Tag Archives: Spey Valley

Beer of the Week – Spey Valley Spey Stout

Friday is with us once again and as the news filters through about the General Election it is business as usual in terms of the weekly selection of an unsung Scottish beer for your perusal. On the cusp of every weekend this year I will be shining a light on a single Scottish beer, which if you aren’t already aware of, it could be time to hunt out a bottle and add to your collection.

For this twenty-third edition it’s time to reconcile the recent terrible weather by turning attention towards a stout. Spring often means pale ales and other zesty floral affairs but north of the border it also means torrential rain and dark skies of an evening. The long and short of it is that stouts are in play far later in the year than in other parts of the country, and if you want something along those lines, this particular beer is the best of its type in Scotland. Spey Valley’s amazing Spey Stout.

23. Spey Stout (5.4%)
Spey Valley Brewery, Mulben, Moray
Style: Stout
500 ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Alesela online shop (as individual 330ml or 500ml bottles)

Spey Stout really is something else, of all the stouts I’ve tried for this series and before it has a greatest depth of flavour. There’s the standard and expected roasty profile from the chocolate malt but the added crystal malt gives a touch of sweetness that borders on a milk stout (even though it contains no lactose). This beer is a triumph, and one that is all about balance. There’s the sweet roastiness but also a liquorice bitterness on the finish and a faint almost cola-like note throughout. It’s hugely drinkable for 5.4% ABV and is an all-round belter – in fact, I can’t think of another Scottish stout I would rather turn to. Spey Stout really is one of the most underrated beers in Scotland, as it is quite simply incredible.

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

Best new beers of 2012…the best of the rest

Last week, we turned the BeerCast over to the newcomers – the six best new British beers of 2012. Of course, with twelve months of full-on beer drinking under our (gradually expanding) belts, there were plenty more that could have made the list. As we move into the final blog-posting week before Christmas, it’s time to look back at the rest of the great new British beers we were lucky enough to try, and run down some of the ones that were just as outstanding as the six we mentioned last week.

Back in January we named Tempest Brewing Co as the Scottish brewer to watch, and over the course of the year, they didn’t disappoint. Released back in February, Cresta Black had a huge amount of flavour at 4% (possibly due to the added walnut power bars), and they then followed it with the 8% Double Cresta. Their all-rye beer World of Pain still causes wincing from Gavin and Allan, but it was (to us drinkers, at least) utterly worth it. Tempest are currently looking for larger premises near to their converted Kelso dairy, and when they get a larger facility sorted – look out.

We have a rough rule of thumb – referred to around BeerCast HQ as ‘the Kernel rule’ that only a single beer from each brewery gets into our top six.* So, step forward Marble Earl Grey IPA, Roosters Londinium, and pretty much every other beer Craig Middleton made up in Cromarty. Rogue Wave, Red Rocker – both sit alongside AKA IPA as the very best you can get hold of at the moment. I don’t want to pre-empt our 2013 breweries to watch post, but I’ll give you three guesses who we’re picking for next year.

*Ironically this year, not a single Kernel beer did actually make it – but their Table Beer is an absolute treat, and the pick of their many, many, full-on IPA’s released in 2012 was surely their IPA Double Citra.

It wouldn’t be a best new beers feature without mention of Summer Wine or Magic Rock. They both have that brewing gift – augmented by skill, forethought and a huge amount of hard work. You could pretty much name any of their beers from the last twelve months, but I particularly enjoyed two of the lesser-praised SW beers – Half-Wit and Mokko Milk Stout, the latter being the best representation of the style I’ve had for a long time. As for Magic Rock, it was Clown Juice, the ‘India Wit’, that really sticks out – just superb.

Finally, heading back to Scotland, other picks from the year in hops would have to include Fyne Ales Superior IPA (which was – in every respect), and Stewart Brewing Radical Road – a modern classic, and one which spurred them on to producing a great Black IPA. This year’s SRAF saw me drink a lot of Spey Valley’s Spey Stout – the pick of the festival – but the beer that so nearly made it into last week’s top six is that pictured above – Alechemy Five Sisters. As good an amber ale as you can find, anywhere.

Well, that’s a lot of beer – and I didn’t even get to mention Redchurch’s Great Eastern IPA. There were other things I haven’t touched on – so join us on Wednesday as we talk about the brewery who made the leap in 2012 into becoming, hands-down, the best in Scotland. Find out who (and how) then, and let us know in your comments other great new British beers you enjoyed in 2012 – or stablemates of those we’ve mentioned that we should have included!

