The theory sounded highly plausible. Whereas in the first Battle of the Brewers (between Stewart Brewing and Williams Bros Brewing) it was immediately evident which beer was produced by which company – this time, it wasn’t so obvious. Back in July, just a quick sip of each 5% summer ale was enough – that distinctive caramel sweetness from Williams, put against the Holyrood-esque gentle hopping of the other. Clearly Beer X came from Loanhead, and Beer Y from Alloa – and so it proved. But last night, as Stewart took on Harviestoun in BotBII – a Black IPA-off – it was much harder to tell. But I had a theory.
There was a noticeable difference between the two beers. Beer X came with a white head, and a nose full of grassy hop. Although there was some caramel, and a roasty finish, the hops really were the prime component of the flavour – as you’d expect, from a Black IPA. Beer Y had a beige head, and was infinitely more complex, with less hop, but more roast. Richer – and smoother – than X, it ended in a mocha coffee finish. Creamy – almost to the point of an old milk stout, it was very different from what you’d expect a Black IPA to be. This, of course, led into the familiar discussions on beer styles and how important they are (the consensus being that on the whole; they aren’t).
But, which was which? And which was nicer?
I preferred Y – even though I love hop-forward Black IPA’s. There was just something a bit extra in the flavour to Y, an extra element. I loved the smooth, creamy finish. To be honest, I think I loved it because it reminded me of a great roasty stout and it was close to freezing outside. Obviously, if we were judging solely on style it was far behind the X. However, taste trumps style (nearly) every time.
But back to the theory as to who was responsible for each. Both make some decent hoppy beer, although with their peerless Old Engine Oil Harviestoun have a longer history of the darker offerings. The deviously clever idea I had came from lateral thinking. Very recently, Stewart have done another run of their lovely Coconut Porter – aka ‘Bounty in a glass’. I could see the resemblance to Y. It would be easy enough to add a touch more hop before the coconut went in, and cask it. Both the Coconut Porter and Beer Y have that smooth, creamy edge. I could see how they fit together. Therefore – Beer Y was from Stewart Brewing. Yes! Of course!
Beer Y was produced by Harviestoun, Beer X by Stewart.
In the voting, Y scored 52 to X’s 100. So for the second Battle of the Brewers in succession, it’s a win for the home team. Next up, BotBIII – Stewart vs. BrewDog*
*Note – this may not actually be true