November 09, 2012 by Matthew.Hartshorne
This week I tasted the second beer in a series I’m doing: Innis & Gunn’s Highland Cask. This beer is a Scotch ale, which is a family of beer seen only occasionally here in the United States. These beers are actually casualties of America’s obsession with hops, as they are typically very malt focused. I’m doing a series on these beers because most people are unaware that they exist, and many people will really enjoy them.
The birth of Innis & Gunn is perhaps one of the most interesting brewery stories that has ever been told. Master brewer Dougal Sharp was enlisted by a whiskey distiller to help produce an ale-finished whiskey. Sharp succeeded, composing a special recipe to season the barrels before they were used to age the whiskey. The beer that was created in the barrels was actually poured out until a couple of the laborers at the distillery tried it and realized that it tasted fantastic. Sharp then quit his job and began perfecting the beer he had accidently stumbled upon, for the course of a year, before finally releasing the Original variety. Several other beers have followed, including this week’s, which is aged in casks that have already contained malt whiskey.
This beer should be served in a pint glass, and I think it will pair really well with a wide variety of foods. Anything sweet and savory should work well, but spicy foods would work better with an IPA. I actually think this would go well with chicken, which a lot of American pale ales overpower.
The beer poured a beautiful clear copper, which was pure gold around the edges. The head formed as a sliver of light tan foam, but this settled out quickly to just a ring of very fine bubbles around the edge. This head actually didn’t leave much lacing, even though the ring of bubbles was long lasting, as the fine bubbles just flowed down the wall of the glass after each sip. The aroma was surprisingly bright, with both lemon and slight pine notes standing out over the sweet caramel malt character. The lemon citrus notes were actually surprisingly tart, which provided a nice counterpoint to a very complex vanilla character lurking in the nose. The mouthfeel was actually quite nice, combining low carbonation with a moderately full body. The real key, though, was that the body didn’t linger but rather just faded away. The taste was surprisingly sweet, with mostly a caramel vanilla character. Virtually no bitterness was present.
Overall, this beer is definitely worth trying, especially for fans of bourbon. Though I prefer drier beers, the vanilla aspect of this drink isn’t too overpowering. In fact, the sweetness and smoothness of the Innis & Gunn’s is heightened, adding more to the overall character of the beer.