Beer of the Week – Swannay Orkney Imperial Stout

Posted by on Dec 29, 2017 in Beer of the Week | One Comment

So, the series ends here. All throughout 2017 I have been trying to cast a light on some of the beers produced by Scottish breweries that I feel deserve a little more attention. Whether they are under-appreciated, modern classics or just plain flying under the radar, every week I have listed a new entrant that I feel needs a little more love. And to round things off, two days before we hit 2018, I’m ending on a high. This is the singlemost under-rated beer in Scotland.

Of course it had to come from Swannay. Every year I mentally list the Scottish brewers who are at the top of their game and Swannay are in it every single year (that is no exaggeration) – way back to before they were even Swannay. This multi award-winning family-run business is one of the top three breweries in Scotland and has been for as long as I can remember. Of course, beers such as the mighty Orkney Porter are a huge reason for this – and there’s no way I could have that on my list of unsung beers as it’s arguably the best beer in the UK. But one that is right up there alongside it? Step forward Orkney Imperial Stout.

52. Orkney Imperial Stout (8.0%)
Swannay Brewery, Orkney
Style: Imperial Stout
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
From the from Swannay’s online shop

Back before New England IPA and Sours and whatever came before that, Imperial Stouts were the thing. A brief flurry of high-gravity armchair beers appeared around five years ago and were quickly usurped by other styles. But the Imperial Stout is still king – and Swannay’s is right at the top of the tree. And for my year-long exercise in uncovering unsung brews, it also stands right at the peak. Let’s take a look as to why that might be.

Firstly, as I said in the introduction it has a more commonly-heralded stablemate. Orkney Porter is an incredible beer and the similar Imperial Stout is often left in the shadows as a result. Secondly, it isn’t seen that often aside from the Swannay online shop and a few incredibly fleeting appearances on cask in the larger Scottish cities (and if you ever do see it on cask, it is nigh-unbelievable and a must-order). Thirdly it comes from a brewery at the far end of the country, perched on a rocky islet who go about their business with a calm, respectful attitude. The only thing blustery on Orkney is the wind.

Added all together those factors make for a champion of the unsung. But you also need a beer worthy of the accolade. There’s no point in quietly whispering about something for people to try if it’s not worth their time. But Swannay’s Orkney Imperial Stout is magnificent. Massively approachable for an 8% beer it is deeply roasty, has layers of dark fruit in there and is dry and ashy – different to the opulent Porter but every bit (in my eyes) as good.

This is a true yardstick for Scottish brewing, a marker for how our men and women are creating beers every bit as good as those from anywhere else. Orkney Imperial Stout is the must unsung beer in Scotland and one of the very best. It’s the reason why I started this quest and the perfect way in which to end it.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial
39. Williams Bros Profanity Stout
40. Windswept Tornado
41. Campervan Pacific Zest
42. Swannay Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout
43. Cromarty Ghost Town
44. Fyne Ales Vital Spark
45. Knops Musselburgh Broke
46. Orkney Red MacGregor
47. Cross Borders Porter
48. BrewDog Jack Hammer
49. six°north Hop Classic
50. Stewart Brewing Cauld Reekie
51. Williams Bros Nollaig

1 Comment

  1. Ross
    December 30, 2017

    Cheers Richard for a good year of reading about some great beer I’ve not yet discovered, and seeing old favourites getting some welcome recognition.

    Slainte, and a Happy (non-pressured to write a blogpost every seven days…) New Year to you.

Leave a Reply