Category Archives: Beer of the Week

Beer of the Week – Orkney Red MacGregor

The end is in sight, but there are still a few more amazing unsung Scottish beers on the horizon before we hit the 52nd and final beer in this series – and that beer, I should say at this point, is going to be the overall singlemost unsung beer we have currently in this part of the world. So stay tuned for that, due up on Friday the 29th of December. Before then, it’s time to head all the way to Orkney for beer #46.

It’s yet another version of the quasi-style that Scotland does better than anyone. I say quasi-style as a) it makes me sound sophisticated and b) this particular beer falls into the bracket we have seen a lot of so far. Red Ales. Ruby Ales. 80/-. Scottish Exports. Amber Ales. Essentially, what they sometimes hang on the great branching tree of bitter down in England, the roots of which don’t quite get past Carlisle. Anyway you care to categorise them, these beers are cask-hearty and taste amazing at this time of year. Like Orkney’s Red Macgregor.

46. Red MacGregor (4.0%)
The Orkney Brewery, Quoyloo, Orkney
Style: Ruby Ale
500ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At at Scottish Real Ales online (as individual 500ml bottles)

‘Delicate and sophisticated’ goes the byline, and I can totally get this as the amber ale here (or ruby) is toasty, with a caramel backbone and a fair bit of red berry fruit about it. Yet there’s an easy-going nature about it throughout. Soft and floral, this could be the ideal session beer for the late Autumn months as the nutty and bready quality give off a feeling of all the best desserts you can consume at this time of year.

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

Beer of the Week – Knops Musselburgh Broke

It’s Friday once again, so time for another in my (now long-running) series of weekly recommendations on a single Scottish beer that should be in your tasting glass if you haven’t already had the chance to try it. With so much amazing new beer out there, sometimes it can be hard to keep up – but there is a fall-back option. Stick to the classics. The beers that, even if unsung, are worthy of a place in anyone’s beer cupboard.

For this week, it’s a play on a Scotch Ale. It’s no co-incidence that as the months are moving on I’ve been pulled towards the darker end of the spectrum – for one thing, Scottish breweries produce more amazing dark beers than anyone gives them credit for – and for another (and more obvious) they are just more fitting for this time of year. But Scotch Ales don’t have to be thick, meaty and enjoyed in an armchair – just ask the guys at Knops Brewing.

45. Musselburgh Broke (4.5%)
Knops Brewing Co, Dirleton, East Lothian
Style: Scotch Ale
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At at Real Ale Warehouse online (as individual 330ml bottles)

Brewed with Crystal and Chocolate malts and roasted barley, there’s no prizes for guessing the stars of the show – this is a beer rich in woody, toffee-like nutty flavours that verge into molasses territory at times. It’s bitter at first, but then all of these flavours arrive to move the beer into that typically Scotch-esque warming richness. A malt-forward session-strength brew – what Scotland is renowned for; and justifiably so.

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

Beer of the Week – Fyne Ales Vital Spark

After last week’s two-for-one edition, this time it’s back to just a single beer recommendation on which to end the week. With less than ten to go, you’d think I might be struggling to still find unsung Scottish beers to feature in this series – but the opposite is true.* There are so many amazing beers being created by the brewers of this country that this is a selection you could continue well into another year I think. Although I am not for one minute going to do that.

*The real struggle has been getting them in time to write one per week…

Anyway – here’s this week’s unsung hero of Scottish brewing, and this is a beer I had to feature, as it’s the single individual that prompted this entire exercise. The most under-rated beer this collection of windy islands and wind-scoured mainland can produce – Fyne Ales Vital Spark. Whether discovered on cask or bottle, this is a fantastic beer and one that is worthy of any and all exploration of exactly what Scottish brewing is and where it is currently at.

44. Vital Spark (4.4%)
Fyne Ales, Argyll
Style: Dark Mild
500ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At at Fyne Ales’ online shop (as 12x500ml bottles or 5 litre mini-cask)

Let’s begin with that style note – this is my pigeon-holing as Fyne themselves say it’s hard to categorise; floating between stouts porters and milds. It’s got the roastiness in there but with that deep ruby colour and balanced finish I’m going to call it a dark mild. Not that it matters in any way, Vital Spark is delicious and a perfect beer for the start of winter. It’s the best room-temperature beer in the country, too – don’t let this one anywhere near your fridge. Chocolate, a slight hint of liqourice and a whack of blackcurrant fruit – this is a masterpiece and one of the best beers to have emerged from Scotland.

