Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dark Arts

Dark Horse from Scottish Borders Brewery
It's Christmas. It's time for another dark beer review.

So, to the Borders badlands, a pure medieval Mad Max country where they lowered the drinking age to 12 cause of all the early deaths cause of all the fighting.  

It's a balancy thing, drinking and reviewing a Borders beer. For one, a bad review could prove fatal. Then there's the fact I'm supporting the local arms trade: breweries in this no man's land are notorious for trading their hand-crafted pale ale for plastic explosives and guns. The whole thing has as much ethics as blood diamonds, only with beer. 

Well there was no trace of iron or shrapnel or anything like that in this bloody Dark Horse from Scottish Borders Brewery. I did get hit in the face by an aroma of sweet chocolate though, packed with malty tones and sweet caramel, and pushing towards a hint of grass that minded me of a farm. Probably the one where they store their hops and malts alongside their RPGs and Kalashnikovs.

This Dark Horse poured silkily to a dark, ruby brown with a decent amount of carbonation. And behind its rich, dark appearance, the chocolate, caramel and hint of grass carried though, but brought with them a fragrance of orange peel and a pleasant hoppy bitterness that lingered but didn't dominate.

This is a solid, well-balanced winter pint, with lots going on. Unlike revenge, don't serve cold.

Would hoppily have again.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Four star review of Profanity Stout

View from the Flod, with the ghosts of beer past and present.
I ****ing love Williams Bros of Alloa. For me, they're the stars of the Scottish brewing world. All four of them.

I can mind, ****ing years ago, when I was a barman at the Flodigarry Hotel in Skye, the night one of their guys turned up with a vanload of Fraoch Heather Ale. It was a new thing, kind of, and I think the Williams boy was just touring the islands, punting it to hotels and bars as he went on his wonderful west coast odyssey.

We only took three cases, for starters. Or maybe that's the most we could take. Anyway, they were gone a few hours later, mostly cause my friend Gus MacQueen, a ****ing wild Skye man, took a dangerous liking to the ****ing heather ale.

In the almost 20 years since, Williams have ballooned and Heather Ale sells globally, but I've not seen any of my friends the MacQueen brothers for a decade or so. Time, the auld enemy. Doesn't stand still for no ****.

[I will get to the ****ing beer review, just show a bit of ****ing respect, for ****'s sake. Or, if you've really no patience, just click here.] 

Flodigarry in Staffin was where I learnt to drink whisky, where I learnt how blindingly ****ing stupid it is to try to match Skye folk pint for pint, nip for nip, and where charging 15p for dashes of coke or lemonade is morally ****ing wrong, and it makes you a ****.

Anyway, that time when the Heather Ale hit, the MacQueens and me - a post-work half-bottle in - took a midnight stomp up the Quiraing to catch the sunrise. We climbed up through the low cloud and watched the sun rise through this sea of coloured cloud; the velvet peaks of the Trotternish ridge rising through the red and yellow, orange and purple. We scree-ran down from this magnificence and back to their croft for a ****ing awesome breakfast. 

Sadly, the Flod isn't what it used to be. Last time I was there, the worn, wooden benches and tatty cushions had been replaced by metal garden chairs. Gone was the wild, wilderness pub I once loved, turned into a ****ing soulless bistro. Haven't been back since.

But I'd like to think the ****wit owner's seen the light or ****ed off, that the bar is once again a proper bar, that this proper bar still remembers its auld links to Williams Bros, and that my friends the MacQueens Bros are in there, dropping whisky bombs into pints of draught Double Joker IPA or necking bottles of the ****ing magical Profanity Stout. 

I like pretty much all of Williams Bros beer, but for me, the darker and stronger the better. And they don't come much darker or stronger than Profanity Stout.

With the cap off, the smell of sweet hops and coffee rolled off the roasted malt aroma, and it poured like black coffee. On the taste, you get coffee and plums, a velvety bitterness that's balanced finely with the sweet malts.

A splendid, splendid drink. Gets four stars. Would hoppily have again.