Saturday, 9 January 2010

Liquid Engineering

My local Yorkshire pub, The James, does a random line of beers, and pretty much every time I go in the landlord starts hauling bottles out of the cellar like a beer pimp. I thought he picked up most of these himself (I know he does a run to York a few times a year), but it seems there's some importer of, particularly Scottish, beers somewhere near here. I'd tried some of the Orkney range here a previous time, and before Christmas tried another.*

The Orkney Red McGregor gives off a lovely sweet, malty/fruity aroma, with a touch of buttered popcorn and light chocolate. I was expecting a malt-driven, sweet toffee beast, but it's surprisingly hoppy, delivering a burst of herbal hoppiness that dries out the finish. It overcomes the malts to a degree, but they do remain as a light caramel throughout, with fruity undertones. Really quite nice and sessionable at a measly 4%.

Axel also pushed an Inveralmond Lia Fail** on me; rich copper with a tight head, it gives clean toffee flavours, floral hops and an ever so slight citric hint. There's a fruitiness to it, too, with a kind of apples and pears. The finish is long and dryly hoppy with a pepperiness.

He also had a few from Butcombe, and knowing very little about them I went for the Brunel 200 IPA, a slightly hazed amber ale with a short-lived head. Nice rich aroma, with toffee, vanilla and a floral hop thing, but the flavour just doesn't deliver. It has a grainly malt backbone, light cherry-like notes and more of that floral hoppiness down the middle. The finish delivers a reasonable floral, resinous bitterness that lasts well, but I got a sort of vegetal note deep down that put me off.

Last Thursday I popped in after work for a bite to eat and tried a Cairngorm Blessed Thistle, another rich-looking beer, dark and ruby-tinged. Another malty/fruity aroma with a toasty-roasty lick at the back. The theme continues on the tongue with a chewy toffee, berries, dried fruits and a gentle floral bitterness. The finish leaves slightly overdone toast along with a floral effect. As the name suggests, apparently thistle is used for bittering, although the label also mentions Goldings and ginger are added. I can certainly get the goldings in the finish, but not the ginger, and I have no idea what thistle should do (the last thistle-related product I tried was milk thistle, which made me piss like a horse).

*Actually, I've had the Orkney Raven Ale and Inveralmond Black Friar since then too, but I tend not to make notes when I'm drinking in earnest.

**In Irish, at least, Lia Fáil is spelled with a fada on the a, making it long, sounding a bit more like "fall", or "fawl" rather than "fail". Don't know if that's different in Scots Gaelic.

12 comments:

Velky Al said...

Scots Gaelic is Lia Fail, without the fada. Meaning is the same though - Stone of Destiny.

Barry M said...

I had a feeling you might provide an answer, thanks Al :)

Barry M said...

Oh, forgot to ask: I assume the pronunciation is, like in Irish, a long a anyway?

Velky Al said...

pretty much.

Bailey said...

Much as I love Butcombe's beers, I don't think they're complex or powerful enough to survive pasteurising and filtering. The IPA's nice if you catch it fresh enough, but nothing special. I don't think they bottle condition anything, which is a shame.

Barry M said...

That is a shame. Even the ever-enthusiastic Axel didn't seem to be pushing the Butcombe beers he had as much as usual :D

fatboab said...

Isn't Twisted Thistle by Belhaven rather than Cairngorm...?

Barry M said...

Yep, Twisted Thistle is by Belhaven, but ththe one I mention above is Blessed Thistle, by Cairngorm :)

Never had the Twisted Thistle. Any good?

Leigh said...

nice post - a nice set of beers there.

Russ said...

I had the opportunity to visit Cairngorm this past May and was quite impressed. If my notes (which can be found here) are correct, they use thistle for bittering and hops for flavor/aroma. I really enjoyed Blessed Thistle as well as their Black Gold. That reminds me, I still have a bottle of that stashed away somewhere!

Barry M said...

Just read your post, Russ, and it sounds great. I'll have to see if they have any Black Gold in the pub here!

fatboab said...

Sorry, getting my Thistles mixed up, I was sure both Blessed and Twisted were by the same bunch, obviously not (I should really have googled)... I had a Twisted Thistle last night, I have to say that it's really, really nice. http://twitpic.com/xq83q