Tag Archives: Broughton

Beer of the Week – Broughton Old Jock

As it’s Friday again, let’s power up the spotlight and point it at another in my series of 52 unsung Scottish beers to try. There are so many amazing new things on offer north of the border, but whilst the brewing scene here continues to go from strength to strength it means the classics are worth seeking out more than ever. So with this weekly series I’m suggesting a beer every Friday to unearth and add to your drinking collection. Since kicking off with Fyne Ales Highlander and last week Swannay Old Norway, for the third instalment we are heading back south into the Scottish Borders.

If you look at the oldest breweries in Scotland that are still operating, there aren’t many on the list before you reach Broughton Ales. Belhaven, the Caledonian, the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow, Traquair House. And then, just on the cusp of the 1980’s, Broughton appeared. Co-founded by David Younger (of the brewing dynasty) and James Collins they have changed hands a couple of times, but their range of beers that feature characters of Scottish legend have remained. And in that range you’ll find one of the true unsung heroes – Broughton Old Jock.

3. Old Jock Ale

Broughton Ales, Broughton, Scottish Borders
Style: Scotch/Red Ale
500 ml bottle

The concept of beer styles is a relatively recent arrival (in brewing terms), and it’s interesting that two of the first three of my weekly picks have straddled several of the more commonly-recognised styles. Just as Fyne’s Highlander is part bitter, part Scottish Export, Broughton’s Old Jock has elements of the Scotch Ale, a bit of the classic Red and more than a hint of barley wine about it. That’s proof that it’s not just modern craft beer that blurs the boundaries (as well as proof that styles are only really a guideline). Old Jock is a fantastic beer, and one that combines a depth of flavour with an inviting ruby colour unsurpassed by any other from a Scottish brewery – it has to be one of the best-looking I’ve ever seen.

The food pairing the guys at Broughton suggest for Old Jock is strong cheeses – and they aren’t kidding. This would stand up to anything you could throw at a port – the flavours of raisins and dark stone fruit, particularly plums, really make that a great suggestion. There’s a grainy bitterness around the edges, and a slight spice from the Bramling Cross and Perle hops (also in the brew is the quintessential English one-two-three of Challenger, Fuggles and First Gold). It has a sweetness about it, almost like candied oranges, but nothing comes across as cloying because there is a terrific balance going on. Old Jock is lovely, and should you see it in your local supermarket, walk past it at your peril.

Pick it up here:
At Broughton’s online shop (as a case of 8 500ml bottles)

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway

Scotland’s most underrated beers?

“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?

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Over the past few years supermarkets have caught on to the ‘premium bottled ale’ market, steadily improving the selection of beer in their stores, and some even moving towards regional variation to appeal to shoppers. Sainsbury’s launched a contest in 2008 to encourage brewers to offer up their PBA’s for selection – with Bath Ales Barnstormer and O’Kells IPA coming out on top. The competition has continued, having been tweaked over the past few years – but the prize of a minimum sixth-month national listing has remained, to act as an incentive.

Scotland has traditionally been well-represented – even BrewDog entered in the past, and Williams Brothers dispatch half a dozen hopefuls every year. It paid off last time as their lager/IPA hybrid Caesar Augustus finished in the top two and appeared on shelves up and down the country. For 2012, the regions were juggled about and increased from four to five, and a split-level prize pot created. Brewers could decided whether to enter their beers for regional listing – in which case the pick of the heats would go straight into local branches – or national, so they would then be judged again against those from the rest of the UK, with the winners of that round gaining nationwide glory.

I’m used to blind competition judging – whereby you’re given an anonymous glass of beer to sample. Helping to judge the Great British Beer Hunt was completely different. All 21 beers were layed out to be perused, giving you the chance to go down the row, selecting eight to taste. They may as well have just gone the whole hog and given you a trolley to put them in. Selecting a beer based on the bottle is something we’ve all done, and even today there are some brewers who just don’t seem to appreciate that. Walk into your local wine shop and see how many bottles have non-white, non-plain labels these days.

