We got married at the Glasgow Art Club last Saturday and it was an amazing day. It’s a fantastic venue, and everything went well; from the Celtic FC tablet (a fudge-like, sugary confection from Scotland) we had as favours, to introducing Brewdog to a new audience at the drinks reception. The highlight of course was the ceremony itself, which was so nerve-wracking that the bottles of Schiehallion and Punk IPA I had beforehand had little effect. Luckily for me, it transpired I needn’t have worried as Gemma turned up – albeit slightly late…
On the Sunday morning we set off for Balloch on the southern shores of Loch Lomond, where I spent my formative years and where we would spend the night en route to the isle of Lismore in the Inner Hebrides. Locally brewed craft beer seems to be everywhere in Scotland nowadays, with Williams Brothers‘ Joker IPA particularly ubiquitous in Glasgow’s pubs, and various Brewdog, Harviestoun and Fyne Ales’ beers available in most supermarkets. Drygate‘s pump clips are also an increasingly common sight, and while the tap room in Glasgow’s east end has vibe, I’m not a massive fan of the beers. Having said that, the pint of the Reflex Red Ale I had at the Tullie Inn that afternoon was decent, and at least the hegemony of Tennents and McEwans that defined my youth is being challenged (I say this in full knowledge that Drygate is part owned by C&C Group, owners of Tennents – now that’s ironic, Morissette).
The next day we continued our drive north along the western shores of the loch, stopping off for refreshments at The Green Welly Stop services in Tyndrum. Unfortunately, four days of hard drinking and full Scottish breakfasts had taken their toll, and I found myself leaning against the tourist information noticeboard for support, bowed and swaying and ultimately puking. Better out than in as the saying goes, and feeling like a new man, I headed inside where I was surprised to find an eclectic selection of Scottish beer amongst the overpriced tartan tat. I wasn’t fully enamoured with Orkney Brewery’s Dark Isle (see previous post), but the 750 ml 10% ABV whisky barrel-aged version seemed an obvious candidate for ageing, and is now safely ensconced in my cellar (well, cupboard). Please excuse the composting bin in the image below.
After this pit-stop we continued west to Oban where our ferry for Lismore was to depart from, and having time to kill on our arrival we took a stroll around the town. As luck would have it we came across The Oban Whisky & Fine Wines Shop on Stafford Street, where I picked up a bottle of Fyne Ales’ beautifully packaged Superior IPA. I’ve enjoyed the Argyll brewery’s flagship Jarl many times before, and the Superior IPA was just that: at 7.1%, the sweet caramel malts were perfectly balanced with pithy grapefruit bitterness, with mango, apricot and floral notes, and a satisfyingly bitter-sweet finish. The beer is “krausened”, a method of introducing carbonation by adding a quantity of fermenting wort (in this case, from the aforementioned Jarl) to the fully fermented beer prior to bottling. According to the brewery, this is designed to give a “champagne mouthfeel”, and you certainly get that. It’s a special beer, but I was confused by the June 2019 best before date – surely Double/Imperial IPAs are best consumed fresh before the hops begin to fade?
Lismore is a beautiful island, small and manageable and easily accessible from Glasgow. There’s no pub on the island, and the beer on offer at the only shop is limited, so it was a good job I had also picked up some Punk IPAs in Oban. If time had allowed I would’ve happily explored more of the highlands, but the fact that we have a
tour of US craft beer breweries honeymoon in the US planned for next spring more than makes amends.
Every time I go home, I have a renewed appreciation of the beauty of the landscape and a growing admiration of the vibrant beer scene. We stopped off for lunch in Glasgow on our way back to London, and I had a bottle of Fallen Brewing‘s Platform C, part of the Stirlingshire brewery’s “Station Specials” series – and it’s a veritable “juicy banger”. I look forward to familiarising myself with Fallen’s other output, and along with Brewdog, Fyne Ales, Harviestoun, Alechemy et al, Scotland really has beer to match the country’s beauty.
Oh, I almost forgot. The actual highlight for both Gemma and I came when having lunch at the Eat Café in Glasgow’s Shawlands, when The Hound from Game of Thrones walked in and sat opposite. Thankfully it wasn’t a pub – imagine knocking over his pint…