Time to turn the attention towards a single beer for the week-ending post looking at one of the classic Scottish examples you should try (if you haven’t already). Since starting in the first week of the year I’ve highlighted three unsung heroes of Scottish brewing – Fyne Ales Highlander, Swannay Old Norway and Broughton Old Jock so now we have a fourth addition to that line-up, and to find it we have to journey a short distance from Broughton to the outskirts of Innerleithen – and the oldest inhabited house in Scotland.
Last time around we looked at Broughton Ales (est. 1979), but they have nothing on the brewery at Traquair House. Since being unearthed by the 20th Laird in the 1960’s (whilst he was spring cleaning), the original brewkit at the House is still operational, making it one of the longest continually-operating family-owned breweries in Europe. The ‘potent liquor’ they create there on a wooden copper hammered together in 1738 is utterly unique, and deserves a place in this list – or in any list. The fourth classic unsung hero of Scottish beer is the majestic Traquair House Ale.
4. Traquair House Ale (7.2%)
Traquair House Brewery, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
Style: Scotch Ale
330 ml bottle
Looking back at the other beers to start this series, there is something of an (unintentional) theme developing. Traquair’s House Ale is another rich, warming ale in the grand tradition; these are armchair beers of the highest order. My Dad once brought six of these round to watch the football because he liked the label, and had no idea it was 7.2%. I have no idea who won the game. This beer is enormously complex, with a depth of flavour that brings every dark stone fruit you can knock from a tree together. There’s heaps of raisins, leather, sherry, and an almost wine-like finish (or port-like, more accurately). Many beers like this creep up on you but this House Ale revels in being over 7% and tastes all the better for it.
Celebrating five continuous decades of brewing, Traquair are one of the true pioneers of the art in the whole of Europe. That isn’t hyperbole; if the 200 year-old Russian oak brewing vessels were on a farm in Belgium, for instance, rather than the Scottish Borders, beer fans around the continent would flock there and gaze reverentially at the cobwebs. Traquair is a living museum, but producing beer of the highest order. Their House Ale – first brewed in 1965 – is one of the classic beers not just of Scotland, but the entire United Kingdom.