Church-Key Brewing: Holy Smoke Scotch Ale – A Peaty Review

You may not have heard of Church-Key Brewing, but in the world of craft breweries that’s not uncommon. Founded in Campbellford, Ontario in 2000 when John Graham purchased a Methodist church and turned it into a brewery, the origin of Church-Key’s name as obvious as it is clever (a church-key or churchkey is also a type of bottle opener).

Also in Campbellford, Graham owns and operates the Church-Key Pub & Grindhouse where thirsty customers can grab a beer, a coffee, or both. An enterprising fellow, Graham was also one of the founding members of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association.

I should mention, before I sip, that Scotch Ale and Scottish Ale are, confusingly, different types of beer. Scottish ale is essentially an American version of Scotch Ale. Even more confusing, though, “Scotch Ale” may refer to any one of a number of different types of Scotch Ale. Plus, this beer is brewed in Canada, so it’s up to you to decide if it qualifies as Scotch Ale. If you’re looking for a good Scottish Pale Ale (also brewed in Canada), check out this Outlander-themed review I wrote a while ago. Now, without further ado …


Church-Key Brewing: Holy Smoke Scotch Ale – First Sip

Holy Smoke Scotch Ale pours a very dark brown with a thick layer of off-white foam. Because of the photo on Church-Key’s website, I’m drinking mine from a goblet rather than a pint glass. I taste lots of sweet maltiness as I take my first sip. The peat flavour is very subtle, but noticeable after having a few glugs. A thick layer of foam hangs out on my upper lip as this brew’s corduroy mouthfeel shows off its tart, rather than bitter, aftertaste.

Church-Key Brewing: Holy Smoke Scotch Ale – Last Sip

At 6.2% ABV in a 650 mL bottle, a couple will probably be enough for any reasonable person. Although not the strongest beer I’ve ever had, Holy Smoke’s strong flavours and thick mouthfeel don’t make for a beer you’ll feel like slamming back. This is one to sip at slowly.

In terms of pairing, I refuse to deny the tradition of drinking a Scotch (or Scottish) ale as a chaser for malt whisky. Unfortunately, due to my low income level I’ll be drinking blended rather than single malt Scotch.

Church-Key Brewing: Holy Smoke Scotch Ale – As a Chaser for Scotch

Holy smoke, that’s a good chaser. The sweetness of this brew levels out the acidity of my Johnnie Walker Red Label. I had thought that a peat-smoked beer might not be the best companion for a shot of Scotch. Instead, Holy Smoke’s subtle peat flavour serves to deaden the Scotch’s fiery taste rather than wash it out completely. If you’re thinking of enjoying this sweet brew with food rather than just whisky, I suggest something tart and savoury like guacamole and chips or a honey-lime chicken.

Michael Bedford
Michael Bedford
Under intense scrutiny by the Temporal Authorities, I was coerced into actualizing my capsule in this causality loop. Through no fault of my own, I am marooned on this dangerous yet lovely level-four civilization. Stranded here, I have spent most of my time learning what I can of the social norms and oddities of the Terran species, including how to properly use the term "Hipster" and how to perform a "perfect pour." Under the assumed name of "Michael Bedford," I have completed BA's with specialized honours in both theatre studies and philosophy, and am currently saving up for enough galactic credits to buy a new--or suitably used--temporal contextualizer ... for a friend.