With the eight choices poured for us at a small bar, it was time to take our trays away and start the tasting. The Scottish heat was held in a function room at Hibernian’s Easter Road, so we had a great view of the silent stadium as an accompaniment – Hibs were busy elsewhere, losing at St Mirren. I sat on a table with a quite lovely retired couple (people meandering past must have thought I’d brought my parents). Stalwarts of the Bow Bar, they filled me in on the best secret on how to avoid the boozing crowds – do your drinking at lunchtime. When I retire at 85, I might just try that!

We chatted about how we had decided on our eight samples. Looking at the row of bottles, I picked out the ones I hadn’t yet tried (must be the RateBeer in me). The couple at my table went for beers they liked, and a few they wanted to sample (with mixed results). I was surprised we weren’t given a questionnaire on how we made that choice – given the importance of branding and the vagaries of the consumer. Maybe as the eventual national finalists will be rolled out for the public, Sainsbury’s will get their feedback at that stage instead.

The beers that were up for judging are below, with my eight sample selections in bold. Eagle-eyed readers will wonder why Mordue and Tyne Bank seem to be in Scotland – chatting to Mark and Julia from TB afterwards over some beery shots, they revealed the deadline for entry (announced on the SIBA website) came too late for the Northern heat, so they packed up the transit for a spot of cross-border goodwill. That was a great thing about the competition – representatives of the brewers (or in Mark’s case, the man himself) were downstairs, available for questions afterwards.

Scottish Region shortlist, 2012
Arran – Clyde Puffer, Fireside
Broughton – Dark Dunter, Merlin
Cairngorm – Trade Winds, White Lady, Wildcat
Caledonian – Deuchars Imperial
Harviestoun – Wild Hop Gold
Mordue – IPA
Sinclair Orkney – Corncrake, Three Sisters
TSA – Double Espresso Stout
Tyne Bank – Castle Gold, Monument Bitter, Silver Dollar
Williams – Black, Gold, Impale, Pavlov’s Dog, Prodigal Sun, Red

The first of my four winning beers was Williams Impale – probably the best of my eight samples. Bright passion fruit and tropical aromas, a nice bit of citrus, very floral – it was lovely. The champion of the Heriot-Watt ICBD competition, it was created by homebrewer Ed Young – and I can see why it won. The second choice of the day for me was Broughton Dark Dunter, a reasonably new roasty blackurrant old ale. With a surprising finish similar to oaky sherry, it’s one to seek out on cask, I’d imagine.

The next of my picks was Tyne Bank’s Castle Gold. I’ve had it before, and it’s a great golden ale. Clear, lightly rising bitterness – you could drink this all day, which is the type of beer you need in supermarkets to give the slabs of Fosters the heave-ho. My final choice was trickier, but I went for Harviestoun’s Wild Hop Gold (wild as in ‘crazy amounts’, rather than hedgerow). A lot of ginger flavour in there too, battling with the Citra and Simcoe.

So, we’ll see if my scribbled crosses end up in the right boxes. Thanks to Richard Morrice for the invite, and to all of the brewery representatives I managed to speak to. Next time you’re in the Bow at lunchtime and see a nice retired couple, buy them a pint for me.

Scottish Real Ale Festival 2010

Following the announcement that Highland Orkney Blast was awarded the 2010 Champion Beer of Scotland, it was time to pay a visit to the festival as a punter and sample some of the new and unusual beers on offer this year. Nobody attends the SRAF to drink Deuchars IPA, after all. As ever, the larger ballroom was opened up to escape the warm atmosphere of the main hall – providing a rather ornate backdrop to the business of drinking beer. I got there to find the rest of the guys drinking the aforementioned CBoS from Orkney – the third time in four years Rob Hill’s brewery has won the title – and with three different beers.

Obviously, I’d had a sample of Orkney Blast already that day – check back later for my thoughts on judging the Champion Beer – so I set off to find something I’d never seen before. First to fit the bill was Fyne Ales Jarl (4.0%), which was so new it wasn’t in the official programme. We’re tremendous fans of Argyll’s finest at the BeerCast, having visited them a couple of times – and their Cairndow brewery recently hosted their own beer festival, at which they launched their latest beer – Jarl. It features a relatively new high alpha hop – Citra. First presented at the 2008 World Brewing Congress, the Sierra Nevada-backed hop gives a fabulous tropical fruit flavour to Jarl. It’s extremely sessionable, golden and with a lovely bitter grapefruity aftertaste to compliment the pineapple up front.

