Tag Archives: Traquair House

Beer of the Week – Traquair House Ale

Time to turn the attention towards a single beer for the week-ending post looking at one of the classic Scottish examples you should try (if you haven’t already). Since starting in the first week of the year I’ve highlighted three unsung heroes of Scottish brewing – Fyne Ales Highlander, Swannay Old Norway and Broughton Old Jock so now we have a fourth addition to that line-up, and to find it we have to journey a short distance from Broughton to the outskirts of Innerleithen – and the oldest inhabited house in Scotland.

Last time around we looked at Broughton Ales (est. 1979), but they have nothing on the brewery at Traquair House. Since being unearthed by the 20th Laird in the 1960’s (whilst he was spring cleaning), the original brewkit at the House is still operational, making it one of the longest continually-operating family-owned breweries in Europe. The ‘potent liquor’ they create there on a wooden copper hammered together in 1738 is utterly unique, and deserves a place in this list – or in any list. The fourth classic unsung hero of Scottish beer is the majestic Traquair House Ale.

4. Traquair House Ale

Traquair House Brewery, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
Style: Scotch Ale
330 ml bottle

Looking back at the other beers to start this series, there is something of an (unintentional) theme developing. Traquair’s House Ale is another rich, warming ale in the grand tradition; these are armchair beers of the highest order. My Dad once brought six of these round to watch the football because he liked the label, and had no idea it was 7.2%. I have no idea who won the game. This beer is enormously complex, with a depth of flavour that brings every dark stone fruit you can knock from a tree together. There’s heaps of raisins, leather, sherry, and an almost wine-like finish (or port-like, more accurately). Many beers like this creep up on you but this House Ale revels in being over 7% and tastes all the better for it.

Celebrating five continuous decades of brewing, Traquair are one of the true pioneers of the art in the whole of Europe. That isn’t hyperbole; if the 200 year-old Russian oak brewing vessels were on a farm in Belgium, for instance, rather than the Scottish Borders, beer fans around the continent would flock there and gaze reverentially at the cobwebs. Traquair is a living museum, but producing beer of the highest order. Their House Ale – first brewed in 1965 – is one of the classic beers not just of Scotland, but the entire United Kingdom.

Pick it up here:
At Traquair’s online shop (as two-bottle gift pack with glass)
At Traquair’s online shop (as case of 24x330ml bottles)

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock

BeerCast #64 – Big BeerCast

Note to self…remember to take photo before drinking the beer

If you’ve been following the BeerCast for the past couple of weeks, you’ll (hopefully) know we’ve been talking a great deal about a recent piece of Government legislation. On the 1st of October, the UK Treasury raised duty on all beer over 7.5% – ostensibly to tackle ‘problem drinking’. We’ve written several posts on why we feel this is a bad idea (here, here and here) – and so today we’re holding a protest podcast. Richard, Shovels and Grooben get together to sample four British beers over 7.5%, and debate the state of UK alcohol taxation (along with vikings, addictive coffee and why you can never lose a greyhound). The four strong beers we drink responsibly are:- Sinclair Orkney Skull Splitter (8.5%), Traquair House Jacobite Ale (8.0%), Thornbridge St Petersburg (7.7%), and BrewDog Abstrakt AB:06 (11.2%). Fight the power!

1. Orkney Skull Splitter
Sinclair Orkney Brewery, Quoyloo, Orkney Islands.
330ml glass bottle

Founded by Roger White in 1988, the award-winning Orkney brewery are another local producer who started in untypical surroundings – in this case an old school house in Sandwick. In June 2004 they merged with the Atlas Brewery of Kinlochleven, to form Highland and Islands Breweries – which in turn was taken over by the Sinclair Brewery Ltd in 2006. All the way back in January 2008, we sampled Orkney Dark Island as part of BeerCast #11. Drinkers in North America may know the brewery best for the very beer we’re sampling today – Skull Splitter is seemingly far more popular over the pond than back home.

What They Say
“Sophisticated, satiny smooth with a deceptively light character, it is a tribute to our colourful forbear Thorfinn Einarsson, the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Classic Skull Splitter aroma – sweet fruity caramel
Shovels – Not as syrupy as I remember, good balance
Grooben – I do like it but probably wouldn’t drink it much 6

2. Traquair Jacobite Ale
Traquair House Brewery, Innerleithen, Peeblesshire.
330ml glass bottle

Traquair House is an extremely impressive, and very old, country estate about an hour south of Edinburgh. Famed in Scottish history for it’s association with the Jacobites, it also contains a thriving microbrewery – which begun in the 18th Century, brewing for the estate workers. The 20th Laird of Traquair re-founded the brewery in 1965, and they specialise in Scottish styles – that are all rich, dark, and above all – strong.

What They Say
“Brewed to celebrate the anniversary of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion the ale proved to be so popular it has become a permanent addition to the range. Based on an eighteenth century recipe the ale is spiced with coriander which gives a remarkably fresh aftertaste.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Spices linger at the end, needs a bit more body 7
Richard – Not as spicy as I was expecting, it’s a nice old ale7
Grooben – Doesn’t bash you around the head for an 8%er 7

3. St Petersburg
Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire.
500ml glass bottle

The first Thornbridge beer to make it onto one of our BeerCasts was their chestnut honey ale Bracia, back in BeerCast #61. A 10% powerhouse of flavour, we’re following that with another of their big hitters – the fantastic Russian Imperial Stout St Petersburg (7.7%). We already know it’s fantastic, as it was awarded one of our much-prized Best New Beer Awards for 2010. Doesn’t mean we can’t put in on a podcast…

What They Say
“Rich and dark with smoke, subtle peatiness and the power of the dark malts. Molasses and liquorice and chocolate goodness all wrapped up in a smooth, warming liquid.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Black, roasty, creamy, chocolatey, smoky, love it 9
Shovels – Lovely flavours – one of my favourite beers
Grooben – Doesn’t have any bitterness at the back of the palate you get with some strong stouts

4. Abstrakt AB:06
BrewDog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
375ml glass bottle

BrewDog are without doubt the most talked-about brewery in Scotland, with their charismatic press releases and wacky ideas. Not afraid to experiment, there’s no denying they always elicit strong opinions. What is often overlooked amidst all the hoo-hah is that they have only been going for just over three years. Their ‘concept beer brand’ Abstrakt is already on the 7th version (a whisky aged Scotch Ale), the original, AB:01, made it to our most recent Beer of the Year Show, and AB:04 (a coffee, cacao and chili Imperial Stout) might just be the best beer they’ve ever made. Can AB:06 cut it?

What They Say
“AB06 is a 11.5% Imperial Black IPA which has been triple dry hopped. This beer is savage; boasting more bitterness and more hops than any BrewDog creation to date, combining loads of awesome malts and monumental amounts of our favourite hops.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – You can definitely tell it’s dry hopped, love those hops
Richard – Very good beer, this could be a great regular
Grooben – Decent, but I expected it to be better 7

– (clockwise from top left) Shovels, Grooben, Richard

BeerCast panel verdict
Thornbridge St Petersburg 26/30
BrewDog Abstrakt AB:06 24/30
Sinclair Orkney Skullsplitter 21/30
Traquair House Jacobite Ale 21/30

  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:

Please keep those comments and emails coming in, and check back in a couple of weeks for our next podcast. In the meantime, keep drinking those strong beers wherever you are. In the UK, you can sign this petition against the duty rise. For the BBC article on responsible drinking we discussed during this episode – click here. We’ll be continuing with our strong beer month right the way throughout October. Fight the power!