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: Scotch Ales
If you'd like to subscribe to my video blog, and be informed when something new is uploaded, then please click here and sign up via the yellow "Subscribe" button. Go on, it'll be fun.
Scottish beers have undergone something of a renaissance over the last few years, and this represents something of a paradox. The Scottish beers that have become the most famous are in fact ones that are least typical. From the pale crispness of the near-ubiquitous Caledonian Deuchars IPA, to the raucous flavour bombs from BrewDog, there is a lot of great beer produced up north. But it isn't what might be classically called Scotch ale.
Traditionally, Scotch ales tend to darker malty sweetness. This is probably partly because barley is a locally available crop, but hops aren't. It is also, probably, because the Scots are fiercely patriotic and proud of their traditions. No doubt when the new-fangled hoppy beers became popular in England, the Scots resisted on principle. Claiming that hops never caught on because they were expensive is, of course, a cliché too far.
Isle of Skye Longship is a limited edition brew. It is, in its own quiet way, a bit of a classic. It's a lovely rounded ale, malty but with a really light touch. There is a wonderful soft nuttiness poking through from under the sweet, fruity malt. At just over 3%abv, it is light bodied, but you know what? It makes perfect sense at this time of year to brew a light-bodied, medium dark-coloured ale. It's wonderfully, delicately autumnal without being heavy and over-sweet.
Heavy, or rather 'wee heavy', is something that Orkney Brewery's Skull Splitter does nonchalantly. The traditional darker, stronger ales (8.5%abv in this case), served in smaller bottles earn this sobriquet. Skull Splitter is a lovely example of the style; chunky, sweet, rounded, with a low (but still noticeable) hop presence. The current brouhaha surrounding this beer is a sad tale. The Portman Group are instructing their panel of adjudicators to review this beer, on the basis that the name and the iconography link the beer to violence and irresponsible drinking. This is clearly nonsense, and it must surely be more likely than not that good sense will prevail and this iconic, classic example of the style will remain unchanged, a beer for connoisseurs of these isles to enjoy, flavour, name and iconography intact.