Despite finding myself in deepest Norfolk last week, I found that I had actually picked up a selection of Scottish ales from the various beer outlets around the region. One of these is Trade Winds by Cairngorm Brewery, from Aviemore in the Highlands of the country.
The cask version is a three-time former Champion Beer of Britain in the Speciality Class, so Trade Winds comes with some pedigree and the aroma straight from the bottle displays one of its key assets straight away; a lovely hoppy-sweet scent that appeals to my recently aquired love of the hoppy beers. There is a slightly grassy note present, supported by a sweet fruitiness – most likely from the Elderflower as promised on the bottle.
The inital mouthfeel, considering the richness of the nose, is surprisingly astringent and a little thinner in the body than I anticipated, with a light carbonisation that tickles the tongue. Although these descriptions are generally negative connotations, this isn’t the impression I am trying to generate by using them; more that it is an unexpected experience from the richness promised by the aroma. Flavour-wise, the fruitiness remains, with a slight hint of blackberries that fills out an otherwise sharp, crisp, citrusy flavour. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: blackberry, Cairngorm, champion beer of britain, citrus, fruitiness, scottish, trade winds
November 4th, 2009Comment
Well, that’s what the general consensus isn’t it?
I’ve heard this comment twice in the last two weeks. A week ago, my friend Sam was on business in northern France, where he was accosted by a local spouting rubbish about how all English people drink is Stella.
Yes, in Yates. But not everyone. And today, one of the breweries pioneering the exact opposite of bland and boring beers, Scotland’s BrewDog, were interviewed by The Full Pint. Both parties agreed that the perception of British beers is one of ‘uninspired session ales‘ and James went so far as to say ‘pretty much all the small UK brewers make the same boring 4% ales’.
Now hang on a minute.
I get where these perceptions come from. When Greene King IPA is the most exciting beer in a pub this country’s brewing scene is in trouble. And I can understand how the US craft brewing scene can consider the UK beer market uninteresting. But to say that British brewers all make the same beers with the same hops – that’s simply not true.
Yes there are predictable beers. Yes there are predictable breweries. And it could be argued that the British beer scene has been in the doldrums over the last 30 or 40 years perhaps?
But not anymore. Perhaps we should thank the craft brewing scene across the Atlantic for been a catalyst? Maybe the UK really are fed up of the monotonous shite of Carling and Fosters? But there’s no doubt that beer and brewing is in the beginnings (or even well in the middle?) of a renaissance.
Uninspired? Gadds No. 3? Summer Lightning?
The same hops? Unpronounceable IPA, Ring of Fire?
Look, I’m a massive fan of American ales, my top ten beers would be full of North American pale ales and hop laden concoctions. But I will say that there are British breweries just as bold and daring as many other countries around the world. And I’m a massive fan of BrewDog, they push boundaries and are fun to drink.
We should not be distinguishing between beers across borders and classifying countries as bland or boring. We should be praising those beers that do dare to be different, those that shine above others when you’re tasting, and those that you’ll always come back to, because when you need a beer, when you’re desperate, they are the beers that you will come back to time and time again.And as Chilliupnorth said, “I bet we can find 50 beers from the UK that aren’t bland or boring!”Tags: BrewDog, Breweries, briitish, scottish, the full pint, uk
October 23rd, 2009Lagers
I’ve had some issues recently with a distinct Fairy liquid tint to some of my glassware.
Frustrating as that is to taste at the best of times, it’s particularly annoying when you are trying to get the best out of some of the world finest and most complex beers.
The situation came to a head whilst drinking William Bros Ceilidh, the Scottish breweries lager offering. After a couple of false starts and a bit of mild cursing directed at the industrial scented washing products at my disposal, I eventually managed to find a glass that didn’t have a ph count of 78.
And eventually we we’re off.
Williams Bros make good beers, from their traditional range through to more modern ales such as Birds & Bees (their tayberry beer is very good!). And they make good lager too. But, for a company regularly making above average ales, is it an above average lager?
