Tag Archives: Kelburn

Beer of the Week – Kelburn Dark Moor

It’s Friday once again so that can only mean one thing – the push towards #beeroclock and the start of another weekend. But it also means that it’s time for another in my series of the unsung heroes of Scottish beer. At the end of each working week this year I’ll be taking a look at a single beer that deserves a place in your immediate future, and for the thirteenth instalment of my Beers of the Week the item on the agenda is a dark ale from the west of the country.

This particular beer is one that questions the adjective ‘unsung’ slightly, as it was awarded Champion Beer of Scotland as recently as 2014. But I’m approaching this from the point of view of beers that may not be automatic inclusions in your beery shopping trip, whether they have certificates in their past or not. It is a very specific beer style that we do so well north of the border – the dark, fruity but session-strength old ale. A more vibrant take on bitter, these beers are shining lights of the Scottish brewing scene, and Kelburn Dark Moor is a fantastic example.

13. Dark Moor (4.5%)
Kelburn Brewing Co, Barrhead, East Renfrewshire
Style: Old Ale
500 ml bottle

Few beers look as immediately inviting as Dark Moor, sitting there with a deep ruby sheen in the glass. For a beer that arrives under 5% ABV it has a similarly impressive depth of flavour with a couple of competing elements present right from the off. The roasty bitterness joins forces with dark stone fruit and both lead into a dry, slightly chocolately ashy finish. Dark Moor has a supreme balance about it, one that keeps you coming back for more. Germany, Belgium and England may make truly impressive dark beers but here in Scotland we can put the very best out there as well.

Pick it up here:
At Kelburn’s online shop (as 5L minicask or 10L/20L polypins)
At Scottish Real Ales (as individual 500ml bottles)

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

Kelburn Jaguar; second best beer in Britain


The winners of the annual Champion Beer of Britain (CBoB) were announced yesterday afternoon at the Great British Beer Festival at London’s Olympia – and there was something to cheer for Scottish beer drinkers, as Renfrewshire’s Kelburn Brewery were awarded Champion Golden Ale before going on to win the overall CBoB Silver medal for their 4.5% golden ale, Jaguar. It’s been quite a twelve months for Kelburn, after their Dark Moor won Champion Beer of Scotland at last year’s Scottish Real Ale Festival. Congratulations to all at the Barrhead brewery – it’s really well deserved.

Although, having said it’s well-deserved, I really have no idea. I’ve never actually tried Jaguar, and to be brutally honest, probably wouldn’t have been able to name it if you’d asked me to jot down a list of Kelburn’s beers on a piece of paper. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. I can’t know all the beers, particularly from producers in parts of the country I don’t get to very often.* That’s just the way it is. You can’t – unless you have serious RateBeer addiction dedication – catch them all. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it, however.

* I used to go to meetings in Paisley now and again, but never tried any beers whilst over there – and although Kelburn do export this side of Harthill services (most notably to Edinburgh’s Cafe Royal, which always seems to have their beers on), I’ve just missed out on Jaguar, it seems.

But thinking about that gap in my internal beer drinking directory got me to thinking about the very nature of Beer Festival judging and awards. It’s something I’ve talked about a lot before, something I’ve done before, and of course, something I’ve experienced as a punter before. And in thinking about Kelburn’s Champion Beer of Britain silver medal, I realised that since all those moments, I have totally changed my opinion of these types of festival judging processes. The CAMRA judging (and this holds true for other festivals too) requires heats, rounds and plenty of time; the first line of the press release announcing this years’ winners states the process takes a year.


It’s a total crapshoot. All the hard work of the brewers, all the pains to maintain consistency whilst improving as beermakers, and it all comes down to how that beer was on that one particular moment in history, to those few individuals around that table. You could sail through the heats with beer in perfect nick, and then a duff cask or one that has been knocked around a little too much can ruin what is potentially the biggest day of your brewing career. I used to think this was unfair, that it attached too much emphasis to the moment and detracted from the consistency of the product. But after thinking about it today, I realise that’s completely wrong.

Judging beer for awards like the CBoB (and this holds true for non-CAMRA festivals just as much) may well be a crapshoot – but it’s borne out of authenticity. It is beer drinking in microcosm. Every time you go into a pub and pick a handpull, you do pretty much exactly the same thing. Both situations boil down to how a beer tastes on the day – whether you’re holding a pint glass in your local or a slightly shaking sample glass in the final judging round of the Champion Beer of Britain. Of course it should be the same – you know, I can’t really think why on earth I thought any different. It transfers the work and skill of our brewers into a single moment, and if they are found wanting then that’s just the way it is. Of course it’s subjective and opinion-based; but then that what makes drinking beer so interesting – and the challenges of brewing so utterly unique.

