Category Archives: Ale

Dark Beer on the Brain

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The beer side of my blog has been rather neglected over the past couple of months, possibly because my work-life-balance is a bit hectic at the moment and I’ve also been exploring wine more and more. However over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried some FANTASTIC beer that I just have to shout about. All of these beers are available to buy around Edinburgh and I’d seriously suggest giving them a go if you like Real Ale/dark beers.

Dark Island Reserve, Orkney Brewery

If you’re a Real Ale drinker in Scotland you’ve probably heard of Orkney Brewery and if you drink dark beer, you’ve probably heard of Dark Island. Orkney Brewery have used their hugely popular Dark Island Ale and matured it in Orkney malt whisky casks to create a beautifully strong, incredibly rich aged ale.

The high ABV of the ale (10%) means that the ale is designed to be enjoyed much like a liqueur or whisky and the bottling of the beer reflects this. The beer therefore has a much longer shelf life than a usual beer. Dark Island Reserve still has all the desirable flavours you’d expect from the original ale; dates, spices, heavy chocolate, coffee and a hint of acidity but also has the added richness and woodiness from the whisky.

Dark Island Reserve is a truly beautiful beer and although I’ve finished the bottle there is a 100% chance I’ll be buying another bottle closer to Christmas. It’s the perfect ale to savour after a long winter walk with my spaniel and I would recommend this beer to anyone that likes whisky and dark beer.

Icelandic Toasted Porter, Einstok Brewery

I saw this in a shop window and was firstly intrigued by the idea of an Icelandic brewery and then realised it was a toasted porter and HAD to try some, I’m so glad I did! The Brewery is located only 60 miles from the Arctic Circle and the water used in the brews run through prehistoric glaciers which produce some of the purest water in the world. This element could explain the clarity and crispness of the ale.

The Toasted Porter is absolutely beautiful, a thoroughly enjoyable beer.  There are obvious notes of toffee and chocolate but the beer appears to remain light and extremely smooth. It is malty and very easy to drink, I’d recommend this even to those that don’t drink dark beer. My fiance for example is not a fan of ale at all and found this really enjoyable.

We bought a couple of other Einstok beers too; Icelandic Dopplebock and White Ale, both of which are definitely worth trying but my heart lies with dark beers so the Toasted Porter was my favourite.

Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing Co

This is one of the most awesome beers I’ve had in a long time, seriously! I bought a milk stout a couple of months ago from a brewery I’d never heard of and it really wasn’t good, I mean it was rank. So I was a bit dubious when the shop assistance recommended another milk stout. I’m not one to judge so I thought I’d give it a go.

This milk stout is sweet, totally smooth and incredibly drinkable – even pouring it into a glass was a great experience! Left Hand Brewing Co is based in Colorado in the US and I’m quickly coming round to the idea that America are making some incredible craft beers.

Back to the beer – the stout is really, really creamy without being TOO creamy and the more you drink the more you get of a lovely warming coffee flavour, I love a beer that develops! I promise you’ll be able to drink bottles and bottles of this but be careful because its medium-to-high ABV (6%) is amazingly disguised. After having a look on their website I discovered that the beer has won a load of awards, apparently it’s not just me that thinks this beer is brilliant.

Coconut Porter, Maui Brewery

I spotted a can (yes, a can) of this in one of the fridges at the Bow Bar in Edinburgh and couldn’t resist. The can was rather expensive but you only live once and how often do you see a beer brewed in Hawaii.

I really enjoyed this beer but I must admit I was a tiny bit disappointed by the depth of taste. I’ve tried a couple of Coconut Porters in the past included the brew by Stewart’s Brewery, which is really good. I have to admit I compared it a little. I think the thing that threw me the most was the fact that it was heavily carbonated, I think the coconut flavour is a lot more evident in a cask beer. The beer did however have a wonderful texture, especially considering it came out of a can! You still get hints of everything you should, malt, coffee and of course coconut.

There you have it, as you can see I’m having a bit of a moment with dark beers – I think it’s the impending winter and cold weather. Hopefully the response to this blog post will encourage me to blog more about my adventures with beer (and then I get to drink more beer too obviously).

Let me know if you’ve tried any of the above beers and tell me what you thought, beer tasting is very subjective and I’m always interesting to see what other flavours people get from the beers. Happy beer drinking!

I’ve got my Anorak on, have you?

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I know, I know the blog has been severely neglected over the past couple of months and my only excuse is that I’ve been extremely busy with weddings, family dos, doggy-sitting and work.

Truth be told, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately and as I’ve got to do so much writing in my day job sometimes I don’t have the energy to come home and write even more. I promise I’ll be better though.

To celebrate a long, healthy working week I decided to treat myself by spending some of my payday money on some nice beers I haven’t tried before. I’ve found a new beer shop down the road from my flat that has a great selection of yummy-looking beers.

