Tag Archives: from Scotland

Heather Ales ‘Grozet’

Heather Ales 'Grozet'
Heather Ales 'Grozet'

As you’d probably guess, we buy a lot of beer at work. And frequently, it seems we fill in the corners of an order with some half-dozens of especially random stuff. Because why not?

Peter and I were working one Saturday afternoon,1 and these things were staring at us from the fridge, prompting questions for which we didn’t even have the beginnings of answers. Perhaps the Overboss (being mostly-Scottish) was already familiar with it when he ordered it, or maybe he was just being nostalgic and whimsical. But it was a mystery to us, and the Blessed Internets were contradictory in their reports and thereby less help than usual. So, being good empiricists, we just had one. And being publicly-minded learners-of-things, we also cut in those people with the unanswerable questions. That did carve a 330ml bottle into a half-dozen shares, but what we lacked in per-person sample size, we made up in roundtable (or over-bar) discussion.

Handily, this both mild, and weird — two things which are usually enough to stimulate controversy and conversation on their own. I’m a fan of both factors, in general, but only half warmed to this — I certainly didn’t enjoy it as much as the weirder beers by the same brewery, which also makes ales flavoured with heather and pine. I should elaborate on my Diary note: I don’t only like my weird beers to be very-weird — the favourable comparisons Dave (from Hashigo) and I were drawing for this were to Nøgne Ø’s lemongrass ale, which I’d had relatively-recently — but I wanted this to be weirder. It would’ve suited being weirder; not being moreso tipped the mildness dangerously close to unforgiveable limpness.

And damn, “weird” is another one of those words that look weird when you type them or read them too-many times in quick succession. Appropriately enough, I suppose.

Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale
Diary II entry #86, Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale

Verbatim: Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale 9/4/11 random bottle @ MH. 330ml ÷ 6 including Peter, Dave & Denise. From the brewery who make the heather Fraoch and the pine Alba. This was controversial in the crowd. Dave would buy a keg, Denise thought it was too… nothing, normal. I’m half way. I like weird, but I want weirder. Nose was better than taste — tinned pineapple, says Pete.

1: Er, Saturday the 9th of April 2011, obviously. As you can tell from the datestamp. But I’m writing this on a Thursday evening in June. Which shows you how bad the backlog has gotten. This time-travelling posting-plan does my head in sometimes, self-inflicted as it is.

BrewDog ‘5am Saint’

BrewDog ‘5am Saint’
BrewDog ‘5am Saint’

BrewDog aren’t all about the stunt beer and over-the-top prankish gimmickry. They aren’t even all about brewing at the stronger end of the spectrum. They do happen to do both of those things particularly well, but they don’t neglect the more-everday stuff, either. I really liked ‘The Physics’, an amber ale I discovered a few years ago (and which the Malthouse imported a few cases of in our metric-tonne-haul), so when I stumbled upon a bottle of this, I snapped it up.

They’re pretty freewheeling about their range, but it looks like ‘5am Saint’ has basically taken the place of The Physics as their amber ale and so inherited its livery. The label notation has changed from “laid back” to “iconoclastic”, and that about sums it up; the fruity flavours have gone from smooth and delicious to smooth, delicious and weird — the tartness takes a leap upwards, turning the subtle curranty flavour in The Physics into berryish, plummy snap. It’s a nice little sipper — the weirdness isn’t overdone, I mean — and as it warmed up I found that the bigger maltier, bordering-on-chocolatey tones started to stand out among the amicable little gathering of flavours.

And then, when I was filing my photos ready for upload, I noticed the the photo I took of this was spookishly-reminiscent of my most-recent other BrewDog, the ‘Rip Tide’ Imperial Stout. Unintentional, but kinda neat.

BrewDog ‘5am Saint’
Diary II entry #64, BrewDog ‘5am Saint’

Verbatim: BrewDog ‘5am Saint’ 23/2/11 from NWT, at MH after some Beer Menu v3 work. I did really like ‘The Physics’, so thought I’d try this. Replacement or companion? Not sure. Definitely weirder fruity flavours in there. Berryish, but bigger + rounder + almost plummy. Tartness in the face, rather than sweet. 5% 330ml Smoother chocolatey side emerges as it warms.

BrewDog ‘Rip Tide’ Imperial Stout

BrewDog 'Rip Tide' Imperial Stout
BrewDog 'Rip Tide' Imperial Stout

I normally try not to have too-many ‘new’ strong beers in a single day, but New Year’s is New Year’s, so what the hell? I’d been looking forward to this for a while, and was still happily perched at the bar in the window, so the randoms mostly ignored me and there was room for a slowly rotating roster of friends and workmates to join me.

I was getting concerned about the Plural Big Beers problem because this stout tasted rather fruity, to me, which isn’t entirely usual. Ordinarily, if you had to guess, you’d expect a stout to be dominated by dark, roasted coffee and chocolate flavours — and they are definitely in there, they’re just not being far-and-away the loudest men in the room like they normally are. I thought maybe the fruit flavours from my just-previous pale ale were confusing me, so I conducted a little impromtu tasting panel of anyone nearby — partially also to show off what a lovely beer I had and therefore what a clever shopper I was — and we all basically concurred.

