BACK after a short break during which the Christmas wine choices were sorted out, The Grape & The Grain returns with a look at what was on offer at Great Grog’s most recent beer festival in Edinburgh.
Great Grog may have forged a name for itself with its range of interesting wines – many of them from Australia and South Africa – but the merchant also stocks a great selection of beers, especially in its bottle shop on the capital’s Dalkeith Road.
Great Grog’s bottled beer fair at Café Camino in Edinburgh brought together more than 70 ales from Scotland and further afield, with established names like BrewDog, Stewart Brewing and Williams Bros rubbing shoulders with lesser-known beer companies including And Union, Black Metal and a host of brewers represented by New Wave Distribution.
The first bottle to catch my eye was Hanging Bat Sun’s Up, billed as a 3 per cent India pale ale (IPA). Session ales around the 3 per cent mark are a tradition worth celebrating and this example – brewed for the Hanging Bat bar on Edinburgh’s Lothian Road by the Drygate Brewery in Glasgow – combines notes of orange, apricot and pine on the nose with fresh lemon notes on the palate, mixed with hint of malt and a bitter finish.
Next up was Stewart Brewing Pils and if it didn’t say “Czech-style pilsner” on the label then I’d have sworn this was a Helles-style lager, with a satisfying depth of body and flavour. For me, this 4.7 per cent lager has a richer and deeper lemon flavour than many other pilsners.
Williams Bros Pavlov’s Dog, a 4.3 per cent amber ale, brought together aromas of fresh bread, chocolate and a bit of caramel on the nose, leading into a good balance between the malt and the hops on the palate. The dog walked a successful line between delivering body and a fresh finish.
Regularly readers will know that whisky beers are something of a passion of mine, bringing together Scotland’s thriving craft beer sector with our all-conquering Scotch industry. Fyne Ales Fynebank was developed in partnership with Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown and the result is a 4.6 per cent peat-smoked golden ale that delivers a smoky hit but then a crisp finish. The peaty and smoky flavours are well proportioned, making the beer subtle and not cloying.
Finally, Top Out Copperheid is an ideal winter beer, combining flavours of gingerbread with a malty finish. It’s more substantial than many fresh ginger-flavoured beers, but still finds the right balance to be crisp without being cloying.