This weekend past saw the 2018 Scottish Beer Awards take place in Edinburgh, an event celebrating the best Scottish beer has to offer - and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Now in its third year, the award ceremony was held at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on 27th September 2018, and I was invited along by Edinburgh based PR agency KD Media to cover the event as a blogger. I was among the near 400 other beer fanatics who descended on the Edinburgh to find out the results of the 296 beers that had been blind tasted back in February.
Upon arrival at the Corn Exchange, we were treated to a drinks reception featuring beers from Harviestoun Brewery, gin & tonics and some highly entertaining live music. After some brief mingling, it was time to take our seats for the evening. My table consisted of a good mixture of people; ranging from fellow bloggers, beer industry people, various Scottish professionals and Gayle Mackail from KD Media - our table host. I must admit, that prior to the evening, I was slightly nervous that I might feel slightly out of place amongst some of the other guests, but everyone was incredibly welcoming and interested to hear my story. It didn't take me long to relax and soon the conversation (and beers) were flowing! It was a great, interesting mix of people and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their stories and thoughts on the industry.
It was soon time for the food! We were treated to a rather fantastic three course. beer paired, gourmet meal - and it did not disappoint! The starter was twice baked Isle of Mull cheddar soufflé, pickled grapes, spiced tomato salsa and celery which was paired with Chimera (IPA, 5.9% ABV) by Drygate Brewing Co. Whilst perhaps maybe being slightly too "cheesy" for my taste, it was enjoyable and worked well with the refreshing, citrus IPA.
The main course consisted of venison and Stornoway black pudding meatballs, creamed potatoes with horseradish from the Isle of Bute, charred tender stem broccoli and crispy fried onions. This was paired with Jet Black Heart (Milk Stout, 4.7% ABV) by BrewDog. The main course was incredible! The meatballs, in particular, were delicious...I could have happily had a second helping! The Jet Black Heart worked brilliantly with them also - it really is one of BrewDog's best core beers.
And finally for dessert, we were served raspberry cranachan with whisky infused berries, whipped cream folded with toasted oatmeal. There was only really one beer this dessert could be served with - Cranachan Killer (Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV) by Fierce Beer of course! Sadly my appetite got the best of me, and the desert was the only course I remembered to photograph...check out how fantastic it looks below! Rest assured that it did actually taste as good as it looked, and of course it was made even better with the beer.
The award ceremony was again hosted by Hardeep Singh Kohli, who was back for the third year running, and Catriona Shearer who joined him in presenting duties for the second year in a row. From the off, it was clear why the pair had returned to host - they are an extremely charismatic pairing, with great chemistry, constantly bouncing jokes off each other throughout the evening...it's safe to say I laughed a lot! Their enthusiasm for the industry was there for all to see, and it really makes a difference when the hosts have a passion for what they are presenting.
There was a total of 49 awards to get through on the night and each category was contended by some amazing breweries, brewers and beers.
Edinburgh's Stewart Brewing took home the main award of the night, winning Scottish Brewery of The Year following a phenomenal business year for them. I must confess, however, that Stewart Brewing are a brewery that wasn't really on my radar this year, but I guess that this has made me sit up and take notice, as I am clearly missing out on some great beer! I did actually feature some of their beers way back when I started this blog, so I know there is quality there. Stewart Brewing also picked up the Growth Business of The Year award alongside a silver and bronze medal in the flavour categories.
Beer of The Year went to Belhaven Brewery and their Twisted Grapefruit IPA. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised by Belhaven claiming this award. Although, again, this another beer that has passed me by this year so I can't be too quick to pass judgement. I am pretty sure it is readily available in the supermarket, so I'll be sure to check it out and share my thoughts.
The big award of the night may have stayed in Edinburgh, however, it was Aberdeen based breweries that really shone on the evening, taking home a combined total of TWELVE awards in the flavour categories. The big winners on the night were Fierce Beer who picked up an amazing FOUR gold awards, taking home the gold in the Best Barrel Aged Beer (Very Big Moose), Best Amplified Beer (Very Big Moose), Best Porter (Dirty Sanchez), Best Sour Beer (Tangerine Tart) along with a silver medal for Split Shift in the Best IPA category. Beer giants BrewDog also enjoyed great success with a total of six awards, including gold and bronze in the Best IPA award for King of Eights and Hazy Jane respectively. A special shout out must also go to local favourites of mine, Brew Toon, who picked up bronze in the Best Lager/Pilsner award for their Weekend Hooker lager - an amazing achievement to round off a fantastic year for them. Aberdeenshire based Sixº North also picked up Beer Bar of The Year for their Glasgow location.