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

Beer of the Week – Cromarty Ghost Town

Beer of the Week, take two that is. Sadly I ran out of time to post one last week so this is a double-edition, and following along from Swannay’s outstanding Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout we remain on the dark side but flick over to its other half and talk about another porter. I say another, as this series has already featured the enveloping charms of Williams Midnight Sun and Black Isle Porter. So let’s make it a triumvirate.

Cromarty’s porter is a bona fide classic – in thinking why this might be it struck me that the ten-malt payload makes it very similar to one of my favourite beers of all time (and a slam-dunk for unsung beers of the UK – but that is something for another time) Summer Wine’s Teleporter. Cromarty’s is just as good, so it deservedly has a place in my fifty-two Scottish beers that need a little more love – and let’s face it, with less than ten to go, there aren’t many more opportunities for these beers to shine. So let’s shine a light on Ghost Town.

43. Ghost Town (5.8%)
Cromarty Brewing, Cromarty
Style: Porter
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Cromarty’s online shop (as individual 330ml bottles)

Unexpectedly the first thing that hit me from this porter was liqourice, which I wasn’t prepared for at all. After that the flavours mellowed into the dryer, roasted elements from the different malts but the finish then revealed a bitter, resinous element which rounded things off in fantastic fashion. I know Cromarty already make a Black IPA (Black Hop Down) but this is as near to an IPA-Porter hybrid as you can get, and all the better for it. It’s an absolute masterpiece.

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

Beer of the Week – Swannay Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout

Another week draws to a close with a beery recommendation from me on a great Scottish beer that might be flying under your radar. Two, in fact, as last week I ran out of time to get one up so it’s a twofer this time around. And in an act of true symmetry the beers this week are a stout and a porter. The latter will be detailed in a second post, so let’s get to the stout. And what a stout it is.

Swannay are no strangers to this list; I’ve already featured the all-world Old Norway barley wine and their blink and you miss it Orkney Session – but they are masters of the dark beer as well. As I said about two weeks ago, there are so many stouts on this list – far more than I would have thought when starting out this adventure back in January – but maybe given the weather here that shouldn’t have been so surprising. So if you’re looking for another great Scottish stout, you have to get a little sneaky…

42. Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout (4.2%)
Swannay Brewery, Orkney
Style: Stout
500ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Swannay’s online shop (as individual 500ml bottles)

This is a beautifully roasty numnber – as all the best stouts are. Dry, ash-bitter and chocolatey this beer is a triumph of roasted barley. Now there is another stout from a Celtic nation that prides itself on the use of this ingredient, but Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout delivers all that you would expect from a dark beer and then some. That extra push is down to dry-hopping, which just about appears to add a complementary input but never removing an ounce from the showcase of roasty flavour. It’s a joy to drink, particularly at this time of year.

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

Beer of the Week – Campervan Pacific Zest

Friday is here once again – they just keep on coming – and so that means another chance to pass on a tip about a Scottish beer that may well be flying under your radar. Every week throughout 2017 I will be doing this, giving a little love to a beer that deserves to be in your cupboard and then your favoured beer glass. With so much happening in beer – even if you just restrict yourself to this part of the UK – sometimes things slip past, unnoticed.

So for this particular Friday it’s a throwback to something that would have been great in the long, lazy Scottish summer. For all of those evenings on the decking, watching the sun slowly set, the ideal beer to have in hand is a tropical IPA that gives you bags of sweet, juicy fruit flavour to make that evening all the better. And here is that beer – Campervan’s excellent Pacific Zest.

41. Pacific Zest (4.5%)
Campervan Brewery, Edinburgh
Style: Pale Ale
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Hop Shop online (as individual 330ml bottles)

Citrus-packed American Pale Ales are nothing new but always welcome – and one of the keys to packing in the flavour is loading up those juicy C-hops. But there is another route – the South Pacific and the hops of New Zealand and Australia. And then there’s a third way (this is a brewery with the tagline ‘wandering but not lost’). Add as many hops as you can get and then include a big hit of lime zest. And you can certainly taste that in Pacific Zest. It’s fruity, pithy and almost verging on the tart – but the juicy hops come along at the end to leave you refreshed and seriously wanting more. If you see this beer on cask, buy 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