Are You Tasting the Pith? - 21st August 05
It's funny, but I was sure that I'd reviewed these beers before. Apparently not though; I'd obviously got the deadly serious and not at all enjoyable business of tasting confused with the frivolous past time of drinking. Ah well, it happens.
These were hand delivered to me by the brewer, Rob Hill, a garrulous, nay, talkative individual, fizzing with ideas about how to start his brewery on Orkney. He excitedly discussed having found a beautiful polished copper brewplant, the only problem being that it was on one of the Scilly Isles - about as far from Orkney as you can get, and still be in British waters.
For now, he's brewing at Moorehouse's brewery, and so lets just take that as read and ignore any problems about authenticity and location, as discussed here, and concentrate on the beer.
Scapa Special (4.4% abv) is a wonderful, pale golden ale that throws off a zesty aroma - crisp, but quite complex, with a hint of pale stone fruit thrown in for good measure. All too often, beers that smell like this tend to be a bit disappointing on the palate, but not a bit of it in this case. An essay in balance, the pale, sappy malt has a slight sweetness which is held in check with a pithy, citrus hop bitterness that carries over into the finish, making it pleasantly moreish. This beer was bottle conditioned, which no doubt added to its quality and complexity. Superb.
St Magnus Ale (4.5% abv) is also a beautifully balanced ale, albeit several shades darker. Despite not being conditioned, it retains plenty of complexity, from the deep. almost feral smell of the bittering hops, to the blend of different malts used (I'm guessing here, but it's pretty complex) lending several layers of malty flavour - biscuity, fruity, cakey. It even has a little sourness in it, similar to Durham Evensong (5% abv), which is CAMRA's bottled beer of the year, so high praise indeed. I have to say, this style of beer isn't quite my cup of tea, but nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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