Try an ale brewed in Scotland's oldest inhabited house. Traquair House had its own brewery in the 1700s, but it fell into disuse until being rediscovered in the 1960s. The brewery has since expanded and sells worldwide. The Traquair House Ale is the orginal product from the revived brewery. Despite being 7.2% I found this to be surprisingly light tasting with a subtle fruity aftertaste. I also tried the Jacobite Ale and the Bear Ale.
This is history in a bottle. The old fashioned writing on the bottle and the dark brown, almost black colour of the liquid made me feel like I should be drinking this out of a tankard in a coaching inn. I like that this brewery sticks to its roots and does not try to compete with the hipster bottle label design that is becoming common with the newer breweries in Scotland.
Traquair House was the hunting lodge for the kings of Scotland. Today you can visit the house and its brewery, a 16 mile cycle from Tweedbank, the last stop on the Borders Railway. There is nothing finer than drinking a beer in the place where it is produced and you can do this at the cafe. There is outdoor seating in the walled garden; the perfect place to enjoy your ale in the sunshine. At the very least you can buy some bottles to takeaway.
Despite the 7.2% I did not find this a strong taste, which you usually find with ales. It has gentle carbonation, a subtle fruit taste and a hint of caramel. It does not taste sweet and the bitterness level is low. All in, I found it well-balanced and very satisfying.
The historical connection and the location of the brewery in this beautiful house add to the appeal of this unique drink. On the back of the bottle there is a story about the bear gates at the house and a serving suggestion.
Another drink from Traquair House is Jacobite Ale. This was originally produced in 1995 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. It was so popular that they have continued to make it and I can see why. It is delicious and my favourite of the two ales.
The bottle design is also classic, following the historical theme of the house. The story of the Bear Gates also features on the rear of the bottle.
This ale is 8%, so slightly stronger than the House Ale, but it does not taste that strong. It is simply delicious and easy to drink. The balance of carbonation and tastes of malt, spices and caramel is perfect. Interestingly the ale is brewed with coriander which creates the slightly spicy taste, but I would never have known it was coriander if I had not read it on the Traquair House website. I loved this ale and will be having it again.
This is produced for the draught beer market and is also available in bottles. It is much lighter tasting and does not have the complexity of flavours that the other two ales have. The main taste that comes through is pleasant malt, bitterness and gentle carbonation, making this a good, solid ale. It is 5% so ideal for a session ale with your friends, so I can see this working well in a pub, served from the tap.
You can buy crates of the ale on the Traquair House website and it can be found in some supermarkets and specialist beer shops.