I never had to do Show and Tell at school in England so when I first arrived in Australia, the concept absolutely terrified me. My dad didn’t have any cool stuff because he was a male nurse (explaining that to your racist and sexist classmates was a nightmare) and I didn’t have a photo of my Guyanese grandfather accidentally surfing a canal alligator (true story), which could have potentially saved me. All I had was a guidebook from the Greenwich Maritime Museum and most of the kids in my class didn’t like that history shit. Apparently, I was the only one who thought Lord Nelson’s single handle combined dining utensils contraption was cool.
Shandy luckily had no such problems last Tuesday at the Scottish ale themed Ale Stars. Back complete with jetlag, he had a damn fine Show and Tell in store for us. It all began with an adorable little keg of indiscrimate size. Let’s just say that there discrepancies between amount of liquid quoted and amount of liquid allowed. One could possibly argue that 2 + 2 = 5? Yeah, I’m being facetious, sorry.
The secret stash in question was Fyne Ales Highlander and it was indeed special. Not very carbonated as you can see for yourself in the glass – very little lacing. It felt very thin-bodied in the mouth. Slight hint of sweet fruit? I personally found it very hard to place but it was a very enjoyable drop. Cheers Shandy for the stash, it was most kind of you.
On this particular evening I drank a buttload of non-Ale-Star-specific beer and so decided to soak some of it up with some reinforcements from the bar menu – the chicken salad. Generous serving of chicken and leaves in a pastry case which you can then in turn eat. Pretty nifty idea. Incidentally, the last couple of sessions, Ale Stars has had more than just pizza on offer during the tasting – now we’re getting croquettes, bread and dips, some addictive chicken thingies. The nibbles have stepped up a notch ever since Feral Brewery came to town.
First official beer to start post-minicask smuggled treat was the Innes and Gunn original. It was mentioned that this might be similar to Young’s Christmas Pudding Ale. It smells very vanillary and sweet in the glass which is a natural flavour from the oak barrel the ale is aged in. If you like gentle notes of rum, raisin and toffee then this is the beer for you. This was very well received by the Ale Star crowd as it’s pretty yummy. I’d love to drink this again and will definitely get some in the future if I can find it.
But why the clear bottle? Surely they can’t be as daft as the makers of the much maligned (and rightfully so) Coldie? Not to panic, beer nerds – it’s too malty and doesn’t have enough hops for the beer to go stale.
The second beer was probably my least favourite out of the four – True South’s Wee Jimmy Scotch ale. We were warned to let it warm up a bit to experience its flavour at its best. It wasn’t unpleasant but the idea of smoked peat malt doesn’t get my mouth watering. It’s not bitter (it shouldn’t be due to very few hops present) but it’s savoury in a weird way. Rich-bodied and very dark. Please note, I don’t think this is a bad beer, it’s just not to my personal taste. It’s also not strictly Scottish (gasp!): True South is out in Black Rock in Melbourne. Woo hoo, another brewery fairly nearby to visit in the future.
The third beer was BrewDog’s Paradox Isle of Arran, a Russian imperial stout. Phwoar. It smells goddammed awful but tastes anything but. I found drinking this to be a more satisfying experience compared to their equally monstrous Tokyo stout. This is pretty fecking alcoholic at 10% ABV but the alcoholic taste doesn’t detract from the rest of the flavours of the beer, which is why I think I prefer this over Tokyo. The Paradox has a rich, full body and is very pleasurable to drink with notes of chocolate and typical stouty goodness with spikes of whisky. More, please.
We end the Scottish ales showcase with another wee heavy beer…from Belgium: Brasserie d’Achouffe’s McChouffe. Sounds like a sneeze, innit? This one was an odd ball, as one might suspect from a Belgian-made Scottish-style beer. Its smell reminded me of a lambic (which is not a particularly pleasant smell) – sour. It’s alcoholic-strong and yet appears watery as if the flavours of the beer are diluted. I know it sounds odd but it was confirmed by at least one other person. Also, are gnomes Scottish?
Before I finish, one last beer – the Cascade First Harvest. I’m not quite sure why I was so enthusiastic about trying this because to be blunt, it was pretty bloody awful in a commercial beer kind of way. I had to look longingly while my partner in crime got stuck into a glass of Brewboys Ace of Spades stout.
Thankfully, I also got to try: Brewboys Maiden Ale, Double Dog Double Pale Ale (phwoar, hoppy!), Murrays Sassy Blonder and even managed to cadge a Mountain Goat IPA off Shandy at the end of the night. Yes, it took that much beer to wipe the trauma of the First Harvest from my palate. Well, I thought it was a good excuse anyway. As always, Prof Pilsner had his report on the night up way before me, and you can take a gander here.