In October 2019, I travelled far and wide across England and Scotland with my wife and daughter. Believe it or not, I indulged in a wonderful array of beers - and took notes. Here is the unaltered evidence ...
Whippet Wet Nose
A very typical and easily-slurped English bitter consumed at room temperature. Ex Ainsty Ales brewery and served at The Whippet Inn, York, England, like a good doggo, it is welcoming and doesn’t bite. Not worth drooling over but a nice round full taste. 7 out of 10.
Pricky Back Otchan Golden Ale
Served cellar temp at The Whippet Inn, York. Tasty and quite fruity with more than a hint of wheat beer flavours. Last quarter of pint sculled on Marie’s request (she was tired and we had been up for the better part of 40 hours not counting flight naps) 7 out of 10. 4.2% alcohol.
Thornbridge Jaipur Beer
IPA served cold from the tap at Masala Craft Indian Street Food restaurant in York. Nice fruity and subtly hoppy IPA. Has a big reputation around here but maybe a bit bland in zing compared to craft IPAs back home in Oz. 5.8% gives it a kick in other ways. 6.7 out of 10.
Black Sheep Pale Ale
Consumed at Stone Gate Yard Bar & Brasserie, York. A local Yorkshire brewer is the maker of this popular beer. Served in a brilliantly decorated glass but otherwise not very special. Quaffable brew but not a lot of standout hoppiness for a pale ale. But at the happy hour rate of £2.80 per pint I was, well, happy. Alcohol 3.8%. 6 out of 10
Franciscan Well Brewing’s Chieftain IPA
Promoted as the chief IPA, I would say this Irish brew from County Cork might benefit from following a few of the modern IPAs and increase its general taste and hoppiness. Still, quite drinkable ... but it is beer after all. Served cold at the fine Swan Inn in Heddon-On-The-Wall, Northumbria. 6 out of 10.
Mad Goose Pale Ale
From Warwickshire’s Purity Brewers. Served room temperature at the Lion And Lamb Hotel in Horsley, Northumberland. A slightly tastier than the usual English-style pale ale. Very drinkable with a citrus aftertaste. 4.2% alcohol. 7/10
Ekuanot India Stout Polly’s Brew Co.
A very tasty stout with strong dark chocolate flavour. It tastes much better than it smells. The aroma is a bit like the yeasty smell of the Tooths brewery in South Dowling St, Surry Hills where I once went on a school excursion! But the flavour wipes that out. From the can. 7.5/10, 6% alcohol
Barney’s Beer Marshmallow Milk Stout.
A sweet stout from Edinburgh with a definite marshmallow-coffee flavour (white marshmallow ... not the pink ones). A great introduction to stout for your companions that have yet to be converted. But be warned ... this dessert wine comes with a punch at 7.5% alcohol content. It was served cold at the Inn Deep, alongside the Kelvin River in Glasgow Scotland. 8/10
Cromarty Brewed Awakening Stout
A masterful stout with very smooth and creamy coffee and chocolate flavours. Will leave you wanting more ... and at just 4.7% alcohol (low for modern craft stouts) you should be able to enjoy a few. Served cold at the Inn Deep, alongside the Kelvin River in Glasgow Scotland. 8.5/10
Big Strand Islay lager
Very straightforward lager. Not bad, not great, but very drinkable nonetheless. Brewed by Islay Ales. Served draft at Islay Hotel, Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland. Could almost be Boags. 6.5/10
This is a delicious black beer with quite a fruity taste. A great winter tipple for beer lovers not yet ready to join the stout brigade. Reminded me of White Rabbit’s dark ale back home in Oz. Served from the bottle at Tongadale Hotel in Portree, Skye, Scotland. 4.5% alcohol. 8/10
Skye Young Pretender
Named in honour of Bonny Prince Charlie, who was the Young Pretender to the British throne. It is a golden ale by Skye Ale which has bitter-style flavour. Refreshing to drink but not particularly bonny. Despite being an award winner (Scottish bitter of year 2013) like Charlie I reckon it’s a bit of a pretender. Served from tap at Merchant Hotel, Portree, Skye, Scotland. Alcohol 3.8%. 6/10
Terra Nova Golden Ale
A really fine golden ale with caramel and fruity flavours. Was apparently the first beer off the rank at the young Overstone brewery in Anstruther (pronounced Anster), Fife, Scotland. A damn fine debut I reckon. Enjoyed immensely from a bottle at the Waterfront restaurant in Anstruther. Accompanying dish was Scottish scallops, black pudding and chorizo on a bed of rocket. 4.3% alcohol. 8/10
Yes, it does have a question mark. This interesting selection is termed a “smoked ale” by the makers at Keith Brewery in the whisky area of Speyside in Scotland. It certainly has a substantial smoky taste, a bit like lapsang souchong tea. Drinkable as a one-off but, as the saying goes, it aint my cup of tea. Served from a take-out bottle bought in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Alcohol 4%. 6/10
Black Rock Stout
Islay Ales’ Black Rock Stout is a better than average drop with strong coffee/chocolate flavours and is more dry than sweet. For an island famous for its amazing whisky it’s not a bad beer at all. Served from the bottle, bought in Islay. 4.4% alcohol. 7/10
A stout that proclaims it’s coffee taste but doesn’t really live up to it’s own publicity. Sure, it’s drinkable, and also enjoyable. But the competition in the stout market is ferocious. I want a craft stout to be bursting with challenging flavours. If you proclaim “wake up and smell the coffee stout” on your bottle, the beer needs to damn well be the next best thing to a double espresso shot in a stout bottle. For me, that isn’t the case here. From the Keith brewery in Keith, Scotland and bought in the bottle at St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. 5% alcohol. 6.5/10
This wonderful dark ale from The Orkney Brewery has a rich, thick and malty flavour. A bit chocolatey with a hint of coffee, it fits in between a dark ale and stout. Very tasty indeed. Wish I could get it at home. Served from the bottle, bought in Anstruther Co-op. Alcohol: 4.6%. 8.5 out of 10.
