Beer Review: The Orkney Brewery Northern Light

Time to try the next in Tesco’s batch of Scottish beers. And this time, it is a beer from The Orkney Brewery. This one is called Northern Light. And here is a picture of the 500 millilitre bottle.
Bottle of Orkney Brewery Northern Light

The front label does a lot of good things. The “5000 years in the making” tagline and a graphic of the sea lashing a shore do a fair job of conjuring up images of the Orkney isles and their long past. This it enhances by saying, with pride, that it hails from Quoyloo. I’ll take their word for it that it’s the name of an Orkney settlement. Either that or it’s a massive joke on the rest of us.

Another thing I like about the label is the text “Hand crafted in small batches”. Knowing that you’re drinking something exclusive is normally a bonus with ale. Around a circle giving the volume (a low/”light” 4%) we are also told that this will be a pale ale. Now I’ve only tried one other pale ale and wasn’t keen on it. But, this one is from Orkney so it’s probably made by people so toughened by the elements, they will live through the next ice-age while wearing a T-shirt. With that in mind, I’m willing to give pale ale another try.
Orkney Brewery Nothern Light front label

Another good addition to the front label is ‘stamp’ and ‘signature’ proving the Orcadian authenticity of the ale. This looks familiar to me. There was something similar on the Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer. I happen to think that it’s a good addition to Scottish ales. Something that differentiates it from ales produced elsewhere in Britain. Rather helpfully for me, that ‘stamp’ also describes the drink: “A pale citrus-character beer with a subtle malt backbone and zesty hop flavour.” How close will it come to matching that? We’ll see shortly…

The rear label doesn’t disappoint either.
Orkney Brewery Nothern Light back label
There is an exceptionally large amount of information and advice crammed in here. Fortunately, not overdone or cramped. They get away with it by laying it out smartly. Another very nice touch is describing the smell and flavour under two headings; “One the nose” and “On the palate”. In-between the marketing babble, you can even make out some useful information about it. The experience was a bit like reading a wine bottle label however.

Also on there is what reads like a Tourist Board advertisement for Orkney. Probably aimed at overseas drinkers who have this imported, it seemed superfluous to me. But maybe that’s because I’m from another ancient, rural corner of the British Isles myself and look out for this sort of thing. One thing is for sure, you’re not short of reading material with this bottle.

Poured into a glass, it is dark gold in colour with a thin but level head. The bottle described it as “straw-coloured”. I’m not sure about that. But it was gold-ish. And cloudier than many a brew.
Orkney Brewery Nothern Light in a glass

According to the bottle, it should smell of fruits and hops. To my poorly trained nose, I can’t disagree. It reminds me a little of Badger Golden Glory, but toned down a lot. Whatever it smells of, it certainly smells appealing. And complex. Always a good sign.

To summarize the essay worth of description on the bottle, we are to expect fruitiness, maltiness, hoppiness and balance from the taste. Let’s see how it does…

The first thought to hit me after the first gulp was “That was strong! And not what I was expecting!” The sour aftertaste caught me off guard. After several more gulps, I think I’ve figured it out. The flavours in there are mostly the malt and hops plus the fruit. Which is a well tried and tested combination. It is slightly bitter, but after the first couple of glugs, it passes and you no longer notice it.

At the start of the bottle, I didn’t think I’d like it. Toward the end, I was growing to like its taste and appreciate the effort that went into it. You can’t accuse it of not being easily drinkable. This is yet another full-bodied ale that disappears all too soon.

That said, the taste does take getting used to. At least it does if you’re not a fan of Pale Ales. If you’re not, you might want to give this a miss. If like me, you’re indifferent, it is worth a try.

Rating: 3.75, but more if you like Pale Ales

Have you tried Northern Light? What did you think of it?
Any recommendations of your own? Comments in the usual place, people.

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One Response to “Beer Review: The Orkney Brewery Northern Light”

  1. Malcolm Cullen Says:

    I’m drinking one now, picked up a couple in Tesco’s on my way home from work.

    Mine’s not as cloudy as yours, maybe that’s just your picture.

    Just a few “sips” in, it’s not bad. Refreshing, certainly, but it’s a little thin and flat at the finish.

    I’m sure the second bottle will be tastier.

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