You can find full details of all the winners over on the awards website.
And with that, the evening was over. There was an official after party being held at Sixº North in Edinburgh, that was scheduled to go on until 3am. However, having indulged in quite a few of the beers on the table over the course of the evening, my judgement got the better of me, and I decided to call it a night and head to bed.
Overall, I had a thoroughly fantastic evening at the Scottish Beer Awards, and I can't thank Gayle and the team at KD Media enough for inviting me. Just being in the same room as some true Scottish beer royalty was an incredible experience, and one I feel privileged to have been part of. Congratulations again to all the winners on the evening, especially those hailing from the North East - it really has been an amazing year of beer for Aberdeenshire.
I'm looking forward to next year already 🍻
Fierce Beer have been doing some awesome things this summer - most notably with their "scream" series. Next up we have PBJ (Peanut Butter & Jelly) Riot - a twist on their classic beer 'Peanut Riot' but with added raspberry jam. PBJ Riot is a 6.5% ABV peanut butter & jelly porter, and here's the official description from Fierce Beer:
"Our 'Peanut Riot' is an awesome beer; you’re immediately transported to the confectionery counter after one sip. But we wondered how it would taste as a classic PBJ, with raspberry jam - so we added some in. Try it with toast if you dare!"
Peanut Riot is a pretty damn good beer so the addition of some big raspberry flavours is surely going to make for an interesting beer.
PBJ Riot pours from the can a deep black with a very lively foamy beige head that took quite some time to settle. There's loads of sweet raspberry in the aroma with a slight sourness and some roasted nuts and a hint of chocolate. You get huge sharp, tangy raspberry flavours up front - so much you that you think you're drinking a sour and not a porter. You are then subtly reminded you are indeed drinking a porter with a combination of some roasted peanut flavours combined with a touch of bitter dark chocolate. It all comes together quite well, albeit maybe ever so slightly too sour for a dark beer in my opinion - but that doesn't stop it being enjoyable. There was also quite a bit of sediment in this beer, it didn't bother me too much - but it may bother some people.
Overall this was another pretty awesome beer from Fierce - the mixture of porter and sour certainly turned out to be an interesting one. Whilst it is maybe just slightly too sour for my liking, you can't deny that this beer is jam packed full of flavour. I'd certainly recommend giving it a go while it is still around.
PBJ gets 3.75 out of 5 from me 🍻
We're finally starting to see some decent weather in Aberdeen. That calls for summer beers. Thankfully, Aberdeen's own Fierce beer seem to have came up with the perfect beers; two ice cream ales, perfect for a summers day - Orange Scream, a collaboration with Norwegian masters Amundsen & also Melba Scream.
Since these beers are pretty similar in nature, I'm gonna cover them in a single review. I'd heard nothing but good things about these two beers so I was delighted that Hop Shop Aberdeen got them on the shelves so quickly.
First up we have Orange Scream, a 7% ABV orange ice cream ale. Orange Scream has been brewed in collaboration with Norwegian giants Amundsen who are a brewery that like Fierce, are notorious for packing their beer full of flavour. Here's the official description from Fierce:
"We love the beers that Amundsen make. They pack in a lot of flavour. For this collab we wanted to make a beer that transports you back to childhood days, sitting on the beach with an orange and vanilla ice lolly. Smooth, decadent and also refreshing."
Orange Scream pours from the can a bright orange colour, leaving a thin foamy white head. The orange aromas are literally screaming at you instantly...think of something along the lines of one of those Tango Ice Blasts you have a the cinema, and you're just about there. Then on your first sip big zesty, fizzy, sweet & juicy orange flavours are followed up by a dose of smooth creaminess to hold it all together. It is very sweet, but the smooth creamy texture helps it all work nicely. It really is a surreal beer...an alcoholic Fanta ice cream float beer - it's mad, but it works A LOT.
