Thursday, November 19, 2015

Beer Review: Loch Lomond Silkie Stout - Champion Cask Beer of Scotland

Silkie Stout by Loch Lomond Brewery
Silkie Stout by Loch Lomond Brewery

What a result for Fiona and Euan MacEachern and the team at Loch Lomond Brewery! The Alexandria-based brewery took four golds and the Champion Cask Beer of Scotland prize at last week's SIBA Scotland beer contest. 
The bash took place at in Glasgow's Drygate, and while Fiona admits to having had an underlying optimism about Silkie Stout given its consistently good feedback, in no way were she and her team prepared for such a hefty haul. Their superb Silkie Stout, which won the Champion Cask Beer of Scotland, was picked out from more than 100 beers from 36 breweries.
It’s a brilliant result for the Alexandria-based brewery, which only launched in 2011. In the four years since, they’ve built a reputation for consistently good beer that caters to both traditional drinkers (see Silkie Stout and their 80/- Kessog), and hop-lovers (try gold winners Bravehop IPA and Southern Summit). 
It’s also a huge thumbs-up from those in the trade. The 50 or so judges at the Society of Independent Brewers event included brewers, bar owners, hoteliers, bloggers and other assorted beer lovers. It was, says Fiona, “just fantastic”, to get this sort of recognition from such a large swathe of industry peers. It also gives Loch Lomond a solid platform from which to develop their “massive plans for the brewery” over the next couple of years.
Taking silver overall was Seven Peaks Mosaic IPA, brewed by Drygate’s Jake Griffin. After honing his brewing skills at Fyne Ales, he must have been delighted to have seen off their classic Jarl, a ubiquitous presence in winner’s lists at beer festivals. Jarl took bronze overall, gold in the Standard Bitters and Pale Ale round and gold in the Champion bottled beer category.
The winners of each heat go through to the UK-wide Beer X bash in Sheffield in March.

Six Gold Winning Beers

Silkie Stout by Loch Lomond Brewery (5%)
Sweet and smooth with aromas of coffee and chocolate, Scotland’s champion cask ale also has hints of dark berries, caramel and liquorice. Easy to drink it’s also sufficiently layered to please the beer geeks. The long, dry finish will have you coming back for more.
Seven Peaks Mosaic IPA by Drygate Brewery (5%)
Winner of the Strong Bitters and Pale Ales round, Seven Peaks takes its name from the jaggy roof of the Drygate building. It’s a belter of an IPA; heavy on the hops with heaps of tropical fruits – melon, peach and citrus - from the titular mosaic hops. Finishes bitter with a bit of caramel malt helping to round it off.
Jarl by Fyne Ales (3.8%)
If Jarl were a person this golden-coloured ale would surely be crushed under the weight of prizes heaped upon what is one of Scotland’s most popular beers. It’s crisp, clean and refreshing, with citrus and floral hops to the front. Its Imperial big brother Ragnorak (7.4%) won gold in the Premium Strong round.
Weizen by Windswept Brewing Co (5.2%)
Windswept’s take on the German style hefeweizen won the SIBA Speciality Beer round. Flavours of caramel malt and earthy citrus, as well as an inviting combination of banana and cloves, typical of the wheat beer style.
Pale Ale by Swannay Brewery (4.7%)
More amber than pale, Swannay’s prize-winning ale took the Gold for Premium Bitters and Pale Ales. It’s a citrus hop-forward beer, with a rich aroma that also carries pine and floral notes. Held together marvellously by a sweet biscuit-flavoured malt that leads you to a balanced bitter finish.
Fathom by Jaw Brew (4.0%)
Fathom won the Standard Mild Ales & Brown Ales, and pours the colour of coal black, with just a hint of colour coming through. Flavours of coffee, smoke, treacle and dark berries in this waxy and malt-heavy brew.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beer review: Bloody 'Ell IPA

Dug this one from the Herald archive. Really I should wait until spring 2016 ... when Beavertown release their awesome Bloody Ell orange laden beer. But then, it's good to build a bit of anticipation ...

If you haven't tried any of Beavertown's beer, you really ought to. And if you have had some of their beers - the wickedly delicious Black Betty IPA or dangerously drinkable Neck Oil IPA, for example - chances are you're waiting for their super-selling seasonal IPA Bloody 'Ell to hit the shelves again.

Blood 'Ell is fantastic; a must-try beer made from blood oranges and Amarillo and Citra hops. Don't expect stocks to last when they start arriving in March.

Beavertown have only been around for a few years, but they're easily one of the stars of the great beer renaissance we're living through - one of the 50 or so breweries to open in London in the past five years.

Owner Logan Plant is the son of rock god Robert Plant, but it's safe to say Beavertown have got to where they are on the merits of beers: since starting up in 2011, they've produced collaboration brews with the likes of Dogfish, Mikkeller and BrewDog, and their brewing staff cut their teeth at leading London breweries such as Redchurch and Kernel.

Beavertown's beers have bold flavours and big characters, reflected in their distinctive artwork and branding. The cans, literally, have that feelgood factor.

A lot of their specials often don't make it this far north (and when they do they go fast) but Beavertown's core range - see below - is pretty widely available in good beer shops and online.

Bloody 'Ell is a romp through the senses. The aroma on this powerful IPA is tropical resin hops with heaps of mandarins and a drop of toffee. It's just delicious. For the gardeners, you'll recognise the smell of mock orange.

Pouring it - best not to drink it from the can - gives you a thick frothy off-white head, while below it's amber gold that's opaque like jelly.

Tasting it is a trip. The oranges are there in force but so too is a grapefruit tang and crisp pomegranate - at 7.2%, the alcohol is fairly noticeable too. Then it eases; a light biscuit malt balances the rich juiciness delivering a mellow smoothness before this IPA settles into a medium dry finish that's big on bitterness but also gives you salt and spices round the edges.

No way is this a session ale, it's a hop-forward, citrus heavy IPA for savouring.

Five other Beavertown beers

Black Betty black IPA (7.4%)

A spicy and strong black IPA that bam-a-lams the competition. A beautiful balance of rich roasted malts, hefty tropical, citrus and stonefruit hops. An absolute belter of a beer and a personal favourite.

Smog Rocket smoked porter (5.4%)

Bitter coffee and dark chocolate malt with the bittersweet finish evolving from a tart hoppiness. There's a salty character here, but also a touch of cherry. It pours black like the colour of Marlboro Man's lungs.

8 Ball IPA (6.2%)

A big bold and potent IPA with plenty or rye and aromas of American hops. Pours amber with peach, pine and caramel flavours. Takes its name because the brewers weighed down the bags of hops with pool balls.

Gamma Ray American pale ale (5.4%)

Deliciously juicy and dangerously drinkable, Gamma Ray is a pale ale with big tropical aromas and flavours of mango and grapefruit. Too strong to be a session ale, sadly.

Neck Oil IPA (4.3%)

Beavertown's session IPA. An easy-drinking beer with light citrus and resin hops and enough balance and bitterness to leave you a long and pleasant finish.