Since the advent of the "lad" all those years ago, beer has really only meant one thing to men – lager. So there’s always been Guinness on the radar but for a while that was the only alternative we’ve had in a market saturated with over-aerated pints-of-piss. Fortunately, over the past couple of years we’ve started to see an influx of foreign and specialist brews flowing into our pubs.
This has mostly come in the form of Belgian beers and their wonderfully weird and diverse range. Quinn’s pub, in Camden, for instance, stocks close to three hundred different European beers, half of which are Belgian. Suddenly drinking beer is no longer just an arbitrary thing to do as a man upon entering a pub. You can refine your palette, making a choice between a German doppelbock or the many Belgian Trappist brews. You can even have a robust English ale that comes in limited casks. This week however, I’ll be reviewing a Scottish beer. And bloody nice it is too.
The Scottish aren’t know for their beer. Their whiskey yes (by God there’s some good Whiskeys), but not their beer. And it probably would have stayed like that, if it wasn’t for the cheeky workers at the William Grant and Sons whiskey distillery. They had chanced upon what would become Innis and Gunn when oak barrels were flavoured with beer in anticipation of holding a new ale matured whiskey. Instead of discarding the ale, they were basically nabbing it for themselves. This was reported to the factory manager and, a few months later, "Innis and Gunn" had won about a million medals. And not without reason.
Sweet and malty with a soft, caramel-oak aftertaste, Innis and Gunn is an ale, but not as we know it. There’s no sharp sourness that you get with some English ales and it absolutely glides down, almost like a smooth lager. Unlike a lager, and most beers in fact, there’s absolutely no bitterness, which is why it would appeal to a wider market – it is in no way an unpleasant drink. In fact, the worst thing about it is how strong it is 6.6%. Even after one bottle you know you’ve had one.
Alas, it is only currently available in Supermarkets, at about £1.50 for 330ml. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. It’s a great drink to have at home, especially with a meal. Refrigerate (again, unlike most ales) and drink with gamey meats, I recommend venison, or with strong, earthy cheeses.