Orange Scream gets 4.5 out of 5 from me
Next up we have Melba Scream, a 6.7% ABV peach melba ice Cream ale. Here's the official description from Fierce beer:
"Peach Melba is a dessert of peaches and raspberry sauce with vanilla ice cream. The dish was invented in 1892 by the French chef Auguste Escoer at the Savoy Hotel to honour the Australian soprano Nellie Melba. We’re sure both Nellie and Auguste would approve of us making it into a beer..."
Melba Scream pours from the glass a hazy ruby red/orange colour, leaving a foamy off white head. You get the sweet, creamy, fruity aromas instantly - sweet, juicy peaches & raspberries are at the forefront, followed by a vanilla creaminess. The flavours are quite consistent with the aromas; fresh juicy peach combine with the sour tart raspberries to give an almost Skittles like flavour explosion. Again, the smooth creamy texture is there to give this beer an extremely drinkable mouthfeel. As with Orange Scream, it's all pretty bonkers - but it works incredibly well.
Melba Scream gets 4.5 out of 5 from me
These beers are awesome. I'd love them to become a permanent fixture in Fierce's lineup or even just a yearly summer release. There was almost nothing between them in terms of taste and quality, but I think Orange Scream just about edged it for me as I found it slightly more refreshing. These beers are perfect for summer drinking - stock up and enjoy them in the sun while you can 🍻
Fierce Beer x Brew York / BrewDog x Fierce Beer
Over the last couple of weeks I've had two versions of Very Big Moose. Initially brewed as a collaboration with BrewDog as part #COLLABFEST2017, it has since been re-released as a collaboration with Brew York using Tonka beans & again with BrewDog in celebration of #PUNKAGM2018.
Since I had both these versions just days apart, I decided to review them together. Hop Shop Aberdeen again delivered the goods in getting these two awesome collaborations on the shelves in no time at all.
Very Big Moose: tonka - fierce Beer x Brew York
First up we have Very Big Moose: Tonka edition, a beer that was my beer of the show at #northhopabz recently. VBM: Tonka is a 12% ABV imperial chocolate stout that has been brewed using Tonka beans in collaboration with york based brewery, Brew York. If like me, you didn't know what Tonka beans were...here's a quick explanation from Google:
"Tonka beans are a somewhat exotic ingredient that is becoming more and more common in home cupboards. The beans are about an inch long and look similar to raisins in texture and are actually seeds from a type of flowering tree found in South America. They are often used as a substitute for vanilla in recipes and have their own vanilla-like flavour – but with fruity, spicy notes. Tonka beans pair well with chocolate as well as sweet fruits such as strawberries and is often used in puddings and in ice creams."
So, now that we're all educated, here's what Fierce beer had to say about this beer:
"When deciding on what beer to make with the amazing guys from Brew York,it really was an easy decision. Taking our multi-award winning Very Big Moose, and using their expertise in the use of Tonka beans has produced something superspecial. A robust stout with a velvety mouthfeel, cacao notes and – wham! – Tonka awesomeness."
I'd heard very good things about this beer, so naturally when I seen it on the Fierce Beer tap list at North Hop, I had to try it - and wow, it blew me away. The flavours were incredible! So much so, that the very next morning, I got myself round to Westhill Service Station to pick up a can.
VBM: Tonka pours a deep, oil black colour, leaving a thin brown head that disperses pretty rapidly. The aromas from this beer are incredible; sticky, sweet toffee, combined with loads of chocolate & vanilla are rounded off with a touch of coffee - almost like a sticky toffee pudding in a glass! Unsurprisingly, the flavours do not disappoint either - huge vanilla flavours are combined with bitter chocolate, sweet treacle, roasted coffee & a warming alcohol finish. Wow. This beer is so good. For being 12% ABV, it is extremely drinkable too, very slick mouthfeel with little fizz.
Overall Very Big Moose: Tonka gets 4.75 out of 5 from me 🍻
Very Big Moose - BrewDog x Fierce Beer
Unfortunately for me, I missed out on last years collaboration between Fierce Beer & BrewDog. So when I heard from Hop Shop Aberdeen that it was being released again to celebrate this years #PUNKAGM then I made sure I wasn't missing out again. Very Big Moose is again, a 12% ABV imperial chocolate stout and here's the official lowdown from BrewDog:
"Not only did crew from BrewDog Aberdeen assist in the brewing of this beer for #Collabfest2017 - but it came out on top as the winner, beating 33 other beers for that top spot!
