Tag Archives: Hillside/Deeside

Beer of the Week – Deeside MacBeth

There are so many beers hitting the shelves and bar counters in Scotland at the moment – of every possible style and with all kinds of added ingredients. It’s amazing, giving something different every time you fancy a beer. And yet that can mean that some of the classics of Scottish brewing become lost in the chatter. That’s a real shame as we have some brilliant unsung beers north of the border that deserve your attention.

That’s why, every Friday throughout 2017, I will be doing just that – featuring a single beer I think deserves a place in your drinking cupboard if you haven’t tried it before – or if you have, but some time ago. This week I am shining a light on a pale ale from Aberdeenshire, brewed with a fascinating collection of hops. A hugely under-rated beer, names after one of Scotland’s most infamous literary characters. Deeside’s Macbeth.

29. Macbeth (4.1%)
Deeside Brewery, Banchory, Aberdeenshire
Style: Pale Ale
500ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At selected branches of ASDA, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in Scotland

Macbeth is one of those inbetweener beers that could be any number of styles. It says pale ale and golden ale on the bottle but looks like an amber ale in the glass – and then when you taste it you get all the hallmarks of a great bitter. There are hints of sweet, sticky fruit at first – some stone fruit, some tropical – but then as you get further into the flavour it all ends with a bitterness that is almost reminiscent of something you’d be served in the Home Counties. The reason for that is the unusual hop load – Cascade, Amarillo and…Fuggles – marrying American and English tastes in one seriously under-rated beer, whatever style you want to refer to it by.

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

Scottish Real Ale Festival – Day One

After yesterday’s Trade Session the Scottish Real Ale Festival kicked off today with the judging for the 2011 Champion Beer of Scotland. After last year’s win for Highland Orkney Blast it was a question of if Rob Hill could carry on with his brewery’s dominance of the CBoS title, having won three of the last four. The BeerCast were once again invited to help with the judging process, and although there was one of Rob’s beers on the blind shortlist, it didn’t feature in the final top three from the judges selection. Eight different brewers were represented in the final, and it was a tough act to pick a winner.

Whether this was down to the condition of the beer, or the fluctuating nature of cask ale, or just the play of chance, the judges scores were very close. The panel consisted of brewers, publicans, beer writers and CAMRA regional chairs, and after almost three hours of deliberation, the results were announced. In third place, Houston Peter’s Well. Second – Cairngorm Black Gold. The winner – and 2011 Champion Beer of Scotland – Skye Cuillin Beast. Wait…what? A barley wine winning CBoS? In terms of style, that’s good to see – something unusual taking the plaudits – but in all honesty, it was the best beer of the nine on the day of the judging.

With that, it was time to hit the floor to sample some of the other beers on offer. With the lack of expected favourites reaching the CBoS finals, it was time to head for something from Highland (although Dark Munro did win the Mild category). Island Hopping was a good start to the festival day, some sweetness in there but a good touch of hop to offset. We’re all about trying new things on the BeerCast, and the Tinpot Brewery are one of the newest producers in Scotland, putting their interesting recipes out through TSA’s equipment in Stirling. Their Thai Pot (5.0%) had something of the lager tops about it, but a zesty lemon edge that just about worked in it’s favour.

Unfortunately that couldn’t be said about Devon Ales Thick Black Stout. However, this was probably down to the temperature of the main hall more than anything – it wasn’t that thick and the roasty flavours mellowed out a little too much. In fact, the mild I had next topped it – Luckie Ales Midnycht Myld had a lot of things to like about it – the inherent thinness of the style was helped along by a subtle roast and a touch of (probably unintended) sourness that worked really quite well. After that, another dark one with the outstanding Deeside Talorcan. The balance in this one is almost perfect, that mix of roasty malt and woodiness, with a slightly smoky finish.

We had Burnside’s Black Katz Mild yesterday, so tried the Mad Dogz IPA today. There really wasn’t that much to it, some slight hop and then a vaguely bready finish. For the last couple of beers of the day, time to head back to the unusual flavours of Tinpot – Marmalade Pot and Beetroot and Blackpepper. The first, a sweet cordial orange with a beery edge lurking underneath – the second, a classic Marmite beer. For me, I really liked the sweet, earthy beetroot giving way to sharp, bitter black pepper. Really interesting – not to everyone’s taste, admittedly – but you can’t argue it’s not a good way to finish a day at the festival.

Check back tomorrow for Day 2 a the festival – our beer of Day 1 has to be Deeside’s under-rated Talorcan. Keep up with our tweets @thebeercast, and if you are attending, enjoy your beer…

Here comes the sun…

The arrival of tailbacks on the roads and wasps in the parks can mean only one thing – Spring is here. After enduring months of snow, sleet, winds and haar (something we say every year, only this time it actually happened) the weather is taking a turn for the better. Here in Scotland that means average highs in the mid-teens Celsius. So while we all rush to reveal that pale flesh and stick another white pudding on the barbie, beer sales traditionally rocket.