So my notes at this point start with ‘hoppy for a lager’. At least I think it was. I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with the Fairy taste. Washing up liquid rarely smells pleasant or hoppy, so I’m guessing I’ve got that right.
The beer is fresh, a touch citrusy and you can taste it’s worldy influences, particularly the pilsner malt which gives it a continental body more akin to European pils than Scottish ale.
For me that makes it above average. There are maltier lagers and lighter lagers, there are crisper, more refreshing lagers – but this is still a fine and balanced example, less potent than BrewDog‘s 77 but which much more to it than the Carlsberg Export’s of the world.
There’s a place for lager at the real ale table and it’s this sort of offering that sets the grade.Tags: bbq beer, ceilidh, lager, scottish, williams brothers
October 20th, 2009Comment
After a few days of anticipation and some debate as to whether or not to make the journey to London for Brewdog’s grand announcement, we today learned exactly what James Watt and Martin Dickie had in mind when they proclaimed last week to their mailing list that Brewdog were about to change the World.
There was much speculation on forums and message boards but now we know. If we want our World changed alls we need to do is exchange £230 of our hard earned for a 0.0009 share in what is admitedly one of the UKs most innovative and exciting craft breweries. The aim of Brewdog is to raise a couple of million in order to expand to larger premises that will be, depending on the capital raised, as ecologically neutral on the surrounding environment as possible. I can only assume it is this ecological dream that is the world changing aspect because I know that shares can be purchased in The Black Sheep Brewery which, although not directly comparable with Brewdog, is certainly not a large listed company of the Scottish & Newcastle type.
The first thing I considered when trying to decide whether or not to try and scrape together £230 is what chance there is of seeing any return on my investment. Realistically anyone popping £230 into Brewdog is likely to lose some of that capital upon disposal, that is if you can sell the shares at all (although Brewdog have said that they hope to allow shareholders to trade on their website which would certainly boost liquidity of the shares). But, unlike if you were going to invest in Black Sheep (or any other brewery in an attempt to make profit), this is largely irrelevant. Your £230 is buying you access to an idea, the Brewdog idea, and I will not be investing because I don’t want to throw that sort of money down an idea. Many people will feel otherwise and good luck to them. For there committment to the cause they will earn a vote at the AGM, the opportunity to exchange views and ideas on a shareholders forum, a 20% discount in the Brewdog online shop and the opportunity to go to the bar and bring back a round of drinks from ‘their’ brewery.
All of these are nice touches and if the opportunity existed for £50 I would be falling over myself to get some of the action. The problem is that I cannot reconcile spending £230 on a novelty that offers only remote chances of (most likely extremely) long term gain. So why did Brewdog not offer the same deal for a smaller shareprice? Simples. They have set themselves a target and this is how much they need to meet it. Credit to them, the Brewdog way is to grab the bull by the horns. Convincing 10,000 people to part with £230 might be harder than they think and my head is telling me that they might be stretching themselves too far too quickly. My heart on the other hand tells me that, with the business knowledge and experience that has come on board, plus some belting brews and the balls to take the plunge, Brewdog might just be able to pull this one off. I certainly wouldn’t take the £230 and bet against them making a job of it.
Anyway, there might be 10,000 people out there who don’t think £1,150 is too larger target for recouping the full £230 in the Brewdog shop!!!Tags: BrewDog, Brewdog Changes The World, Brewdog Shares, Equity for Punks, James Watt, Martin Dickie, scottish
The first BrewDog in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series is one that we’re relatively familiar with. So far we’ve only got around to reviewing Punk IPA and Dogma, but we have quite a few ‘Dogs ‘in stock’ and it’s about time we wrote something about them.
Hardcore IPA is one of those beers that has a little bit of the ‘wow’ factor (or the ‘woah’ factor depending on your taste buds).
It has a crazy, tropical Um Bongo aroma that’s sweet and exciting. It smells like sweet, e-number fuelled heaven trapped in a bottle.
Fruit salad penny sweet smells give way to a bitter overload, hops completely dominating and filling your mouth. Aromatic beers usually mean bitterness, but the pineapple aroma makes you expect something with an exotic fruit taste.
