27 November 2010

Cairngorm Brewery Company: Stag / Black Gold / Blessed Thistle / Sheepshaggers Gold [By Spectre]

Regular readers will know that ale is my favourite drink. Not necessarily the weird flavoured ones that Cinabar has tortured me with in the past, but real ales that give you a bitter bite at the back of your mouth on drinking and give you a warm feeling inside as you drink. After all that torture, here is my treat; eight different ales from the Cairngorm Brewery Company, which is set in the Highlands of Scotland. Their ales are brewed with pure Highland water and have won a variety of awards since 2001 from SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) and CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). Now most people know that the Scottish know their booze (no offence intended). Knowing that fact and with my previous experience tasting a multitude of beers over many years, I happily polished my trusty tankard ready for indulgence. There was a risk that I may get too potted to type about them all in one post, so I thought I’d savour each one and write up reviews for four at a time (besides, I get told off by Cinabar if I get too plastered).


The big stag on the label made me wonder if I’d be particularly virile after drinking this mahogany coloured ale. The beverage has a strong bitter smell and a fresh bite to start with, followed by a rich brown ale taste that’s smoother than Newcastle Brown Ale and more indulgent than Mann’s. Challenger and Fuggles hops are added to Cairngorm’s Stag building the bitterness, and this ale definitely did not disappoint the taste buds or my sense of manliness!

Black Gold

This is a Scottish rival to the Irish stouts on the market. On first taste I could easily see why it won the SIBA Supreme Champion Beer of the Year. It smells like a strong stout, and with four colours of malt added in the brewing there is a smooth nutty flavour. There is the usual satisfying meal like feeling as you drink this stout that you get from Irish stouts such as Guinness or Murphy’s, but there’s also a noticeable sweetness to it. It reminded me of a good dark chocolate bar. The full flavour of the pint hit my senses after the sweetness had passed, it made me feel like I was tucking into a good hearty main course. The creaminess of this stout wasn’t mentioned on the label. It’s a creaminess that needs to be described by simply savouring the taste of the stout rather than to write it in words. The sweetness, followed by full flavour and that distinctive creaminess makes this stout one of the best tasting stouts I’ve ever drank, if not the best stout. It begs for a meaty meal, like a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings or a stew to warm you on a dark cold winter’s night, failing this, a late night indulgence in front of the box with a good film and a few bags of meaty flavoured crisps.

Blessed Thistle

Before hops were used in brewing ale to reach the desired bitterness, thistle was used in some beers in Scotland. I thought this was a mad idea until I actually tried a Thistle beer a while back. I thoroughly enjoyed that Thistle beer, with its added chocolate and ginger flavours and have since drunk it on many occasions. When I heard about Blessed Thistle, I was hoping this would be a good rival for the Marks and Spencer offering. I was not to be disappointed. This is a slightly stronger tasting beer, where the bitterness of the thistle and aftertaste of chocolate and ginger are slightly exaggerated; however this isn’t a bad thing in any way. I find this type of beer makes a perfect late night treat or after dinner liquid desert – the only beer I have found that beats a Thistle beer for after dinner is Meantime Chocolate beer.

Sheepshaggers Gold

There’s a very cheerful looking sheep on the label of this lager style beer, and I can’t help wondering why? Cairngorm states that this is; “the best beer baa none!” There is a variety of hops added during brewing to create the initial unique bitterness. There weren’t too many bubbles to remind me of a gas guzzling lager. The beer reminded me of good pale ale, and although lacking the bite of a Marston’s pale ale, such as Old Empire, the light bitterness smoothes out treating the taste buds with a soft stroking that makes you think of spring water ale, such as Adnam’s, this fits well with Cairngorm’s use of Highland spring water. The smoothness of this ale makes it very easy to drink indeed. At 4.5% volume don’t drink too many of these unless you want to wake up with one of Shaun’s relatives!
By Spectre

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