There is so much amazing beer out there now – it is all but impossible to track down everything released and still fully enjoy it (ask the RateBeer guys – you can do one but not both). Even if you just stick to the output of a single region or city it can be tough – and if you live in London it’s all but impossible, as a new brewery will have opened up underneath your stairs in the time it has taken you to read this paragraph. So what can you do? Well, don’t sweat it, for one. Beer appreciation isn’t completionist – there are no achievements for opening every single one out there. Stick to things that intrigue you.
With that in mind, today sees the launch of a new feature for 2017 on the BeerCast – the unsung heroes of Scottish brewing. With around 120 breweries north of the border at the moment, chasing the new and rare is a full-time gig. But instead let’s step back and look at the classics. Whether years or decades old, or recent arrivals on the scene, each week I’ll be picking one up, tasting it, and letting you know why it’s one of the 52 best beers in the country – and also where you can get hold of it, so you can discover it for yourself if you’ve yet to have the pleasure.
I’ll kick things off today with a beer that has just passed a significant milestone…
1. Highlander (4.8%)
Fyne Ales, Achadunan, Argyll
Style: Scottish Export (see below)
500 ml bottle
Argyll’s finest may have 130 different beers on RateBeer, but they are all descended from this one. The first beer ever brewed in the jumble of whitewashed stone farm buildings at the head of Loch Fyne, Highlander (and Fyne Ales) mashed in on the 30th of November 2001 – a couple of months on from fifteen years ago. Many forerunner beers go on to reflect the brewery as a whole, keeping the ethos going to the present day, whereas other breweries eventually move away as their tastes develop, or sales show their customers want to explore their other offerings. Highlander is a modern classic because you could argue it has done both – Fyne Ales still cask it up and sit it alongside Maverick, Vital Spark and the rest – whilst also kettle-souring and double IPA’ing to boot. Highlander is an ever-present.
It also belongs in this list because it similarly straddles two of the great style families the UK should be proud of – the Scottish Export/80 Shilling and the English Strong Bitter. Not that I want to start this series with in-depth style comparisons but I think that if you live down south and enjoy a taste for Fuller’s ESB then Fyne Ales Highlander is (or should be seen as) an equivalent. It’s that good. But what does it taste like? Well, the first thing that strikes you is the bitterness – listed at 38IBU it certainly delivers that and then some. After a few pulls on the glass the sweeter caramel and toffee comes through, joined by a very faint earthy peatiness harking back to the hillside water source. Highlander is a celebration of bitter, both the taste and the style – and is a beer to be savoured and enjoyed in quantity in equal measure.
Pick it up here: