get that into you, has nothing to do with the origins of its name. It has more to do with locals’ enthusiasm for drinking the stuff. According to a Molson Sales manager, India remains a solid brand still on the rise, with the bulk of all sales happening downtown in St. John’s.
India Beer has been around for more than 125 years, exclusively in NL, and as alluded to, it’s a real favourite among blossoming beer connoisseurs and the local music scene, as well as students who love beer but can’t justify the double-digit price tags on all those imported single-bottle craft beers in the back of the NLC. Even a micro-beer snob calls this macro-brew passable if not perfectly enjoyable. Plenty of beer lovers call it Molson’s best offering,
Light, smooth, and thirst-quenching with a nice acidic snap at the back-end of your sip, there’s some substance here, but not enough to slow you down too much on a weekend bender. It’s a balanced beer with nothing wild enough going on to offend any palette, but more sharpness and substance than most macrobrews.