Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Wee Beastie Is Loose !

Wee Beastie Is Loose !

Those of you who were fortunate enough to attend the recent Craft Beer Rising festival at the Old Truman Brewery in London's Brick Lane may have noticed a bit of a buzz around the Harviestoun Brewery stand as they officially launched their Wee Beastie Collection. They had a range of beers available over the weekend, and on the Thursday afternoon when I was there were the  juicy US-hop stuffed Turnpike IPA, and 'Raspy' Engine, their Old Engine Oil Engineers Reserve steeped in Scottish raspberries were going down a storm. If you got to try either of them then you'll already know what a treat they are, and this is just the beginning.

Harviestoun Brewery began life on a farm in Dollar Glen in the east of Scotland in 1986. Ken Brooker, a former wooden prototype model builder for the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham whose change of position, investigating warranty claims, had forced him to move north of the border. A keen home brewer, Ken had been hosting regular tasting sessions of his beers for a few years, and it was the success of these that prompted him to change career direction completely and start a brewery.

Initially there was only one beer, Harviestoun Real Ale, but as word spread and demand increased so its portfolio grew to include amongst others, the award winning Schiehallion lager which was first brewed in 1994.

Head brewer Stuart Cail joined Harviestoun from Vaux in 1995, and the introduction of beers such as Bitter and Twisted and Old Engine Oil really put the brewery on the map, so much so that the a change of premises was needed and in 2004 Haviestoun moved to its present location.

It was the arrival of the Ola Dubh core range, Old Engine Oil aged for six months in barrels that previously housed Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky for 12, 16, and 18 years respectively, which caused the biggest stir when it was released in 2007. Rich and complex these are beers to be sipped, savoured, explored and enjoyed, and these have been joined with limited editions drawn from 30 and 40 year old barrels, as well as a batch from Highland Park casks from 1991.

The Wee Beastie Collection is Harviestoun's next adventure in beer experimentation, and one you really won't want to miss. Consisting of a series of exciting small batch cask conditioned beer releases issued at irregular intervals, although a small number of bottles may be available, the brewery plans to take your taste buds to new levels of enjoyment.

I have been lucky enough to be asked to write a few words about the beers, and in conjunction with The Beer O'Clock Show who are doing their own exclusive Wee Beastie podcast, I will be sampling some cheeky sneak previews of what's going to be coming our way.

First up is a 9.0% Barley Wine that has been lovingly decanted from the cask for my delectation. Pouring the colour of burnished bronze with a thin but beautifully creamy off-white head with the aroma of a stewed apple and sultana crumble with a helping of double cream leading to some lighter citrus peel notes, this is a very inviting beer. Quite light over the tongue and with a good prickle of carbonation it initially hits you full on with some big bread pudding flavours with lots of cakey maltiness, and raisins and sultanas too. This mellows quite nicely as it warms with some tangerine and melon flavours taking you into a smooth finish with some hints of toffee and candied peel but no notion of its condsiderable alcohol content. This is a deliciously drinkable beer, in fact it's astonishingly good, full of flavour and so intriguingly complex that it led me down a different avenue when I thought I had it pegged. I couldn't have asked for more than that.

The Old Engine Oil Engineers Reserve is normally produced in 9.0% bottles for the US market, but this has been ramped up to 10.5% for its UK Wee Beastie release. This pours such a deep dark brown that you would almost say it was black, topped with a thin beige head and a seriously heady aroma of rich boozy chocolate you realise quite quickly that this is a beer not to be taken taken lightly. There are some background liquorice and dark fruit notes but its the dark alcoholic chocolate that demands all of your attention. Slick and thick, there is the merest fleeting sensation of carbonation but the bitter chocolate and a supporting toasty flavours let out a deep throaty roar as they hit your tongue. This builds and bursts in the mouth leaving a wonderful chocolate coating behind, slightly bitter and with a touch of black cherry and plum, although this is buried quite deeply and tails off rather sharply into a slightly oily finish. This is a big beer, big in alcohol and big in flavour, and even if it is very much all up front I was rather grateful that the finish wasn't quite so complex as it gave me a brief respite from its full on chocolate attack.

I absolutely love both these beers but of course you don't have to take my word for it, so why not head over to the Beer O'Clock Show website using this link to find out what they thought about them too. I should as a matter of course disclose that these beers were sent to me by Harviestoun to review, and I will be highlighting much more from their Wee Beastie Collection as the year progresses. I very much hope that will join me on this journey and get to taste these exceptionally good beers when you find them. I'd love to here your point of view, and I'm sure the brewery would too, although if your having trouble finding them they are hosting an event in London on the 19th March where you may get the opportunity to do so, or possibly one or two surprises. Come along and find out.

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