Tag Archives: Scotland

158. Caledonian Deuchars IPA

Our time in Scotland is drawing to a close, and after a night in Aberdeen, there’s just time to break up the long trek home with a final night in Edinburgh.

This time we’ll go for something altogether more local: Caledonian Deuchars IPA is brewed just down the road to Slateford, in the shadow of Heart of Midlothian’s Tynecastle Stadium.

Caledonian Deuchars IPA at the Oxford Bar, Edinburgh

Caledonian Deuchars IPA is a beer I remember well from my years as a student in Edinburgh. I’m convinced it used to be stronger though: these days it’s an eminently sessionable 3.8%.

And where better to try it than The Oxford Bar, famed as “The Ox” of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. Inspector Rebus is a regular here, often holding clandestine meetings in the back room, and this is his tipple of choice. When he’s not on the whisky, that is. That’s because Ian Rankin is also a regular here, and has been known to try the Deuchars IPA once or twice himself.

The Oxford Bar, Young Street, Edinburgh

Of course the Deuchars IPA is in good condition here, and served in the correct glassware, always a nice touch.

Some may dispute the labelling of this as an IPA, given its modest strength and subtle hopping, but by traditional Scottish standards it is a hoppy beer. It’s zesty and refreshing, with lemony fruit perfectly balanced out by juicy malts bearing a hint of caramel sweetness.

That’s all sat on top of a slight Burton-like saltiness from the hard local water that helped to make Edinburgh a renowned centre of brewing for many, many years.

It’s a great little pint, this one, and the sort of thing you could drink all night if push came to shove.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Caledonian Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 3.8% ABV
Found at: The Oxford Bar, Young Street, Edinburgh
Serving: Cask, pint

156. Orkney Dark Island

Threehundredbeers is still in Scotland, but a very picturesque Scotrail journey over the Forth and Tay bridges and on up the East Coast finds us in Angus to pay a long overdue visit to The Official Threehundredbeers Mother and her extravagantly-sized new German Shepherd, Kai.

I’ve brought a little something with me in my rucksack, sourced from the heaving shelves of The Beerhive back in Edinburgh. As the name suggests, Orkney Dark Island has come all the way from Stromness in the Orkneys.

Orkney Dark Island

Orkney Dark Island is certainly dark: a deep chestnut brown that appears black in most lights. There’s a small tan froth, though not a great deal of carbonation.

It’s listed in The Book as a Scottish Ale, which seems about right. It’s big and malty and very much at the sweeter end of the spectrum. But where a lot of Scottish ales can seem cloying to those accustomed to the hoppier beers from further south, this one is balanced out by toastier, almost Stout-like notes.

Dark Island goes down smoothly enough, though I’m not sure I made the right decision by choosing this as a pre-dinner beer. It’s a little too heavy for that, and perhaps better suited to keeping you warm on a cold Orcadian evening. That said, there’s a lightness to the body that makes it very gluggable indeed.

Good stuff. Back in Edinburgh I also found this one on cask at Bennets Bar, and that seemed to work well: smoother and fuller-bodied and the perfect preamble to a nice drop of malt whisky.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: The Orkney Brewery, Stromness, Orkney Islands
Style: Scottish Ales
Strength: 4.6% ABV
Found at: The Beerhive, Rodney Street, Edinburgh
Serving: 500ml bottle

155. Belhaven St. Andrews Ale

It’s Day Two in Edinburgh, and I’m rather enjoying revisiting the city that used to be my home, and learning what a great beer scene it has these days.

Threehundredbeers may not be firing on all cylinders today, though, since that Ayinger Celebrator at the Bow Bar last night led on to BrewDog Edinburgh—downstairs from a flat in which I briefly lived—and the utterly magnificent new Hanging Bat.

After a nostalgic stroll around George Square and The Meadows, I reckon I could manage a half of Belhaven St. Andrews Ale in The Albanach up on the Royal Mile.

Belhaven St. Andrews Ale at the Albanach, Edinburgh

The plan for today had actually been to hop on a train out to Dunbar and visit the Belhaven brewery, but the tour was cancelled since only one person (me) had booked a place. Apparently running this ridiculous blog does not yet carry the weight of beer-related influence I so clearly deserve.

So to make up for that, we’ll at least visit a Belhaven pub. In my day The Albanach was a swanky café bar named “EH1” or something similar, but it has staged a bit of a recovery and is now a decent, slightly localsy, boozer. I believe this is also the pub in whose cellar the skeletons were found in Ian Rankin’s Fleshmarket Close.

And conveniently enough, it has the St. Andrews Ale front and centre on the bar.

Belhaven St. Andrews Ale is a lovely looking beer, deep amber in colour and unfortunately more head than beer due to a somewhat hasty pour. It’s in good condition here though, and welcome enough after the climb up to the Royal Mile.

