Final Draught: Clown Punch, a Belgian IPA via Bowmanville

I remember way back in the early years of the last decade how much fun it was to discover craft beer. As well as the new and interesting flavours, it also represented a treasure trove of categories and labels for those of us with a mind that craves compartments.

Even then, IPAs were a big deal, but they mostly came in two varieties: English and American. (No mention of the Halifax sub-style, please.) On paper, at least, the older British IPAs had plenty of hops but were defined by the balance malts struck, with harmony as the goal. By contrast, the New World examples were a soloist showcase for one or two hop varieties from the Pacific Northwest.

Both useful, depending mainly on how much you want to think about what you’re drinking. And then there was a third option: The Belgian-style IPA. It’s a convoluted name that ruffles purist feathers, so the elevator pitch for the style is: An American-style IPA made with Belgian yeast and bottle finishing, which creates a drier finish and the familiar, sometimes spicy, sometimes banana-flavoured notes.

Off and on, we’ve had good examples of the style come out of Ontario craft breweries and I’m happy to add Manantler’s Clown Punch to my list. The orange-gold beer, with a touch of haze and an off-white lace, opens lemony citrus with a spicy background aroma. Add a faint hint of bubblegum and a controlled piney bitterness after the first sip, which leads nicely into the expected clean finish.

Based in Bowmanville, Manantler does a pretty good job of getting on top at some good places to drink—I think my first sample of their beer came at the Cultivate Festival. It’s also worth making a special trip to the brewery because they have a satisfyingly diverse lineup and have created a really cool space to hang out in.



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