DO you remember when I recently promised you a break from reviews of Scottish beers? No? Good. Because here is a 500 millilitre bottle of Caledonian 80.
There’s little to distinguish the bottle of 80, but I like the straightforward approach to the label. Both the little neck label…
…and the main front label…
…keep the details to a minimum. To sum up, this was brewed in Eninburgh, Scotland. It was established in 1869 and is described as “Definitive” and “Satisfying”.
Over on the back label, the “80” reference is explained. Specifically, by the “80/-“, which makes this an 80 Shilling beer. It has something to do with the duties charged on different strengths of beer in centuries past. And it’s not the first that I’ve tried. Belhaven 80 Shilling was the first. And… it was ok. Nothing special. But I thought the 80 shilling concept deserved another chance. So here we are.
The label also describes a “rounded maltiness” and “distinctive hop character”. “Crystal malts”, “roast barley” and “complexity of flavours” are also on there, none of which is out of the ordinary. What does stand out, is that the cask version was the inaugural CAMRA Champion Beer of Scotland. And that it’s still brewed in a Victorian brewhouse on direct fired open coppers. What the importance of these things are, I don’t know. But I’m looking forward to finding out.
Also on the back label are the web address at www.caledonian80.com and at www.caledonian-brewery.co.uk. And their Edinburgh postal address. The 4.1% volume isn’t very prominent, but the “product of Scotland” isn’t all that common. And with that out of the way, it’s time to see if this 80/- is better than the last 80/-.
In the glass, it’s quite dark in colour. Looks like a bitter to me. It has a good head on it though. Consistent and creamy in appearance. And it smells good too. A strong whiff of hops and malted-barley is never far away. It’s not very complex, but I like it.
A few gulps down, and Caledonian 80/- is rapidly revealing its character. Quirte simply, it’s a bitter. Well, technically it isn’t. And the experts out there will point out all the reasons why this isn’t the case. But to me. And my untrained taste buds, it tastes bitter. The taste is bitter and the after taste is hoppy. But apart from that, there’s no real complexity to the taste. And there’s no wide spectrum of flavours. Disappointing considering what the label promised.
I’m not a fan of plain bitters. But I know that a lot of you out there are. And that means that you might really enjoy Caledonian 80/-. And there’s a lot to like about it too. Even though the flavours are mostly bitter, malty and hoppy, they are done well. It’s not offensive. And it’s easy to drink.
The downsides are that it’s quite weak. The lack of anything beyond the usual flavours make it boring and lacking in character. There are plenty of much more interesting and unusual beers on the shelf to choose from.
The bottom line on Caledonian 80/- is that it’s a decent, if uninspiring ale that’s mostly bitter. If you like your bitter, you should be this a try. As you should if you want to see what this 80 shilling business is all about. But if you’re wanting an interesting, unusual and flavourful bottle, then pick something else. Above average, but not special.
Have you tried Caledonian 80/-? Or anything else from the same brewer? What did you think of it?
Comments, suggestions, corrections and insults in the comments box please.