Category Archives: Tasting

Wolf of the Willows XPA

It was only a matter of time before a brewery took the romantic English translation of lupus salictarius as their moniker. Although the direct evidence is contested, and will probably never be resolved, it is quite likely that Pliny the Elder was referring to hops when writing about uncultivated foods consumed in Italy in Naturalis Historia.


The Wolf of the Willows brewery is run by married duo Scott and Renae McKinnon, a pair with hospitality, events management, marketing and amateur brewing experience. They currently contract brew out at Cavalier Brewing. The XPA is their first commercially released beer, and is supposed to be an acronym for “eXtra Pale Ale”. They claim the beer is “easy drinking yet satisfying for the hop lover.”

I can agree with that claim: this is an inoffensive beer. My pint featured a standard golden visage (though not extra pale like a pilsener or wit) and a good set of fine-bubbled head. It was light in body, barely masking a mildly harsh bitterness. To my palate it was slightly out of balance in this regard. The hop bouquet was standard pale ale territory: profound, robust, peach and passionfruit dominating. Galaxy and Mosaic hop varieties came to mind.

I spent much of my pint thinking and discussing with colleagues exactly how the marketing of “eXtra Pale Ale” fitted in with the beer in front of me. It doesn’t really do anything “extra” beyond the style – the colour isn’t extra pale, it isn’t extra malty, bitter, pungent, alcoholic – it’s a standard 4.7% ABV American Pale Ale. By no means a bad beer but I didn’t order a second pint.

I tasted this ale at The Gertrude Hotel.