I was in a hoppy mood so I picked a couple of my favourite hoppy beers and a couple I hadn’t tried before. Anorak, one of the beers I chose, promises to be a thirst quenching summer wheat beer, naturally cloudy and was exactly what I was after on that particularly stuffy and humid day.

Well what can I say about Anorak? It was everything I expected in a good way, and had a lovely full palate with a mouthful of citrus, tangerine and grassy goodness. It also had some lovely notes of wheat and yeast without feeling too heavy. The best thing about Anorak is the mix of juicy flavours combined with a gorgeous clean, crisp finish. This beer was so tasty that boyfriend even had a sip and he’s not a fan of hoppy beers at all. Anorak actually tasted slightly lager like, fizzy and refreshing.

Whilst I was supping on my tasty beer I had a little look at the label and discovered that Anorak is part of the Natural Selection Brewing project. The project has been set up by some Heriot-Watt MSc students at the International Centre of Brewing and Distilling. The project is designed for the students to produce, brand and market a beer that will ultimately be sold in and around Edinburgh. How cool is that!?

Anorak was produced at Stewarts Brewery and launched in July at the Stockbridge Tap. They also released a one off cask of ‘snozberry’ Anorak, don’t ask me what it would taste like but the Anorak guys assure us that:

This cask has been packed full of fresh snozberries which Willy Wonka has assured us will complement the refreshing characteristics of Anorak with a delicious fruity flavour and aroma, never before seen in a Scottish beer. Anorak website

The beer is made using several different hops and is dry-hopped to produce and extra hoppy beer (wow that’s a lot of hops in one sentance). You’ve got to love it, a tasty wheat beer made by beer geeks and produced in my own home, Edinburgh. Very impressed with this beer, well done guys!

Anybody else tried Anorak, what did you think? If you’ve got any recommendations for nice hoppy beers I might not have tried please let me know!

Pudding in a Bottle

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Orkney's Clootie Dumpling

I usually steer away from flavoured beers. The flavours are commonly overpowering and they are sickly sweet, however I’d already picked up a Crabbies (shut up it’s tasty) so decided another sweet beer wouldn’t hurt. Orkney’s Clootie Dumping ale caught my eye, mostly because of the tasty looking dessert on the bottle and a little because Orkney aren’t the type to do a tacky flavoured beer.

Orkney are one of my favourite Scottish breweries and brew a couple of old favourites that I used to serve regularly at the bar I worked in throughout university. They are quite a traditional brewery in terms of the ale they produce and don’t normally experiment with extreme flavours or hops. Orkney’s Clootie Dumpling isn’t an exception to this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely beer but it’s not something that is going to blow your mind.

Clootie Dumpling is a traditional Scottish dessert made with flour, breadcrumbs, dried fruit, suet, sugar and spices, the beer has been produced to match these flavours. Bearing these flavours in mind, when I opened the beer I was expected a rich, thick dark stout or porter. Instead the ale is toffee in colour and light in texture. I also expected a thick, heavy head but was instead met with a frothy light foam that quickly disintegrated.

On the nose the ale has a wonderful aroma of banana, cinnamon and ginger. It has a subtle smell of lager and doesn’t smell entirely as an ale usually does. It also smells a lot like a ginger beer and shares the same texture as a ginger beer or cider would have. It has the smell of a very light amber with some added yeastiness.

The aromas follow through in taste with some added spiciness and the flavour of fried fruit to match the characteristics of the traditional Clootie Dumpling. I lost the taste of banana that was so present in the smell, which is a little disappointing but there is enough going on with this beer to keep me interested. Something that I definitely didn’t expect from this beer (judging by the packaging and description) was that it would be a really easy drinking beer. It’s has a low abv. (4.2%) and is light enough in flavour to be a session ale but it is definitely more interesting that your standard IPA or light ale. The spiciness is kept in the aftertaste and in that way reminds me again of a ginger beer.

It’s not your typical seasonal ale and I definitely don’t think it represents Winter; maybe Autumn. It’s really nice to be surprised by the labeling which originally gave me the impression that it would be a sickly sweet dessert beer.  It is subtle, sweet but not too sweet and was a very nice beer, if I do say so myself. I put of swig of it in my Shepherds pie and drunk the rest. If this sounds like the beer for you, get in there quick as it won’t be around after early February.

The Hangover 2: Black Isle Brewery Shindig

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Last weekend was the Black Isle Brewery Shindig which was to celebrate the opening of their brand spanking new brewery. After a tedious 3 hour drive to the Black Isle we arrived to find a chilled-out group of people drinking beer and celebrating this great company. I wanted to take the time to congratulate the brewery on a fantastic and successful weekend. I also wanted to complement them on their company values on sustainability and for creating products that are ecological and environmentally friendly (and tasty too). Their beer is consistently good and exciting and their laid back attitude really comes through in the beer as it did at the Shindig. I heard a rumour that there might be another one in September? DO IT, I’ll be there! Thanks for having us all and keep up the good work!