So what to drink? Clearly, avoiding macrolager is the only decent option. But there are so many alternatives out there, it can be something of a muddle. That’s why we’ve compiled another BeerCast guide – to the best of the Spring/Summer seasonals. Just because it’s time to rush to the nearest beer garden/park/roadside verge, doesn’t mean there can’t be a good beer involved somewhere along the line. So put down that oak-aged imperial blackcurrant porter, and pick up a golden session ale. (Whisper it) – it’s not always about the abv…

If you manage to get yourself into that rarest of things – a sunny Scottish beer garden – then what should you select after wandering, blinking, into the pub (which will still have a roaring open fire)? Light, golden beer has a great tradition north of the border, stretching back to the days of Edinburgh Pale Ale and beyond. There are plenty of modern-day equivalents, such as the peerless Fyne Ales Avalanche. Hoppy, refreshing and unbelievably drinkable – it’s the perfect beer garden pint.

Along the same lines, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted is another corker – one of only two beers from Scotland to win Champion Beer of Britain. A very rare sighting on cask, but Williams Brothers Ceilidh is tremendous when served this way, the slight spicy edge from the bottle mellowing really well on cask. Other great quenchers include Strathaven Summer Glow, Deeside Nechtan and Stewart Brewing Forth Mist – a really underrated wheat beer.

The beauty of bottles is of course the fact that they are portable. Until Scotland truly embraces the canned beer revolution that (if you look very, very hard) is taking place, then the bottle is the best option. Alfresco drinking here usually involves either one of Scotland’s great exports to the world – Irn Bru – or one of the big imports – Buckfast. But if beer is on your wishlist, then dig out that opener and wander along to the nearest green space, with a clinking carrier bag of…

Cairngorm Trade Winds, which has a touch of elderflower to give it that distinctive summery flavour – in my humble opinion it’s one of the few beers that tastes just as good from a bottle as on cask. Inveralmond Ossian is another golden thirstbuster, as is Williams Brothers Harvest Sun. We adore Fyne Ales Jarl here on the BeerCast – but stablemate Hurricane Jack was also bottled for the first time recently, and is just as good. Finally, to rival Trade Winds – what about a bottle of Tryst Blathan? Another zesty elderflower beer that translates as ‘little blossom’ – what could be more Springlike?

Yikes. Keg beer. Well, the majority are pretty much made for good weather – easy drinking, crisp and refreshing, high carbonation. Obviously we’re not going to recommend drinking Fosters, but if something cold is on your radar then what about the two kings of Scottish kegged lager – Harviestoun Schiehallion and Black Isle Organic Blonde? Either would be much more preferable, surely.

Also on the cooler, fizzier side of things we have Stewart Brewing Edinburgh Gold, which has made recent appearances in the capital on keg. Heading along the M8, WEST Hefeweizen is a clovey, banana delight – particularly when drunk outside the Templeton brewery watching the ‘goings on’ in Glasgow Green. Finally, keg fans would be foaming (artificially) at the mouth if we didn’t mention BrewDog – their re-styled, reduced but much improved Punk IPA would make any sunny afternoon much the better.

So what are your ideal summer thirst quenchers? As we move into Easter long weekends and Royal Wedding holidays, what will you be reaching for? South of the border there are many great golden-esque ales that fit the bill – Pictish Brewer’s Gold, York Guzzler, Thornbridge Kipling, Purity Pure Gold, St Peter’s Golden Ale, Ossett Pale Gold etc etc

So many beers…so little sunshine. Drink up!

Scottish Real Ale Festival 2009 – Day 2

Grooben checking the beer list

Another day, another day at the beer festival. We returned to the Assembly Rooms for a second helping of the best of Scotland’s real ale, eager to see what else we could discover. The beers were pretty much the same as the day before, so we fired straight into the list sampling ones that had caught our eye from the Friday. The first beer I went for was the weakest in the entire festival – the traditional Scottish mild, Belhaven 60/- (2.9%). Brewed to a very old recipe, it was characteristically light and roasty. Milds always taste to me like watered-down porters, and this one was no exception. But as a delicate starter beer, it was a nice subtle start to the proceedings.

Next up it was the newest beer from Edinburgh’s other producer, Stewart’s Edinburgh Marathon Ale (4.2%). This family-run brewery from Loanhead make some great beers such as Pentland IPA and Edinburgh Gold, both of which were also at the festival – but Marathon was one I’d yet to sample. It was a very drinkable malty session bitter in the – dare I say it – ‘Northern style’. There was a touch of sweetness to it as well, which came through in the aftertaste. After that, I went for one I was looking forward to from the preview list – Plockton’s Starboard IPA (5.1%). One of Scotland’s smallest breweries, they are attached to the Plockton Inn in the Ross-shire village of the same name, and started up in 2007. Starboard is a strong hoppy IPA with a fantastic dry bitterness. It was pretty cloudy stuff, but that didn’t affect the taste at all – it was superb.

