Ah, Scotland, I do love ye. Every time I visit the land of grandfather’s birth, I feel a bit more at home, whether supping ale at the Bow Bar in Edinburgh or sipping malt at the Port Charlotte Hotel on Islay.
I love your whiskies, of course – and more on that later today – but you are also home to some very fine ales, including one of the first that so long ago demonstrated to me the meaning of “malty” in beer: Traquair House Ale.
I’ve been drinking Traquair off and on for years, first in the U.S. as an import from Merchant du Vin, then later in my home market of Ontario and finally over in Scotland itself. I’ve had other real and so-called “Scotch ales” since, but for me Traquair remains the definitive examples, like Westmalle for tripel or Sierra Nevada for American-style pale ales.
Funny thing is, until I read it in Adrian Tierney-Jones’ 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die, I had no idea it was spiced with coriander, something to which I’m usually quite sensitive. But such is its decadent, plummy, oaky, figgy malt goodness that the coriander, I presume, merely sharpens the beer’s edges, rather than contributing significantly to its flavour.
Some beers that have been around for a long time become neglected, forgotten in the constant pursuit of whatever is newer or more exciting. This is a fate that should never befall this very fine ale. It was, it is and it shall ever remain a classic.