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Innis & Gunn bottles ‘the best of Scotland’

With less than three weeks to go till the Scottish Independence vote, Innis & Gunn is hoping to get a universal seal of approval for its latest seasonal, Rare Oak Pale Ale (5.8%abv); a beer that gives a nod to Scotland’s brewing past.

The Edinburgh-based independent brewer has sourced ingredients native to Scotland for this autumnal release, maturing the golden pale ale in its Oakerators over Scottish oak hewed in the Borders, before infusing the beer with Sweet Gale grown and harvested in the West Highlands and dried by the Secret Herb Garden in Edinburgh.

Founder and master brewer of Innis & Gunn, Dougal Sharp, believes that is the first time Scottish Oak has been used in brewing since the days of the Anglo-Spanish wars.

“The majority of oak used for maturation in the brewing and distilling industries comes from America or Europe,” he says. “Scottish oak is more similar to its European counterpart in that it releases more tannins, which give spicier flavour notes. American oak is completely different: it contains far higher levels of vanilins and lactones, which produce a buttery richness and toffee-like characteristic.”

Crisp, aromatic and light, Rare Oak Pale Ale is made to a traditional style of pale ale and carries higher hop aroma and bitterness to complement the spicier, drier notes from the Scottish oak. It has been brewed using a combination of malts to add a rich backbone to the beer and balance the earthy bitterness from the Super Styrian and Whitbread Golding hops. Elderflower has been added during the maturation process to complement the hops and lighten up the fragrance, the final treatment being the infusion of air-dried Sweet Gale, used by Scottish brewers in the Middle Ages as an alternative to imported hops because of its aromatic…and enhancing…properties.

According to Stephen Harrod Buhner in his essay The Fall of Gruit and The Rise of the Brewer’s Droop, this ancient beer is fabled to have had mildly narcotic qualities that would “stimulate the mind, create euphoria and enhance sexual drive”.

Rare Oak Pale Ale (330ml, amber bottle) is available in Tesco stores nationwide for £1.99.

1 September 2014 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor