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.
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?