Beers with an imperial tag usually come at a certain strength and richness. Hardcore has the strength but it’s hidden treasures are perhaps just a little too inaccessible.
If you can work through the IBU frenzy you will get some of that, but boy does that take some acclimatisation.
This is a big beer. Drink it too fast and it becomes medicinal, but sip it slowly and it’s a world of hops, passionfruit and titilating tongue tingles. Oh, and it’s strong as hell to boot, so don’t down one before bedtime.Tags: BrewDog, dogma, hardcore, hoppy, india pale ale, IPA, passion fruit, punk, sainsburys, scottish, Sweet, tropical
This years Sainsbury’s Beer Competition has an unmistakable Scottish feel to it. The Tartan army has no less than 7 entrants in the list of 15 finalists, and the verve and enthusiasm from the two breweries in question is unquestionable.
First up we have BrewDog with three entrants, Hardcore IPA, Dogma and Chaos Theory. Never ones to err on the side of blandness their ales are heavily hopped and infused with such delicacies as poppy seeds and honey.
Williams Brothers Brewing Company are also keen on supplemented good ol’ hops, barley and malt with locally sourced ingredients, with their beers featuring heather infusions, gooseberries and tayberries amongst other plant and fruitlife.
The second of Williams beers to be reviewed (the first was Birds & Bees) in this series is their IPA. India Pale Ale is usually regarded as a traditional ale, one from a empirical time long gone and remembered only in statues and grand dockside buildings.
But for Williams Brothers IPA’s are most definitely a modern concept, that is compared to the heather beer for instance, which has been brewed in Scotland for 2,000 years (according to the Sainsbury’s fact sheet).
So with experience making beers that have paryicularly strong heritage how does this IPA fair?
Well, it’s a fine example of British India Pale Ale style.
The golden liquid has a hoppy aroma which precedes a similarly hoppy taste. You can tell this comes from this side of the Atlantic because of the malty finish which balances the whole beer of. This doesn’t dry your mouth out, it’s crisp and bittersweet, which a character that is lost in many of the US hop monster IPAs.
Williams Bros have made an IPA that is rooted in tradition but is a competitor to the likes of White Shield and Meantime. It might not have your taste buds partying like Hop Devil or hit your senses like Halcyon, but this is an IPA you could drink a couple of in an evening and thoroughly enjoy.Tags: india pale ale, IPA, scottish
August 18th, 2009IPA
Punk IPA by BrewDog
Punk IPA was the first BrewDog beer I ever came across, on the supermarket shelves of Tesco, Lincoln whilst Sarah was living there earlier this year.
I’ve had it a few times but never written anything, and it’s not far off being in that category of beers that are the hardest to review – those you’ve had many times before.
The first thing that struck me on the first taste back one Friday in Lincoln, and again yesterday when I picked it out specifically for review from my all new beer cupboard, was it’s North American influences. Having mulled over US reviews of Punk IPA, many people comment how English it is, so I guess they might get quite a shock if they picked up a pint of Greene King on tap! The revival of IPA by craft breweries in the States has led to some notable IPA interest in the UK, and in Punk IPA there’s a clear swing towards the US style of IPA , one much more floral and aromatic than those of it’s homeland.Tags: American, bitter, BrewDog, hoppy, india pale ale, IPA, scottish, tropical
August 14th, 2009Lagers
My first sips of Zeitgeist didn’t blow me away. I had sort of been expecting a revolution. I think a little bit of hype, excellent design and lots that I’d read had built up my expectations, and that I was expecting a Road to Damascus style realisation that pale lager could not quench my thirst and that black lager would suddenly take me a higher level.
Well, the first sips didn’t go down well. I found it flat and uninteresting, completely underwhelming and disappointing.
But within a couple more sips I realised that I’d drunk half a bottle within about 53 seconds.
Wow, this stuff is drinkable.
And then I noticed its subtle complexities. And they are subtle, but highly enjoyable.
