Are You Tasting the Pith? - 3rd October 04
The entire output of a brewery is sampled this week, although fortunately only small quantities of each. The brewery in question is based in the Hebrides, and one might reasonably assume that their output will have a distinctive Scottish aspect to it, focussing on the malt character rather than the hops. To a certain extent, one might be right to do this, but then there is enough variety across the whole range to satisfy most tastes.
Clansman Ale (3.8% abv) is their light, sessiony ale, but the lightness of colour and alcohol shouldn't lead you to think that the beer is in anyway compromised on flavour. On the nose, there are hints of seaweed and seaside in the aroma, and citrus hints from the hops. Even the mouthwatering aroma doesn't prepare you for the big blast of malty, Islay whiskyish flavours that comes on the palate, surprisingly forthright, with hints of lemon balm and orange peel in the finish. There's enough hop bittering to make the finish dry and moreish, and I would willingly have drunk more. I would bet that it's a fantastic pint on draught, too.
Islander Strong Premium Ale (4.8% abv) is a little softer on the nose, perhaps a bit more balanced than the clansman, and although I think my Sassenach palate might favour this style a bit more, it still has that distinctive malty edge. However, the malt and hops are a bit more integrated, and the orangey hops and biscuity malt on the palate making for a very drinkable brew. There's just a hint of moreish sweetness in the finish, and the orange-marmaladey bittersweetness again underlines what a well-balanced beer this is.
While the Celtic Black Ale (3.9% abv) may have suffered a little bit by being tasted next to the whopping Saku Porter (of which more next week) shared by myself and an interested party, it certainly had its own charm. Having recently got a taste for black lager, I can see the attraction of a beer that has all the roasty toasty notes of a porter or a stout, but is a little lighter in body and alcohol. The light coffeeish notes and deep ruddy colour lead you to think that this could be quite a mouthful, but the light palate (with more coffee and cocoa notes in it) and smooth finish is a lot more refreshing than many of this beers heavier relatives. A session beer for people who want something different.
Berserker Export Pale Ale (7.5% abv) is quite a different proposition altogether. While it didn't quite send me into a reckless and savage fury, it did cause me a moderate amount of pleasure. The toffeeish caramel nose, and the slight sweetness on the tongue, reminiscent of an orange liqueur, warned me of its strength, but left me powerless to resist. The good blast of peppery spicy hops in the long, complex finish was just to my taste, and although perhaps overly strong, if another bottle had been available, I wouldn't have thought twice about about tucking in.
Full marks all round.
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