Towards the end of last year we produced a feature on the ‘top 10 Scottish beers’ for the Independent. As with all of our top 10 lists, we try to get a good balance of beers throughout the piece and, inevitably, a lot of great beers get left out. Which is most certainly the case when discussing the mighty brewing nation of Scotland.
Not long after publication we were contacted by Scottish booze retailer Luvians. Had we heard of St Andrews’ Harvest Beer? It’s a beer with all Scottish ingredients. Including the hops. Yes, the hops, grown in Scotland with collaboration from the James Hutton Institute. Move over Kent; on yer bikes New Zealand and Australia; and who needs California’s Yakima Valley – we have Scottish hops.
Shamefully, we hadn’t heard of this beer before so a bottle was swiftly despatched, refrigerated and poured to see if those Scottish hops were up to competing with the hop world’s bigger guns.
The beer is a pale ale, very light in colour with an unfiltered haze to it, and a lovely carbonation from the bottle conditioning. A bit of Scottish yeast plopped out of the bottle with my pour, but that’s fine by me – it added a nice warming feel to the otherwise crisp body. The malt is clean, with perhaps a few crumbs of biscuit scattered through the flavour (let’s say Scottish shortbread) and, aided by the yeast, there’s quite a lot of spiciness to the hop flavours. Those Scottish hops also drift close to lemony territory, particularly in the aftertaste as the bitterness builds in the palette.
There’s much to admire in the current Scottish brewing scene but we didn’t imagine being introduced to such an all-Scottish line-up of ingredients. It’s a mighty success, proving that you don’t need to import to produce outstanding beers. And if we’re asked to produce another top 10 Scottish beers list we might just find a place for it.
Brewery: St Andrews Brewing Co, Fife, Scotland
Beer name: Harvest Beer
Hops used: Pioneer, Cascade, First Gold
St Andrews’ Harvest Beer is available from Luvians, and there’s a whole load more information about the beer on their website