Thursday, 18 September 2014

Scottish Independents

Today is a momentous day in the history of the United Kingdom which could result in independence for our Scottish neighbours.  So on a topical note I bring you a review of some of the best (as it turned out) Scottish beers that I have recently enjoyed.  

Electric India (6.5% ABV) - Brewdog  

This is the beer that was brewed collaboratively with input from all the punks who obviously love Brewdog and all that they stand for.  This saison should have been included in my saisons review last time but I must say it compares very favourably to the best of those.  This one is brewed with orange peel, heather honey and crushed black pepper.  The hops match these flavours perfectly (Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin).  There are strong orange notes, the addition of the heather honey gives it a lovely smooth sweetness and the pepper combines with the Nelson Sauvin to give a lovely spiciness to the finish.  The Belgian yeast is evident in the aroma and overall this is a superb beer so I have to recommend this quite strongly.  My wife is not a massive fan of this type of beer but she found it 'fairly pleasant'.  Score 9/10.        

Single Malt Ale (5.0% ABV) - Islay Ales

This brewery is located on the beautiful Isle of Islay off the west coast of Scotland, an island more famous for its whisky.  I think this is my first beer from this brewery that has been producing now for about ten years.  This beer is brewed with just pale malt and hopped with Amarillo and Bramling Cross.  It is a lovely beer with some quite mellow fruit flavours up front mixed with a little spiciness but these soon give way to sharp bitter orange notes and a quite magnificent long dry bitter finish.  Too bitter for my wife but she understood why I appreciated it.  This beer is close to perfection for me and I gave it a score of 9/10.  I'm now wondering though that perhaps it should have been given a ten.  I'll have to buy another one to check!                

Wolf (6.0% ABV) - Windswept Brewing Company

Windswept are another Scottish micro unknown to me.  They are also fairly new to the scene having begun brewing a couple of years back.  They are located near RAF Lossiemouth on the shores of the Moray Firth and the guys running it are former Tornado pilots.  Wolf is described as a dark and strong Scottish ale and it is certainly getting me ready for the joys of  winter ales.  My wife adored it giving it top marks.  This really is her kind of beer.  Sweetness of blackcurrant, not too much bitterness with hints of liquorice and chocolate and very robust with a strong malt character.  I also detected hints of berries and plums and I must say it really is a magnificent winter ale and, as with all the beers here so far, it is one I want to go back to.  Score 9/10.          

Rum Finish (6.8% ABV) - Innis & Gunn

Innis & Gunn are not really an independent brewery as their beers are produced at the massive Tennent's Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow, but the company is family-owned and independent from the large Scottish brewer.  Their story revolves around a happy accident apparently.  A whisky producer wanted to season some of their oak casks with a malty beer.  After thirty days the beer was removed and the whisky was put in.  Someone obviously discovered the beer tasted pretty good so the Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer was born.  The beer is readily available in supermarkets and I found this particular one in Waitrose.  This beer has a very spicy aroma.  My wife thought it tasted like a rum baba and there was certainly a strong taste of alcohol with flavours of mulled spices tempered by rich malt and a fruit sweetness in the finish.  This beer is not something I could drink lots of but it is warming and not at all unpleasant.  A beer for certain occasions but it would never become a favourite with me.  Score 7/10      

Punk IPA (5.6% AB) - Brewdog

I wasn't going to review a fifth beer and really I'm not going to but I did see this old favourite of mine in Waitrose when I picked up the I&G above.  The beer tasted as good as always and if you haven't tried it then go out and buy yourself one.  It's gorgeous.  The same cannot be said for the new labels though.  It has no stand out qualities at all on the shelf.  Very boring and not at all punk.     

Whatever the result today great beer is very much alive in Scotland.  All of the beers here are well worth trying and will suit a range of tastes.  If I had to pick a favourite it would be the one from Islay Ales and my wife would undoubtedly choose the Windswept Wolf.  The question today though is whether they will all be appearing in the foreign beers section after the count has been made.


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