Thursday, September 29, 2011

Macbeth Comes Good

I have never really been a fan of Scottish beers. They have always been too malty and sweet for my liking, I know that has been the style of brewing from North of the Border, but it has rarely hit the spot with me, preferring my beers to have more hop flavours. There have been exceptions, Harviestoun seemed to buck the sweeter trend, and 'Bitter & Twisted' has always been one of my favourites, along with 'Schiehallion' but few other Scottish brewers seemed to take the hint. That is until recently, when a wave of excellent beers seem to have come down from the North to prove to us Sassenachs that their brewers can produce anything to equal  the English.

I am not talking of Brewdog here, they have always been too hyped for my liking and although the odd beer in their portfolio has appealed, they have been few and far between. However in the last few months I have been able to sample some of the better, up and coming breweries that our local pubs have had on the bar, and my opinion of  Scottish beer is gradually changing. No longer do they taste like porridge in a glass but some brewers have started to make use of foreign hops with amazing results.

Take 'Fyne', from Argyll, for example. Their 'Jarl' is a stunning beer for a 3.8% session beer, crammed full of hop flavours, and 'Avalanche' is 4.5% and packed with wonderful citrus taste. They can still turn their hand to the more malty, traditional stuff as well but these are well worth hunting out. Atlas 'Latitude' is another session bitter that appeals, maybe not as hoppy as Jarl but still a clean tasting beer with plenty of hop flavours in the background.

I have managed to catch up with some of the 'Highland' brewery range in the past few weeks (be careful not to confuse them with their fellow brewery on Orkney)  and was particularly impressed by their 'Orkney IPA', at 4.8%, a dangerously drinkable beer. Not quite hoppy enough to be an IPA but very well balanced and full of hop and fruit background. Their 'Orkney Blast' is a 6%  strong bitter, again with a rich hop background that cuts though the sweetness. I would have tried their 'Island Hopping' but that was so good that it flew off the bar  before I could get to it.

The one brewery that I have been unable to sample yet is Tempest, but that will hopefully change in the next few days, as there are some of their range promised at The Grove. I have heard great things of this Kelso brewery, who do not appear to be scared to be innovative with their use of hops. I just hope that they meet my expectations.

Of course there are still plenty of Scottish breweries that brew their more traditional style beers, but gradually the tide may be turning, and their malty beers may be augmented with more hoppy ones, as new innovative breweries come on stream. 

All I can say, is that is you see a beer from over the borders on a bar, give it a try, you may be surprised like I have been. Long may it continue.


John said...

I was lucky enough to be in Edinburgh last week and tasted 6 different beers from Tempest. They are every bit as good as their reputation, I know you are a hop freak and some of them will appeal to you in that respect but regardless of style every pint tasted demanded another couple, just to make sure!

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