Scotland’s most overrated beers?

Posted by on Aug 28, 2012 in Scottish Beer | 14 Comments

Last week, we brought you the five most underrated beers in Scotland – a post which generated a fair bit of debate, and resulted in several different breweries being mentioned (Kelburn, Fyne Ales and Williams Brothers all featuring highly). After posting, my mind turned to the other side of that equation – opinions should be balanced, after all – and the most over-rated beers to come from North of the border.

All of these five beers are very popular; but for me, each has something missing. In as constructive way as possible, here they are:-
Caledonian Deuchars IPA

I’ve written about the problem with Deuchars before. On the face of things, there’s nothing wrong with it – a pale, mildly refreshing beer that you can readily find in Edinburgh. However, when I go back I’m reminded why it’s not for me. The Caley’s historic direct-fired coppers result in a distinctive (to me at least) sweet buttery flavour that really puts me off. Since the takeovers and mergers of the parent companies, Deuchars has grown massively – it’s a big success story for one of Scotland’s oldest breweries. But I just don’t get it.

BrewDog Punk IPA

The danger that BrewDog have faced, since day one, is living up to the monumental hype. They need to walk the walk with every beer they produce, the louder they get. Have BrewDog stumbled recently with Punk IPA? James Watt’s post on why their flagship has changed was an honest attempt to answer some of the criticisms, but for a beer you can readily buy in major supermarkets, it just needs to be more consistent. BrewDog fans will be desperate for the new mega-plant to come online, if only to improve quality control.

Innis and Gunn Original

Innis & Gunn are fascinating – their growth has been steadily impressive, yet nobody I know ever drinks their beer. They divide opinions – just like BrewDog (albeit for very different reasons). Shouldn’t ‘Scotland’s best-loved independent brewer’ have their own facility? How can their beers be seen so often in restaurants when they out-sweeten most foods? Why do they employ so many marketeers instead of brewers? You can’t like every beer – I have always said that – and, for me, Innis & Gunn do absolutely nothing.

Stewart Hollyrood

Hollyrood is here on the list purely because of the astonishing awards it has collected. For a small family brewery from Loanhead, winning back-to-back Golds at the World Beer Awards is wonderful. But as much as I admire Stewart Brewing, is Hollyrood really the world’s best Blonde/Golden Pale Ale? Leaving aside these arbitrary style categories for the moment, I don’t think it’s even the best bottled beer they make. Off the top of my head, there are several that are superior – the much-missed Dopplebock, Embra, St Giles, the Coconut Porter and Radical Road, which is one of the best new IPA’s in Britain.

Williams Brothers Fraoch

This might be a contentious choice – Scott and Bruce Williams are pioneers of brewing, and just the other day I saw Fraoch being described as the original Scottish craft beer. It has a fantastic story behind it, it sells well, and the bottles look great. Fraoch has a huge amount of character – just not when it comes to the taste. Heather sweeps at you from all directions – I know why, being a recreation of a historic style – but, again, it’s unfortunately a beer I really can’t get on with. A lot of people rave about it, but if it weren’t for the provenance, would it do as well?
Which beers do you think should be on this list? What are the beers that have more hype than substance? Or do you think any of these five mentioned are actually modern classics?


  1. Tallulah
    August 28, 2012

    Fyne’s Jarl. I’ve said before I just dont get what all the fuss is about it. It’s perfectly pleasant and drinkable but the hyperbolic mass hysteria it induces eludes me completely.

    I’ll just leave this here, put on my asbestos suit and await the flaming ;0)

  2. Mike
    August 28, 2012

    Abstrakt 04
    any 80/-
    Black Isle Porter

  3. Richard
    August 28, 2012

    Yikes. Two votes for Jarl already! To be fair, we bloggers have bigged it up a fair bit.

    AB:04 too, it’s the best beer BrewDog have ever made, in my opinion – which is a statement that always sails close to making something over-rated…

  4. Adam
    August 28, 2012

    Agree with most of those, but I do really like that heather sweetness and spiciness in the Fraoch.
    I’d swap your Punk IPA with Hardcore IPA – I’ve had one and won’t have another – I can find great bitterness and more balance in a lot less of an abv
    Belhaven 80/- is about as bland an 80/- as I’ve tasted – how it holds it’s own as an Export 80/- I don’t know
    Orkney Skull Splitter – so sweet, why not drink some Madeira Wine instead, but it’s won lots of awards
    Good fun doing this – don’t take it too seriously!
    P.S. I love Jarl 😉

  5. Paul
    August 28, 2012

    Any beer that describes itself thus:

    Brewed once and limited batch of boundary pushing concept beer

    It’s so radical and awesome.

  6. leithdave
    August 28, 2012

    Wouldn’t disagree too much with this list. Particularly pleased to see Innis and Gunn on there. It’s shocking, and it’s success is baffling – but, as you point out, I don’t know anyone (who knows anything about beer) who drinks it.

    I’d take issue with Punk IPA. It’s terrible at the moment, but on its day, it’s surely one of our best beers?


    Disagree strongly about Jarl – it’s a wonderful beer.

  7. David
    August 28, 2012

    Could Innis & Gunns perceived success have something to do with their export market? I’m currently residing in Canada and the Canucks love the the whole barrel aging thing, seriously they’ll barrel age anything!

    As for Jarl, i’m a fan but perhaps it’s a snowball effect. For me it’s the combination of a the low ABV while retaining a whole lot of character and while i’m sure there’s other great examples out there Jarl is always the first that springs to mind.

  8. Richard
    August 28, 2012

    Dave – I guess it depends entirely on the definition of ‘over-rated’. Punk is BrewDog’s flagship, it’s one of Scotland’s flagships in the new wave of brewing. It certainly opened my eyes when I first tried it five-odd years ago. But will it still have that same impact today?

    David – Innis & Gunn export a lot – I’m not knocking them as a company, they have done terrifically well. But they aren’t as ‘craft’ as they make out, and I have tried plenty of their beers, with no happy experience, unfortunately.

    Oh, and just so as we can put this to bed once and for all:-

    Jarl = Awesome


  9. Tom
    August 28, 2012

    Agree, disagree, agree, agree, disagree

  10. Pat Hanson
    August 29, 2012

    Bitter and Twisted.

    Not Bitter.

    Not Twisted.

    Usually disappointing.

  11. Owen
    August 29, 2012

    I think “not as craft as they make out” is an understatement given it’s contract brewed out of Wellpark.

    I can see why people might think Jarl is overrated, but any beer can be overrated – it’s just better beers have to be rated higher to be overrated.

  12. Barm
    September 2, 2012

    I very rarely drink Innis & Gunn, but I can see why people like it – it has some oak and vanilla character and is extremely sweet. Beer for people who don’t like beer.

    Deuchars was once a wonderful beer. It changed dramatically a few years ago losing most of its hop character and thus becoming dreadfully bland and unbalanced. The brewery insist it hasn’t changed. How stupid do they think their customers are?

  13. Knut Albert Solem
    September 4, 2012

    Have to agree on the Innis & Gunn, I find it puzzling to see how they conquer new markets.

  14. Dean McDougall
    February 20, 2016

    4 years down the line and Punk IPA still amazes people when they first drink it. BrewDogs Flagship Bar is my local bar so I see people trying Punk for the first time a lot and the joy in people’s faces is amazing.

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