If there was a scale for determining how much of a hop head you were, I would be about a seven out of ten. I love hops, but view hoppy beers as just one type in a wide spectrum of fantastic beer flavours. My first beer crushes were Belgian dubbels and quads, malty and yeasty beasts with little to no hop presence. British styles like milds and old ales fascinate me with their complexity. Now I’d like to add the Highlander Scottish Ale to the list of deliciously malty beers.
Don’t be ashamed if you’ve never heard of Highlander. They started operation in South River, Ontario in 2009 and kept pretty quiet. (Also, in case you didn’t know where that is, go about an hour north of Huntsville. And yes, I just looked that up in Google Maps.) Then a couple of business partners joined in December 2011, which has led to greater availability through the LCBO. There was also a name change in their flagship beer, which went from being called Scottish Ale to Pale Ale. This is not a change I support and will stubbornly refer to the beer as the Highlander Scottish Ale from now and forever more.
I cracked upon the Scottish Ale while doing some packing, not really expecting anything great and there are no tasting notes because of this. Essentially, expect a really nice beer that showcases the complexity that can come from a range of malts. Hazelnuts and earthy hops above a caramel base. A little bready and dry in the finish. Not cloyingly sweet at all. The perfect accompaniment to a cool spring evening. I had no expectations coming in and was absolutely blown away.
My one problem is the decision to put pale ale on the label, when this beer clearly is not. It clearly fits the Scottish ale category, which could be off-putting to people buying it and expecting something with a little more hops. Yes, pale ales are big right now, but this seems like bandwagon jumping that will result in a loss of business over time. Instead of talking about what a great Scottish ale this is, there will probably be lots of complaints that it’s not a pale ale.
The Scottish Ale is the only beer currently being brewed by Highlander, but hopefully that will change based on the quality of this beer. This beer was a really well kept secret for a number of years, though the wider distribution now should change that fact.