Christmas Tastes by Scottish Producers. Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh Dark Chocolate and Clootie Dumpling Ale
Many of Scotland's food and drink producers release special products at Christmas time. It is fun to try them out and see if they evoke the flavours of the season and make you feel all festive. I decided to give two a try. One is a chocolate bar by Edinburgh-based Coco Chocolatier and the other is a beer by The Orkney Brewery.
Gold, Frankincense and Myrr Dark Chocolate
Coco Chocolatier in Edinburgh produces luxury chocolate bars with unique flavours. You can read more about them on my previous blog. This particular bar intrigued me as I wondered if you could successfully create these flavours in a chocolate bar. Reading the ingredients there is a tiny amount of Frankincense and Myrr oil (less than 1%) in the bar. Gold food dust has been sprinkled onto the bar to create a glittery surface, which you can see in this photo:
When I broke a bit of the chocolate off and put it to my nose I liked the scent, but couldn't put my finger on it, it was earthy and perhaps faintly festive, but I thought it was difficult to detect. I found the taste to be too subtle to say with any certainty that I could taste myrr or frankincense. Nevertheless it is delicious chocolate and you can easily tell that it is high quality. Although I didn't think that the flavour worked, the gold glitter certainly made the bar look Christmassy and it has beautiful wrapping, so this would make a lovely gift.
Clootie Dumpling Seasonal Ale
The Orkney Brewery produces a very fine selection of beers that are worth trying. One of my favourite Scottish beers is their Dark Island and you can read a review of this on a previous blog. The Clootie Dumpling is a seasonal edition and if you are not familiar with this Scottish pudding have a look at the rear label for an explanation:
The smell of this drink successfully captures that winter fruit pudding scent. It conjures up a boozy cake with delightful flavours like rum, cloves, cinnamon and ginger.
On the first few sips I thought that there is a subtle hint of festive tastes, but not noticeable enough that this could be picked up in a blind taste test. The taste that really comes through is bitterness, but pleasant and not overwhelming, and caramel. I found that the more I drank of it the more I was left with an aftertaste of those winter spices and it made me feel warm and nice and that's what you want from a Christmas drink. I do think the smell works better than the taste in capturing the essence of a seasonal pudding, but it is still a really delicious beer.
Have you tried any Christmas inspired Scottish products? Let me know in the comments below:
Top Out is an Edinburgh craft beer brewery. Schmankerl is their Bavarian-style wheat beer. So, how does their beer compare to the German versions? Pretty good actually. It is made with Bavarian yeast and has a fruity aspect that makes it a delightful drink.
Top Out was established in 2013. The head brewer loves climbing, so all of the bottle labels show Ordnance Survey maps of famous, mainly Scottish, moutains. That's a really cool concept for a bottle cover and it works brilliantly as the product stands out on the shelves next to other bottles.
The word Schmankerl means 'treat' or 'delicacy' in the Bavarian dialect. They have used a Bavarian strain of yeast to make this beer, so there is clearly a passion to make this as authentic as possible. Now, I love German wheat beers and I found Top Out's version a very good effort, although I thought that the wheat taste is not as prominent as it is in many German beers. However, that is no bad thing as many people prefer a lighter wheat taste. There is also a fruity taste, which brings an additional flavour element that you do not get with the German wheat beers. The label says that it is banana and this is exactly the aftertaste I get.
What you have here is a combination of Scottish and German brewing techniques that works really well. Personally I still prefer the German wheat beers, but I enjoyed this very much and would not hesitate to have it again.
Try a beer from Scotland's oldest working brewery. Belhaven is located in Dunbar, a town, 20 miles from Edinburgh. St Andrew's Amber is inspired by the game of golf and has gorgeous fruity and malt tastes.
This goes down so well. There is a nice carbonation with a subtle fruity and malt taste. These are not strong flavours, but really delicious. It is definitely a thirst quencher, as claimed on the rear label.
