Scotland seems to be the place to be at the moment when it comes to beer. Personally, what I like about Scottish brews is that they seem to be able to maintain a certain identity; there's not mistaking a Scottish ale these days, from the innovation of Williams Bros Brewing Co to the ever-popular Harviestoun, to the regal air of Traquair. It's that locality that any region that wants to hold its own in brewing needs to latch onto and keep.
The most impressed I've been of late was with a couple of bottles of Orkney's beers. One was brought back from a Scottish visit at the start of the year, when these beers were somewhat rare in my neck of the woods. Last week I topped it up with another, and was struck by how easy to get Scottish craft beers are now.
I have a predilection for beers that included with word 'Red' in the title - for me, it conjures up heat, roasted malt, depth of flavour and a little sweetness - which is essentially true of the superb Red McGregor. It pours deep, ruby red, and there's a real bitter hop-hit towards the end of the sip, and a floral nose, but there's a huge heart of malt in this beer. A friend of mine remarked that he thought it tasted a little of Anchor Steam - and in respect of the sweetness, I can see his point. I'd like to think that on cask the hoppiness may be toned down a little, but I wouldn't even know where to start with finding this.
On the opposite end of the scale, Northern Light (sounds like a whole new style, doesn't it) is a super-easy drinking Pale Ale, although I thought it was more in line with a Golden Ale. Again, there's a bitter, citrus hoppiness that fades surprisingly fast, and the aroma is that wet grass/hay that you get with beers like this. The body is a little thinner that its darker brother, but overall this was a perfect summer quaffing pale. Fans of Harviestoun's Bitter & Twisted, Goose Eye's Wonkey Donkey and Hopback's Summer Lighting should head here.
I bought the Northern Light from Simpson's - an unashamedly posh deli near The Adelphi and Pin. They've overhauled thier beer range and now have a decent stock including Leeds Brewery's Pale and Midnight Bell. Do have a look.