Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Beers from The Isle of Arran (and whisky!)

I've mentioned a few times already that I have two bottles of Paradox Arran in my cellar, kindly donated by those gentlemen at BrewDog, just waiting for an opportunity to share them with two whisky aficionados in my office. As it happens, on Saturday we popped over to Ingo's house to see his 12 kittens (12! His two cats had six each), and ended up staying far too late because he produced a couple of bottles of beer from The Isle of Arran Brewery. And of course what self-respecting whisky fan wouldn't produce a bottle from the same Isle's distillery -- just to see how the beer and whisky went together -- in this case a bottle of the Robert Burns Single Malt (Robert Burns is a recurring theme at Ingo's). And that was just the start...

The Isle of Arran Blonde is a lovely, clear golden ale with a sharp, almost woody, fruity aroma. It has a sweet, grainy flavour, but to the fore is a bitter, herbal effect. It's an interesting combination, and difficult to identify the taste, but a herbal, curacao bitterness might not be a bad way to describe it. It's quite refreshing while being strangely satisfying.

The Isle of Arran Dark shares some similar characteristics with it's fairer sister, possessing a grainy malt profile but of course with light chocolate traits. It's roasty and quite dry, but also has that slight bitter orange flavour, leaning towards a grapefruit dryness. It's a strange mix of flavours really. I expected more dark sweet flavours, but the dryness and the long pithy finish smash those expectations.

But where did Ingo get these Scottish beers, in a country where you can hardly buy a beer from neighbouring Belgium? Well, Brauhof Wilshaus, close to the city of Hamm, host the Hammer Highland Games every year, which of course includes extensive Whisky tastings (the reason Ingo visits every year) and, much to my delight, Scottish beer. I don't think BrewDog was brought over, but there you go. I have to visit the games next year!

Incidentally, the Blonde paired very well with the whisky, but not so perfectly with the Dark. I'm no Whisky expert (you're no beer expert either, I hear you shout), but for what it's worth, the Robert Burns Single Malt is exceptionally smooth, with lovely light vanilla, fruit and -- a revelation for me -- slight citric notes that really married well with the Blonde. I stopped drinking Whisky on a regular basis years ago, so these kinds of tastings, with an expert on hand, are really unexpected and enjoyable.

But it didn't end there. Ingo had also nabbed a bottle of Fuller's London Porter and the 1845 ale from The James in Muenster, a bar I had visited a couple of times simply because they stock Theakston's and Black Sheep beer as well as some Trappist beers (a miracle!). Alex, the owner, has clearly extended the range somewhat, but apparently still hasn't managed to get some cask on. I'll have to investigate in person, and soon.

It was the first time I had tried Fuller's London Porter, and I liked it. A lovely, rich dark chocolate effect with a roasty, bitter-sweet finish. Really smooth. The Fuller's 1845 has a strong malty, yeasty, pear-like aroma. The flavour is of caramel, vanilla reminiscent of light oaking, and is ever-so-slightly warming with its 6.3% alcohol content. A little sip of whisky help accentuate darker malty tones that I may not have picked up otherwise. Not bad.

We tried a couple more beers, including a Flensburger Organic Kellerbier, a rather strange Hexenbier and a preview of my latest altbier, but by then we were playing hide and seek in the fields with my son and nibbling fresh organic pork steaks cooked over a log fire. It's the unplanned things in life that give the most pleasure...

10 comments:

Leigh said...

Yep, Arran do make good beers - the blonde in particular. Fuller's London Porter is also one of the best versions of the style, in my opinion. Good haul!

knutalbert said...

Some nice ones there, the Arran beers are good.
The Fuller's London Porter is fine in bottled form, but it's divine if you can get it on cask.

Barry (Adeptus) said...

It was a very nice surprise to get to try these, so all thanks go to Ingo!

There's no chance of getting the Porter on cask here, unfortunately. I'm happy enough that I know I can pop in to a pub in town and have some in a bottle though :)

I have another stash of Scottish beer since yesterday, so might try to round the week off with those for a truly Scottish themed week!

Saruman said...

Love the London porter! Heavenly stuff.

Mark said...

Great picture at the bottom! I look forward to hearing about the Paradox Arran and the whisky.

And if you ever manage to get cask Fuller's London Porter then find a comfy chair and sit down because you won't want to leave that pub for a LONG time!

Saruman said...

Actually I will be in London next week for the U2 concert. Anyone know where I can get it on cask?

Ed said...

Fullers Porter is a seasonal in cask, so you won't get it again until the winter.

Arran Blonde is actually a wheat beer which might account for the head to pin down taste.

Barry (Adeptus) said...

Really? I knew it had wheat in it, but I thought it must be a pretty low proportion. I always expect wheat beers to be hazy (ehh, unless it's a kristal weizen of course) and a little more acidic, but then I can see what you mean, as that grainy flavour was a little like chewing malted wheat. And I should know, as my wife keeps eating all the damn malted wheat I buy...

Barry (Adeptus) said...

Oh, Mark, I would love a chance to sit in a comfy chair and put a dent into a cask of porter.

My wife picked that photo at the bottom. There' another with more fire, and a different composition that I liked, but I think she was right...

I should have included pics of the cats! Awwww

Bionic Laura said...

I have some of the Arran Dark and Blonde beers. Looking forward to trying them now.