Not quite as massively boozy or as loopily-different as their marvellous ‘Paradox’ stouts, this is still a great testament to the cleverness of the BrewDog boys by being a properly solid strong stout which is set apart from its peers with that complex and fruity sideline.

Verbatim: BrewDog ‘Rip Tide’ Imperial Stout 31/12/10 $10ish @ NWT 330ml 8% 10.40pm and the bar is filling up with randoms. I’m hiding @ the window with Robot, Caleb & Staff as they get their breaks. Pours utter blackness, as you’d hope / expect. Not all coffee / choc, to me; quite a bit of fruit, though that could be IPA holdovers. I’m breaking my own rules about Plural Big Beers on a Night, but it’s New Year’s, so wtf. Raisin-y? Blackcurrant-y? Pieta has it as Black Forest, minus the chocolate. The stouty bigness is there, but its edges are very different, which is oodles of fun. No coffee, says Robot, but it’s like warm good chocolate to her. She’s on Stonecutter, so her ‘fruitiness’ bar will be calibrated differently. Peter, who had a Stonecutter last night (but not right now) favourably compares it to such. Aren’t we all rather clever?

BrewDog 'Rip Tide'
BrewDog 'Rip Tide', serving suggestion
BrewDog 'Rip Tide'
Diary II entry #51.1, BrewDog 'Rip Tide'
BrewDog 'Rip Tide'
Diary II entry #51.2, BrewDog 'Rip Tide'

BrewDog ‘Paradox: Isle of Arran’

BrewDog 'Paradox: Isle of Arran'
BrewDog 'Paradox: Isle of Arran'

My Christmas Day was a rather relaxed affair, this year. Less of my already-smallish family was in town than usual, so things were toned right down, presents were waived entirely, and my sister and I spent a good few hours taking my niece / her daughter for a bike ride and a muck-around in the park. The flatmates were also out of town, so I came back into the City late at night to feed the Cat and treat myself to some nice quiet time with a good beer and a good book. I paired this, one of BrewDog’s ‘Paradox’ series of whisky-barrel-aged stouts, with Surface Detail, the newest book by the equally-Scottish Iain Banks — who himself had basically introduced me to whisky with an earlier (non-fiction) book of his. The hot summer day had turned into a crisp and clearish night, and Catface (evidently happy to have company) plonked herself nearby on the deck and just mooed at me occasionally, as she does. It all went together bloody marvellously; a fine present-to-self.

Malthouse had imported two of the other ‘Paradoxes’ the previous year, and the contrasts among them are a staggeringly awesome testament to the richly varied world of Scotch — each is aged in barrels from a different distillery, and the stout is absolutely transformed in unique and well-worth-finding-out ways. The ‘Smokehead’ version (with somehow-varied whisky barrels suspected to be from Ardbeg) tasted appropriately enormously of smoke — somehow glorious, righteous smoke, like you’d get standing nearby the burning houses of your enemies, I said at the time — and the ‘Springbank’ edition was just propelled into all-around massive flavourful heights, with all sorts of lovely richness biffed in at speed and with purpose.

This one was comparatively ‘confronting’ — really quite a full-on spicy nose to it, with borderline-concerning funky edges that defied pinning-down. It’s a deliciously and seriously complex kind of a thing; something of a fight to get to know properly, but damn well worth it.

Verbatim: BrewDog ‘Paradox’ — Isle of Arran 25/10/10 10% @ Home. $10+? [Actually $15] from NWT. Out on the deck, with the latest Banks book, which seemed apt. We loved the Paradoxes at work, so I had to get this. Very different. Smokehead was righteous fire; Springbank was enormous lushness, this is actually quite confronting. There’s a funky, feisty tartness to it. Spicy, gingery, rough woody. The ‘funk’ in the nose is almost off-putting, but you’re rewarded for getting past it. Not that it’s a struggle, but the clangs on a few alarm bells get ready, at least. Hanging out here with Catface makes for a very civilised end to a nicely understated Christmas.

BrewDog 'Paradox: Isle of Arran', the igloo joke
BrewDog 'Paradox: Isle of Arran', the igloo joke
BrewDog 'Paradox: Isle of Arran'
Diary II entry #44, BrewDog 'Paradox: Isle of Arran'

Orkney ‘Northern Light’

Orkney 'Northern Light'
Orkney 'Northern Light'

Verbatim: Another beer from the island that gives me my beloved Highland Park whisky. This was a Christmas present to myself, and enjoyed on the occasion of a big family barbeque when my Aunt and Uncle were over from Canada. It’s bordering on midstrength / sessionable at 4.0%, and is a very appealing bright ambery gold with nice fine bubbles that make for an enduring smooth head. It’s only very subtly hopped on the nose and has a wonderfully fresh malt body to it. Loveliness, really.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: No proper Diary entry here, and even the photo was taken on a borrowed camera. Unaccountably, I hadn’t taken my bag with me out to the parents’ house. Habits are often very useful; it takes some doing to find a workaround when you don’t follow them, sometimes.

