Tag Archives: Loch Lomond

Beer of the Week – Loch Lomond Southern Summit

It’s another weekend and – slightly later than usual – here’s the latest in my series of the fifty-two unsung beers in Scottish brewing. Every Friday (and one Sunday) throughout 2017 I’ll be taking a closer look at a single beer I believe deserves to get a lot more love – and at the very least should be in your drinking cupboard or fridge. I’m on the road this week but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a beer waiting for me when I get home.

And that beer is Loch Lomond’s Southern Summit. To be fair, it’s another that stretches the definition of ‘unsung’ having being named SIBA National Champion on cask last year, and winning several other awards along the way. But I’d wager few people would be able to recite the awards it has won – even if Loch Lomond are now the undisputed CAMRA/SIBA champs (Silkie Stout is the current CAMRA Champion Beer of Scotland) and taking the crown from Swannay who dominated the annual real ale-run contests for much of the early part of this decade. There’s a simple reason why – their beers are outstanding.

37. Southern Summit (4.0%)
Loch Lomond, Alexandria
Style: Pale Ale
500ml bottle

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

This beer is a full-on citrus bomb – the closest I’ve had to date from north of the border that challenges the standout #1 (in my eyes), Fyne Ales Jarl. Like that beer, this one has Citra in, but unlike it there’s the addition of Summit – and this particular hop brings the Alpha Acid in abundance. It’s a fantastic one-two combo with the prime agent making the beer refreshing and arresting in equal measure, and the Citra there to back it up with that classic grapefruit and lemon flavour. It’s a tremendous beer, and I can’t think of a better way to wave goodbye to the Scottish summer and turn attention towards darker things – both in terms of the weather and beers. Southern Summit is worthy of all the awards it has received, and then some.

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



Why do people drink? For me, it fills the gaps between meals – but it’s a question that has been asked ever since beverages more tasty than water were invented. Ever since ‘Ug the curious’ discovered that you could ferment fruit and became the most popular Neanderthal on Earth, people have wondered just what it is about alcoholic beverages that attracts others, or (more pertinently) keeps them coming back. One of the important reasons is in that last sentence, of course – the fact that they have that mild toxic effect we return to time after time. Taking aside the social aspects of this question for a minute, the other main reason why those who drink do so – as if you needed a moment to even consider – is the flavour. That’s why there are different styles of beer; it’s why wine is infinitely more complex than red or white, and it’s why Advocaat exists. It shouldn’t, but it does.

Flavour is not just a single experience, a lone point, though. As anyone who’s attempted to judge beer has discovered, for our favoured beverage it is broken down into different distinctions. There’s general flavour – i.e. ‘what am I experiencing right now’, and there’s aftertaste – i.e. ‘what am I experiencing…right…now’. Each of these has further quantifiers. From the hop-forward power IPA that lights up the tastebuds before the glass has left the lips, to the long, drawn out finish of something beefier. In fact, if we want to break into another plane entirely, I remember the very first ever tasting notes written on the BeerCast were of (if you can believe it) Sagres Bohemia – a representative of the lesser-known Portuguese Dunkel style – which was summed up in April 2007 in the following manner…

Dark, Portugal, strong, subtle…has pre, current and after taste

Now, aside from being still the best tasting note I’ve ever seen (and a riot of oxymorons), it even borders on the metaphysical. A beer that has a pre-taste is one that is definitely worth seeking out, you would think. Of course, it’s the final words of that note that are important in that regard – the aftertaste is crucial in beer. It determines instantly whether you like what you have decided to take a punt on, whether you’ll be ordering another, and whether you’ll need to break into those polo mints on the way home or not. For me, without doubt it is the most vital component of a beer. And the most vital component of that is Linger. How long those flavours stay around makes or breaks a beer. Even those styles – like, say, mild – that don’t have a long aftertaste can still have an amazing linger; they can provide a base flavour you enjoy long after putting the glass back on the table.

Maybe it’s a simple progression – flavour > aftertaste > linger. Or maybe it’s just semantics on my part – but I always differentiate between those last two. Aftertaste coats the mouth as you swallow, and then linger is what you get after you count to five. I think I remember reading once about cigar smokers ‘rolling the flavours around in the mouth’ – and it’s maybe along the same lines (although I’ve only ever attempted to smoke a cigar once in my life, and it ended with me regurgitating my £2 pints of Carling into a bush outside Hull University). The experience of enjoying a lasting flavour is by no means limited to beer – the number one lingering sensation has to be garlic – but there are plenty of ales out there that give you an amazing result, long after you expect it.


Here are five of the best Scottish beers I can think of for Linger – with these, the rewards just keep on coming.

