Barley Mowat 

Feature Beer: GIB Swing Span

with 6 comments

With the recent management changeover at Granville Island Brewing comes an even more recent change in marketing direction. Instead of keeping up tradition by producing large volumes of dreck in small bottles, and small volumes of great beer in large bottles, they’ve decided to mix things up by making okay beer in small bottles.

In fact, GIB’s first entry in the new “Under the Bridge” series, Swing Span Amber, isn’t just “okay.” It actually borders on “quite good.” A good beer from Molson in a 12oz bottle? Quelle surprise. For the newbies out there, that “Molson” back there isn’t a typo.

Not only is GIB owned by Creemore Springs who is, in turn, owned by Molson, but this beer was brewed in that giant building at First and Burrard with “MOLSON” written across the side of it. It was also brewed by Molson brewers, in massive 300 hectolitre tanks, between batches of Canadian. That’s pretty much makes it Molson beer.

Up until now that’s been a recipe for disaster, but not this time. This batch of Swing Span is a hoppy rich red ale that places a bulls-eye squarely on Parallel 49’s number one seller Gypsy Tears. P49’s beer is a superior offering, but Swing Span is not too far behind.

In fact, this beer is good enough that I will even forgo extensively raking Molson over the coals for the disingenuous title of the series. This beer was no more brewed “Under the Bridge” than Turning Point’s beer was brewed in “Stanley Park.” In fact, the style is also a lie. There’s nothing Amber Ale about this beer. It’s a full on Cascadian Red Ale… which is better, so I guess that one’s okay.

Why feature it, though, if it’s not even the best Cascadian Red Ale out there? Well, it shows that Molson, of all people, is capable of producing pretty darn good beer. After years of taking great recipes from GIB’s microbrewery on Granville Island and turning them into the insipid booze-water GIB became famous for, they finally did something right.

This could be a game changing beer, folks, especially if it sells well. Pay close attention to this one, because you know Molson is. Shit’s about to get real.

APPEARANCE Deep red/brown. High carb, long lasting thing head.
NOSE Rich malt, lots of hops. Some minerality.
TASTE Aggressively hopped up front with a chewy mid. Ends with a harsh minerality/metalicness
STATS 5.6% ABV / 45 IBU / Cascadian Red Ale
SHOULD I BUY IT? You know what? Yeah. You should. I’m as surprised by that recommendation as you are, frankly.

Brewery Granville Island
From Vancouver
Name Swing Span
Style Red Ale
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential n/a
Drink Now
Wait, GIB makes good beer now? Well, this one.
Availability Widespread
Cost $12.25+ per 6x12oz
Similar Beers Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears, Lighthouse Siren


Wait a second… did I just give an SOA to Molson? What’s going on here?
Is this backwards world? Will Four Winds release a riced-up, watered down light lager next?

Written by chuck

May 22nd, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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6 Responses to 'Feature Beer: GIB Swing Span'

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  1. “Under the Bridge” obviously refers to the journey it has to take to get from the Molson brewery to Granville Island. No?


    22 May 14 at 16:26

  2. I tried this and it was, well, meh.

    Sure it’s better than the regular dreck that Molson pours, but it still lacks balance, depth and any semblance of character. Definitely not anywhere in the same room, hell, the same city, as the last beer you gave a Bronze to – Four Winds Juxtapose IPA.


    28 May 14 at 23:47

  3. @mike – I thought it had decent balance and at least enough depth to be taken seriously. Different folks have different opinions, though.

    You’re right in that it’s not Juxtapose, though. By only having four SOA levels I do end up in the situation where any one level has quite a bit of ground to cover. Bronze is the worst, as it simply means “would I drink this beer again, willingly, or maybe even spend money to acquire it.”

    Swing Span is on the low end of that range and Juxtapose was on the high end, almost but not quite Silver (which is “I will buy a bottle of this every time I see it”)


    29 May 14 at 09:52

  4. It is encouraging that the fruits of the 22oz bomber series have started to spill over into their mainstream offerings. Clearly someone is paying attention to the fact that consumers want better beer and quite frankly the only way to compete with that is actually make better beer.


    30 May 14 at 10:57

  5. Tried the Swing Span at the VCBW festival and thought it was pretty tasty. According to the GIB reps pouring the beer, the Swingspan was actually brewed in Creemore Springs. Yup, Ontario. Not saying that it makes the beer better or worse because I think we focus too much in Vancouver on WHERE its made. Though I would appreciate if there was some distinction on the packaging. Not sure if there are a lot of “swing span” bridges in Creemore Springs.


    9 Jun 14 at 13:03

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    29 Aug 17 at 01:06

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