BrewDog ‘The Physics’

BrewDog 'The Physics'
BrewDog 'The Physics'

A wonderful little amber ale with a very nice silky and enduring froth on top — and so perfectly amber that it’d make for a good colour chart entry, or something to point to if someone doesn’t know what the word means. It’s only very subtly hopped, leaving loads of room for sweet, fruity malty characters (some from wheat) to knock around. The balancing bitterness has an assertive first grab with a nice smooth follow-through.

The apparently-slightly-bonkers Scotsmen who make it assert that “there is no proper actual physics in this bottle”, but that’s — obviously — just bad metaphysics. I can forgive them that, though. The chronically-bored are hereby directed to the entry on ‘Supervenience’ in the Wikipedia, and then in the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

BrewDog 'The Physics'
Diary entry #72, BrewDog 'The Physics'

Verbatim: Brew Dog ‘The Physics’. 13/1/09 $7 330ml 5% at home. Bloody marvellous amber ale. Lovely smooth head, perfectly amber in colour. Only subtley hopped, letting malty fruitiness drive. Curranty, with an assertive first grab, then a nice smooth follow-through.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: Oh yeah, Beer Nerd, regular-type Computer / Gadget Nerd, Comic Book Nerd — and also Philosophy Nerd. With a degree and everything. Seriously, though, supervenience is fascinating. Lovely to have that philosophy-headache moment next time you do something seemingly-mundane but physics-nightmarish as knocking on a door.

Orkney ‘Skull Splitter’

Orkney 'Skull Splitter'
Orkney 'Skull Splitter'

At last — he says, after a few days of data-entry — we arrive at the bit where the photo-taking habit begins in earnest. It gets a little patchy with the actual Diary for a while, but they’ll soon synch up.

Verbatim: Orkney Skull Splitter. 16/5/08. $10 @ Malthouse 8.5%. Recommended in lieu of a Tangle Foot, out of a selection of a half-dozen. Dark, forboding, warm, seriously boozy nose. Dark fruity stuff. Datey, in a good way. Heavy, but less than you’d think. Deceptive 8.5%. Sweet. Barleywine-ish, says Barguy.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: “Barguy” in this case is Scotty, the Malthouse’s Bar Manager. I had apparently run them out of Tangle Foot, and we were on the hunt for something suitable to have instead. Obviously we drifted miles away, in style terms, but the winning factor here was that Skull Splitter hails from the same island as my beloved Highland Park whisky.

Orkney 'Skull Splitter'
Diary entry #48, Orkney Skull Splitter
Orkney 'Skull Splitter'
Orkney 'Skull Splitter', suitably blurry

Orkney ‘Dark Island’

Orkney Dark Island
Diary entry # 43, Orkney 'Dark Island'

Verbatim: Orkney Brewery Dark Island. 10/12/07, $6ish, 4.6%, 500ml. Watching House. Very black, but the bubbles don’t hang around. Smells of the usual dark ale stuff, but quite light. Feels almost foamy, aerated. All this isn’t negative, it’s just less full-on than expected. Good dark ale, with zestiness and not too much bitterness.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: RateBeer.com has it as an ‘old ale’, and BeerAdvocate.com has it as a ‘scotch ale’. You can see how these things get tricky. I had it pegged, in my relative ignorance as porter-ish, but hey. I really should get to Orkney one day; I’ve had a few good beers from there, and it’s home to my beloved Highland Park whisky.

And, damn, that’s a scanner-friendly pen, isn’t it?


Fraoch Heather Ale
Diary entry #40, Fraoch Heather Ale

Verbatim: Fraoch Heather Ale. 500ml, $7ish, 5%, 29/10/07. Watching Dr Who, and having been randomly given a sprig of heather on Lambton Quay. Heather instead of hops. Apparently old school Gaelic. It’s good. Flowery, very slightly peaty (less than they say). The only fault would be that it’s not different enough, or as you’d expect. Oh. Surprising kick, though. And grows on you. Better when less cold.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: The timing really did weird me out, here. I’d bought a bottle in the previous few days, and had it sitting on my desk at my place on the Terrace. Then, when wandering home, some very peculiar chap was walking down the street handing out sprigs of heather. How the hell could I not take the hint? I did wish that the beer was as peculiar as the chap — but I also know these unhopped beers would hardly be commercially-viable if they were as utterly freaky as I (for some reason) wish they would be. But this, like the Spruce Beer not-too-long before it, was good fun.

Atlas ‘Three Sisters’

Atlas 'Three Sisters'
Diary entry #39, Three Sisters Scottish Ale

Verbatim: Three Sisters Scottish Ale. 500ml, $7ish, 4.2%, 27/10/07. Watching Top Gear and having a beer to normalise after going to a mad Christian thing. Bubbles vanish. Smells very dark / burnt coffee and choc. Decent dark ale, but.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: The “mad Christian thing” was the big (and creepily-named) ‘Harvest’ thing that evangelical bigwig Greg Laurie threw here in civilised old Wellington. It was pretty strange. Though, admittedly, I was there specifically to witness the strange. Even the few Christian friends (I have plenty, actually) I bumped into there were pretty weirded-out, too.