Innis & Gunn Edinburgh Ale 6.6%

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old faithful
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Innis & Gunn Edinburgh Ale 6.6%

Postby old faithful » Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:13 pm

This showed up in the last couple of days at St. Clair West LCBO (between Spadina and Bathurst). Oddest things show up here, months can go by with nothing too new or interesting, then, bang! :)

This is in a clear bottle, 6.6% abv. Its thing is it is stored for a while in ex-malt whisky casks.

I like it. There is nothing too "natural" about it, i.e., no yeastiness such as one finds in many Belgian beers or bottle-conditioned beers from anywhere. Also, it has no estery quality such as one finds in English ales (although esteriness is not really a hallmark of Scotch ales, due perhaps to the historically colder temperatures at which ale was brewed in Scotland vs. (in the south at any rate), England). But it has a fresh smooth butterscotch-like taste, free of pasteurisation burn which is nice. I can't say I notice the whisky's effect although some oaky influence is present, and also a definite light smoky note, which I now think must derive from whisky and not just that, peated whisky. In any case the marriage of whisky and beer produces a distinctive, pleasing effect that can't be linked necessarily to the components (a not unusual effect of a blending method).

A nice change of pace.

No indication on the label who brews this but there is a website (Greg take it from here :)).

Gary
Last edited by old faithful on Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby joey_capps » Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:42 pm

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer is brewed by Caledonian Brewery.
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Postby old faithful » Wed Sep 07, 2005 8:33 am

I read the site (www.innisandgunn.com) and it seems the beer is aged in Kentucky oak barrels before the barrels are used by distillers. The information is not 100% clear but I think the barrels were not previously used to hold malt whisky or bourbon because the notes state that the "first fill" is the beer. So the smoky notes must derive from the use of peated malt, not from residual peated whisky in the cask or even residual bourbon.

Some bourbon has smoky notes (from being aged in deep-charred oak barrels) but the smoke I get in this beer is more peat-like than charcoal-like. The purchase of new barrels to hold beer is interesting since new barrels are much more costly than ex-distillery ones (10-20 times as much). Also, sometimes new barrels will leach a marked tannic flavour into the beer. However Innis and Gunn do it, the beer is very good and has a nice balance of wood, smoke and malty tastes. A bottle-conditioned version would be outstanding but it is good as it is. Interesting that Caledonian's is the brewer, certainly one of the best in Scotland. Their Scotch ale was available here in recent years and was quite good with its own smoky or roasted notes but the flavour was quite different than this oak-aged beer.

Gary
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Postby Bobbyok » Wed Sep 07, 2005 12:01 pm

This seems to be another love it or hate it beer based on the people I know who have tried it. And I hated it. I found it far too sweet up front, almost as though there were sugar added. I think it reminded me way too much of Fischer Adelscott, which is made with "peat smoked malt", but then has sugar added to the final product after fermentation. I can understand why others would like it, but it wasn't for me.
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Postby midlife crisis » Mon Sep 12, 2005 5:52 pm

I have to agree with Bobbyok on this one, even though I'm generally a fan of English and Scottish ales. It's too sweet and too oaky for me. It is quite remiscent of bourbon though (IMO), but watered and sweetened bourbon.
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Postby Josh Oakes » Tue Sep 13, 2005 2:32 am

The lay version of the story is this - Caledonian has long made a beer that was used as the first fill for a Glenfiddich (I'm pretty sure) barrels. It's the beer that's been used to treat the barrels.

Russell Sharp, a former Caledonian brewer (or maybe it was director, it's late and I'm getting fuzzy in the head) is the man who's spearheaded the Innis & Gunn company.

So the beer is made at Caledonian, now owned by Scottish Courage, and marketed by Innis & Gunn, a seperate entity. Oxford BBD has a post saying it's bottled at Marston's.

The relationship between this beer and Caledonian is actually not especially good, considering where the stuff is brewed. It's on the Glenfiddich side - Grant's - that a lot of the marketing muscle for the come derives from.

Sounds like a unique product if nothing else, it'll be good to try it.
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Postby old faithful » Tue Sep 13, 2005 10:37 am

I think you'll like it, it's got big punchy flavours, much more so than UK imports that are not bottle-conditioned (a small category, unfortunately). I did not find it any sweeter than many Belgians at that strength level. (By the way I've had the Grant's Ale Cask Reserve whisky and it's not bad). Unlike most whisky cask beers though, this one sems to be aged in plain (new) American oak. But maybe in fact reused bourbon barrelsare used. I can't believe anyone would pay 8 or 10 times what a sound seasoned ex-bourbon or Jack Daniel cask costs, but maybe they did. But where then does the smoky taste of the beer come from? It's not really a charred wood taste but rather a peat-like taste. I think they used peat-smoked malt. But then why not (since they have access evidently to malt whisky casks) use an ex-Glenfiddich cask? Because (I speculate) Glenfiddich and its sister distillery Balvenie are not especially peaty whiskies. This gets complicated.

