A non-alcoholic beer that actually tastes good? BrewDog, one of Scotland's most successful craft beer producers, have managed to make a low alcohol beer that tastes as good as the real thing. I really enjoyed the bitter and fruity tastes of Nanny State.
It is 0.5% alcohol, so not completely clean, but it is called a low alcohol beer on the label description. It smells fruity and the main taste is a slight bitterness followed by a fruity aftertaste. I enjoyed the flavour and thought it as good as a real beer. This is a truly tasty alternative and destroys the stereotype of low alcoholic beer being boring and disgusting.
BrewDog, based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, is one of the most successful Scottish craft beer producers. It began with 2 staff in 2007 and by 2015 it had 540 staff and 44 bars in several countries. They have a huge range of beers with bold bottle labels and trendy branding. Their range is one of the easiest to get a hold of in supermarkets and pubs, so you should find it quite easy to track down Nanny State.
Even if you would normally never touch low alcohol beer this is an exception because it tastes so good. Give it a try.
There is no doubt that this drink is from Scotland. The bottle label features Scottish flags and a bearded man wearing tartan standing in front of a backdrop of hills. It is the most 'Scottish looking' bottle of beer that I have seen. It also tastes good with malt, cherry and caramel flavours.
Broughton Brewery was founded in 1979 in the village of Broughton in the Scottish Borders. It is Scotland's first microbrewery and their beers are named after characters from the Scottish Borders.
Old Jock comes from the term 'Jock' which was given to soldiers of the Highland and Lowland Regiments. These men were highly respected and known for their strength and valour in battle. It is likely that they would have enjoyed a strong ale, just like this one.
I have to admit that I don't go in for that Scottish twee look and the bottle label put me off buying this beer because I thought it was a touristy Scottish thing. The current design trend for craft beer labels is very much in the hipster camp, so Old Jock looks rather old fashioned in comparison. Now that I understand the story behind the bottle label I now quite like it. It conjures up an image of brave and heroic Scottish soldiers fighting against the odds, winning a battle and then relaxing with a strong ale.
This has a good combination of tastes. I get sweetness, malt, cherry and caramel. It is not too bitter and it is smooth. A lovely taste that you want to keep tasting. There is an interesting aftertaste that I can't quite put my finger on, toffee perhaps. It keeps you coming back for more. On the bottle it says 'savour this ale like a fine wine' and this is very appropriate as it is the taste you drink this for, not just something to get drunk on.
Don't be like me and let the label put you off (or perhaps you like the label). Give this a try, particularly if you are exploring the Scottish Borders.
It has been one year since I purchased my new bike. I decided to go for a touring bike because touring is the main type of cycling that I do. I settled on the Ridgeback Voyage 2015. I decided to try and write about that "new bike" feeling so that I could remember the excitement of those first rides.
My previous bike was a hybrid and did a good job transporting me around Scotland, but I decided to replace it with a touring bike as a tourer is specifically designed for the type of cycling that I do. After much research I choose the Ridgeback Voyage. I liked its classic look and the price was good for the components and build quality.
I particularly liked the name 'World Voyage' as it appealed to my sense of adventure and desire to explore with my bicycle.
You hear people say there is nothing like that feeling of riding a new bike for the first time, so I wanted to try to capture those feelings in my blog. The reality is that I had to contend with many differences from my previous bike. It was not a simple case of jumping on and riding off into the sunset. There were many practice rides in an empty car park until I felt confident to take to the roads. I now love the bike, but it was a bit of a learning curve before I felt truly comfortable with it because of the differences with my old bike.
Here are the main things that I had to get used to:
These are meant to make your pedal strokes more efficient by locking your feet into a strap on the pedal. These took me ages to get used to because of the fear of falling off. When you come to a stop you need to be able to get your feet out of the straps quickly enough to put your feet on the ground and stop yourself from falling. This took a lot of practice to get used to. I spent a lot time putting my foot in and taking it out of the pedal strap, over and over again. And then I progressed to cycling a short distance with my feet in the strap and then coordinating the stopping of the bike at the same time as taking my foot out of the strap.
Now I tend to only use both pedal straps when I am cycling long distances. For short distances, especially commuting to work, when I know I will have to stop the bike frequently I tend to wear only one pedal strap and keep the other foot free so that it is easier to come to a stop and not fall over. My conclusion is that pedal straps are probably not worth the effort for short distances, but are good for longer distances.
