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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Beers for Braveheart

Christmas time in the United States is the time of the year where the beer lover is inundated with the beer gift pack. The "12 Beers of Christmas", "Beers of the World", "Belgium Beers and Goblets" are the types of packages one might see on the shelves of their local beer store. One package I came across this year, I had never seen before and that was The Historic Beers of Scotland brewed by the Craigmill Brewery in Strathaven, Scotland.

The winters in Scotland can be quite harsh. Cold, damp and dark. The kind of weather during the kind of season that would keep a sensible person inside next to a fireplace having a Scottish Ale or two. Scottish Ales were a beer that I have always been fond of, especially this time of year. The full bodied beer and the cold outside temperatures are a perfect match. The Craigmill Brewery upped the ante a bit and decided to brew five beers using historic recipes, recipes that date back as far as the 9th century. The box that the beer was displayed in was intriguing. All of the beer had a historical account of their recipes and ingredients. Beers brewed with heather, kelp, pine, elderberries and gooseberries were enough to have me gift myself and purchase a gift set.

Grozet is a wheat beer brewed with gooseberries, dating back to the 16th century. This beer was as refreshing as any wheat beer and atypical of the Scottish Ale style. Grozet would probably taste great on a hot summer day. Alba is a brown beer brewed with spruce and pine. The wood flavor actually came out in the beer. I know, who wants to taste wood in their beer. But the wood gave the beer a really smooth after taste. My wife, who will only drink a dark beer, loved this one and almost drank my entire bottle. Alba at 7.5% alcohol made the perfect after dinner beer. Fraoch has been brewed in Scotland since 2000BC and the main ingredient added to the secondary fermentation is heather. The heather gave the Fraoch a dry wine after taste. I had some spicy chicken wings with this beer and the two tastes complemented each other perfectly. Ebulum was first brewed in the Scottish Highlands during the 9th century with elderberries as the added ingredient. Elderberries, at that time, were used to treat many ailments, including the flu, arthritis, neuralgia and sciatica. Maybe I should give this beer to my patients with each spinal adjustment. Ebulum was a very dark, almost black ale. This beer also had oats added to the wort, which gave the beer a silky quality to its taste. Kelpie, it goes without saying is brewed with seaweed. Kelpie actually had a sea breeze aroma, so I cracked open a few oysters and thoroughly enjoyed drinking this beer. My favorite beer of the five was the Alba, which made me wish I had purchased a few more gift sets.

The Craigmill Brewery is located in an 18th century watermill located on the bank of the river Avon, near Glasgow. The beer is actually brewed in a stone kettle based on an 18th century design from Glasgow University. If you see the Historic Beers of Scotland Gift Package, grab a few. They are worth it for the taste as well as the history. Visit the Craigmill Brewery website at www.heatherale.co.uk or contact at fraoch@heatherale.co.uk .

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