The darkness of the taste is refreshing. I love dark milds and in the right mood I can devour stouts, but they are styles I turn to only when in the right frame of mind. Zeitgeist offers much of the dark coffee that I love in beer (but hate in coffee!), and hints of biscuity, chocolately, nutty joy that dark beers often revel in, whilst being one of the most drinkable beers I’ve ever tasted.
I use drinkable quite a lot when I’m reviewing. It’s very indicative, simple yet effective at conveying the fact that a beer slips down the throat whether light or not.
Zeitgeist is the former, in abundance. They could advertise this stuff next to Malteser’s and even with the weight of the bottle the dark liquid would easy outfloat it’s hollow chocolate counterparts.
At 4.9% Zeitgeist is deceptively, deceptively strong, and from an uninspiring first sip, it is really a very interesting beer.
My first bottle of Zeitgeist developed from an unassuming start to the point where I couldn’t believe it was finished and I ended up craving more. This is a beer that might not tickle your tastebuds like a hop monster, but will go some way to satisfy my darker, thirstier urges that is very, very, easy to drink!Tags: black, BrewDog, lager, scottish, zeitgeist
July 29th, 2009Breweries
Scottish micro-brewery BrewDog has hit the headlines this week with its claims about the impact of its new beer Tokyo*, which founder James Watt claims is “providing a cure to binge beer-drinking”.
His claims are based around the idea that anyone that wants to get inebriated will turn to stronger beers (such as his brewery’s 6-unit, 18% ale) and appreciate the flavour so much that they will not need to turn to “mass market, industry brewed lagers that are so bland and tasteless that you are seduced into drinking a lot of them”.
Of course, this is patently untrue – and it is more than likely that Mr. Watt knows this.
BrewDog, in its brief two-year existence is quickly becoming the rock n roll star of the micro-brewery world. As reports this week have reminded us, the company has previously flirted with controversy over a name given to one of its products that refers directly to drug-use (apparently; I wouldn’t have known said term if the BBC hadn’t informed me!)
But all publicity is good publicity and this is clearly the case here. BrewDog are now probably the most discussed brewery in the country and that can’t be a bad thing for them. I personally, love their manifesto. The aim is to target the younger market and turn them on to quality Real Ale and away from the cheap, common lagers popular amongst this demographic. In terms of Real Ale popularity, it is great achievement that such a young company, run by two clearly enterprising individuals, is taking the corporate alcohol producers head-on.
What they have also done with these statements is to highlight an issue that has plagued Britain for years; we don’t know how to appreciate alcohol consumption, certainly beyond the high-culture of fine wines.
We have never had the ‘café culture’ found abroad, where alcohol is consumed in a more respectable manner, and it is this side of the BrewDog argument that is strong. Growing up in the UK, drinking beer, wine, spirits and so on, is often more focused on quantity as opposed to quality. Although specialist bars and ale houses are growing in popularity, much of the city centre remains dominated by low-standard, low-priced alcohol which has ultimately become the norm.
Therefore, if companies like BrewDog are brewing special ales, such as Tokyo* – a run of three thousand units, of which only one thousand will be sold in the UK exclusively on the firm’s website – is this really such an issue?
All this debate has done is to highlight the country’s insecurities about its own drinking culture. BrewDog won’t change that, but at least it is putting the control back in the hands of consumers to try new and innovative ales, no matter how strong they may be.
May 5th, 2009IPA
I think that this is the first Scottish IPA that I’ve tried and I have to admit that if I’d seen this bottle in the club there’s no way I’d have been dancing. The gaudy purple label screamed ‘I have no class’ and I was more than a little bit worried that this beer was going to attack the senses like a deep fried mars bar.
But I forgot that Scotland is also the land of Irn-Bru and, while this beer is nowhere near to the genius on the orange nectar, this is a decent ale.
This is a golden ale, light in appearance but with the genuine hoppy IPA flavour. Not as full bodied as many stronger IPAs and not heavy or gassy I would recommend this as a session ale.
Probably not one for the IPA purists but certainly a great starting step on the IPA ladder or a good choice for a heavy night.
5,3% ABVTags: 5-6%, hoppy, india pale ale, IPA, scottish