Next I went for a hometown tipple, and Caledonian’s Surf Sup (4.0%). Deuchars IPA may be ubiquitous, but their seasonals can sometimes slip between the cracks. Surf Sup is their ale for June, and is also citric and sessionable. At exactly the same abv as Jarl it was ripe for comparison. The hops give less of a ripe fruit taste, it’s more lemon zesty than mango. It’s also pretty good, but the addition of the Citra hops elevates Jarl over Surf Sup on points. My third beer was Linger (5.0%) from the newly-reborn Fowlers who brew out of the Prestongrange Gothenburg in Prestonpans. It certainly does linger – very hazy with a ginger aftertaste, it was pretty empty after the ginger hit. It may need a touch more refining.

The next round was the traditional ‘buy something for the BeerCaster to the left’ round – which results in an even mix of nutty bitters and 9% barleywines. For MrB I selected Broughton’s Champion Double Ale (5.0%) – the only blend on offer at the festival (strong ale mixed with porter), it was a bit rough around the edges, but drinkable. It was Shovels buying for me, and I ended up with a Traditional Scottish Ales Bannockburn (4.2%). Described as a pale, golden beer with a ‘thick, tight head’ it was almost totally flat and pretty insipid. TSA had brought eleven beers to the SRAF, but this one wasn’t one to savour.

Seeking a high note, I then went onto Raj IPA (5.5%), from the Tryst Brewery in Larbert. It scored very highly in BeerCast #49 (from the bottle), on cask at the festival it was just as good. A classic strong IPA with corresponding piney resinous hop flavours, it was really outstanding. It was interesting to see how the flavour differed between a chilled bottle and a warmer cask pint – either way it’s currently one of the best British IPA’s out there.

The final beer I sampled was a dark one – Islay Dun Hogs Head Ale (4.4%). The Islay brewery were founded on the whisky-loving island of the same name in 2003, and have seven ales in their range. They are pretty tough to find over here on the eastern side of Scotland, so I was keen to try at least one. The Dun Hogs is a dark, roasty stout with a really nice bitter finish complimented by some initial sweetness. It’s always good to end on a dark note, and Dun Hogs Head was a great way to end the festival.

Thanks to all at CAMRA for hosting the festival, we’ll be back next year to sample more local treats. Whilst the overall winner of the 2010 SRAF was Highland Orkney Blast (with Black Isle Hibernator second and Cairngorm’s Black Gold third), the beers that really stood out for me were Tryst Raj IPA and Fyne Ales Jarl. Thanks to everybody for checking the BeerCast during the festival, we’ll see you again for another beer festival in the near future.

BeerCast #35 – Not just any BeerCast…

Once again we welcome two intrepid new beer explorers into the belly of the BeerCast. This time talented minstrels Kat Flint and Nick Hirst join us alongside Andy and Jess at the Belsize Park headquarters to quaff some beers purchased from that finest of British establishments, Marks & Spencers.

Andy was positioned a bit far from the mic and is a bit quiet at times (perhaps for the better!). We also run long on this one at an hour due to a couple of interesting diversions into beers for women and Tesco which were perhaps more interesting than the beer themselves. Still, hope you enjoy it. Andy

1. Buckinghamshire Ale (4.6%)
Vale Brewery, Brill, Buckinghamshire.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say – “Copper-red beer with a yeasty, bready nose and raisin fruit and spicy hops. Tart fruit, biscuity malt and bitter hop resins fill the mouth. The finish is dry and bitter with rich, juicy malt, burnt fruit and peppery hops” [www.beer-pages.com]

What We Say…
Nick – Nice, fresh, but not much to it, bit like a chemistry experiment 6
Kat – Smells a bit like coriander, like putting a penny on your tongue 5
Jess – I get that tart fruit on the tongue thing, i wouldn’t reach for it 5
Andy – Quite fresh, tastes a bit like Carex 5

2. Cornish IPA (5%)
St. Austell Brewery, Cornwall.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say – “A rich golden colour, and totally clear. It has a citrus bouquet with hint of malt and hop. These characteristics are replicated in the first taste to the palate, finishing with a modicum of marmalade bitterness. Perfection.” [realalenet.co.uk]

