This year promises to be an absolute cracker for Scottish beer. Brewery expansions, collaborations and innovations mean that your pint glass has never been more half-full. And although the year may be young, there are already some exciting limited editions that are worth tracking down and trying.
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The launch of BrewDog's Hello My Name is… Vladimir gained headlines all across the world for its satirical jibe at Russia's President Putin and his homophobic policies amid the Sochi winter Olympics. The Ellon brewers did their bit for international relations by posting a crate of the double IPA to uber-hetero Mr Putin himself. A serious bit of fun, and at 8.25% a serious ale.
But it was BrewDog's other release that deserves the attention of beer-lovers. Their Dead Metaphor stout was brewed in collaboration with beer critics Rob Derbyshire of Hopzine and Richard Taylor of The Beer Cast, and together they came up with a deliciously morish oatmeal stout, with coffee and chocolate malts and a well balanced hoppy finish. Strength-wise, it's a respectable 6.4%.
Tryst brewery's High Voltage is a heavily hopped IPA that pours a slightly cloudy golden copper and comes in at 6%. Expect strong bittering from the hops with a finish that gives a hint of orange peel and tropical fruits.
Stewart Brothers have produced Cascadian East, an American-style pale ale that's bursting with aroma and flavour; and follows on the back of their magical Radical Road. At 5.4%, it's lip-smackingly bitter and bursting with flavour - pine, caramel, citrus fruits. Fyne Ales, meanwhile, have just launched a 5% coffee-infused stout called Brewer's Fuel.
Also watch out for Cromarty's Ghost Town porter (5.8%) and Anniversary Ale, a potent 9% barley wine. They're flying off the shelves of the good beer shops - clearly with good reason - so if you see one, grab yourself two.
Ahead of the launch of their new range in collaboration with Tennent's owner C&C, Williams Brothers brought out The Wee Bit and Paradigm Shift. The former, brewed in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery in New York, is a 4.8% Scottish ale with a strong malty character, honeyed sweetness and a nutty roasted aroma and finish. A dark, peaty, smokey beer with a bit of attitude, it's a superb alternative to these hop-heavy pale ales. Paradigm Shift, meanwhile, is a 6.3% hoppy red ale (the red comes from the caramalts used in the mashing at the start of the brewing process). A complex but well balanced beer.
Now, while the above might be one-offs or limited editions, it's also worth pointing out two new additions to Harviestoun's core range. The magnificent Bitter & Twisted, Schiehallion and Old Engine Oil are among Harvieston's staples, so any addition to these has some high standards to meet. Happy to say, the The Ridge pale ale and Broken Dial amber ale live up to expectations.
The Ridge(5%) pours a lovely golden colour, and boasts plenty of aroma, bittering and taste, courtesy of the potent - and popular - US hops Bravo and Amarillo as well as the more familiar UK hops Kent Goldings and Fuggles. The hops aren't overpowering, however; and lead through to a complex, well-balanced and crisp finish. Broken Dial (4.5%) is a rich amber ale with roasted caramel and biscuit notes. Aroma and bittering come from the mighty Simcoe hops, which gives it refreshing fruit flavours that sit well with the amber ale's rich malt undertones. Two great additions to the Harviestoun line-up.
Lastly, there's Inveralmond's Homecoming brew. Like BrewDog's Vladimir, it's made more than a few headlines after it was snapped on nights out with actor Alan Cumming and Jamey Bowers, aka Miss Scotland. Tastewise, it's a 4.2% amber ale with sweet biscuity malts, while the mild-mannered hops offer up spice and berry flavours. Not the boldest of beers, but one you could easily fall for.
Available at most good beer shops, as well as online.