This ale has a lovely amber colour. The colour really stands out on a supermarket shelf against other beers and it is good that the bottle label allows you to see this colour.
The label states that the ale is inspired by the game of golf and there is picture of a golfer with a mustache swinging a club. The design is perhaps a bit old fashioned when compared to the current funky design trend of other producers, but I like it. And it is what is inside that counts and this is a great tasting ale and one of my favorites.
Belhaven was established in 1719. It is Scotland's oldest working brewery. It is located in the East Lothian town of Dunbar. They offer brewery tours and have an extensive range of beers that are widely available across Scotland. In particular, Belhaven Best is Scotland's best-selling ale and you will find it on tap in most pubs.
Born in the Borders Brewery was founded in 2011. It is part of a food and drink company that champions the produce of the Scottish Borders. They have several outlets across the region where you can go shopping or enjoy a drink in a cafe or a pub. Foxy Blonde is a straightforward golden ale that is refreshing and balanced.
The big selling point of this brewery is that they are the only microbrewery in Scotland to grow their own barley and make beer from it. Foxy Blonde is easy to drink with citrus flavours, some sweetness and a bit of malt and bitterness coming through. There is no single dominate flavour which makes it a good one for new beer drinkers and anybody who just wants a straightforward and refreshing beer. This does mean that it is not a distinctive taste and you may find it to be similar to many golden ales on the market.
If you are looking for a beer to have after your cycling ride in the Scottish Borders then this is definitely one to try.
Ossian and Lia Fail are two great tasting beers from Inveralmond Brewery. Both are supremely refreshing and well balanced. The bottle labels have beautiful artwork with Scottish scenery. A great Scottish product to get your hands on.
Inveralmond Brewery is located in Perth and began production in 1997. The brewery has a great reputation and you will find their drinks on tap in many pubs across the country. The beers are also widely available in supermarkets.
When I saw the artwork on the bottle labels it immediately reminded me of vintage railway posters. And this is exactly what inspired the artist, Peter McDermott, from the Isle of Skye. They are beautiful scenes of mountains and lochs that will remind you of your travels in Scotland.
On the rear of the label there is a lyrical description of what the beer will taste like and an explanation behind the name of the beer. Ossian was a Scottish poet and Lia Fail means 'stone of destiny', the coronation stone of the kings of Scotland.
Ossian has a nutty and fruity taste. This makes it refreshing and pleasurable. It is smooth and well balanced, not too malty and not too bitter. This will give it a broad appeal as there is no single flavour that stands out, but this does not make it a boring drink. Far from it. I loved it
Lia Fail is also really refreshing, especially ice cold from the freezer which I did for my bottle. It has a malty taste, but is not overpowering and is just the right amount. This taste lingers nicely on the tongue and keeps you coming back for more. Just like Ossian it is well balanced and will have a broad appeal, but if you aren't so keen on malt then go for Ossian.
Next time you are in Perth or in the Perthshire countryside try to seek out one of these delicious beers.
BrewDog is one of the most successful Scottish craft beer producers. Their products are widely available, so during your travels in Scotland make sure to try some. This is a review of three of their beers that provide delicious flavour combinations.
First off, a bit about BrewDog. They are based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. The brewery 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 across the UK, so you should find it quite easy to track down.
This is easy to drink and refreshing. It is well-balanced with no strong flavours. There is a slight bitterness and citrus taste. This is a craft beer with mass appeal and a good choice if you want to sink a few of beers with your mates.
This has a grapefruit infusion and the grapefruit taste is simply perfect. It turns out that this fruit is an ideal match to beer. You get a zesty, bitter taste that has a low level of sweetness. The balance between fruit and beer taste is perfection. It is a drink that keeps you coming back for more sips because it is just so pleasurable. It also smells amazing, like walking into a fruit shop.
