01 July 2015

Double Scotch

Scotch ales (by which I mean nothing more than beers designated as such by their brewers) are rare in Ireland. I guess the standard Irish red already covers a lot of what Scotch ale is meant to do. It just so happens that two Irish breweries have recently launched beers they're calling Scotch ales so I think a bit of side-by-side is in order. Though since both are confined to their breweries' tied houses it'll have to be a virtual one.

JW Sweetman Scotch Ale is the younger of the two having been out only a few weeks and receiving its official launch last Thursday. It's 5.6% ABV -- strong enough for the brewery to describe it as a "wee heavy" -- and appropriately dark red. It's very sweet: laying on the toffee in a big way, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Probing my palate for a second sentence to write about the flavour, I found maybe a hint of ripe strawberry and a lightly acidic finish, but that's your lot. I thought it was going to be a hard one to finish but a second freebie pint at the launch event disappeared much faster than the first, so maybe it's the sort of beer one can settle into.

The second one has been available for several months now: Galway Bay's Respect Yer Elders. A cask version does the rounds occasionally but it was on keg when I found it at The Beer Market. It's a similar red-brown to the Sweetman one, though rather lighter in alcohol at 4.5%. And while still very much malt-forward it's nowhere near as sweet, showing lots of quite dry grain husk and then chocolatey bourbon biscuit at the centre. The best feature is a subtle metallic hop tang right on the finish, adding hugely to its drinkability. I'm still not sure it's one I'd drink a lot of, but cold from the keg it proved a lot more approachable than I expected. I can imagine it being a bit much on cask, though.

Neither of these has turned me into an avowed Scotch ale fanatic, but a bit of variety is always nice.

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