Introducing… The Sample Room – posts in which I review beers! First up some new offerings from Harviestoun.
You are probably most likely to have come across Harviestoun for one of two reasons. Their supermarket mainstay Bitter and Twisted – a tasty, citrussy beer that lives up to its name – or their legendary Ola Dubh (pronounced Oola doo), an utterly delicious, viscous porter aged in barrels used to mature whiskey for 12, 16, or 18 years.
They have recently added to their range with some hoppy brews presumably aimed at making the most of the current popularity for more heavily hopped beers and also a new barrel-aged beer – this time a lager. All of these beers came in 330ml bottles – a size Harviestoun are having quite a success with. Here’s what I thought of them.
The Ridge – 5% pale ale
Named after the Mid-Atlantic ridge ‘where two tectonic plates meet at almost the midpoint between America and Scotland’ – the beer’s label declares it a US-style ale using the best of US (Amarillo) and British hops (not named).
It poured a bright, lemony gold with a small white head. The aroma was quite disappointing as I was expecting a big, hoppy noseful but some vague but pleasing citrus aromas emerged. The beer had a delicious hoppy punch, a mixture of citrus and bitterness that put me in mind of sherbet lemons, balanced with a malty, biscuitty aftertaste which counteracted the hop kick making the beer incredibly drinkable.
Broken Dial – 4.5% amber ale
Another fusion of brewing cultures is found within this bottle as we’re told the amber ale is ‘one of [their] brewer’s timeless classics’ made with ‘what is often considered the finest hop on the earth’: Simcoe – again from the US. (Fab hop, yes but not sure I agree with that accolade).
Although clearly well-made and very drinkable beer I didn’t like this as much as The Ridge. A dark bronzey-amber colour with a loose bubbly white head, like the previous beer its very subtle mandarin orange aroma disappointed me when I was anticipating something akin to a grapefruit nasal spray. Clean-tasting and dry with an orange marmalade bitterness, there was sadly something about its malt flavours that turned me off. But to be fair there’s something about reddish beers and the malts used in them that I don’t like in combination with certain hops. I can’t be more precise than that about it right now – but when I can you’ll be first to know. Some people will love this beer – but I’m sticking with The Ridge.
My love of Ola Dubh created huge excitement and anticipation at trying Harviestoun’s new barrel-aged beer but perhaps also conspired against me being blown away by this beer. I sat down to pour it, almost afraid to open it, but when I did was dazzled by its honey-gold colour and small white head full of bead-like bubbles. Its aroma reminded me of a Belgian golden ale or a Tripel with alcoholic scents but also hints of clove and banana usually associated with certain wheat beers.
It began smooth and honey-like, as per its colour, developing alcoholic, fruity flavours with the whisky character seeming very feint but perhaps that has something to do with Glenfarclas, the distillery whose barrels it is aged in, being in Speyside which is noted for two prevailing flavour characteristics: either light and grassy or sherried and therefore quite different to the Orkney-based Highland Park whisky flavours in Ola Dubh.
For me this just didn’t live up to Ola Dubh’s reputation – but let’s face it that’s some huge shoes to fill. So if you like barrel-aged beers, or are a Harviestoun fan, you need to try this beer.
At time of publishing Broken Dial was sold out but you can order Harviestoun beers from their website.