Thursday, 19 April 2012

A flight of Scottish ales

The Scottish beer landscape is absolutely thriving. Everywhere you look, in pubs, supermarkets, offsales, beer festivals you have an overwhelming array of beers. From the big boys like Caledonian and Belhaven right down to the most micro micro-brewery that might well be two demi-johns in a garden shed. The point is, there's a lot of creative and ground breaking talent out there for beer making currently. So it was time to put some of these to the test and have a quiet boys Thursday night of sampling the wares from many of these purveyors of fine ales. We got as far as seven so this is by no means an exhaustive list of brewers. In fact it's probably an abridged version of the abridged version. However it was a school night and detention on Friday morning didn't seem a good idea. So here are the magnificent and slightly less than magnificent seven that were sampled.

Birds & Bees, Williams Brothers
This was truly a summer beer and a great start to the night. It's citrussy with a fruity sweetness. Light and summery and you wait and wait but the bitterness you expect on the finish just isn't there. A definite chilled by the barbie summer ale.

Twisted Thistle IPA, Belhaven
Another fruity flavoured beer. Slightly more robust, less citrus and more malt than the B&B with the sweet flavour of hops coming through. Very good light bitter finish. Definitely in the 'would drink again list'

Northern Light, Orkney Brewery
I'm a huge fan of the Orkney Brewery. I think Dark Island is a stunning beer and a real personal favourite, so was really looking forward to the next two offerings and was a little disappointed by both in different ways. To be fair to this beer I don't think I'd chilled enough. The palate was malty, hoppy and zesty and tasted like it should have been darker but then had that chewy slightly bitter finish you get with Pilsner style lagers. Definitely wouldn't have branded it as a summer beer but will definitely try again, better chilled and on its own.

Red MacGregor, Orkney Brewery
Intensely sweet, that was the overriding feeling from this beer. If it could just have had a slightly bitter finish it would have been wonderful. To some palates this will be delightful but I couldn't drink much more than the half bottle I had. There was almost too much going on as it filled your mouth with flavour but then the sweetness took over and washed it all away. The palate had spicy brambles with a hoppy note and a long warming finish. To be fair it did exactly as it said on the bottle but I slightly wish it hadn't.

Irish Whiskey cask Scottish Stout, Innis & Gunn
This is remarkably smooth for the alcohol it's hiding. Has that dandelion and burdock sweetness you sometimes get with strong stouts. The palate is complex with roasty and nutty notes competing with a vanilla smoothness. Quite typical of the rich way that Innis & Gunn handle oak finishing but then with a smoky finish that comes as a little bit of a surprise. This is a sipping beer.

Maverick, Fyne Ales
This was quite a nice easy drinking beer. Malty bitterness with a little bit of hoppiness that became more robustly bitter on the palate before the fruit hops came to the fore. Quite a long smooth finish. Would definitely drink this again although the name possibly sounds more like an American condom than a Scottish ale.

Cock o' the walk Red ale, Williams Brothers
Very easy drinking red ale, does exactly what it says on the bottle. Malty, hoppy, smooth with a little cirtus. Would be a great session beer.

So a really good line-up of Scottish ales and many many breweries and styles that weren't included. Brewdog, Isle of Skye and Harviestoun are three that spring to mind for the next time. It can be difficult to decide which order beers go and some may not have been done any favours by their predecessor. Certainly no 'throw doon the sink that's bowfin' in there and a couple of shining stars. Must be time for a whisky night next.

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