“OMG! This imperial Belgian-style gooseberry quad aged on balsamic-infused teak is the business!! It owned the 99 on RateBeer! And the check-ins on untappd! The guy that vlogs – you know, the one who’s wife’s pants are on the washing line in the background – he went so mental over this beer it came out of his nose! Five out of five hops! I’m laying a few down already!”
Alright. Take a step back, Captain BeerFan. This may be the most wondrous time ever to be involved in beer, but not everything need tickle the geekbuds. Every so often, leave the Speigelau glassware in the cupboard and grab the nearest tumbler. Forsake the hop-forward and embrace the other meaning of craft – beers that are brilliantly balanced, easy to drink, and yet criminally underrated. Ignore the spurious powder-puff blogs (for a minute, at least).
Instead, here are five of the most under-appreciated beers in Scotland. We all love an oak-smoked raspberry saison – but if you see any of these beers on at your local watering hole, put down the moleskine notebook and Parker pen, and just enjoy, with liberation.
Williams Brothers Midnight Sun
I first tried this at the 2008 Scottish Real Ale Festival. Being a fan of porters, Midnight Sun intrigued me as alongside the standard blend of regular and chocolate malts Williams Bros also add ginger. After all, it wouldn’t be a WB beer if some kind of unusual botanical weren’t thrown in at some point – and it works beautifully. Ginger gives a zing on the finish that is fascinating. And at 5.6%abv, it’s got something to back it up with, as well.
Fyne Ales Vital Spark
Yes, Jarl and Avalanche batter everything else into submission from Fyne Ales – and deservedly so, as they are among the very best beers Scotland produces. Wil Wood knows zest (suggested t-shirt slogan there). But he also knows blackcurranty ruby ales. Vital Spark – avert your eyes, Jarl fans (of which I am one, so typing this is tricky) – Vital Spark is the best beer Fyne Ales produce. It should be a household name.
Cairngorm Black Gold
Being entirely fair, Cairngorm’s Black Gold isn’t exactly flying under the radar – it’s won a host of awards, including taking its class at the Great British Beer Festival (via the winter ales fest). Black Gold is arguably the best stout in Scotland. Certainly the best session stout. There’s a welcoming smoothness there, with the roasty – almost smoky – edge to the flavour at the same time. Lovely stuff.
Broughton Exciseman’s 80/-
A shilling beer in the underrated list? Crivens. This one I first had a while ago in the bottle and was really impressed. Caramel, nuts, brown sugar and earth. Doesn’t that sound like a beer you’d like to spend a quiet autumn afternoon with whilst reading the paper? Broughton produce a fairly huge range of lines, I don’t know that the 80/- is anywhere near their top-sellers – but it’s a lovely beer.
Alechemy Five Sisters
Alechemy haven’t burst on the scene as much as they’ve rolled a pulsating ball of hops into Edinburgh from Livingston. James Davies is clearly an Alpha (acid) Male. Currently dry-hopping all of his citrusy numbers, to great effect, his best beer to date leans in the other direction. Five Sisters has such a depth of flavour – toffee, caramel, sweet mocha, and then pine from the Chinook hops. It’s spectacular. The first pint I had blew me away, and was so surprising – which, surely, is the very definition of an underrated beer.
Which beers do you think should be on this list? What are the modern classics that people just don’t know about?