As the vote over Scottish independence looms, Edinburgh-based Innis & Gunn has created an autumnal ale that champions ingredients native to Scotland.
Rare Oak Pale Ale, at 5.8% ABV, has been matured over Scottish oak from the Borders and then infused with the plant, sweet gale, grown and harvested in the West Highlands and dried by the Secret Herb Garden in Edinburgh.
According to Innis & Gunn, the beer, which comes in a 330ml bottle, “gives a nod to Scotland’s brewing past and epitomises the national bent for innovation”.
Founder and master brewer of Innis & Gunn, Dougal Sharp, believes it is the first time Scottish oak has been used in brewing since the days of the Anglo-Spanish wars and the Spanish Armada in the 16th century, when huge areas of Scottish forest were felled to build ships.
He said: “The majority of oak used for maturation in the brewing and distilling industries comes from America or Europe. Scottish oak is more similar to its European counterpart in that it releases more tannins, which give spicier flavour notes.
“American oak is completely different: it contains far higher levels of vanillins and lactones, which produce a buttery richness and toffee-like characteristic.”
Crisp, aromatic and light, Rare Oak Pale Ale is made to a traditional style of pale ale and carries higher hop aroma and bitterness to complement the spicier, drier notes from the Scottish oak.
It has been brewed using a combination of malts to add a rich backbone to the beer and balance the earthy bitterness from the Super Styrian and Whitbread Golding hops.
Elderflower has been added during the maturation process to complement the hops and lighten up the fragrance. Sweet gale was used by Scottish brewers in the Middle Ages as an alternative to imported hops because of its aromatic properties and its “enhancing” qualities.
According to Stephen Harrod Buhner in his essay The Fall of Gruit and The Rise of the Brewer’s Droop, this ancient beer was fabled to have had mildly narcotic qualities that would “stimulate the mind, create euphoria and enhance sexual drive”.