Thursday, 17 December 2009

Beer Swap: what I sent

I thought it would be fun to post my own notes on the beers that I sent for Beer Swap. And now that Alan from realalereviews has posted his own opinions of them, I can post mine. (This is Alan's photo of the beers too – I did take some photos before sending them, but later realised I'd photographed the preliminary selection rather than the final one!)

As it's made just down the road from me, it stands to reason that I just have to include the famous Glasgow-brewed lager with the big red logo. Of course I'm talking about West St Mungo Lager. It's my local brewery and it's the only beer that they bottle, so it's a must. An initial slight whiff of DMS gives way to a nice, pale proper Reinheitsgebot-konform lager with a respectably bitter finish. I must say it's better on draught though.

Colonsay 80/– : Grainy aroma, then chewy malt. It's full in body, slightly creamy compared with other 80/– beers and (I suspect) all malt, without getting sticky. Unobtrusive hops give it a subtly dry finish. Colonsay is a very small operation indeed, I understand — you won't even see their draught beer on the mainland because the ferry only goes three times a week.

Arran Ale: Dark gold with a crisp, foresty aroma almost reminiscent of elderflowers, light-bodied, woody and dry. I think this is a much more characterful beer than the more widely distributed Arran Dark and Arran Blonde, but I do worry that at just 3.8% it might be too light for these chilly December evenings.

Houston Crystal: Paler than the dark chocolate label would suggest, with a florally hoppy aroma and foretaste, pleasantly bitter on the palate and with slight black pepper finish. Malt is just enough to balance the hops.

The strange thing about this selection is that they're things I almost never buy in bottles myself. I drink at West regularly, but the Scottish beers I buy the most (other than BrewDog and Williams Bros, which I didn't include because they're so widely distributed that I assumed Alan would already have tasted them) — are the ones I see on cask in my locals. For instance, I would have loved to send some Fyne Ales beer, but it's not available in bottles anywhere in Glasgow, and I think a couple of Houston's other beers are better than Crystal.

I haven't read Alan's review yet. Compare and contrast.


  1. Will find out where you can get Fyne Ales in bottle in Glasgow from my great friend Malcolm, their head brewer... Avalanche, Vital Spark, Highlander, all fantastic in a bottle... in fact Highlander won the World's Best Ale at the recent International Beer Challenge! He recently brought me some of their Holly Daze, their Christmas beer when down in Derbyshire to visit... absolutely fantastic malty beer with nice berry hop character.

    Keep you posted!

    Kelly Ryan
    Thornbridge Brewery

  2. Hey Kelly, I've been in touch with Fyne already, don't think I haven't looked in the right places ... but fortunately my local has their beer regularly, so I only really needed it for the swap.

    We could do with seeing your beer up here more often (in any shape or form) too! Though, pestering the landlord for particular beers always slips my mind when I'm in the pub.

  3. Fyne Ales also not available in bottles anywhere in Edinburgh. Keep pestering Cornelius and Henderson Wines to start selling them.

    Avalanche has been pretty amazing recently on draught in Stagg's (Musselburgh).
    Staggs's also do Jaipur and Kipling fairly

    Musselburgh is a bit of a hike from Glasgow, but you will need to go a long way (probably Yorkshire) to get as good a pint!

  4. Hi there - we know there's a problem betting our beer in bottles in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and we're working on it. The buyer at Peckham's has got some on her desk, and Great Grog in Edinburgh have started stocking it. By the end of January Watirose in Byers Road and the two in Edinburgh will all be stocking Highlander and Avalanche. So we're making some progress but always looking for ideas on where else we should be trying.

    We will have a got at Cornelius and Henderson Wines and see if we can get in there too.


    Jamie Delap
    Fyne Ales

  5. I was just enjoying a pint of Hurricane Jack and one of Highlander in the pub. It is truly excellent stuff. I am so lucky that my local alternates Fyne and Harviestoun, the two finest breweries in Scotland.

  6. Thanks - Will was really happy with Hurricane Jack - thought he could even beat Avalanche with it, but I think Avalanche still just wins.