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.