Scotland’s most underrated beers?

Posted by on Aug 22, 2012 in Scottish Beer | 10 Comments

“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?


  1. Dave from DemonBrew
    August 22, 2012

    DemonBrew Demon Black!!!

  2. Richard
    August 22, 2012

    We’ll call that number six, Dave 🙂

  3. Adam
    August 22, 2012

    Nice article! I’d certainly agree with all, esp. the Five Sisters, & Demon Black/Goth Porter, particularly at The Goth, is excellent.
    My 5 would be Tryst Brockville Pale (hoppy bitterness seems to have increased recently), Strathaven Aleberry (on cask this has loads of berry aroma & taste), Arran Sunset (really get the malt on cask), Kelburn Cart Noir (lots of coffee & chocolate burntness) & Fyne Hurricane Jack (great low abv IPA, but somewhat in the shadow of Jarl & Avalanche)

  4. Dave from DemonBrew
    August 22, 2012

    Cheers guys!
    Look for a bit more berry aroma from Demon Black as it is being dry hopped with a certain New Zealand hop!

  5. Richard
    August 22, 2012

    ‘Pacific Dave’ living up to his name again, I see. 😉

  6. Dave from DemonBrew
    August 22, 2012

    Pacific Kick 5.4% in Cloisters atm!

  7. guestbeerguide
    August 22, 2012

    5 WSillBros Caesar Augustus – not a fan of everything they do, but put this in a sloping, continental bottle and the foreign beer snobs would be panting
    4 Fyne Pipers Gold Subtler than more recent hopped up award winners from Fyne but a long-standing and now sadly overlooked classic
    3 Ayr Rabbies Porter some of their other stuff a bit bland, but this stands out taste wise and drinks well above its strength
    2 Tryst Drovers 80/- Brewery rightly credited with some great pale n hoppy numbers, but this darker, fruitier more trad style gets bypassed
    1 Orkney Red McGregor Used to win loads of awards but seems to be languishing behind new arrivals to the party. But for me has been consistent, a beer I can always rely on to recalibrate taste buds

  8. Stravale
    August 22, 2012

    Orkney Porter has to be the top underrated Scottish beer – overlooked but incredibly good, world-class!

  9. leithdave
    August 27, 2012

    @Stravale – Agree wholeheartedly about Orkney Porter – world-class. Although not sure it’s under-rated – you’re right that over-looked probably describes it better.

    Is Black Isle – a cracking brewery – allowed? If so, I’ll chip in with their Scotch Ale. A lovely beer, but not one I hear too many talking people about and over-shadowed by the great other beers in the stable. Don’t think I’ve ever seen it on draught, either.

  10. Rob Foxhound
    August 29, 2013

    Happy to agree with Williams Bros Midnight Sun, and wanted to suggest Williams Bros 80/-, Caledonian 80/- (I know, nobody likes it really, do they, but I love it), Harviestoun Old Engine Oil and Inveralmond Lia Fail.
    Problem is, there are so many Scottish beers to love…

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