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    Sunday, 4 November 2007

    Innis & Gunn - Have I Given Them A Rum Deal?

    I seem to kicked open a can of worms over at Beer Pages with my comments that Innis and Gunn are a fake brewery. I stand by that assessment, not because I see contract brewers as the Devil, but that I am deeply suspicious of contract breers not divulging the plant where their stuff comes from.

    It seems a common understanding that I&G's beers are brewed at Belhaven although I am not sure I have ever seen that actually quoted from the source. Certainly there is no confirmation of this on their website, and Roger Protz has questioned whether the Greene King takeover of Belhaven may have changed that. One is for certain: the bottles say brewed in Scotland, so if it transpires that that is not the case then there is a serious amount of misleading going on.

    Having said all this, their stuff is actually pretty decent. In line with other Scottish brewers BrewDog and Williams Bros they are producing innovative interesting beers. Their website states "Using oak to age beer is unheard of. But, the flavours imparted by the oak barrels (previously used to mature bourbon) lend an incredible depth of
    taste. Think vanilla, toffee and orange aromas, with a malty,
    lightly oaked palate; soothing and warm in the finish."

    Of course oak aged beers is not a new thing across the Atlantic Ocean, but it is pretty rare in the UK. The barrel character comes through very strongly in all of their beers with real whiskey notes together with an oaky vanilla. The beers can withstand this character as well as they all have a decent kick of strength.

    This year's new product though is a little different. Rum Cask Finish Oak Aged Beer is first matured in oak barrels for thirty days before then spending a further 30 days in selected navy rum barrels. I cannot claim to be a rum fan and am certainly not an afficianado, but what I do know is this beer is bloody lovely. The rum is stronger in the aroma than taste, but what does get into the taste is unbeliveably mellow and smooth. It's a truly silky beer and at 7.4% ABV has just the right amount of alcohol kick. I would have to say that this is a quality product and comfortably my favourite I&G beer.

    So, to reiterate, these are good beers. They are great recipes and the maturation is spot on, but just be honest guys and reveal where it comes from. I hope that's not too much to ask.


    Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

    There is certainly an angry vibe going down at beer-pages at the moment, I hope the Tsingtao thread dies this time.

    Stonch said...

    of course oak aged beers is not a new thing across the Atlantic Ocean, but it is pretty rare in the UK.

    I find that a slightly odd statement, Mark. British brewers have been barrel aging since Santa was in knee pants, and some never stopped doing so. Your statement could be seen to imply that the whole thing is a US "innovation" that our brewers are just catching on to, and copying. I think not. The inspiration for BrewDog and the like need not come from across the Atlantic - they'll have found plenty of that much closer to home.

    maeib said...

    Stonch, I was referring more to the art of using barrels previously used for spirits so that the flavours would impart into the beer. I'm a bit ignorant of there being any older British beers doing that. Mind you, if you read I&G's website you'd think they invented the process.


    I really didn't mean to wind anyone up on Beer Pages hence why I used the "winking" smiley. Still Zak and I have made friends. The Tsingtao thread is crazy and I am leaving it well alone. 99 replies is proably a record for that forum though, and it may be worth bringing it to an even 100.

    Zythophile said...

    I think I&G can be forgiven for being coy about the source of their beer - first, because it means they can switch supplier whenever they want, without any repercussions, second because it may well be the brewer of the beer doesn't want anyone to know it contract-brews for I&G, and third because it's brewed to tgheir recipe, specifically to react as well as possbile with the oak casks it's then stoerd in, so why should they give credit to anyone else?

    As far as "inventing" oak-aged beer goes, while storing ales in oak is, of course, 1,500 or 2,000 years old, nobody before I&G in the UK set out to deliberately acquire oak or spirit character in the beer from the barrel - about the only "barrel character" British brewers ever wanted was a Brett note in the secondary fermentation. So yes, I think it's fair for them to claim they were the first to do this, in the UK, at least.

    Even in the States I don't think the idea of barrel-ageing is much older than seven or eight years, at the most, and my impression (I may be wrong) is that (1) they were after bourbon notes rather than oak notes, at least to begin with, and (2) this was encouraged by the large number of ex-bourbon casks always available, because of the rule that bourbon distilelrs can only use new casks for ageing bourbon in.

    Oh, and yes, the rum cask beer is very nice - but under HMR&C regulations against "grogging", surely illegal?

    brendan said...

    Isn't using barrels which previously held spirits somewhat illegal in the UK? There was some discussion of it a few months back and someone mentioned the old illegal and ignominious technique called grogging.

    Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

    Zythophile :

    I raised this on your blog when you discused the barrel aging beer writers outing , but why is the 1968 batch of Thomas Hardys Ale aged in Sherry casks not a case of a brewer in the UK deliberatly setting out to aguire spirit cask character?

    theculinarybrewer said...

    I found the beer to be quite bland and dull. It has no real bitterness to balance out the oak imparted flavours. Anyhow you can read my ramblings here (The Beer Diary).