Food Liquids

Review: Apex Predator (Bench Creek) White Raven India Pale Ale

White Raven IPA is one of my favourite beers from Alberta’s craft brew boom.

Within the last few years, there’s been an explosion of amazing craft breweries in Alberta, the province in the western Canada that I call home. While British Columbia to the west of us has had a flourishing craft beer scene for what feels like a decade, Alberta was slow out of the gate due to regulatory issues that made it hard for micros to set up shop and compete.

Now that those hurdles have been removed, Alberta is undergoing a tiny brewery renaissance. And in a strange twist, those breweries aren’t all setting up shop in the major urban centres of Edmonton and Calgary. Instead, brewers are getting their mash on closer to home, in smaller communities where you wouldn’t have expected to see a brewery. Because really, from the perspective of a beer appreciator, it doesn’t much matter if your beer has travelled a few metres to get to the tap, or a few hundred kilometres. Delicious is delicious.

One of the bright lights in Alberta brewing is Apex Predator, maker of White Raven IPA. You may know them by their former name, Bench Creek, which they moved away from due to legal circumstances beyond their control.

While the name may have changed, it’s the same brewery just outside of Edson, Alberta (population: 8,414; about halfway between Edmonton and the Rocky Mountain community of Jasper), making the same yummy beers as before, but with a new name and entirely confusing branding. The brewery is named Apex Predator, but, according to their website, they also make two different beers named Apex Predator (one a double IPA, and the other a session IPA). Imagine a Molson Molson, if you will. Or a Big Rock Big Rock. Why needlessly confuse people?

But really, does it matter that the name changed? A Bench Creek White Raven IPA by any other name would smell as … fruity? Sure. Use that English degree, big fella.

White Raven IPA from Apex Predator
Whether it’s from Bench Creek or Apex Predator, White Raven India Pale Ale is still just as delicious.

The beer pours a cloudy deep golden hue in the glass, with piles of aromatics dancing in the air above it. It’s an encouraging hint at things to come.

Taste-wise, it’s a beautifully balanced IPA. It’s bitter, yes, but the malt sweetness counters it perfectly. The hops are very present, but it isn’t a typical (and tired) hop bomb IPA. There’s some pine, lots of tropical fruit and tangy bite, with a nice yeasty profile and a firm alcohol bite. It’s hard to make a beer that’s both this intense and also this completely balanced. It’s not a session beer by any means, but it’s a fine example of a quality local beer that is meant to be slowly sipped and savoured.

It’s a shame they had to change names after they were building momentum under the Bench Creek brand, but it’s good to see that they’re still out there, making wonderful beer.

The Details

Price: $17.99 for a four-pack of 16 oz (473 mL) tall cans at Liquor Depot in Edmonton.

Availability: One of the more widely available Apex Predator beers in and around Edmonton.

Nutrition: It’s beer.

Verdict: My favourite beer from one of my favourite new breweries in Alberta. Easy to drink and easy to love.

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