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A Septet of Scottish Beers

Though I have two favourite websites to purchase beer from – Beers of Europe and Beer Ritz – I am always willing to try other companies if the choice excites me. After getting excited about the choice on Beer Merchants, only to find they have nothing in stock, I stumbled across Alesela via reading somebody’s blog (that I have since forgotten whose, apologies.)  I was impressed with the offerings of predominantly Scottish brewers, many of whom I was unaccustomed with, and decided to place an order.

Many of these Scottish Breweries unfamiliar to me here are brewing beers in the styles favoured presently; Black IPA’s and such forth being my meaning here. Many of the product descriptions seemed to refer to American hops and big, aromatic flavours. So I tried to purchase a range that would give me good judgement on these new breweries. I purchased at least two beers from most of them. Below is a quick summary of one of the beers tasted from the majority of the new breweries to me.

Cromarty arrived late 2011 and I have seen their beers a couple of times, including BrewDog bars, but have never punted for one. The description of Rogue Wave with its “mass of hop induced flavours that will drown your taste buds” seemed perfect for my brewery baptism and, ultimately, judgement. "Explicitally Hopped" it says. Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of ‘hopped for aroma’ – it smells much better than it tastes. There’s familiarity in the mango and passion fruit aroma over a caramel malted spine. The taste, however, is a little thin bodied and weak with a saaz like aftertaste. Those punchy, terse hops you can smell are not present in the taste. Tad disappoi…FOOD - FOOD IS THE ANSWER! Halfway through this I took a mouthful of Lindt Chocolate Intense Orange. I then took a swig of Rogue Wave and all those hops I could smell before suddenly came and slaughtered my tongue. They were waiting, for all things, for a big hit of chocolate orange. It works and suddenly this is beautiful. Palate issues? Dehydration? I wouldn’t have picked dark chocolate to balance a red ale, but it’s magic.

A brewery I’d sadly not heard of before visiting Alesela, I really like Elixir’s branding. I bought several of theirs and Cuzzy Brew is their Black IPA. However, though their can be many definitions of this oxymoronic style, Cuzzy Brew, for all intents and purposes is a stout. It’s an outstanding stout. A “modern stout,” if you wanted to be truly anal. Unfortunately it's sold as a Black IPA. Apparently it's packed full of Kiwi hops but this baby is dominated by a beautiful fresh coffee bean, melted dark chocolate backbone that isn't a million miles from a toned down version of your favourite Imperial Stout. Whilst the hops stick to your teeth to remind you they are there, the malts wrestle your tonsils down your throat. It’s a great beer. It’s stout.  

Selling Beer for just over a year, this is another Scottish Brewery I’d never even heard of but whose packaging I really like. Though I was most looking forward to their Red Rye, I started with Crail Special. I feel bad for not having had the "award winning" Crail Pale to compare it too. A little paler and clearer than I was expecting, this smells slightly sour, with a hit of lychees and dragon fruit bordered with the scent of rotting apples. The taste is a lot more flowery, a rather thin bodied, cherry sour feel with a little vinous background. It's not unpleasant and is certainly easy drinking, but when you look at the list of hops (Cascade, Chinook, Colombus and Mt Hood) you do expect a fresher, citrus zing. Perhaps this is my fault for having such a pre-judgement. This is more tangfastic than starmix. In the spirit of discovery of the different I want to applaud this for being different, but the cynic in me suggests this is more homebrew than revolutionary.

Whilst I still can’t remember the blog that led me to Alesela, I do recall it was a post on Loch Ness Brewery. Hoppyness pours hazy with an off-white head and is really potent on the nose, with springtime spruces and zingy lemons. Once more, the aroma outfights the taste. There’s a decent, peachy fruitiness to it, and a long, dry, bitter finish. But a thin body with high carbonation makes for a muddled and discerning brew that I enjoyed, but didn’t gasp for more.

Pours like clear coca cola which is ironic considering the hint of maple coke sweetness over a milky chocolate nose. This starts off like any promising Black IPA; well balanced between hits of zesty citus and sweet, caramel malts. It's familiar but exciting. However, it begins to settle into a rather thin, over carbonated, weak effort that leaves a oily mouth and sour taste. Towards the end the taste seemed to have evaporated. Maybe I should have tried food pairing once more?  

Wow. Sometimes being proud of your “award winning” status does you few favours. Everything about this "Award Winning Pale Ale" I have judged on those remarks. I was promised a Pale Ale with Slovakian, German, American and New Zealand hops, but will concede that the tasting notes on the bottle are all about the malts. This is useful as this beer was formed by taking malts from a maltings in Malta whilst eating Maltesers. Timothy Taylor would be proud with this. Four countries worth of hops couldn’t break through that barrier. I actually want this to end. Malts!

According to my brother, Stewart Brewing was all he saw on a recent trip to Scotland. Based on this beer, this is good news for Scotland. I don’t like writing boring tasting notes, when I feel I’m repeating myself, but this is very good. Think your other favourite Black IPA, like Brodie’s or Thornbridge Raven. This is in that territory of quality, but it’s the lower ABV that makes this stand out. This is definitely the best Black IPA I can recall in the lower ABV range, managing to retain a full, creamy body and long finish. Great stuff.

Trying new breweries is always exciting and, whilst I won’t be dismissing any of these brewers based on one beer, I felt I’ve got a good feel for what to expect from any of them at present already. If I have learnt anything from this it may come from the Rogue Wave, and that is to try bringing food in to my beer tasting more often to see if I can find an extra depth. I bought all of these beers, and more from Alesela here and their service was great.


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