Together they brewed up a super-imperial version of Fierce Beer's session chocolate - Moose Mousse. They used the best Colombian Cacao and Madagascan Vanilla. It drinks really well at room temp, chilled, or with an ice cream float.
We brought this one back by popular demand for #PunkAGM2018!"
Yeah, this is going to be something special...
Very Big Moose pours from the awesomely designed bottle a dark black with a thin tan head that doesn't hang around very long. The aromas here are again awesome - roasted coffee, sweet brown sugar & marshmallow are combined with loads of vanilla. Flavours are out of this world - rich milky chocolate combine with vanilla, brown sugar & roasted coffee to create almost the perfect imperial dessert stout. For a 12% ABV beer there also isn't too much sign of the alcohol either, which is pretty dangerous! The mouthfeel is excellent too - luxurious, silky smooth, slightly creamy & very little carbonation make this extremely enjoyable to drink.
It's understandable why this beer has a 100 overall rating on RateBeer. Wow. For me, it just pips the Tonka version. Overall, Very Big Moose gets 5 out of 5 hops from me 🍻
So overall, these are two incredible versions of the same beer & one that I'm glad I finally got round to drinking. Hopefully we can expect to see more awesome collabs between BrewDog & Fierce, especially with them being practically neighbours now!
The Final Fling
Over the past weekend, North Hop descended on the AECC to celebrate its final fling as we know it. I was lucky enough to get invited along & attended the opening session on Friday night.
Having been to North Hop previously, and its sister festival - The Spirit of North Hop last year, I was super excited for this. The list of breweries, food vendors & everything else made for such an awesome lineup.
There were loads of great beers at North Hop this year. There were beers from great local breweries I'd already had plenty of experience with like Brew Toon, Beer Story & Fierce Beer and then there were breweries that were new to me such as Out of Town Brewing & Top Out Brewery. It was great to have such a range of beers to enjoy throughout the night and also being able to chat to the people from the breweries themselves - they were all extremely friendly, sharing stories about the breweries & the beers.
Overall, the beer of the show for me was Fierce Beer - Very Big Moose (Tonka), their 12.5% ABV imperial chocolate stout. This beer was immense...I had one sip of my friends beer & knew straight away I had to get one for myself. Unfortunately this was towards the end of the night, so my photography skills had greatly diminished, and I wasn't able to get a photo of the beer. Keep an eye out for a full review of this one in the near future.
Other highlights for me included M'ango Unchained by Brew Toon, the new Outsiders IPA from Beer Story, Orange Pale Ale & Property IPA from Out of Town - I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from these guys. A quick note on the creme brulee doughnut crush from Out of Town - I didn't get much doughnut taste in the beer, I would definitely be interested in trying this again to see if it is just a gimmick or if you can actually make out the flavours.
My only regret is not taking my glass home! Every time I have been at North Hop I have headed out afterwards so on each occasion I have unfortunately had to leave my glass behind.
There was also some top notch food on show at North Hop with Aberdeen favourites Melt on hand with their epic cheese toasties. I opted for the classic mac & cheese with Kerry going for the haggis one. As always, they were awesome, and the perfect way to kick off the night. My only regret was not buying one of those cream egg brownies (seriously, what was I thinking?!).
Aberdeen restaurant So...were there showcasing their "On Fire" street food menu. For me, the food highlight of the evening was their Firecracker loaded fries - they were EPIC. Perfectly seasoned crispy fries, topped with cheese, chillies & coriander. So... is a restaurant that I have crazily never actually visited. They often hold pop up events with their street food menu, and for whatever reason - I have never actually gone along. However, this will definitely change following my experience with these fries...they were SO damn good!
Aside from the awesome beer & food, there was plenty else to enjoy at North Hop including an array of awesome music throughout the night. Ranging from a piper in full highland dress kicking things off, a host of acoustic acts, before things being rounded off by the electric "Sweet White" who put in an excellent performance full of energy.
Along with the fantastic beer selection there was also the first ever North Hop bar, which showcased a bunch of really cool cocktails served up by a team of local barmen. These cocktails were expertly made & looked great and whilst I never had any myself, Kerry had one and assured me it was great.
Overall, we had a fantastic time at North Hop and I would like to thank the North Hop team again for putting on such a great event & for inviting me along. While it's a sad farewell for now, I'm incredibly excited to see how the next chapter looks - and if this is anything to go by, then I will be first in line 🍻