Another part of our (hopefully) year-long video project, A Year of Beer. looking at the idea of beer and seasonality - how different styles of beer are more appropriate to different seasons, weathers, festivals and so on. There will also be a bit of beer and food matching thrown in because, hell, we love to eat as much as we love to drink.
This week: Harviestoun Ola Dubh
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Harviestoun Ola Dubh
Cask-ageing beer is very hip right now. Shove it in a barrel - a new one, an old one, a sherry one, a whisky one, whatever - as in 6 months time, a suave, cosseted version of the original beer comes out. Everyone is doing is, from tiny Scottish breweries to big breweries in London. Is it a fad, or is it here to stay? A gimmick or a worthy addition to the brewers art? And crucially, as long as it tastes good, do we care?
Harviestoun's Ola Dubh (pronounced "owe-la doo" - it means black oil) series is based on its cult classic beer Old Engine Oil. This rich, smooth and chocolate-tasting beer is aged in Highland Park whisky casks, ones used to age the 12, 16 and 30 year old expressions respectively. The result is a progressively more polished, silky beer as you work up through the range, with the plush, polished quality of the 30yr old version being my personal favourite. Interestingly, the various people who tried it later that day thought the 12yr old the more interesting version. Fools! Although of course, there is the advantage that you can actually buy the 12yr old now - the other two seem a little harder to find.
Of course, all this pampering makes a beer a bit more expensive, but is it worth it? Well, I think so. With these cask-aged versions of an already good beer, imbued it with the spirit of the Orkneys, and made something greater than the sum of its parts. Of its place and of its time, Ola Dubh is a bit of living history. Best of all, you can drink it, and it tastes great.