The dark side of the ale

THIS month I’d like to draw your attention not to the wonderful world of wine, but to a craft brewer that I think is doing some really cool things.

The Harviestoun Brewery in Alva, Stirlingshire – famed for its Bitter & Twisted ale – is producing something a wee
bit special with its dark ale range.
Prompted by a desire to try something different, I recently tasted the Old Engine Oil Engineers Reserve and a couple of the Ola Dubh Special Reserve range (both the 12 & 18 expressions).
And I can say they truly blew my socks off.
The liquids are full-bodied, malty ales as dark as the night and, in the case of Ola Dubh range, aged in whisky casks from the Highland Park distillery in Orkney.
In my view, ‘the wee brother’ of the group was the Engineers Reserve as it was not exposed to the ex-whisky casks, which allow the dark chocolate, molasses and vanilla flavours to shine through.
Although the ABV is 9%, it is well balanced and there are cracking notes of coffee and herbs that makes this a fab one to have as the winter nights draw in.
When I tasted the two Ola Dubh (meaning Black Oil in Gaelic) ales, the initial flavours definitely pointed to both being finished in whisky barrels – please don’t take this as a fault as everything coming through from this treatment is integrated extremely well in both beers.
Both spend the same amount in the respective casks, but for my tuppence worth the beer finished in the 18 year old barrel was my preferred choice of the two.
The Special Reserve 12 has light notes of the whisky and a tasty combination of roasted malt, bitter chocolate and caramel.
But for me the slightly older barrel in the Special Reserve 18 was, to quote Blackadder, “smoother than a velvet codpiece” – slightly less of a whisky profile, but more on the chocolate (think Green & Black’s Milk!) and sweet vanilla without ever being cloying.
All in all, the effort to try something new was not so dumb and for once, I’d recommend that you do seek out something different and give these beers a try.