Beer four was one that was also highly rated – it had just been awarded the Champion Beer of Scotland for 2009, decided on the previous day. Sinclair Orkney’s Raven Ale (3.8%) won the top prize, becoming the third consecutive champion beer from that group of northern islands (following 2008’s Scapa Special and 2007’s Dark Munro, both from the Orkney Brewery). Their neighbours Sinclair Orkney did very well indeed this year, picking up second overall as well with Red MacGregor (third placed was Caledonian XPA). Raven had a sweet smell and taste, which was predominantly fruity with a growing biscuit aftertaste. It was nice, and certainly improved as you drank it, but for me there were better beers on show this year.

For example, Fyne Ales Vital Spark (4.4%) is a dark ruby ale with so much fruit in the malt it almost tastes of blackcurrants. The hops come and go, and the richness of flavour give it a great lasting finish. It’s fantastically drinkable, and a prime example of a session beer that isn’t pale and slightly hoppy. However, we learned at the festival about the sad death of Fyne Ale’s co-owner Jonny Delap. It was only a couple of months ago that we met him on a trip to Cairndow in Argyll to pick up some beers for a long weekend – he was such a friendly man and will be sadly missed.

The last beer I tried in the festival was Hillside/Deeside’s Broichan (5.2%). After thinking very highly of their Nechtan yesterday, the Broichan was just as interesting, although very different. A strong Scottish ale, this was fruity but not like Vital Spark – more pruney than blackcurrant. There was a smokiness to it as well – the tasting notes suggested it would be a “perfect beer for fireside drinking with cheese and oatcakes”. I don’t think you can argue with that, it was even pretty good when drunk around a rickety table on a Friday afternoon.

So that was it, another Scottish Real Ale Festival over. We managed to get through a huge amount of differing ales, with various degrees of success. The overall winners might have been Raven Ale, Red MacGregor and Caledonian XPA – but for us the standouts were Windie Goat’s Gutter Slab, Hillside/Deeside’s Nechtan, and Plockton’s Starboard IPA. We’ll hit the festivals again at August’s Great British Beer Festival in London. See you there…

Scottish Real Ale Festival 2009 – Day 1

Edinburgh is a city well known for festivals, and fortunately for us on the BeerCast they aren’t just restricted to the arts. The 2009 Scottish Real Ale Festival has rolled around again, held at the Assembly rooms on George Street. As promised in our recent preview we turned up with high expectations, given the impressive beer list. Getting right down to business, the first beer sampled was the Hebridean Brewery’s Seaforth Ale (4.2%), which completed the full set from the Stornoway producer (we sampled their other four beers during BeerCast #30). Seaforth was very light, slightly soapy but a decent golden ale – a pretty good start to the festival.

Next up was Williams Bros Birds & Bees (4.3%), a new beer from the Alloa brothers Scott and Bruce. Recently it got through to the finals of the Sainsbury’s Bottled Beer Challenge – we’ll have to see how it differs in the bottle, as on cask it was flowery and lemony and very sessionable. We were trying to work out if it was their Williams Gold remixed slightly, as it has many similar tastes. The third beer on the agenda was Traditional Scottish Ales’ Gold Thistle (4.5%), a sharp-tasting golden bitter which suffered from a poor woody smell. The flavours were light and hoppy, with a bit of golden ale biscuit.

Windie Goat are a very small micro who brew almost exclusively for the Failford Inn in Ayrshire, and having previously sampled Gutter Slab (5.5%) we had to go back for another taste. After three gentle golden ales, the difference was startling – Cascade hops on the nose, and a wonderful bitter citrus flavour and aftertaste. It was so good that it sold out very quickly, so we can count ourselves lucky to have got in while we could. Beer number five was from a producer I’ve never tried before – Aberdeenshire’s Hillside/Deeside (they recently changed names) – their 4.0% Nechtan. This one was also tremendous, grapefruity and refreshing, it really delivered that zesty summer flavour many brewers fail to get into their beers.

Beer six was the traditional ‘BeerCaster’s choice’ round, where we buy one for someone else on the panel – avoiding the cruelty of a 9% barleywine. The one I ended up with was Sulwath’s The Grace (4.3%), which tasted far stronger than it’s abv and had a similar grapefruit aroma to the Nechtan. The flavours were different however, there was a sweetness I’d not picked up in any of the previous beers, presumably down to the mix of two types of malt and three of hop. Sulwath are based in Castle Douglas near Dumfries, and clearly put a lot of effort into their beers if this one was anything to go by.

The final beer of the night was the also traditional ‘lucky dip’ round, selecting a totally new random beer based purely on the name. This year it was the turn of Caledonian’s Top Banana, which given the name unsurprisingly had some gentle banana tastes on the back of a powerful banana aroma. It was nice for a fruit beer though, and reminded me of Wells&Young’s Banana Bread Beer. A sweet palate cleanser at the end of the night – almost like a dessert after a (particularly lengthy) meal. Speaking of which, we’ll be back tomorrow for seconds. Stay tuned…