It’s Scottish alright: sweet and malty and lacking in any kind of hop character. Instead there’s caramel and Werther’s Originals and maybe a little bitterness at the end, unless I imagined it.

I’m initially quite pleased I stuck to a half, but whilst not enormously exciting, this one has enough going for it that I’m soon ordering another, before shambling back to my Travelodge with a chipsteak supper and a couple of nice finds from The Beerhive.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Belhaven, Dunbar, Scotland
Style: Scottish Ales
Strength: 4.9% ABV
Found at: The Albanach, High Street, Edinburgh
Serving: Cask, half pint

127. Traquair House Ale

I was pleased to find this one. You don’t see a great deal of Traquair House Ale here in London, and by all accounts it’s far from ubiquitous in its native Scotland.

Traquair House is found in Innerleithen, which appears to be a thoroughly remote corner of the Scottish Borders. It claims to be Scotland’s oldest inhabited house and functions as a hotel and wedding or conference venue. More to the point it has been brewing beer, on and off, since the early 1700s.

Whilst Threehundredbeers is not averse to a spot of travel to find a beer, it was still a relief to find Traquair House Ale on the impressive beer menu at the rather pleasant Exmouth Arms in Clerkenwell, a little closer to home.

Traquair House Ale at The Exmouth Arms

The Book lists Traquair House Ale under Old Ales, Barley Wines and Vintage Ales, but intriguingly the Exmouth Arms menu classifies it as “Belgian & Belgian Style”, so this could be interesting.

It’s a rich, dark Greek honey sort of colour with the faintest lacing of tan foam, rather than any kind of head to speak of. At a thoroughly respectable 7.2% ABV that isn’t particularly unexpected.

That strength is evident at the first sniff, where a good boozy hit is joined by distinct caramel and treacle toffee notes. This is a winter beer for sure, so we’ve chosen well for early January.

All of those notes carry through to the flavour, where they’re joined by big, dark, fruity malts which bring a sweetness so characteristic of Scottish ales. Hops are subdued, and again this is typical of the Scottish style, the harsher climate of the north being less than ideal for growing hops, at least for the time being.

I can see where the Exmouth Arms get the “Belgian” idea from too. There are those yeasty esters and dark fruit notes that are typical of a Trappist-style Dubbel, such as the La Trappe Dubbel. Either way, this is your classic winter warmer, and I’m sure it would accompany a hearty stew or even Christmas pudding very well.

Good stuff, so thanks to Traquair House for brewing it, and to the Exmouth Arms for stocking it. I’ll be back to work my way through that menu.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Traquair House, Innerleithen, Scotland
Style: Old Ales, Barley Wines and Vintage Ales
Strength: 7.2% ABV
Found at: The Exmouth Arms, Exmouth Market, London EC1
Serving: 330ml bottle

54. Kelpie Seaweed Ale

Jonathan Swift famously and quite rightly observed that “It was a bold man that first ate an oyster”. One might say the same about the person who, on happening upon the bladderwrack seaweed, no doubt during a leisurely stroll along a near-tropical Scottish beach, thought to themself “you know, I reckon this would taste pretty good if I put it in my beer”.

Yes, this is an ale brewed with seaweed, “Kelpie” being the Gaelic word for that most improbable of beer ingredients. Kelpie Ale is brewed by Williams Brothers Brewery, the same chaps who recently brought us Fraoch Heather Ale, an altogether less ill-advised concept.

It has taken me a little while to pluck up the courage to crack this one open, but the 300 Beers project is a relentless mistress, and so the time has come.


Kelpie Ale pours an especially dark ruby colour, and in fact is almost black in bad light. It has a very distinctive nose reminiscent of a strong stout, with quite pronounced Scotch whisky notes. In that regard I’m reminded of Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh, a strong porter aged in whisky barrels.

To taste, Kelpie is again distinctive. It’s very fruity and tangy, with a vinous edge and perhaps the faintest touch of saltiness. It’s also slightly smoky, so there really are a lot of different flavours vying for attention

That smokiness further reminds me of a stout, as does the beer’s remarkably full body. Whilst I can’t detect any flavours that I can definitively identify as seaweed, there is a slightly gelatinous texture to the beer, which could simply be my imagination playing tricks on me, but it does call to mind the rubberiness of freshly beached bladderwrack seaweed.

All in all, this is an interesting beer. As with the brewery’s heather ale, whilst I can’t see it becoming a regular tipple, I’m glad I’ve tried it.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Co, Alloa, Scotland
Style: Beers made with Fruit, Spices, Herbs and Seeds
Strength: 4.4% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 500ml Bottle

43. Fraoch Heather Ale

Now, here’s a beer I have been looking forward to. I haven’t had a Fraoch for at least 15 years, at which time I was a student up in Edinburgh. This Scottish heather ale was always a special treat in those days, being a little more expensive and harder to get hold of than the McEwan’s 80/- ale that was my main tipple.

