Beast from the East leaves Beer drinkers in the worst drought in History.
Ok... Maybe not. Andy and I are trying out a few clickbait headline tactics as a differential given that last week saw whole swathes of them across the UK after a wee bit of snow. You would think that given Scotland is notorious for pretty gash weather that we would be more prepared when it gets even 'gasher-er' than normal. But no, a gentle covering of the white stuff (easy Scarface) and the country grinds to a halt. Roads gridlocked, public transport cancelled, workplaces closed, continuous red and amber warnings like a broken set of traffic lights. Bread, Milk and other essentials in catastrophic short supply because about 15 preppers bought out the entire country's stock in fear of Armageddon. Thankfully, it only lasted a few days... any longer and the entire UK economy that already hangs in the balance (looking at you Brexiteers and Bankers), would succumb to some kind of black hole meltdown. But we survived. We got through it together and even had some beers.
The only essentials we were in short supply of in the house was Beer. A tragic realisation when faced with a few Work from Home days. How I managed to get into a no beer position is beyond me but has a bit of an air of disorganisation about it which, if you know me even a little bit, will not be surprising. Thankfully though, the good lady was passing by one of my favourite little haunts - Canape Wines in Bothwell Main Street - and was kind enough to pop in and pick me up some lifesaving supplies. As always the selection available there is a bit different from a lot of places and was the source of the Sam Smiths Organic Chocolate Stout initially. So good times indeed.
Among the treasures picked up were a couple of The White Hag Brewery cans. A Nitro Oatmeal Chocolate Milk Stout and the subject of this review - Bran & Sceolan Irish IPA. Now, really either of these candidates would have been great to review - or like previous cases a double dunter could have been created. After all the Chocolate Milk Stout really was the one that I was most excited to try but the silent assassin that is the IPA definitely made the bigger impression.
Rather than just jumping into the review though, I want to tip my cap (imaginary though it may be) to The White Hag team in general. Too many brewers create something of a sterile image, especially when it comes to the website or the advertising and design used for the beers. It sometimes looks like companies try too hard to find a gimmick - which is understandable in this highly competitive market to try and stand out - or try to appear clean and minimalist. The White Hag Brewery team have not strayed far from the Irish roots - deeply entwined in folklore and mythology. Where although their can and bottle designs have a recognisable and uniform standard - it is the little wink to this mystic heritage that I really love. The White Hag itself being a Witch and the excellent website goes a little deeper.
Ancient Irish Mythology will tell you that The White Hag was a witch, a chameleon creature and even Mother Nature herself. We know she was all that, and more. A spiritual force, from and of the earth. The spirit of Ireland who shaped land itself, present in everything through the pure water of the earth.
I just love that. The Irish IPA itself not escaping the lure of the folklore tales, given it has the name Bran & Sceolan - The Celtic Hounds belonging to a mythical hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (I genuinely hope I have that spelling correct). It's a refreshing way to see a brand do things this way - staying true to their roots while still presenting themselves in a clean, clear modern way.
Now onto the beer itself. At last I hear you say. I know. But it's good to build the ambiance a bit. How tragic would it be for me to have given them all the plaudits from the marketing and website perspective only to slate the beer? Don't fret - they do not let us down in that department either. As soon as the can (in this case but, it is available bottled also) was cracked the aroma just rushed into my nostrils. It is a very pleasant, sweet and hoppy aroma - with a citrus tinge to it. It pours really nice - an opaque golden colour that is smooth and pristine - no bits. Topped with a medium white head that carries that citrus aroma into the first hints of the flavour too. The taste is a crisp, sharp citrus IPA with plenty of hoppy-goodness and a slight bitter aftertaste. There's something of a multi-layered feel about it as I got different additional flavours with each mouthful including pineapple and mango of all things. All adding up to a simply stunning IPA. Very refreshing and although it has a 7.2% ABV it really doesn't feel like it. It is very drinkable indeed and probably very potent after a few consecutive. When looking to find a product that stands out in a literal sea of alternatives it just goes to show that you don't have to be shouty and full of gimmicks when you have a product this good. The beer speaks enough on its own. A real winner they have in their arsenal (not to be confused with Arsenal who are entirely void of a winner) here and the Irish Bog Ale and Nitro Oatmeal Chocolate Milk Stout were also very strong contenders in their respective divisions. Keep an eye out for this lot folks - they may fly a bit under the radar but they fly the well for the Irish contingent and produce some serious quality in their beers.