Edinburgh is a city well known for festivals, and fortunately for us on the BeerCast they aren’t just restricted to the arts. The 2009 Scottish Real Ale Festival has rolled around again, held at the Assembly rooms on George Street. As promised in our recent preview we turned up with high expectations, given the impressive beer list. Getting right down to business, the first beer sampled was the Hebridean Brewery’s Seaforth Ale (4.2%), which completed the full set from the Stornoway producer (we sampled their other four beers during BeerCast #30). Seaforth was very light, slightly soapy but a decent golden ale – a pretty good start to the festival.
Next up was Williams Bros Birds & Bees (4.3%), a new beer from the Alloa brothers Scott and Bruce. Recently it got through to the finals of the Sainsbury’s Bottled Beer Challenge – we’ll have to see how it differs in the bottle, as on cask it was flowery and lemony and very sessionable. We were trying to work out if it was their Williams Gold remixed slightly, as it has many similar tastes. The third beer on the agenda was Traditional Scottish Ales’ Gold Thistle (4.5%), a sharp-tasting golden bitter which suffered from a poor woody smell. The flavours were light and hoppy, with a bit of golden ale biscuit.
Windie Goat are a very small micro who brew almost exclusively for the Failford Inn in Ayrshire, and having previously sampled Gutter Slab (5.5%) we had to go back for another taste. After three gentle golden ales, the difference was startling – Cascade hops on the nose, and a wonderful bitter citrus flavour and aftertaste. It was so good that it sold out very quickly, so we can count ourselves lucky to have got in while we could. Beer number five was from a producer I’ve never tried before – Aberdeenshire’s Hillside/Deeside (they recently changed names) – their 4.0% Nechtan. This one was also tremendous, grapefruity and refreshing, it really delivered that zesty summer flavour many brewers fail to get into their beers.
Beer six was the traditional ‘BeerCaster’s choice’ round, where we buy one for someone else on the panel – avoiding the cruelty of a 9% barleywine. The one I ended up with was Sulwath’s The Grace (4.3%), which tasted far stronger than it’s abv and had a similar grapefruit aroma to the Nechtan. The flavours were different however, there was a sweetness I’d not picked up in any of the previous beers, presumably down to the mix of two types of malt and three of hop. Sulwath are based in Castle Douglas near Dumfries, and clearly put a lot of effort into their beers if this one was anything to go by.
The final beer of the night was the also traditional ‘lucky dip’ round, selecting a totally new random beer based purely on the name. This year it was the turn of Caledonian’s Top Banana, which given the name unsurprisingly had some gentle banana tastes on the back of a powerful banana aroma. It was nice for a fruit beer though, and reminded me of Wells&Young’s Banana Bread Beer. A sweet palate cleanser at the end of the night – almost like a dessert after a (particularly lengthy) meal. Speaking of which, we’ll be back tomorrow for seconds. Stay tuned…