25 June 2014

Further abroad

The evening sun streaming in to my New Town lodgings raised barely a tint of redness in my Profanity Stout. The head is... generous, though the beer itself isn't especially fizzy, being quite silken-textured. The aroma is one that could easily be mistaken for that of a New World pale ale, all pineapple and grape with just a tiny hint of burnt coffee or molasses. Lots of fruit on the palate too, with autumnal blackberries to the fore. This is followed by an enticing bitterness derived, I suspect, from the combination of big hops and roasted grains. The finish is very dry, almost acrid, and with a tang of possibly oxidised staleness. It's a complex and uncompromising beer, one which takes a few turns that I don't think I care for, but overall it's hard not to respect it.

This was one of several beers from the Williams Brothers of Alloa that I encountered on my trip to Edinburgh back in April. They had just released a few new ones into the wild and I managed to pick them up in the excellent Beer Hive off licence. Among them was A Wee Bit, a smoky Scotch ale produced in collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery. I saw rave reviews after I tried it but have to confess I was less impressed: dark red, full-bodied for just 4.8% ABV and lots of lovely peat, but not much else. I'm not usually critical of one-dimensional beers that do things I like, but this was just too simplistic. Paradigm Shift was a better: a strong red ale with bags of dank hops balanced against freshly roasted coffee. It's all the things you get from good American amber ale made just a little bit more intense.

At the airport I just had time for a swift half of 7 Giraffes, a pale gold ale they've had out for a while but which I've never had the opportunity to try. It's smooth and sweet with nice golden syrup lager flavours. Light on flavour, perhaps, but clean and perfectly refreshing.

Lagery and gold is a bit of a theme. I mentioned Stewart's Pentland IPA in my last post, and I got a similar effect from Inveralmond's Ghillie Ale, the cask beer they produce for the monstrously touristy Ghillie Dhu venue at the end of Prince's Street. I enjoyed several pints of it there and reckon their cellarman is better trained than the hapless bar staff. And again, Scottish Borders Heavy Nettle, though claiming an unusual ingredient and having a beautiful sweet and slightly piquant meadow aroma, tastes mainly of that golden malt, the floral quality just barely coming through in the flavour. Orkney Best was the most enjoyable example. This 3.6%-er adds a gorgeous refreshing tannic quality and some lovely fresh hop spicing to the golden syrup sweetness.

My travelling companions were wowed by Broughton Coffee Stout at the Cask & Barrel. I liked it as a stout but would have preferred a bit more coffee: what's there is just some slight extra roast and none of the invigorating caffeinated oiliness or red fruit that you get when good coffee is used in sufficient quantities on a quality base stout.

We finish this round in the Stockbridge Tap and Cromarty's Red Rocker, a 5% ABV dark red ale with an intense, almost acrid, hopsack pungency. The flavour offers a twin stream of toffee malt and bright summer fruit. It's warming and quite heavily textured but neither too sweet nor any way difficult to drink. A wonderful mutisensory experience in a single glass.

In the next post I'll be turning my attention to beers from south of the border.


  1. I'm surprised you didn't like the Wee Heavy, I must admit I loved it. I found it both complex and drinkable. Still to each their own.

    1. I was surprised too. Something just seemed, I dunno, off about it. Not enough peat, perhaps.