Regular readers of this column know that I am particular about Scottish ales, especially since it is my favorite style of beer.
The malt profile in Scottish ales such as McEwan's, Belhaven and Traquair is much more than simply having a strong malt presence. They have a unique flavor that, whether because of the brewing method, malts used, the yeast or a combination, U.S. brewers have been unable to replicate, at least based on the couple dozen versions I have sampled.
So it was with great pleasure that I recently visited St. Brendan's Inn in Green Bay, and found Innis & Gunn on tap (along with a hefty selection of Irish single malts). I was not familiar with the brewery and was told by the bartender that most of its beers are oak aged.
The pint glass pour showed off a light brown liquid with vivid red highlights and a white head. The aroma of the Innis & Gunn Original was mostly toffeeish malt, herbal, grassy hops and slight oak. The main flavor in the 6.6 percent ABV beer was intense and rich caramel-toffee malt, low on sweetness, with a hint of sharpness.
Then the oak characteristics kicked in with a bit of vanilla and mild oak notes, refreshingly absent of the wood char from the more common use of bourbon barrel aging. The Innis website says much of its use of wood is by pumping beer through a tank containing oak chips, although it also does barrel aging.
The body was not heavy or cloying at all, a nice change from the 9- to 12-percent oak-aged beers that are more common.
Other ales in the Innis portfolio include Canadian cherrywood-aged, an Irish Whiskey Cask Scottish stout, Rum Aged, Winter Treacle Porter and Scottish Pale Ale. Count me in for future tastings.
Innes & Gunn beers are available in about 26 states in all areas of the U.S. However, it does not have a working U.S. Beer Finder function on its website. The only advice I can give is to check with the larger liquor stores in your area. Key accounts around the country include Wegmans, Total Wines, Yard House, Kroger, Publix, Price Chopper and Giant Eagle.