Posts Tagged ‘alva’

Beer Review: Harviestoun Schiehallion Lager Beer

7 March, 2008

THE penultimate Scottish beer of this batch of Scottish beers from Tesco is Harviestoun‘s Schiehallion Lager Beer. After trying Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted a couple of weeks ago, I’m looking forward to Schiehallion. Even if it is a lager.
Harviestoun Schiehallion bottle

For the front label and bottle shape, Harviestoun have stuck to the same formula for Schiehallion as they did with Bitter & Twisted. There’s a clear and well designed roundel. An illustration, this time of mountains and clouds. An ABV of 4.8% which makes this a premium lager. Those tantalising words “Craft brewed in Alva, Scotland” and three clear bullet points about what to expect. That is to say; “Crisp”, “Dry” and “Airy”.
Harviestoun Schiehallion Lager Beer front label

The rear label is also an example of restraint and class. And one that answers all the questions you have after seeing the front. The band across the middle gives us the pronunciation for “Schiehallion”. A name I thought was German. But is in fact pronounced “She-hal-i-on”. If you try saying it with a Scottish accent, it begins to make sense. And yet more sense when you read the description above it. It turns out that Scheihallion is the Scottish mountain of the front label illustration. And the inspiration for this apparently award-winning beer. What award it won, we’re not told.
Harviestoun Schiehallion Lager Beer back label

The information doesn’t stop there however. This one mentions a type of hops that I’ve never seen mentioned on any other bottle. Has anyone ever heard of “Herbsbrücker Lager hops” before? How are they different? Answers in the comments please.

How Harviestoun describe Schiehallion is “crisp, dry and airy” and with a “fresh, grapefruit taste”. Sounds delicious. Let’s see if it actually is.

Other off bits of information on the label include the suggestion that Schiehallion is best straight from the fridge. And that this 500 millilitre bottle has 2.4 of your UK alcohol units. If you’re drinking this in another country, don’t worry about ignoring the “units” symbol. We ignore them too.

Once in a glass, Schiehallion looks and smells lagery. It’s gold in colour and with not much head.
Harviestoun Schiehallion Lager Beer in a glass

And it smells typically lagery as well. There’s no mistaking that waft of hops that you only get with lager. The smell that I think, isn’t as good as with ale.

Now the most important part. The taste. And the question of whether it matches the description on the label. Let’s test…

A couple of gulps down, and it’s tasting as much like lager as it looks and smells. That is to say, it’s utterly lagery. Maybe I’ve been spoilt by the number of quality ales I’ve been drinking lately, but all lagers are starting to seem as full-flavoured as an Alka-Seltzer. Or perhaps I’m being harsh on it. It’s not pretending to be anything other than a quality lager.

After you recover from the bitterness that accompanies all lagers, you can begin to appreciate it a little more. The quality does shine through in the drinkability. It’s not too gassy and easy to drink. And I can’t argue with the description of crisp, dry and airy. As for the promised citrus or grapefruit taste, I found it hard to identify. What dominated for me was watery hoppy bitterness. But that’s lager for you. If you know your lagers, you’ll probably be able to pick out exactly what the flavours are.

For me, Schiehallion was nice, refreshing lager. Was it special? I’m not sure if it truly did anything new. But it was a quality lager. And if you like lagers, you’ll probably like this one. If, like me, you’ve been enjoying beers and ales with fuller bodies than Vanessa Feltz, you’ll prefer something that mentions styrian goldings and fuggles on the label.

For these reasons, I’ve got to rate Schiehallion low. But it gains some marks for it’s obvious class among lagers. And if you like your lager, you can add a point or two yourself.

Rating: 3.25

Agree or disagree with my rating?
Have you tried Schiehallion or any other Harviestoun brew?
Any recommendations of your own?
Or ideas of what I should review next?

Share your comments and insults with the world, in the usual place…

Beer Review: Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer

24 February, 2008

AFTER my recent Polish excursion, I came over all thirsty for something with complexity. It was time to head back to a beer from the Britain. Much to my delight, this coincided with my local Tesco stocking a new range of Scottish beers. One that caught my eye was Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted. Purporting to be a “Blond Beer”, this immediately reminded me of the outstandingly delicious Leffe Blond(e) Beer. How would Harviestoun’s and Leffe’s blond(e) beers compare? And does it maintain the fine reputation established by Scotland’s other fine beers?

For a start, Bitter & Twisted looks different.
Bottle of Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted

The shape of the bottle is different to those of the continent. The front label too, gives this beer a look and feel so local, that it amazes you a shipment made its way from the county fair all the way down to London town. That is a quality I like.
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer front label

The mouse mascot. The hops. The description of ‘Craft Brewed in Alva, Scotland’ all add to it. The front label also gives us a three bullet point description of the contents. Always excellent as it gives me something to judge it by. “Spicy”, “Aromatic” and “Zesty” are what I’ll be on the look out for here.

In the way that all good British beers do, we get a good story on the rear label. This one is about the mouse that frequented the brewery and later achieved fame as the mascot (see front label). We are also treated to a technical description of the ingredients that goes above my head. It includes words and phrases like “hop profile”, “Hallertau Hersbrücker”, “Challenger”, “late hopping” and “Styrian Goldings”. If you know what any of this means, leave a comment in the usual place.
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer back label

Also on the information packed rear-label is the mention of awards having been won at “home and abroad”. But Harvieston have, like so many others, failed to say what those awards were, and when they were received. Also mentioned is that less carbon dioxide was used in the bottling process, so this should make it less gassy. Also of note, below the “Bitter & Twisted” banner is “Like the Twist of a Lemon”. Will the “Zest” come from a lemon flavour? The ingredients of barley, oats and wheat also tell us this isn’t going to be the watery experience of lager. Let’s see what this 500 millilitre (nearly 1 pint worth) of 4.2% beer is really like…

Poured into a glass, there was less head than with Leffe. The smell was also very different. It’s aromatic in the complex way that I wanted. But not malty like Leffe’s interpretation of blond beer. The is clearly going to be a very different drink to Leffe. You can just about make out the various crops that went into the making of this drink, plus the smell of something zesty added to it. Fortunately, not in an overpowering Cif Lemon way.
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer in a glass

Now the most important part: taste and drinkability. And I’m happy to report that Bitter & Twisted has both. The flavour is as complex as you’d expect from a drink with so many qualities and ingredients.

If I had to pigeon hole it, I’d say it was a bitter. But Bitter & Twisted is more than that. In the same way that Sir Ranulph Fiennes is someone who enjoys a spot of rambling, Bitter & Twisted takes the concept of a bitter to an extreme. Although the main taste is ever so slightly bitter, it’s swiftly followed by the taste of countless arable crops and yes, a hint of something that may be considered “zesty”. Possibly helped by it’s relatively low alcohol volume, Bitter & Twisted is very easy to drink. I’d very much like to try a bottle with a seafood meal.

If you find this available, it is well worth your time. In the sub £1.40 price bracket, it is also good value.

Rating: 4.25

If Tesco haven’t sold out, I’ll be trying the other Scottish beers, ales and lagers soon, so watch this space.

Have you tried Bitter & Twisted? What did you think? Can you recommend any other Harviestoun beers?


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