Tempest Unforgiven (5.4%)
A juniper rye ale with smoked oak, on cask this one goes on and on. Smoked and rauchbiers are (in)famous for their long, deep aftertastes, the addition of juniper gives this one a lift away from the full-on sausage-meat effect of some of Germany’s finest, towards a sloe-gin element that really works.

Loch Lomond Silkie Stout (5.0%)
This particular style is perfectly suited to yielding a long, rewarding linger – but the balance of malt right at the beginning is where it really pays off. Silkie is a stout that has a fantastic ashen dryness on the finish, that you can really taste for a while after. Proof that it doesn’t have to be hoppy to be moreish.

Highland Old Norway (9.0%)
Barley Wines are a prefect illustration of beers that leave you with a complex, enduring far-aftertaste. And like many of their beers, Highland’s is the best in Scotland for the style. Old Norway is a masterpiece, with a linger of figs, honey and warming, walloping alcohol.

Fyne Ales Vital Spark (4.4%)
I’ve never really been entirely sure what style Vital Spark is (a medium mild?), but it’s my favourite beer that they produce. This is largely down to the fantastic flavours that it leaves you with – the key here being the blackcurrant fruitiness that blends into the roasty finish.

Stewart Brewing Chilli Reekie (6.2%)
Another ingredient bound to linger, Stewart’s chillied-up version of their strong stout Cauld Reekie has a rising subtlety of heat which works really well with the base components of the beer. Chilli is easy to overdo, and this one gets the balance perfectly correct (unlike the worst beer linger I ever experienced)…

Saint Guinness Day


Happy Saint Guinness Day! Today, around the world, hundreds of thousands of dark pints will be churned out, knocked back and knocked over – all in the name of a long-passed, snake-managing missionary. It’s the biggest day of commercialisation in the beer world, bar none. Over the years, Dublin’s most famed export has become so synonymous with St Patrick’s Day that it has become equivalent to the general celebration of things Irish, and has probably now surpassed it. People go out to drink the black stuff, it having become the focus of attention on the 17th of March (aside from my Grandad’s birthday; he’s 93 today).

There’s no denying Guinness aren’t brilliant at marketing – is there a brewery who has embraced the dusky art more totally than them? You only need to go to the hugely impressive Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, and walk around – the whole thing is essentially a museum to their marketing prowess. Toucans, sea lions, charging horses, breaking through the surf. Even I used to have one of those giant foam shamrock hat-things in my flat, for goodness sake – until we found a mouse living in it (true story).

I’m not a Guinness hater. One of the best beers I ever had was a pint of it, in Belfast when I was 18. The mystique of the settling and topping-up is Ireland’s tea ceremony, and at least has a smattering more integrity than the ‘perfect pour’ nonsense of Heineken, or whoever it was that purloined the technique for lagery means. When you go to the museum and come up out of the lift into the Gravity Bar, as the barman starts flicking the tap for your arrival, it’s like walking into a commercial.

Yet, this is pretty much all Guinness has to offer. There’s a reason why they constantly promote the moment of pouring; that’s the highlight. There are so many more great stouts out there. Sure, you can go somewhere like Edinburgh’s Three Sisters, as they try to break the record for numbers of pints of Guinness sold in 24hrs (last year, they got through a staggering 10,486 in a single day). But Scotland has some stunning stouts available, made here, brewed with endeavour and imagination. There’s far more to stout than style – these five Scottish stouts save their best for where it counts; substance.

Cromarty 2Craig’s (2.0%)
A collaboration between brewers Craig Middleton and Craig Allan, it starts off roasty, but leads into a whack of grapefruity citrus from the Cascade, Columbus and Chinook. Cromarty Craig calls this an ‘unstout’ because it is hoppy and low-alcohol, but it deserves to be in this list, no question.

Highland Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout (4.2%)
If any brewer would get the most out of the dark arts, it would be Rob Hill. Highland are renowned for their golden pale ales (and now, thanks to son Lewis, their IPA’s), but Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout is deep, raisiny, chocolatey, and all-round fantastic.

Cairngorm Black Gold (4.4%)
One of the most consistent beers in the country, Black Gold seemingly wins awards in every beer competition it enters. It has to be the most under-rated beer in Scotland; a near-perfect blend of soft, subtle roastiness and slightly sweet chocolate on the finish.

Loch Lomond Silkie Stout (5.0%)
Silkie is very definitely the word for this beer – or rather; silky. Soft and rounded, Fiona gets supreme balance in her stout – always the mark of a good dark beer. I usually get a fair bit of coffee in Silkie, which comes across like a sweet mocha, rich and hugely easy to drink.

