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Here's what they did with the beer

They called it Double Scotch

Will you be drinking beer, or Scotch whisky, on January 25? You will be aware, of course, that it is an important celebration for Scots everywhere, marking the birth in 1759 of their national poet, Robert Burns.

The English tend to think that Burns' famous rendition of "John Barleycorn" referred to beer. "No, you lost the second page," maintain the Scots. "The poem is a recipe for whisky." Either way, Burns' Night is an important excuse for a malt-based beverage. I shall be celebrating with a pint or two of Double Scotch.

Double ScotchA whole pint of Scotch? This one is a beer, matured in whisky casks. The beer is newly available: in Scotland, at The Caledonian Sample Room (58 Angle Park Terrace), Edinburgh; The Station Bar (Port Dundas Rd), Glasgow); and in England, at White Horse, Parson's Green, London. If it is well received, it will be bottled, and may then find its way to the United States and elsewhere.

If it is a beer, why is it called Double Scotch? Because the brew was initially made to season whisky casks prior to their being used to "finish" blended Scotch. This new procedure was discussed on this website last September, in my story (a world scoop at the time) about Grant's Ale Cask Whisky

Check that story for the background. I might add, though, that the casks used were made from American oak (from the Ozarks), coopered in Kentucky, and first used to mature Bourbon. The empty casks were the shipped to Scotland and filled with ale for three months. The ale was then removed and replaced by matured Scotch. "So what did they do with all that beer?" I asked at the time. The answer: put it into beer casks and sell it as Caledonian Double Scotch.

A misleading description? "Not at all," says the brewery's chairman, Russell Sharp. "The beer is a Scotch Ale. The maturation was in casks at a Scotch whisky distillery."

The beer has the colour of a sunset, and a gently sustained warmth from its hefty alcohol (around 9.0 per cent; casks have varied from 7.5 to 11.0). The whisky wood has added a deliciously toffeeish vanilla character, with suggestions of green fruit in a gently tannic balancing dryness.

I wrote a story on the beer for the London-based national daily newspaper The Independent, and on the whisky for the Sunday newspaper The Observer.

In the beer story, I also gave credit to another Scottish brewery, Borve, of Ruthven, Aberdeenshire. This very small brewery has for some years sporadically used casks that have previously contained Bourbon and then Scotch whiskies.

I also mentioned the pioneering work of the John Willie Lees brewery, in Manchester, England. Its strong Harvest Ale has in the last couple of years occasionally been aged in casks that previously contained malt whiskies from the Lagavulin and Highland Park distilleries, on the Scottish islands of Islay and Orkney respectively.

I have variously tasted these beers at a bar called Chalkie's in Indianapolis; at The Brickskeller, in Washington, D.C.; and at Monk's Cafe, in Philadelphia.

The latest vintage of Harvest Ale has also been finished in Calvados, Sherry and Port casks. Some of these are currently on the high seas to the U.S. They will also be making their British debut in the next few days at the North Bar (New Briggate), in the city of Leeds, Yorkshire.


Published: JAN 23, 2002
In: Beer Hunter Online

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