Tipples is becoming quite the confrontational place. Over the last month we have pitted all sorts of brews against each other; porters, stouts, black IPAs, hell we even battled countries. It is all very unbeer like. Drinking beer should be inclusive and friendly. There should be room for every man and woman to enjoy his or her own style. Beer should teach us to hold hands, grow beards and love each other.
But then again this all sounds like hippy, campfire singing bullshit to me so I think it’s time to break out the punching gloves and strap them onto a couple of beers.
Today’s battle is of Scotch Ales so it would seem apt to start with a description of what a Scotch Ale is. Firstly I should mention that a Scotch Ale can also be called a Wee Heavy, which I think I prefer, although I understand why to maintain one’s manliness you would rather order a “Couple of Scotch Ales mate,” than “I’ll have 2 Wee Heavies, Guv’nor.”
In terms of flavour they should be quite sweet with a full body and generally low hop levels.
The beers in question are Renaissance Stonecutter, which my brother claims is his ‘beer of the year’ so it comes with a fair bit of expectation, and Red Hill Scotch Ale.
Upon pouring these beers look almost identical, an amber dusty brown colour with wispy heads. If I had to separate them I’d suggest that the Red Hill is slightly darker.
The Renaissance smelled of sweet alcohol, the Red Hill had a similar smell, although it had a touch of ethanol in there too.
It terms of taste they are both outstanding, beautifully complex The stonecutter was like a butterscotch lolly crossed with a sherry, it was dominated a little by the alcohol which took away some of the sweetness. The Red Hill on the other hand was all sweetness, it had a bigger body and less carbonation which made it feel heavier. Syrupy toffee abounds making it almost a little oversweet.
They are both great beers, the Renaissance is more alcoholic but also not as sweet meaning surprisingly it’s easier to drink, whilst the Red Hill is definitely in the dessert beer category.
Who wins? I don’t know, they are different but I’m not sure one is necessarily better than any other. I’m calling it a very hippy friendly draw.
Renaissance Stonecutter: I’ll have a Pint
Red Hill Scotch Ale: I’ll have a Pint
An interesting footnote to this tasting: I was discussing this with my brother and he said ‘Red Hill at its best is probably as good as the Renaissance’ which started a very interesting discussion about the consistency of beers from microbreweries. I’m not alleging anything here, but it does raise some interesting questions. I wonder what sort of controls are in place for this sort of thing, why can some beers from the same six pack taste okay and others not? Is it a problem at the brewery, the distributor, or the end user? Beer is complex and fragile so we have to expect some variances, but how much is too much?
Double footnote: not fifteen minutes later I had a similar conversation with a bearded man behind the bar (I won’t call him a bar tender as he did tell me ‘I don’t actually work here’, so I might have bought beers of some random dude who had walked behind the bar). He claimed he’d had a bottle of the Red Hill Scotch Ale the night before that ‘just didn’t taste right.’ He did admit that it had been in his fridge ‘you don’t know, maybe six months or so’ so that might explain it.