This week I picked a beer I’ve been hearing about for a long time: Innis and Gunn’s Original. This beer is a scotch ale, which is family of beer seen only occasionally here in the United States. These beers are actually casualties of America’s obsession with hops, as these beers are typically very malt-focused. I’ve decided to do a series on these beers because while most people are unaware that they exist, many will really enjoy them.
The birth of Innis and Gunn is actually one of the most interesting brewery stories that I have ever heard. Master Brewer Dougal Sharp was enlisted by a whisky distiller to help produce an ale-finished whisky. Sharp succeeded, composing a special recipe to season the barrels before they were used to age the whiskey. The beer was actually poured out, until a couple of the labors at the distillery tried it and realized that it was fantastic. Sharp then quit his job and began perfecting the beer, which he did over the course of a year, before finally releasing Original.
This beer should be served in a pint glass, and I think it will actually pair really well with a wide variety of foods. Anything sweet and savory should work well, but spicy foods would work better with an IPA. I actually think this would go well with chicken, which a lot of American Pale Ales overpower.
The beer poured a clear, golden copper color. The head formed as a single finger of moderately coarse foam, which dropped out quickly to form a lasting skim of very fine bubbles over the surface. The aroma was very malty, with some heather and vanilla mixed in. I also caught some hints of light fruits and citrus, especially orange, but not in a citrus hop sort of way. The mouthfeel was actually rather interesting after having drunk IPAs all summer; the carbonation was very low, which contributed to a full body and a very nice creaminess, although it lingered a bit longer than I personally prefer. The taste was very malt-focused with quite a bit of melanoidin character. There was virtually no hop flavor, although there was some bitterness on the finish, but even that was fairly low; just enough to accentuate the malt profile and keep it from being too sweet. There was a nice vanilla character from the oak throughout, which wasn’t overpowering like in some vanilla bean beers I have tried. I also noted some light fruit character, such as apples and oranges, and the finish was a lingering sweetness. Overall this beer reminded me of a filtered (i.e., less yeasty) weizenbock light, given the fruit character.
Overall, this beer is pretty fantastic. The malt profile and low hop character make this a very easy-to-drink beer, and I think it will be very accessible to people who “aren’t beer people” while maintaining enough complexity to keep beer snobs happy.