SAVE THE PLANET, DRINK ORGANIC!

Black Isle Brewery Summer Shindig

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On the 4th of June I will be taking my boyfriend, dog, tent, and cool box down to the Black Isle Brewery Shindig for a hog roast followed by copious amounts of organic Black Isle beer. I thought I might tell you a little bit about their beers before I drink the brewery dry.

Black Isle brewery brew a number of different beers, you can see their full selection here. However here are a few of my favourite beers:

Organic Goldeneye Pale Ale 5.1% abv – a tangy, hoppy pale ale using sweet floral hops. A refreshing take on traditional pale ale. It is great on keg – the added fizz brings out the hops and gives this beer its edge.

Organic Hibernator Export Oatmeal Stout 7.0% abv – I just tried this one a couple of nights ago for the first time and let me just say, wow. This beer is FULL of flavour (treacle, liquorice and forest fruits) and the best thing about it is you can taste the oatmeal. It is sweet, full-flavoured and filling. Apparently the fermentation process is much like that of champagne.

Black Isle Organic Red Kite Ale 4.2% abv – I have a soft spot for this beer as it’s the first ale my boyfriend has liked (saying that he drank Black Isle Blonde before, we just gave him a little nudge). This red ale is light and malty with bursts of lemon and orange. A lovely alternative to Black Isle Blonde and other light lagers.

Black Isle Organic Vanilla Porter  – Black Isle Brewery’s best kept secret. The Tap has been pleading for them to make this for months and months and finally (shhhh though – if we boast too much we might scare them away!) they are going to brew us a batch (or 2). I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting this yet but my colleagues have and according to my American teammate it is “ohhhhh myyyyy gaaaaaad!!!” I’m not sure I will be announcing the arrival of this to our customers…. I want it all for myself mwahh ha haaa.

So, if you’re out and about and see Black Isle Brewery beer give it a try, rest assured you will not be disappointed. SAVE THE PLANET, DRINK ORGANIC!

Chocolate Drops of Rain

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To celebrate my last hand-in for university, my boyfriend took me to the newly opened Edinburgh Brewdog Bar. Luckily I know the general manager and she lovingly recommended Choklat Stout by the Southern Tier Brewing Company  and can I say, well done Southern Tier, well done.

When describing this Choklat Stout, Southern Tier refers to the sacred book of Maya, which mentions a mystical beverage known as xocoati or ch-co-atle. It is thought that liquid chocolate was worthy enough to be drank by gods and goddesses. Today, chocolate is still thought of as a luxurious indulgence and what better way to celebrate its wonderful flavour than by putting it in an alcoholic beverage!

Southern Tier have created a drink that will ‘tempt your senses & renew the power & interrelation of history in every bottle.’ Let me tell you, it did the job.

Southern Tier Choklat Stout, Imperial Chocolate Stout 11%

Branding 

The stout comes in a larger bottle than usual, an almost wine-like bottle which happily fills two serving glasses like the two in the picture above. The American brewing company Southern Tier has very modern branding and labeling, using bold fonts and simplistic features. The label is decorated with four pieces of chocolate, emphasising this predominant flavour. The label includes serving suggestions and tasting notes which I’m not sure are relevant and I don’t like being told what I should taste but nevermind. The label also provides a explanation of what exactly is in this beer. 2-row barley, caramel 60 malt, barley flakes, chocolate malt, bittersweet Belgium chocolate and kettle hops: chinook and willamette to be exact.

Appearance

It is very, very dark, almost black in colour and has a viscous swirl to its texture. I would describe it as a muddy chocolate colour. It does not pour much of a head but that might have something to do with the glass it is served in.

Nose

It has an obviously distinct Belgian chocolate smell with notes of creamy latte-like coffee. The smell has some lovely layers to it and is sweet but bitter and strong yet light. The sweet Stout smell is also apparent although the chocolate is an overpowering scent.

Taste

Much like the smell, the taste of this beer comes in splendid layers. First is a bitter cocoa taste, like a dark chocolate bar with 80%+ cocoa, the beer is definitely a stout. This then softens into a lovely fluffy and sweet marshmellowy taste which coats the throat and pleases the tongue. After arrives that distinct Belgian chocolate taste, that came through so much in the smell and lingers on whilst sipping more. Lastly, the stout definitely hints towards a lambic style finish, ending again with a bitterness that balances out everything.

After a full glass I must admit I am rather happy (hic) and would say I wouldn’t like to finish the bottle myself. However this lovely bubble of marshmallow, Belgium chocolate, cocoa and caramel is something not to be missed and without a doubt is a gorgeous and memorable choklat stout.

CharlieSaysBeer

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Hi!

I’m Charlie, I like beer. Find out more about me in the beer pour moi merci section and please follow me on twitter @charlieward07

I’m using this site to make a note of the beers I try and if I liked them and if I should have them again. If you know me, the site will also be used to contain my excessive ramblings about food/life/dogs etc.

Have fun.