Scottish Real Ale Festival 2012 – the beers

The Scottish Real Ale Festival is well and truly open for business – once the doors were unlocked the first hundred people had entered the venue with only thirty-five minutes having elapsed. We covered the details of how the Corn Exchange is working out for the SRAF in yesterday’s post – so today, it’s on to something far more important – the beers. I was involved with the judging for most of the day, but still managed to sample a few when the deliberations had finished.

On that note, congratulations go – once again – to the Highland Brewing Company for winning the Champion Beer of Scotland with Orkney Best. Rob and the team deserve every credit – they are surely the most consistent brewery in the country. Underlining this, they also finished second with Orkney IPA – only a bronze for the fantastic Fyne Ales Maverick prevented a potential clean-sweep.

Following last year’s surprise victory for the Skye Brewery, Highland’s win marks six consecutive years that an island brewery has won the Champion Beer of Scotland accolade. It was waaay back in 2006 that Kelburn’s Cart Blanche last won CBoS for the mainland. In fact, Highland have now won the trophy four times in those six years – and with four different beers. How’s that for an achievement?

Back to the other beers on offer – one of the first I managed to seek out was Head East, from the brand new Strathbraan Brewery in Dunkeld. A 4.2% bitter, it was the ideal festival starter – as was the fruity Burnside M-pire, which had a bit more body at 5.2%. Next up, Stewart Brewing Solas – the winning red IPA from their most recent brewer battle, which I really enjoyed.

Speaking of Stewart Brewing, hops and enjoyment – bolted to the bar was something new for the SRAF – the inaugural run of Stewarts’ Hopinator. Pulling Pentland IPA through a column of hops is a great idea – and it looked fantastic, like a beerhound’s lava lamp. However, the result was almost undrinkable at first – pure hop juice, with no alcohol or body. We went back later, and it had calmed a little, but still wasn’t right – hopefully it’ll come good later in the week.

There were more successful experiments with hops on offer – St Andrews IPA was possibly the beer of the day, although Cromarty Red Rocker on cask is another cracking beer from Craig Middleton. Both producers are relatively new on the scene – as are the Spey Valley Brewery. If the 5.4% Spey Stout is there on your SRAF visit – it’s a must-try, simple as that. A fantastic rich, roasty beer – the best in show, for me.

Another good one is DemonBrew Mashup – we featured Dave Whyte and his antiquated brewkit on our new Edinburgh brewers post a few months ago. Operating from the Prestoungrange Gothenburg, he somehow manages to get great results from his cantankerous gear. I imagine a brewday for Dave is like the Tardis scenes in Doctor Who, all hissing pipes and sudden warning sirens, as he gets thrown around whilst trying to hammer things back in place.

Mashup is a result of one of these days of excitement – a blend of two different brew runs that didn’t make it to fruition. What were to become an 80/- and a well-hopped bitter eventually were blended together to form this new beer. Having the heat exchanger fail halfway through a run was far from ideal – but it resulted in Mashup, a fruity best bitter with a blast of citrus from Motueka and Pacific Jade.

On a final note, we can’t talk about the SRAF without mentioning the twisted madness of Tinpot. The small brewery in Bridge of Allan always sail close to the edge – as last year, when their Thai Pot and Beetroot & Black Pepper Pot divided opinion. With their offerings this time around, they are sure to do the same. Prune Pot, for example, is unfortunately horrendous – although it is big on the prunes.

This is the bottom line with Tinpot – their beers do taste of what they say – but it’s completely up to you whether you find them palatable or not. Five Spice Pot really does smell and taste of star anise and dandelion and burdock. Raspberry Pot was probably the pick of the bunch with its slightly sharp fruit edge. We spoke to Mr Tinpot – Walter ‘Wattie’ Dunlop – who confirmed his next beer should be Apple and Raspberry Pot – although his oregano beer, Pizza Pot, might return.

That conversation summed up why I love beer festivals. For all the fantastic, locally-made, on-style beer available (such as the Spey Stout or Red Rocker), there are always surprises. Before, I’d have taken a few sips of an ‘XYZ’ Pot and gone looking for something else, but having chatted to the man behind it, I still might not like many of his beers – but I hope he carries on inventing them for a long time to come.