For those of us that grew up in Scotland, the name Alloa is synonymous with brewing. Youngers, Maclays and of course the biggest of them all when I was a lad, Ind Coope, brewing in the former Arrol's Brewery, famous or infamous for Skol Lager and whose Diamond Heavy was an erstwhile favourite of mine. Now of course it is all gone and only one brewery remains, or rather, has emerged; William Brothers known hitherto mainly for its Fraoch Heather Ale.
They kindly sent me some of their beers to sample and finally I got round to trying two. First up after mowing my grass - I wouldn't call it a lawn - was their lager, Ceilidh (4.7%) which seemed a reasonable place to start. Dull gold in colour with a lasting white head this beer had a Southern German Helles nose, but there the similarity ended. Lemony/lime citrus and spiciness are the dominant flavours, though I didn't get the sesame referred to by the Bitten Bullet. Lemon is foremost through to a dry, citrus finish with just a touch of grassiness and a slight aromatic hint of hops. The malt base underpinning all this could be firmer, but this is a decent enough beer, though not one I'd rush to buy. Not all the Tandleman household agreed. E tried it and summed it up pithily as "horrible." A bit harsh I'd say.
A different kettle of fish is the same brewery'sfive percent IPA. They set out to achieve a beer for the novice and hophead alike, which is a tricky one. Well I liked it. Big, booming alpha hops give it a grapefruit nose and a resiny, quenching flavour throughout to a dry, bitter, lasting, resinous, hoppy finish. I couldn't detect the tell tale blackberry (or should I say bramble?) flavours from the Bramling Cross hops and I'm glad of that. Instead Amarillo dominated, which is just fine by this writer. The grain bill is lager malt with some wheat and that worked well too. This was a beer of some poise and I'd certainly buy it again. Oddly it refreshed far better than the lager.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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