Still, I had a bottle from time to time, and even remember enjoying it as a guest cask in the Blind Poet. Almost as much as the native barman enjoyed my attempts to pronounce the name correctly.

Since I spotted this one in The Book, I’d been wondering how I’d get hold of a Fraoch here in London. I needn’t have worried: as is so often the case, Utobeer have it covered.


Fraoch Heather Ale pours a lovely deep golden colour with a small white head, and there’s a very subtle floral aroma.

Fraoch is lighter bodied than I remember, but no less smooth. Scottish ales tend to employ very little in the way of hops, so are unlikely to be particularly bitter, and this one is no exception. Instead there are floral flavours, courtesy of the heather and bog myrtle with which the beer is brewed, and a slight peppermint note too. The finish is vinous and slightly sweet.

The beer doesn’t have a huge amount of depth to it, which isn’t quite how I remember it, but it’s nice enough. The botanicals are sufficiently subdued that I probably wouldn’t detect heather specifically if I didn’t know it was in there. I don’t consider that a particularly bad thing: I still want my beer to taste of beer.

All in all, Fraoch is an enjoyable beer, a little bit different, and I can certainly see how it made a nice change from the ubiquitous 80/- all those years ago. A pleasant and welcome blast from the past.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Co, Alloa, Scotland
Style: Beers made with Fruit, Spices, Herbs and Seeds
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Dispense: 500ml Bottle

28. Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer

Back north of the border we go, for this strong Scottish ale. And this is no ordinary ale as, once brewed, Innis & Gunn Original is matured for over 70 days, 30 of which are in oak barrels of the type more typically used to age wines and spirits, such as cognac.

This is actually one beer that I’m already familiar with. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, I happen to think this is a bit of a cracker.


Innis & Gunn Original is a lovely, deep honey colour, and it’s no surprise that they’ve chosen a colourless bottle to show it off. In fact, a lot of pride has gone into the presentation in general, for example that ornate, shiny label.

The beer pours with little to no head, just a light lacing. There’s a distinctive aroma suggesting that this is something a little different, with the oakiness immediately becoming apparent, and reminiscent of an oaked Chardonnay.

The oak carries across into the flavour, where it’s smoky and fat, and is joined by butterscotch, toffee, bitter orange, strong vanilla and even cognac-like notes. There’s just enough sweetness to balance out the 6.6% strength.

This is a very complex beer indeed, and it really works, since all the flavours combine perfectly into something a bit special.

Strangely enough, though, I don’t think I could manage more than one. It’s such a rich beer, and the sweetness could become a little cloying, but enjoyed in moderation it’s unusually good.

Very much a favourite, and incidentally, there is also a “Rum Finish” version of this beer, which is aged in casks which—as the name suggests—have previously held dark rum. The rum notes are very noticeable, and it works remarkably well.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Innis & Gunn Brewing Co, Edinburgh, Scotland
Style: Scottish Ales
ABV: 6.6%
Found at: Waitrose, Whitecross Street, London EC1
Dispense: 330ml Bottle

23. Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted

Finally, our first of several trips north of the border to Scotland. I’m wondering if this will be a nostalgic experience, reminiscent of my student years drinking 80/- ales in the pubs and bars of Edinburgh until 3am.

That said, my only actual experience of Harviestoun’s beers dates from far more recently, here in London. I’ve had their Old Engine Oil porter a few times in The Commercial, SE24, and couldn’t get enough of it.

This one seems a bit of an enigma though. Its Clackmannanshire provenance suggests a smooth Scottish ale, the name suggests it might be a bitter, but the label tells me it’s a blond beer. There’s only one way to settle this.


Fair enough, it’s a blond, bitter Scottish ale, and very nice it is too. As is often the case in Scotland, it’s made from Barley, Wheat and Oats, which is about the only thing it has in common with Bosteels Karmeliet Tripel.

At 4.2% the Bitter and Twisted is eminently sessionable. In that respect, we’re vaguely into the territory inhabited by the recent Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, but I have to say this one is noticeably more exciting and indeed satisfying.

This is a really good, hoppy bitter and it’s hopelessly drinkable. I’m not sure I picked up on the “like the twist of a lemon” notes that the bottle promises, but that’s probably for the best given my tastes. The hops are front and centre, and deliver a mouthwatering bitterness, while the restrained use of carbonation prevents things getting gassy.

Good stuff, and I’d certainly knock back another bottle if I had one. Perhaps more to the point, I’d love to find this in more London pubs in place of the relentless tide of Doom Bar and London Pride that we’re usually offered.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Harviestoun Brewery, Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland
Style: Scottish Ales
ABV: 4.2%
Found at: Waitrose Food Court at John Lewis, Oxford Street, London W1
Dispense: 500ml Bottle