Fyne Ales Sublime Stout (6.8%)
Like Highland, another brewer that should turn their hand to darker things more often, Fyne’s Sublime Stout more than lives up to its name. With a slight reddish hue, you’d never mistake this for a Guinness. It verges into the Black IPA territory, but the dark berry fruits pull it back. A belter.

Of course, there are far, far more than five stouts in Scotland – which are your favourites? What have I missed off this list?

Heriot-Watt Beer Festival 2012

That pen is not mine, incidentally

Having never been to the Heriot-Watt Beer Festival before, I was told the sun always arrives for a scheduled appearance (making it the exact opposite of the Highland Show). Sure enough, the weather was glorious in Edinburgh yesterday, just in time for the 27th HWFest. They take their beer seriously out at Riccarton – the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling has sparked (or sparged) the careers of dozens of the UK’s best brewers (and, presumably, distillers). Each spring the Heriot-Watt Brewing Society hosts a charity beer festival, encouraging the students – and guests – to drink decent beer.

If you want an example of the way the beer scene is changing, then you only needed to have stumbled off the 25 bus yesterday afternoon. There must have been over a hundred students sitting (or sprawling) on the grass in the sunshine, enjoying the beer on offer. Every so often, they would go back inside for a refill, like a line of ants heading back to the cool nest. This was great to see, as was the enthusiasm of the volunteers helping out – although most of the punters seemed to know exactly what was on offer, and what they wanted.

In my day, the University I went to had a ‘real ale society’ that met in the ‘alehouse’ bar – i.e. the bar that only postgraduates used. Every Friday night, all of the other students would file past it without looking, on their way to the joys of the main bar downstairs. With hindsight, queuing three-deep for warm pints of McEwans 70/- (albeit at £1.20) wasn’t the way to go – although for all I know the ‘alehouse’ served exactly the same thing. I do remember venturing in there once and drinking Mickey’s lager, so that answers that question.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and the eager students at HW get to pick from a range supplied by forty breweries. Standing in line to have your hand stamped to prove you’re over 18 (a line which featured RateBeer king Craig Garvie – who looks like Frankie Boyle’s older brother) was a surreal experience, and one that also took me back (although at least now the ink from the stamps washes off – don’t try and be clever and get them to stamp your forehead – take it from me).

Once the tokens were acquired – in the shape of a red piece of card with tickable boxes for halves of beer – it was into the bar to see what was on offer. First up, Loch Lomond Kessog (4.5%), which had a fair bit of blackcurrant at first – followed by a vaguely sour aftertaste. Tempest Unforgiven (5.4%) was next, and once again proved another belter from Gavin in his borders dairy. We keep banging on about Tempest, and will carry on until someone listens. Are they the best brewery in Scotland at the moment?

Unforgiven contains Tempest’s signature NZ hop backbone, but true to form also involves a whole lot more – in this case, oak chips and dried juniper berries. How they get such a balance of flavour with ingredients such as that is beyond me, but they do it with everything they produce. Firstly, there was touch of berry fruit, before the smoke arrived – but not to huge Bamburg level, it was pitched just right – before the finish flicked into sloe gin-esque juniper dryness. Great stuff.

After that, it was on to the best beer from one of the best new producers in Britain – Summer Wine Teleporter. Our recent SW BeerCast also featured this one (their ten-malt porter), but I hadn’t had it on cask before. As expected, it was every bit as good as the bottled version. If a beer can be soothing, then this is just that – it’s like drinking alcoholic cocoa. Summer Wine have blazed a hop trail over Yorkshire, but for my money their non-hoppy beers are even better – with Teleporter the absolute pick.

Finally, I ended up with the festival special – Heriot-Watt Demon Dark Ale (6.6%). Produced by members of the HW Brewing Society, it was brewed at the Prestoungrange Gothenburg in conjunction with Dave Whyte of DemonBrew (read about the brew day here). We’ll be featuring Dave next week on the BeerCast (along with other local Edinburgh-area brewers), but it was great that the festival organisers got to head out and make their own beer – and for Dave too, as presumably he got to drink more cups of tea with his feet up.

It was the perfect way to round off the HWFest, dark and highly drinkable. Quite a heavy hit of molasses sweetness was well balanced by a touch of citrus from the Pacific Gem hop. There was chocolate in there as well, and the whole thing finished very nicely. Dave brought three casks of it along, and I’m guessing that it went pretty quickly (although I believe Tempest Citra was the first to go). After that, it was back for the bus and home to scrub off the fact that my right hand was informing the world I am actually over 18.

The 27th Annual Heriot-Watt Beer and Cider Festival continues today (Friday 23rd March) from 12pm to 11pm, at the Heriot-Watt Student’s Union, Riccarton Campus. Check here for more information. Many thanks to Stewart and the team at the Society for the invite.