Celebrate spring with some of the best new beers Scotland has to offer.
May's whisky month so it's a perfect excuse to try the increasingly popular whisky beers. I&G launched its wonderfully named Smokin' Gunn last month, and it's a sultry, dark-coloured beer that signals its smokey intentions long before you take a drink. When you do, you're treated to soft malts, heavy on the maple syrup, with a pleasant texture that belies this drink's strength, all carried along by the spirited bourbon and oak cask finish. It grows on you this one.
2 Harviestoun: Orach Slie
Harviestoun has used its magnificent Schiehallion lager as the base for its latest release, Orach Slie. It's a light, sweet beer has been aged in Glenfarclas whisky casks for six months, giving it spirited sherry and vanilla notes from the Speyside whisky, while also retaining a malty yet tangy and bitter character. It's a light to the mighty Ola Dubh's dark.
3 Tennent's: Whisky Beer
Muscling in on the trend for whisky beers, Scotland's oldest brewery has also released its own offering. Sweet malts, reminiscent of Tennent's Lager, with a light aroma, and vanilla and woody taste. Although 6%, the whisky notes are lighter compared with others, though this is not to the detraction of the drink, which has an easygoing rounded finish. A worthy introduction to the genre, especially for fans of TL.
4 Williams Brothers: Double Joker IPA
A welcome arrival to bottles, this bold Scottish-style Imperial IPA has been raising eyebrows and popping chest hairs in pubs since last year. On opening, its light aroma belies its potent, generously hopped lip-smacking taste. The lush sweet taste of summer rains works magic with the rich maltiness of dried fruits before growing into a lingering bitterness that has a hint of light whisky. An absolute cracker.
5 Inveralmond: Sunburst
Inveralmond's Sunburst pilsner has been around on cask for a good while, and it's testament to its popularity that the Perthshire brewery is using it to launch their Inspiration series of beers. Gentle bittering, and much, much more interesting than your typical lager, it's floral without being pungent, sweet without being sickly. Has a long medium dry finish. Ideal for summer drinking, regardless of the weather.
6 Fyne Ales: Landslide
An American-style brown beer that comes in American-style bottles i.e. 330ml. It's a wry nod to the brewery's infrequent isolation caused by the closure of the Rest and Be Thankful road due to rain and subsequent landslips. It's a curious but unassuming beer, with a sweet malt and pine hop aroma. Tastewise, there's plenty going on, an earthiness (appropriately), tangy treacle, biscuit, spices and a bitter finish.
7 Gypsy Inc/BrewDog: Pale Trail
One of a series of collaboration beers by Danish wizards Mikkeller, which has brewed its latest batch at the formidable Ellon brewery. Mikkeller doesn't have its own brewery, instead flitting from brewery to brewery (hence the gypsy moniker), leaving fermenting magic in its wake. The Pale Trail has a delicate aroma but packs a punch on the taste. Big malt and citrus hop flavours ease away to a crisp, biscuity and bitter finish. Gypsy beers don't hang around for long … grab them if you see them in your local shop or order online.
8 BrewDog: IPA is Dead 2014
Staying in Ellon, BrewDog has again released four single-hopped IPAs. Each of these powerful Indian Pale Ales is brewed the same way, to the same strength, and with the same malts, but each has a different variety of hop. Contrast, compare or even mix the orange zesty Amarillo with the tropical Kohatu, the tart bitterness of Comet with the spicy pine notes of new hop variety, Exp366.
9 Alechemy: Galaxy Burst IPA
Latest in a series of hop showcases from the Livingston brewery, Galaxy Burst's popularity in casks has prompted its recent launch in bottles. This IPA is an aromatic example of the Australian galaxy hop, so expect citrus, tropical notes in this pungent and moderately bitter light golden-coloured ale. It's one of a number of recent releases from Alechemy, all of which are worth a taste.
10 Deeside Brewery: Swift APA
This very drinkable American Pale Ale kicks off with a fresh hop aroma, potent but not overpowering. In the glass, the caramel biscuit malts balance well with the long, rounded bitterness of the hops that carry notes of orange citrus. It's a splendid session ale that'll treat your tastebuds, but it isn't so hoppy it knocks them out. Yet another extremely moreish ale from the Banchory brewery.
11 Black Isle Brewery: Pluscarden Abbey Blonde
Co-brewed with real-life monks in time for Easter, Black Isle's latest offering is a limited edition abbey blonde. Similar to such beers from Belgium, it pours pale yellow and has notes of banana and vanilla. Pluscarden is a Benedictine Abbey on the outskirts of Elgin, so perhaps we're going to see a revival of monastic brewing in Scotland ...
12 St Andrews: Rye PA
A belter of a beer. One of only 400 so don't expect it to hang around. This Rye PA isn't the first such style St Andrews has brought out, and hopefully it won't be the last. It's a complex yet easy to drink beer that is packed with flavour. Sweet, light, biscuity malts with hops that carry notes such as apricot, resin and spice. The bitterness is strong and lingers, but is far from overpowering. Absolutely delicious. (Also keep an eye out for the similarly limited IP2, a fruity IPA made with a whole wad of lager malts.)