Congratulations to all the winners – particularly the overall Champion Beer of Britain, Tiny Rebel Cwtch – and the other Scottish breweries to win in their class; Williams Bros (Black – Gold, Milds), Highland (Scapa Special – Silver, Best Bitter), Fyne Ales (Superior IPA – Silver, Bottled Beers). The GBBF continues at London’s Olympia until Saturday. Oh, and if I ever see Kelburn Jaguar on in a pub I’m drinking at, I will very much order a pint and enjoy it.

Scottish Beer Festival 2008

In our recent preview of the 2008 Scottish Real Ale Festival I wrote that we were all looking forward to trying some new things, as it’s really the main reason for going along. Last year’s festival (the review of which is here) was something of an eye-opener to the BeerCast – we’d only just started out on the real ale path – so practically everything we tried was new. I remember the first beer I sampled then (picked totally at random) was Fyne Ales’s Pipers Gold, which I described as “like drinking an entire flowerbed”. It seems my baffling beer descriptions haven’t improved over the last twelve months.

Fast forward a year, and we turned up at the Assembly Rooms on Friday and it was suddenly all so familiar. The brewers, the brands, the styles of beer, the boozy queasinesses – we seemed like old hands striding around with our pint glasses at the ready. But of course the beauty of a beer festival is that even those who try and learn as much about local beer as they can will still be able to find something they’ve yet to experience. So here’s what I managed to pack into a few short hours on Friday afternoon…

1. Orkney IPA (4.8%)
Highland Brewery, Birsay, Orkney.
‘A refreshing well-hopped pale ale’ said the tasting notes in the festival guide, and what better way to start an afternoon’s research? I’ve long wanted to try this given the reputation of the Highland Brewery (reigning Champion Beer of Scotland winners for Dark Munro), but not yet seen it during our beery travels. As an IPA it’s characteristically hoppy, more in the aftertaste than up front, but a really good session ale.

2. Gold Rush (3.9%)
Harviestoun Brewery, Alva, Clackmannanshire.
Next I made a bee-line for the Harviestoun section, as their little-seen seasonal Gold Rush was pretty much the first thing that caught my eye when wandering around. If it’s even half as good as Bitter and Twisted or Schiehallion then it’d be a winner. As it was, it was just as good – zingy and packed full of hops, it reminded me a bit of Stewart’s Edinburgh Gold – which is probably my favourite beer. Great stuff.

3. Peden’s Cove (3.5%)
Windie Goat Brewery, Failford, South Aryshire.
‘Pale Bitter named after the area where Alexander Peden preached from’, apparently. After a quick Google, Peden was a 17th Century Covenanter repeatedly jailed for preaching about his Presbyterianism. As for the beer, the classic musty Fuggles hop smell really comes out of this very pale session bitter. It’s pretty good stuff, and makes me want to try more from this relatively new producer (they started in 2006).

4. Midnight Sun (5.6%)
Williams Brothers, Alloa, Clackmannanshire.
Residents of the Wee County are really spoiled when it comes to brewers – just down the road from Harviestoun are the Williams Brothers, another big favourite of the BeerCast. They also had one of their seasonals at the festival, Midnight Sun – a hoppy porter with added ginger. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was ab-so-lutely fantastic. Smooth, dark tastes with the edge given by ginger (which was just in the very background), and pretty hefty at 5.6%abv, it was just great. My beer of the festival, and a real find.

5. Skullsplitter (8.5%)
Sinclair Orkney Brewery, Quoyloo, Orkney.
Recently named Scotland’s best Barleywine for 2008, Skullsplitter is a mighty concoction. We bought a collective half to sample (it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon) to see what the fuss was about. There’s certainly a distinctive ‘prunes soaked in vodka’ smell to it, although I didn’t pick up any of the suggested apple and/or plum. Very spicy taste, and surprisingly subtle, but to be honest one to sip in different surroundings than at a beer festival.

6. Dark Moor (4.5%)
Kelburn Brewery, Barrhead, East Renfrewshire.
Last year I went for a total random selection and ended up with Sulwath’s Solway Mist, a cloudy wheat beer I noted tasted like “lemonade mixed with antiseptic”. But I thought I’d give the idea another go, and plumped for Dark Moor, a ruby bitter from Kelburn. It was eminently more preferable – fruity and a lovely shade of red, a really nice session bitter.

And that was that, as we wandered out into the commuter-packed streets and went to a pub to draw breath*. Some really great finds at the 2008 Scottish Real Ale Festival (to give it the proper name), even given the high percentage of beers on offer we’re familiar with. Look out for other posts by BeerCasters who were there, and keep an eye out for future posts (and maybe podcasts) involving some of these new discoveries.

* I’m not ashamed to admit I had a pint of Kirin Ichiban, being totally real-ale’d out