Friday, October 09, 2015

Beer Review: Aldi Winter Beer Festival

Lochtober Fest by Loch Lomond Brewery
Lochtober Fest by Loch Lomond Brewery
Aldi have long been supportive of Scottish breweries, and they've smashed it again with another sensational line-up of ales for its Scottish Winter Beer Festival. 
The best festival kicked last week, and since then Aldi's Scottish stores have been filling their shelves with beers from the majority of Scottish breweries - 50 in total. The beers, from breweries such as Williams, Cairngorm and Inveralmond, are a sterling representation of the world-class ales and lagers being produced in our wee country.
Fans of good beer are in for some treats, with beers such as Alechemy’s Red Rye IPA, Top Out's Copperheid and Windswept's Wolf; but the festival is also a terrific way for Scotland’s breweries to showcase their core beers to drinkers reluctant to make the step away from bland, mass-produced beer. The offering reflects the many different types of beer styles, hops, malts and methods being used across Scotland, from traditional British bitters to hop-heavy IPAs, oatmeal ales to bourbon barrel-aged beers.
It’s also a prime example of how large retailers should be co-operating with small producers. Brewery after brewery praised Aldi for the support it has given to Scotland's craft breweries, highlighting the open and collaborative stance it has taken - an insight as refreshing as the beers themselves. Aldi’s beer buyers Michael Whiteford and Kirsty Reid were singled out for praise.
Isla Mercer of Lerwick Brewery said: “Aldi’s beer festivals are a fantastic initiative that allow smaller breweries to showcase their beers and reach a much larger audience than they normally would. It's great from a consumer point of view to be able to have such a broad selection of quality Scottish products so easily available. Aldi are to be congratulated for putting in so much work to promote local, Scottish produce in their stores.”
Some beard-lovers, of course, may grumble that the line-up doesn't carry enough of the darker beers, such as porters and stouts, traditionally drunk as winter creeps closer. It's a valid critique, though the success of Aldi's beer festivals suggests they know what they're doing; while the beer curation is in fact a reflection of what the breweries themselves want to showcase. It was an assertion repeated by the likes of Williams Brothers, Drygate, Inveralmond, Black Metal Brewery, West Brewery, Tempest, Top Out, Barney’s, Cairngorm, Alechemy, Loch Lomond, Cromarty and so on
Beer drinkers after small-batch specials, spicy porters and the likes, your local independent beer shop will be delighted to help you.
But pedantic grumbles aside, this supermarket beer festival is an outstanding opportunity to access a wide range of Scotland's craft breweries, often thought of - incorrectly - as too pricy or elitist. The beers are priced from £1.29 to £1.99. 
Hopefully this festival and the ones to follow will encourage more people to think craft and to think Scottish. So, while it feels unfair to pick out a handful of beers from such a great selection, here are:

Lochtober Fest by Loch Lomond Brewery (5%)
The soft fruity aroma gives little away but inside is a little beer treat. Amid the toffee and toast malts, you'll find fruity and mild spiced flavours in this amber-coloured boch style beer, with the taste conjuring up the scent of an autumnal orchard.

Easy Livin Pils by Tempest Brewery (5%)
Proof that Czechs don’t have the rights to great pilsners, Tempest’s lager is honey, apricot and citrus on a light biscuit malt. Delicate and subtle with a brilliantly crisp and bitter finish.

Bourbon Barrel by Eden Brewery (6.5%)
Sweet, spirited and well rounded, this is easily one of Eden's best beers and a brilliant choice for them to showcase. The toffee and dark chocolate sit very well with the rich oaky flavours from the bourbon.

Orkney Blast by Highland Brewing Company (6%)
A potent pale ale with a sensational nose of summer woodland. Tastes of mandarin, nectarine and caramel malt with the citrus becoming ever more pronounced as you move towards a well-rounded finish.

Redact Red Lager by Williams Brother Brewery (4.4%)
A lovely little beer that comes in easy-drinking 330ml bottles. The addition of darker amber malts to the lager style is a nice touch as the toffee flavours blend easily with the citrus and autumn fruit aroma and mildly bitter finish.

6.2 IPA by Broughton Ales (6.2%)
Bid, bold and brilliant, you really ought to buy two. It’s probably worth trying the Knops IPA too for comparison. Oh, and you’ll need some of BrewDog's Jack Hammer while you're at it.

Here’s the full line-up:
West Brewing Co, St Mungo Lager
Williams Brothers, Redact Red Lager
Deeside Brewery, LAF Californian steam beer
Tempest Brewery, Easy Livin Pils
Lerwick Brewery, 60 Degree North Lager
Burnside Brewery, Wild Rhino Blonde
Belhaven Brewery, Speyside Oak Aged Blonde Ale
Cairngorm Brewery, Trade Winds
Highland Brewing Co, Orkney Blast
Jaw Brewing, Glide Ale
Sulwaith Brewers, Galloway Gold
Orkney Brewery, Corncrake Ale
Top Out Brewery, Copperheid Ale
Traquair House Brewery, Bear Ale
Archerfield Fine Ales, Archerfield Golden Ale
Black Metal Brewery, Yggdrasil
Wooha Brewery, Wooha IPA
Windswept Brewing Co, Wolf
Spey Valley Brewery, Stillman’s IPA
St Andrews Brewery, Oatmeal Pale
Knops Beer Company, Knops IPA
BrewDog, Jack Hammer Ale
Ayr Brewing Co, Hiphopopotamus Hoppy Pale Ale
Cromarty Brewing Co, Happy Chappy
Scottish Borders Brewery, Elder Flower Ale
Houston Brewery, Crystal Ale
Caledonian Brewery, Bill’s beer
Hebridean brewing Co, Berserker Export Pale Ale
Barney's Beer, Volcano IPA
Drygate, Ax Man Rye IPA
Islay Ales, Angus Og Ale
Broughton Ales, 6.2 IPA
Inveralmond Brewery, Thrappledouser red ale
Isle of Mull Brewery, Terror of Tobermory
Stewart Brewing, Embra Ale
Arran Brewery, Arran Fireside
River Leven Ales, River Leven Dark
Kelburn Brewery, Ca’ Canny
Valhalla Brewery, Old Scotness
Mor Brewing, Mor Tea, Vicar
Speyside Craft Brewery, Bottlenose Bitter
Loch Ness Brewery, Spookyness
Isle of Skye Brewery, Skye Red
Brewmeister, Pump’d Ale
Loch Lomond Brewery, Lochtoberfest festival ale
Alechemy Brewing Co, Five Sisters Red IPA
Black Wolf Brewery, Florida Black
Eden Mill Brewery, Bourbon Barrel

Strathaven Ales, Ginger JockOban Bay Brewery, Skelpt Lug

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