Clockwork Pale Ale

Relic Clockwork Pale Ale
1 22 oz bottle, $6.99, 5.5% ABV

Purchased at Liquor Depot, New Britain

cockworkAh, one of the few “closest- to- a- flagship-” Relic beers that exists. No, that doesn’t mean that Mark at Relic brews it like clockwork. Or that you can predict the times at which he releases more. Or that each batch is made with the exact precision that one demands from Swiss watch makers.

No, none of that. There’s pretty much nothing “clockworky” about Relic now that I think about it. Mark’s beers are usually unconventional and his release schedule is purely at the whims of whatever is in his head at the time.

The Clockwork was one of Relic’s earlier efforts and it pops up from time to time in his offerings. The beer is named a “pale ale” but the label describes it as an India pale ale.

Relic says:

This sessionable IPA is crisp and drinkable yet satisfies the discerning hop enthusiast with a flavorful blend of American hops, including Mt. Rainier and Chinook.

Oooooh, Relic. So which is it? A regular ol’ pale ale or a hopped up pale ale or an IPA? That is a more interesting question than perhaps many realize. Like evolution, the gradations between a “true” pale ale and a “true” IPA (and then of course the new family of DIPAs and TIPAs and dry-hopped PAs and IPAs and DIPAs and double dry-hopped whatevers for that matter) have a similar cladogram as the evolutionary history of… well, of anything, really.

RicFlairIn short, pale ales have a fairly close balance of hops and light malts. No pine or citrus bombs here, but the hops are certainly present and accounted for. IPA’s came about because the drunk Brits needed their beer to stay palatable over the long many-months trip from England to India. So they hopped them up and increased the alcohol content, but still retained the malt balance in the face of the more resinous and hoppy beer.

And, of course, as you go up the scale to DIPAs and so forth, the malt becomes more invisible and the hops take center stage – AND the alcohol by volume increases.

In other words, the difference between a “pale ale” and a classic IPA is quite subtle – and somewhat undefined. Throw in the “sessionable” moniker, as Relic has, and yes, it’s more of a pale at 5.5% than an IPA which usually tip the scales over 6% ABV.

The Clockwork is good. It is light in color (pale ale!) but hop forward (India Pale Ale!). There is some pine and citrus in the beer (India Pale Ale!) but it is quite drinkable and yes, sessionable (pale ale!).

I think it’s safe to say that this is one of Relic’s more “boring” beers – and I say that with affection. Relic NEEDS a few of these standards that are approachable and drinkable for everyone. Nail these beers, perhaps with a little Relic Flair (WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!), and the brand and brewery will continue to grow and gain fans.

Suffice it to say, the only thing at Relic that can be counted on with “Clockwork” regularity is that Mark will continue to confuse us all with his atypical stylin’ and profilin’ – hopefully almost always in a good way.

Overall Rating: B+
Rating vs. Similar style: B

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