Adding A Touch Of Malt | A twist on an old favorite
This week brings us to English IPA. However, the particular beer of interest is actually brewed in Scotland. Knowing that a typical English IPA is a hoppy and slightly strong beer, but one with enough malt to be noticeable and keep the bitterness in check, you might imagine that this would be the base for our Scottish IPA, if such a style of beer exists. English IPA beers of recent years have higher alcohol levels than most regular pale ales, and the fresher they are, the more pronounced the hop flavors and aromas will be to the drinker. The Scottish have several styles of indigenous beer. Standard Scottish ale breaks down into the categories of 60/light, 70/heavy, 80/export, with the numbers demarking the corresponding shilling amount. Scotch ales, or “Wee Heavy,” are the strongest ales, and earn the 90 to 160 shilling mark. The Scots also make gruit, or Scottish herb or spice ale. These are extremely rare, where various natural items, herbs and spices, are used with malt to create exotic and unique varieties of beer. Heather and various tree flowers were also used in some types of gruit. The largest regional brewery in Scotland, Belhaven Brewery, offers distinctively Scottish beer more than 300 years in the making. On the home market, Belhaven offers Best, their low-gravity session beer; St. Andrews Ale, a moderate-level Scottish ale; and 80, a classic, malty, cask-conditioned Scottish ale. For export, they have Scottish Ale, a lighter ale; a slightly stronger version of St. Andrews, a relatively easy going Wee Heavy; and the beer that hits farthest outside of the norm for Scottish beers, Twisted Thistle. Although native to England, Belhaven’s Scottish take on the traditional English IPA is a beautiful thing. They take the style and make it all their own with Twisted Thistle. The thistle, being the national flower of Scotland is appropriate for this beer. Hops don’t grow in Scotland, so of course, even a very malty IPA would be expensive, if not impossible to brew in days gone by, so IPA isn’t very Scottish, but this beer is. Thistle checks in at 6.1 percent ABV, so it fits with modern-day English IPAs. For the most part, this beer fits snugly into the category, orange amber and slightly hazed in color, large white head of creamy foam, all coming from a bottle adorned with a lovely purple thistle flower. The Belhaven website says they employ cascade and challenger hops, hence the piney, citrus hop scents one would expect from a West Coast ale. Just as potent is a caramel malt aroma that keeps right up with the hops. The beer has a medium body, with below average carbonation, expected from an English IPA. Honey bread greets the tongue, but is quickly overtaken by the orange-grapefruit flavors of the aforementioned hops. Good stuff, and expected. But somewhere near mid glass, the unexpected hits, although it should not have been a surprise — a touch of smoke, earth, peat creeps in. Wow, very original, a Scottish IPA. The beer finishes creamy, smooth and quickly. A great mix for a unique beer. Twisted Thistle can be found on tap in the triad. Enjoy the brews. Cheers….
Beer: Twisted Thistle IPA
Style: English India Pale Ale (IPA)
Brewery: Belhaven Brewery Company, Ltd.
Origin: Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
ABV: 6.1 percent
Pairing: Asian, Indian or even spicy shellfish