My first taste of this made me go "wow! This is lovely." It is fruity, zingy and hoppy. It is a fabulous combination o flavours and very drinkable. It is a beer that you want to keep on drinking for the taste and not just something you pick up to get drunk. On the bottle label it is described as 'berry bouncing off marmalade clashing with caramel buzzing off spice sizzling with toast laced with lychees and colliding with biscuit.' This is the best description of a beer I think I have ever read and pretty much sums up the amazing flavour combinations in this drink. Of the three beers this is my favourite and if you only get a chance to try one, make it 5AM Saint.
BrewDog also produce a non-alcoholic beer. Read a review of this on my blog
The world famous Rosslyn Chapel of Da Vinci Code fame has its own ale, available in the gift shop. It is produced by local brewery Stewarts and makes for a nice souvenir of a visit to the chapel.
My first taste was, admittedly, watery but subsequent sips of the beer were nicer. It is not strong tasting at all, so very easy to drink. There are no complex flavours, just a good light, hoppy taste, which is pleasant enough. There are no risky flavours, which you increasingly find with Scottish craft beers. If you just want an unfussy beer and no funky, different tastes this is a good choice. A solid beer.
The rear of the bottle label explains the story of the Baron of Rosslyn and hence the name of the ale. It also states that your purchase of this beer will contribute to the conservation of the chapel:
You can have your bottle of ale packaged up in one of the branded Rosslyn Chapel paper bags:
Stewart Brewing is located just a couple of miles away from the chapel. They have been in business since 2004 and produce a large range of beers, many of which you will find in Edinburgh pubs.
This is an amazing drink, a taste sensation to be savoured. Big Raspberry Dog Chew comes from Stirlingshire. It is a high end beer with a price tag more appropriate to a bottle of wine, but for an occasional treat and a chance to try something truly unique it is worth it.
Fallen Brewery operates out of the old train station in Kippen. At time of writing they offer 16 different beers that cater for almost every taste.
Big Raspberry Dog Chew is something very special. It has a high price tag, high alcohol content and delivers a flavour combination of raspberry and salted caramel.
The price might put you off, but trust me- it is worth it. You could drink it over two nights to get value for money. This is one of the most amazing and delicious beers I have ever tasted.
Read my review of Light Freight, also by Fallen Brewing
Food and drink is just as important to the travel experience as the scenery, history and visitor attractions. There has been a huge growth in craft beer producers in Scotland and I always try to find a local beer in the areas that I visit. Tempest Brewing Co. is located in Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders and they produce a wide range of exciting and innovative drinks. The Borders Railway makes it easy to visit their retail shop.
Having taken many trips on the Borders Railway to Tweedbank I noticed sings for Tempest Brewing Co. at the station. I decided to follow the signs into a nearby industrial estate to pay a visit to their shop.
The shop is located within the brewery. There is a rather functional entrance, distinguished only by the signage outside the door. When I went inside a staff member welcomed me and directed me past the stores of beer barrels to a small office area where there is a fridge filled with bottles of the entire Tempest range. I was excited to see everything in one place, as supermarkets and shops usually have just a selection of the range on offer. The shop also sells the clothing range, which includes cycling tops.
Tempest is one of my favourite craft beer producers. I love all of their creations because they use innovative flavour combinations that make this a unique and exciting product. They even have a beer for cyclists.
During my visit the staff were very excited because Tempest had just won 7 awards at the Scottish Beer Awards, including Scottish Brewery of the Year.
I bought half-a-dozen bottles of beers and stuffed them into my panniers to try them out when I got home. The member of staff who served me was particularly enthusiastic about Marmalade on Rye. He said he just loved it and described it as 'so moreish.' I couldn't agree more. It is another delicious creation from Tempest.
There are many exciting cycling routes in the Scottish Borders and taking the train to Tweedbank is one of the best ways to access them. With Tempest Brewing Co. just a few minutes walk or cycle from the station it would be foolish not to pop in and take back some fine craft beers.
