Friday, July 1, 2011

Railbender Ale (Erie Brewing Company)

Ah, Scotland! Home of... whisky, right? And bless her for that, but this blog is about beer. It's sort of interesting to me that, given the many legendary beers of England and Ireland, Scottish beer is quite obscure in the United States. Outside of maybe McEwan's, most Americans would be hard pressed to name an actual Scottish export ale.

Scottish-style ales are a bit easier to come by. The database at lists 328 beers of this description, the majority of which are brewed in the United States. That said, it is far from a highly popular style. For comparison, the BA database lists 2232 American IPAs.

I happen to like the Scottish ales I've tried -- for some of the same reasons I'm so fond of porters. They are characterized by a sweet maltiness with very little overt contribution from hops, but there is usually a slightly musty quality that carries ancient, almost sepulchral evocations for me. Eager to inflict such odd preferences upon others, my contribution to the Beer Club this week was Railbender Ale, a Scottish ale from Erie Brewing Company of Erie, PA.

When poured into my pint glass, the beer's appears brownish amber and hazy. Half an inch of head is produced and doesn't hang around for long. Minimal lacing is left behind as the level of beer goes down.

In the nose there are aromas of butterscotch, yeast, and pumpkin spices.

Taste: sweet malt with caramel or butterscotch -- or, gosh, could it even be fenugreek seeds? I detect a mildly metallic component, but nothing that reaches offensiveness. (Scottish ales are brewed with a long boil, and this can bring out a lot of strange flavors like smoke and metal. It's part of their charm.) I have had two Railbender Ales this week, and both times I have been stuck by how rapidly the main flavor drops off. It is not entirely a dry effect, as there is still some sweet, sticky bitterness that lingers, but there is definitely a sharp contour to the flavor. I sense, as expected, minimal support from the hops in the form of this slight bitterness in the aftertaste.

This is a pretty tasty brew. Definitely a credible representation of the style. I'm not sure I'm going to go around raving about it to strangers, but it was enjoyable enough that I will be receptive to checking out the rest of the Erie Brewing Company product line -- especially their Drake's Crude Oatmeal Stout.

Featured beer:
Railbender Ale

Honorable mentions:
McEwan's Scotch Ale
Drake's Crude

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