I was late sending my Beer Swap this time. My excuse is that I was busy with Pub School and then spent a couple of weeks feeling rather under the weather (the two are not related, I don't think). But Mark has now posted his reviews of what I sent him, so here are my notes on them too.
Last time I didn't find it too easy to put a decent selection of beers together, which was down to poor availability of bottled beer. A lot of the smaller micros don't bottle, and those that do have trouble getting their beer into shops. Often, too, they don't choose to bottle what I think are their best offerings. Happily, there's been some progress in this area in just six months since the last Beer Swap. I can now buy bottles of Fyne, Strathaven and Tryst beers locally, which I couldn't last time, and I now have the problem of which beers to leave out rather than which to include.
Which would you rather get? A beer I think is outstanding, that you might have had before, that you might not think is so outstanding; or something merely good, and local to me, that there's no buzz about? I can't make up my mind which is better, so I went with my gut.
Two of the beers are the same as I sent last time, and I haven't purchased control bottles to revisit them, so you'll have to make do with what I thought of them in November:
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." If 80/– is a real style, which I'm not at all sure it is, this is one of the best there is.
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."
Traquair House Ale: Now that InBev have discontinued Fowler's Wee Heavy, this is one of the last remaining examples of a strong Scotch ale. Belhaven make one, but they refuse to sell it here, the weirdos.
Fyne Ales Avalanche: Regular readers will know that I like Fyne a lot. This is one of the reasons.
Here are the ones I thought of sending, but didn't:
Tryst Raj IPA: I figured that Tryst beers, whose reputation is quickly spreading, will turn up soon enough at a beer festival near Mark; also some friends have had issues with the bottles being under- or over-carbonated so I'm a bit wary of posting them. Are those enough excuses so I can keep it for myself?
West St Mungo: I feel like I should be sending this — the brewery is a 15 minute bike ride from my flat, and everyone knows Glasgow is the spiritual home of British lager; but I know that Mark has had it before, and I don't really think it's at its best in the bottle.
Strathaven Claverhouse: This is a nice beer and pretty local (though nearer to my mum's house than to mine), but it's too similar to the 80/– and I don't want to send a bunch of clichéd sweet brown Scottish beer. I've not found Strathaven's beers terribly exciting in the past, but they did bring out a beer called Summer Glow recently which was really outstanding, absolutely excellent.