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A Guide to Scottish Beer

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I Thought They Just Drank Whisky

The Scots do that as well. However, a lot of beer is drunk in Scotland. Scotland has all the commonly-seen beers of the British Isles (ie, from watery yellow to black as tar) but mostly with a Scottish spin. They also drink the trendy foreign ones in Scotland, but that's of no consequence here. The number of breweries in Scotland is also somewhat large; the number of microbreweries is increasing by the year. One of the nicer things is that your average pub will sell this microbrewery produce. The Scots have been brewing for thousands of years, with Fraoch being the first beer about 2000 years ago, which incidentally has recently made a comeback. Anyway, onto the stuff itself.

60, 70, 80, 90/-

/- means shilling1 in British Imperial lingo and these beers used to be taxed according to their alcohol content. Thus, as you increase the shilling value, the beer gets darker and stronger. 80/- (or just 80 as it is often called) is popular.

80/- is also known as 'heavy', which is very useful when you can't be bothered picking a name. This also covers 70/- when the selection is bad. Please note that this only works in Scotland; if you're in England you should ask for a pint of bitter, in which case, you'll get something similar.

McEwans/Belhaven 80/-

McEwans 80/- is palatable and Belhaven 80/- is drinkable, if there's nothing else. They are similar in taste and content and can therefore be judged together:

Belhaven 90/-

Now this, on the other hand, is a pint a lot of Scots would crawl over hot coals to drink. Mostly due to the fact that after a pint most people wouldn't be able to feel the pain anymore, it having an astoundingly high alcohol content. It also has the lovely touch of tasting like totally harmless barley sugar.

Caley 80/-

This beer is the standard by which all Scots Heavies should be measured. Caledonian 80/- having won the Camra2 Champion Beer of Scotland several years in a row - is a fine pint. Meaty enough to give you something to chew on, but light enough to enable continued drinking. Almost never bags you up and creates the well-known 'two pints of Caley' (2POC) feeling. The 2POC feeling is unique to Caley 80 - simply drink two pints, put on some Pink Floyd and relax. Man.

Isle of Skye Red/Black Cuillin

Ah - the greatest beer on Earth from the most beautiful island on Earth. After drinking this you will feel ten feet tall and almost certainly bulletproof. The Red is light-ish, but satisfying, while the black is deep and malty - only a couple of these are required to slip into blissfull relax mode. The Black's a bit heavy for continued drinking, but the Red can be consumed all night long. A good brewing process also makes for little or no after-effects. The only downside is that it's difficult to get hold of outside the island.

Tomintoul Wildcat

A five percent-er, this one grabs you by the privates and shakes you round its head - sharp and strong tasting, don't attempt to down this one, or you'll have the clawmarks on your throat to prove it. An ideal third or fourth pint, to pep up a slow session, but not recommended as an opening gambit.

Stuff Made by a Bloke in Strathhaven, Lanarkshire

Fraoch, Heather Ale, is officially made to an ancient Celtic recipe involving heather flowers and it's lovely. According to the bumph on the back of the bottle, this is the stuff on which the Magic Potion of Asterix3 fame is based. They also make Grozet (Gooseberries) and Alba (Pine Cones) both of which are strange tasting, but not unpleasant.


India Pale Ale is an English-style ale which dates back to the British Empire. India Pale Ale became the only brew that could survive the long sea journey from England to India. IPAs were traditionally brewed to mature while being shipped from Britain to India and were heavily hopped to stay fresh.

In the 18th Century, although India was self-sufficient in most things, the hot, humid climate was not conducive to brewing beer. For the British colonists residing in India, the situation was intolerable, to say the least. So traders from London began shipping this pale ale to India, promising that this brew would arrive clean, dry, sparkling, and full of flavour. It did, and India Pale Ale became a popular choice not only in India, but in England as well.

That aside, it's a very pleasent pint. Should you find yourself slightly ahead of the game during a night's drinking and wish to cut back, IPA is for you. A particularly good version is Deuchers IPA, made by the same guys that do Caley 80/-. It's light, refreshing and all the other things lager claims to be.


Dark Island and Skullsplitter are the two main drinks from Orkney. Skullsplitter speaks for itself.

Orkney Dark Island

Whahey!!! The mysterious Dark Island tastes like it's kiddy juice, and begs for you to finish the keg - but beware - beneath its taste, lies a hit which will leave you flying. Deep, dark and chewy - it's the big pint that really satisfies.

1Before 1971, the British money system was pounds, shillings and pence, known as the Imperial system (the current money system in Britain is known as the decimal system).2Camra is an organisation which campaigns for the promotion and production of real ale.3Asterix was a cartoon Gaulish warrior and a magic potion gave him super human strength.

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