Hobgoblin Ruby Beer
A darkish beer termed ruby by the makers - Wychwood Brewery. This English beer Is quite sweet with a hint of caramel. An enjoyable rich-tasting beer. Strangely, tasted better as I drank more! Consumed from the bottle, bought in Co-op, Anstruther. Alcohol 5.2%. 7.5/10
Holy Grail Beer
From the Black Sheep brewery in Yorkshire, this beer with the funny title is seriously good stuff. A golden ale “tempered over burning witches” it is refreshing with a round fruity taste but retaining a dry finish. It is one of a range of Monty Python-themed beers brewed by the Black Sheep team. Drunk from a bottle bought at Doune Castle, where much of Python’s Grail movie was filmed. 4.6% alcohol. 7.5/10
Ticia Ruby Stout
From Dundee brewers Mor (get it ... Morticia?), this drop proved a delicious bitter, coffee-edged stout on a bitter Scottish afternoon. Not thick and creamy like most modern stouts, but one of the top beers of my Scottish sojourn. Poured from the tap at The Criterion pub in St Andrews, Fife. 4.3% alcohol. 8/10
This festive drop from Cairngorm Brewery has a great name but doesn’t back it up with a great tasting beer. Weak and watery feel despite 5.6% alcohol. Santa should stick to delivering men socks and jocks for Christmas if this is the best his elves can brew. 5/10
HPA - Hopetoun Pale Ale
This cloudy pale ale is brewed exclusively by Tryst Brewery for sale at Hopetoun Farm Shop near Edinburgh. Really interesting citrus flavour. Very zesty and not like any other pale ale I’ve tried. It leaves a nice lemon-sucking bitter aftertaste that is not unpleasant at all. Very enjoyable little drop. Alcohol 4.2%. 8/10
Conqueror Black IPA
Before this pint I hadn’t tried a black IPA. And after this delicious black beer from Eton and Windsor Brewery I was still wondering how it qualified as an IPA at all. With a certain sweetness mixing with a coffee aftertaste it was a fine drop nonetheless. But to me it is a fine black beer. Consumed at cellar temperature from the tap at the George Inn in Eton, England. 5% alcohol. 8/10
Guardsman Best Bitter
A decent traditional British real ale from Eton and Windsor brewery. A deep amber/copper colour with a slight hoppy taste. Not a standout. Consumed at cellar temperature from the tap at the George Inn in Eton, England. 4.2% alcohol. 7/10
Father Thames Premium Bitter
An excellent and delicious traditional bitter from Eton & Windsor brewery. It has a sweet, fruity aftertaste. A hint of plum definitely comes through. I really enjoyed it. Consumed at cellar temperature from the tap at the George Inn in Eton, England.
4.8% alcohol. 8.5/10
Jam Sandwich Pale Ale
Literally made from jam and bread! This Eton & Windsor brewery concoction (in cooperation with jam maker Tiptree and Toast Ale) has a first time taste of strawberry jam. After that initial taste the traditional beer flavour dominates but it remains sweet and fruity. Not a beer you would drink in a session but an interesting experiment nonetheless. 4% alcohol. 7/10
Republika Craft Pilsener
Called Pilsner but tasted like a very plain lager to me. Very disappointing as it was the first Eton and Windsor drop that wasn’t interesting or inspiring. Served cold from keg. 5.5/10