My old bike had straight handlebars and the last time I had a bike with drop bars was in my teenage years, so it took me a while to get used to them. At first I felt more vulnerable with the drop bars because my position was closer to the ground, but with straight bars you sit upright and tall. I felt like my face was too close to the road and it made me feel unsafe. Once I got used to this I started to feel cosier in the drop bar position because it was drawing my body closer together and protecting it from wind and rain, instead of the straight bar position where you are more exposed to weather.
Now, I find it normal to be in the drop bar position and, of course, I can always sit up and put my hands on the top of the bar and ride it in the straight handlebar position if I want. That is the great advantage of the drop bars- they allow you to change position, which is very useful on longer journeys when you get tired of being in the same position.
I did not have mudguards on my previous hybrid bike and now I don't know why I ever lived without them. Seriously, they make such a difference in wet and muddy conditions. My old bike, my panniers and my clothes ended up caked in mud and that was a pain, but with the Ridgeback's mudguards everything is kept clean.
The Ridgeback has an Integrated Combo Shifter- the gear leaver and the brake lever are combined into one piece. This took a lot of getting used to because on my hybrid bike it was a separate brake and gear. I really did not like this at first and it was back to the empty car park for lots of practice runs changing the gears and getting used to which direction to move the gear shifter to access low and high gears. Even once I started on proper bike rides I still got the gear changes wrong and it was a good few months before I felt totally comfortable with this system.
Now, it is second nature and I love the integrated system.
Worrying About the Bike
It took several months for me to stop worrying about the bike. I worried about damaging it. I worried about it getting stolen. If I locked it up somewhere I couldn't get it out of my mind that someone was going to try to steal it. I noticed people looking at it and I knew they could tell it was a brand new bike and perhaps they wanted to take it from me! I was so nervous about loosing it after spending money on it and taking all that time to learn how to ride it. Over time I let go of these fears and I am now quite comfortable with leaving it locked up and not so worried about it getting a bit bashed.
One year on...
I love this bike and it has taken me on some great adventures. I feel completely comfortable with it now and it is definitely the right machine for the cycle touring that I do. I had assumed that when I bought a new bike I would be riding it on day one and enjoying that "new bike" feeling immediately, but I think that only happens if you buy a bike with components that you are used to. It has certainly been an interesting lesson in the different types of components that exist and accepting that their may be a period of practice with a new bike purchase.
A 10,000 km cycling trip along the route of the Iron Curtain is brilliantly told by Tim Moore. This is a witty account of an incredible cycling journey that begins in Finnish Lapland and ends at the Black Sea in Bulgaria. Moore faces many challenges, including freezing cold weather and bicycle problems. I found this a highly readable and entertaining book.
The Iron Curtain cycle route is a newly created cycle route. Moore decides to follow using a bicycle that may seem inappropriate for the job. He chooses an East German shopping bike, a MIFA 900, that is not designed for cycle touring. The unsuitability of his bike gets commented upon by many of the people he meets along the way. However, Moore wanted to choose a bike that had a historical connection to the route and give or take a few modifications and repairs this machine made it to the end in one piece. It just goes to show that you do not need to spend a fortune on a bicycle to enjoy cycling.
Although enjoy might not be the word that springs to mind when you read this book. The section in Finland in freezing cold weather was an ordeal and must have required incredible endurance. I found this part of the book gripping and I was awed by the condtions that the author had to put up with. Despite the hardships it inspired me to dream of doing something similar.
As he travels south the weather improves, but it does not necessarily make things any easier and he tells of his trials and tribulations in a hilarious manner. There are several laugh out loud moments in this book.
Moore also writes of the fascinatiing history of the nations that he passes through, so you learn a lot of interesting things reading this book. I was particularly fascinated by the 1939 Winter War where Finland fought bravely, against the odds, to keep Russia at bay.
Moore clearly has little time to enjoy the culture and present day attractions of the various places that he passes through. The bulk of his time is spent on the bike, not visiting places, so you do not get a detailed account of what there is to see and do. Some of the places that he passes through do not sound very appealing, so I didn't find myself itching to copy his route. However, I was strangely drawn to the idea of cycling in Finland in the winter, despite the hardships.
I read this book in a few days. I could not put it down. It is very readable because of Moore's witty writing style. Click the image below to buy the book through Amazon.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.