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.
Mixing Scottish whisky with Scottish beer? There are several brewers now using this flavour combination, but this is thought to be the first beer to do so. It works really well, the flavours are balanced, it is a pleasure to drink. Even if you are not keen on whisky you would enjoy this beer because the whisky taste is not strong and gives a slight sweetness to the drink.
What could be more Scottish than a beer with a whisky taste? The whisky taste and the beer taste are nicely balanced. This makes it easy to drink as there are no overwhelming flavours. The whisky leaves a pleasant, smooth aftertaste that lingers on the tongue. It is 7.7%, but tastes like a lighter beer, so is much easier to drink than I expected. This beer was a Winner at the Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Awards 2006.
The reason the beer is called 1488 is because Tullibardine whisky distillery can trace its origins to this date. The distillery is located about 16 miles from Stirling in the village of Blackford.
The name is in honour of a local legend that a howling wolf saved Stirling by alerting the defenders to a approaching Viking army.
If you are visiting Stirling or Perthshire then this is an ideal local beer to go with your journey.
Cromarty Brewing Company started operations in 2011. It is located on the peninsula in the north-east of Scotland called the Black Isle. Brewed Awakening is an innovative product with a coffee infusion. It took me a while to get used to the taste and I thought the coffee taste was very subtle, but for something totally different this is worth a try.
To be honest on my first taste of this beer I did not like it. It took me several sips to get used to the taste and I found it more of a malty than a coffee taste. I like that they use coffee from a local, Inverness cafe, and that they have tried to create something a bit different. I found the coffee flavour to be quite subtle, but if you are feeling a bit adventurous with your beer this is definitely worth a punt.
This is one of my favourite Scottish beers and it brings back many great memories from my first ever cycling trip. It is a dark beer with flavours of coffee, chocolate and figs, and refreshing and easy to drink.
The Orkney Islands are located 10 miles from the north coast of mainland Scotland. My first ever cycling trip was on these islands and a drink of one of the fine creations of The Orkney Brewery each evening was a memorable part of my visit. This was also my first experience of Scottish craft beers and that grew to a determination to seek out locally produced beers on future cycling trips.
Like many craft beer producers The Orkney Brewery plays on its location and island heritage. The bottle artwork of Dark Island features an image of the island's iconic standing stones during a sunrise or sunset. The tagline '5000 years in the making' refers to the fact that the islands have been inhabited for this many years. It gives the bottle a striking look and this design theme is continued throughout their range.
This is a dark beer, which you might expect to be quite heavy, but I find it light and refreshing. It goes down easily and is a pleasure to drink. You get tastes of coffee, chocolate and fig. I tried most of The Orkney Brewery beers on my first ever cycling trip and Dark Island was the favourite. It remains one of my favourite Scottish beers and is easy to find in supermarkets and pubs throughout the country.
"Brewed in Scotland for 4000 years, Heather Ale is the oldest style of ale still made in the world." The bottle label provides a marvelous introduction to this classic of Scottish craft beers. It has a unique and delicious taste.
What could be more Scottish than Heather? And here is a beer brewed with Heather. It smells of flowers. It tastes slightly sweet, a unique taste that is hard to describe. Perhaps something like a healthy smoothie with good stuff, a herbal taste. There is something outdoorsy about it that makes me think of sitting on a hillside among Heather on the edge of a peat bog. It evokes a scottish location, making this possibly the most authentically Scottish beer that I have had.
It is very easy to drink with no strong or overwhelming flavours and virtually no biterness. It is perfectly balanced. I would say that this is a great introductory beer if you are not normally a beer drinker as I think that you would like it. I love it.
Fraoch is one of Scotland's original and best craft beers. The flavours are authentically Scottish and the ancient origins of the recipe give this beer a strong and unique identity. It is widely available, so should be easy to find in pubs, supermarkets and specialist beer shops. Give this a try and let me know what you think.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.