Despite being very aware of the importance of date-checking when buying unusual beers, I drop the ball quite regularly. Rarely as spectacularly as I did recently, when I picked up this bottle of Belhaven St Andrew's Ale and noticed at home a date of August 2007. Yikes!
It's no hard-wearing high-alcohol affair neither, at just 4.6% I was afraid this pale ale would be very far past its best by the time I opened it. Only one way to find out...
Out of the oddly-sized 355ml bottle comes a darkish amber beer with a fluffy long-lasting head. The aroma offers spicy malt, though not in abundant quantities. There's quite a full body, but with the light carbonation it's still pleasantly easy-going. The taste is dominated by an almost bacon-like smokiness which I thoroughly enjoyed. There's very little information on how it's brewed and from what, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were wood chips involved somewhere along the line. There's only a very faint musty staleness deriving from the beer's superannuation, and I've little doubt but that this is a superb beer when in top condition. Understated, unchallenging, but still very tasty.
No freshness issue with the next Scottish beer: a light (4.2%) IPA which is scheduled to last well into next year. Carronade is by Falkirk's Tryst brewery and was ranked Scotland's top bottle-conditioned ale in 2005. The bottle was kindly donated by Thom from his CAMRA beer club stash.
It's a worrying shade of pale amber with a fair bit of gas. Aroma it has in spades: zesty orange and lime notes acting as a wake-up call to the tastebuds. The body is as light as expected, but it's hard to pay any attention to matters of texture when there's such a massive flavour. The western US hops give it a powerful bitterness, dominating the palate on first taste and then fading slightly, allowing those aromatic fruity tones to spread. I detect a hint of an off-flavour -- a slight soapiness -- just on the end of it. It's very strange finding a big-flavoured sipping ale, bottle-conditioned, at a mere 4.2%. Well done to Tryst for achieving this. Carronade will definitely keep the serious hop heads happy.