What We Say…
Nick – A delicious and well mannered beer 7.5
Kat – I could drink a few of those and be pretty happy 7
Jess – it’s nice, similar to Buckinghamshire in a way 7
Andy – More flavour than Buckinghamshire, some fruits in there 6

3. Yorkshire Bitter (4.6%)
Cropton Brewery, Pickering, North Yorkshire.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say – “A big sulphury nose with strong undertones of floral and spicy hops and tart fruit. Tangy fruit dominates the palate with sappy malt and spicy hops. Hop bitterness and tart fruit dominate the finish with light malt notes; it becomes increasingly dry” [www.beer-pages.com]

What We Say…
Nick – Bracing, Hair-chested, a working man’s pub beer 6.5
Kat – Bready, a pie & chips beer 6
Jess – Not as nice as the Cornish IPA 6
Andy – Darker, more bitter, bit too much for me 5.5

4. Organic Ale (6%)
Broughton Ales, Biggar, Scotland.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say – “On the nose there’s a sweet and orangy aroma, with plenty of caramel malt notes, herby, nettle aromas and a little earthy whiff of silage. On the palate it has a fine, chewy, creamy texture and plenty of malty character. The hops are there, adding a bitter twist to the finish, and that earthy, quite rich quality extends through the finish” [www.beer-pages.com]

What We Say…
Kat – Smells like beer trampled into mud, in a nice way 7
Nick – Honeyish, meady, a bitter finish 7
Andy – Zingy, Electricy, metallicy 6
Jess – Quite powerful upfront, could’nt drink much of it 5.5

Panellists – (from top left) Andy & Jess, Kat Flint, Nick Hirst

BeerCast panel verdict

Cornish IPA (27½/40)
Organic Ale (25½/40)
Yorkshire Bitter (24/40)
Buckinghamshire Ale (21/40)

We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with BeerCast #36- a Blighty Vs Yankee IPA battle from the Edinburgh team. Keep the emails and comments coming in. Cheers!

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #35 – Not just any BeerCast…
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  • The 2007 Scottish Beer Festival

    There are few countries on Earth that do the ‘lots of earnest men in a musty hall’ type days out better than the Brits. Like it or not (and CAMRA probably don’t), beer has that reputation – or rather, ‘real ale’ has that reputation. The hip, funky, savvy kids of today drink Becks or Budweiser. But then they’re prententious pillocks, aren’t they? As Shovels put it, there was an impressive selection of wild haircuts and straggly beards at the Scottish Beer Festival, held at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. We had a duty to attend, being the BeerCast’s home city, so rustled up the full complement of panellists (minus Hopmesiter who was playing with iguanas in Ecuador), and went along, with our own wild haircuts aplenty.

    Paying our £4 and picking up a logo’d pint glass, we eagerly went up the red-carpeted stairs to the main hall of the Assembly Rooms. Inside, it was amazing. Hundreds of people, dozens of kegs, and two huge bars. So in the name of research we carted our increasingly dirty pint glasses around trying as many of the (rumoured) 120 beers as possible. As an IPA fan, I started off with Fyne’s Piper’s Gold, which wasn’t as much floral as like drinking an entire flowerbed. Next up, I made the rookie mistake of ‘just picking something because of the name’, and got Sulwath’s Solway Mist. This turned out to be a wheat beer that tasted like lemonade mixed with antiseptic. Still, I learned an important lesson early on.

    After that, things got far better. Broughton’s Clipper IPA, Houston’s Killelan, and Sulwath’s Criffel IPA are all corkingly good pale ales, and beers I’ll certainly be finding again. Scotland’s IPA’s really do rival some of the best from other countries – a point the BeerCast will probably return to, I would think. Anyway, there’s more to ale than the lighter stuff, so I finished off with a dark mystery, Strathaven’s Old Mortality. It was a sweet, spicy, malty beer that changed flavour with every mouthful. Or maybe that was just the dregs of all the other previous ones combining in the pint glass. Either way, even though (most of us) didn’t have the crazy facial hair, we found a lot to like at the Festival.