Gary
Last edited by old faithful on Tue Sep 13, 2005 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby tupalev » Tue Sep 13, 2005 1:23 pm

This was an interesting one for sure. While I appreciated the oak-inspired bourbon flavours at first, I found they began to completely dominate as it warmed, turning this beer from an interesting sipper to an undrinkable one-time novelty act. Which kind of sucks since I have another bottle. Oh well, I hate to do it, but I guess I'll just have to drink it really cold.
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Postby old faithful » Tue Sep 13, 2005 5:57 pm

Just blend it with a light ale, say, Arkell Bitter. The combo 50/50 would be great. I'd use any English-type ale or bitter but not a highly flavoured one. The new Nickelbrook ale would be ideal, too. That way you'll get much the same flavour but toned down, more approachable. I'm sampling now Headstrong which is very good, it has an interesting medicinal-like taste at the end. I think the Edinburgh beer and Arkell 50/50 in fact would taste much like the Headstrong.
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Postby Belgian » Tue Sep 13, 2005 7:15 pm

old faithful wrote:I think you'll like it, it's got big punchy flavours, much more so than UK imports that are not bottle-conditioned (a small category, unfortunately). I did not find it any sweeter than many Belgians at that strength level. (By the way I've had the Grant's Ale Cask Reserve whisky and it's not bad). Unlike most whisky cask beers though, this one sems to be aged in plain (new) American oak. But maybe in fact reused bourbon barrelsare used. I can't believe anyone would pay 8 or 10 times what a sound seasoned ex-bourbon or Jack Daniel cask costs, but maybe they did. But where then does the smoky taste of the beer come from? It's not really a charred wood taste but rather a peat-like taste. I think they used peat-smoked malt. But then why not (since they have access evidently to malt whisky casks) use an ex-Glenfiddich cask? Because (I speculate) Glenfiddich and its sister distillery Balvenie are not especially peaty whiskies. This gets complicated.

Gary


Wow you really thought about this stuff. Now I feel compelled to try it.

There are few beers I can't finish, Kasteel Donker being a tough one for me.
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Postby GregClow » Tue Sep 13, 2005 8:47 pm

old faithful wrote:Just blend it with a light ale, say, Arkell Bitter. The combo 50/50 would be great.


Gary, normally I consider your blending suggestions to be... well, odd.

But in this case, I agree with you that blending the I&G with a light ale might result in quite a quaffable beverage - especially since my tasting notes for the I&G said: "a mild ale with a shot of whiskey dumped into it might be quite similar to this.

Like Jeff, I've got another bottle of the I&G on hand, and I may just try blending it with something to see how it turns out.
Last edited by GregClow on Sat Sep 17, 2005 10:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby old faithful » Wed Sep 14, 2005 2:08 am

I know the blending suggestions strike many as odd but they are not, really, when you think about it. All you are doing is staying with the same kind of palate but lightening it. The Black and Tan is the same kind of idea - and I didn't invent that. :) I was reading in Martin Cornell's book, Beer: The Story of the Pint, that in the late 1800's, brewers in England made beers in four or five main styles: bitter, mild ale, Burton, porter/stout. But in each class they put out the beer in three bands of alcoholic strength, so e.g. you had a XX Mild, XXX Mild and XXXXX Mild, which might represent 4% abv, 6% abv and 8% abv. (He explains that the term barley wine came to be used to describe the top end of a range but it might in fact have been one of a number of styles, not a style unto itself). So too in stout, say, you might have have an Imperial or Extra Double Stout at the top end, a Single Extra Stout in the middle, and a Porter or Milk Stout at the down end. Each brewer had its own versions and variations but this was the general trend. Cornell states that the middle beer in the range was often a blend of the strongest and weakest beer in the range. So what I'm suggesting is the approximately the same thing, make a similar but lighter-tasting beer to the Edinburgh one by blending it with a weaker ale that, if not of the same style, won't clash with it. It might even be better to use Raftman for this because that is lightly smoked. If 50/50 results in too strong a beer, use 1/3 the Edinburgh beer to 2/3 Raftman. (In fact that would be really good, I think). Or try using MacEwan's Scotch Ale instead of the oak aged Edinburgh one. Many brewers blend, e.g. Newcastle Brown Ale is a combination of two beers, one an amber ale, one a lighter ale. (Not that I am a big fan of this beer but it illustrates a point). You can do it too, and pub goers have for generations in the form of light and bitter, black and tan, etc. True, it is less common today to see people do this, even in England, but the theory doesn't change. All these subtleties of palate and blending are getting lost there in the lager onslaught but we can carry the flag. :)

Gary
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Postby tupalev » Wed Sep 14, 2005 7:04 am

Gary, I'm glad blending works for you and that you enjoy it. I have the opinion that if a brewer wants to blend his beer, he'll do it himself and then present me with the final product. Beers are blended all the time as you mention, just like wines and spirits, but I prefer not to play mad scientist myself (except when making homebrew of course), and judge the final product on what it is. But obviously this sort of thing can appeal to people, examples being your enjoyment of it and the success of the Beer Cocktails at Beer Bistro.
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Postby JerCraigs » Wed Sep 14, 2005 8:28 am

tupalev wrote:Gary, I'm glad blending works for you and that you enjoy it. I have the opinion that if a brewer wants to blend his beer, he'll do it himself and then present me with the final product. Beers are blended all the time as you mention, just like wines and spirits, but I prefer not to play mad scientist myself (except when making homebrew of course), and judge the final product on what it is. But obviously this sort of thing can appeal to people, examples being your enjoyment of it and the success of the Beer Cocktails at Beer Bistro.


I can see the blending as a good way to salvage a beer you already bought and don't care for it its intended form, but I find the idea of buying one that you know in advance you will bland. Why buy that one then? Theres plenty of different beers out there, or try your hand at brewing your own.
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Postby Bobbyok » Wed Sep 14, 2005 8:41 am

Gary, normally I consider your blanding suggestions to be... well, odd.

...but I find the idea of buying one that you know in advance you will bland...


Is this some kind of Freudian Slip, only in beer terms? Would that make it a Jacksonian Slip?

I have to agree with Jeremy, on a more serious note. If I bought it and didn't like it, I might blend it to get through the bottle, but I'm not going to buy a beer I don't like because it blends with something else to make it drinkable.

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