Tag Archives: Strathaven

Beer of the Week – Strathaven Craigmill Mild

Every Friday throughout 2017 I will be publishing a blog post shining a spotlight on a specific beer that I think deserves greater attention – these are the 52 unsung heroes of brewing in Scotland. Just in time for the weekend; an update on a beer that if you don’t already know then maybe you should seek it out (no pressure) and give it a go. For this edition, on the cusp of the warmest weekend of the year – a mild!

The Campaign for Real Ale promotes this beer style during May to increase awareness of a type of beer being brewed more infrequently than ever – and this is a shame (the scarcity, not the campaign) as milds are fantastic, easy-drinking and help take the edge off the hottest of days, in that weird cup-of-tea-on-a-hot-day vibe. It sounds daft, but having a beer as good as this on a warm day does work – and that beer in particular is the brilliant Strathaven Craigmill Mild.

21. Craigmill Mild (3.5%)
Strathaven Ales, Strathaven
Style: Mild
500 ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Strathaven’s online shop (as a case of 12x500ml bottles)
At Real Ale Warehouse (as individual 500ml bottles)

There’s little room to hide with a mild, by their nature the body isn’t going to carry the day as with a beefier stout – but Strathaven’s gets around this by pushing everything into the front end, giving a huge whack of dark roasty coffee up front rather than on the aftertaste. There’s bitter chocolate in there as well and the American hops help to emphasise this bitterness by carrying the beer on for much longer than you might expect.

The bottom line is that this beer is a real treat all round, and a perfect depiction of the style for anyone unfamiliar. With the lightness of body and bitter roasted malt flavour it has a versatility about it – serve cold from the fridge and it has the makings of a refreshing dark lager, the bitter coffee and chocolate flavours reminiscent of a Schwarzbier. But at room temperature the richer, warmly roasty elements come to the fore and the beer changes again. Craigmill is (in my eyes) very simply the best mild in Scotland.

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

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!

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.