Rob Hill of the Swannay brewery way up in Orkney, may be Scotland’s most consistently excellent brewer, but few people would call him innovative. He specialises in moderately hopped, traditional beers of the kind that your dad would recognise. (He brews a world class mild, for instance) These are nearly always the best drinks in their category and I urge you to give them a go, especially if you see them on cask.
Last year, he let his son Lewis come up with a range of more contemporary beers to compliment the existing range. These were to be canned and act as a bridge between Swannay’s traditional offerings and the more hop-forward, experimental styles that are currently in vogue.
The third of these was released just at the start of winter and is the second of the brewery’s beers to highlight the quality of Orkney’s native grain.
Bere or in Viking, Bygg is the local barley and (according to Wikipedia) Britain’s oldest cereal in cultivation. One reason for it’s peculiar success in Orkney is it’s very rapid growth rate (summers in Orkney are not known for their length)
The Swannay Bygg is one of only a handful of beers to utilise this unique grain and it’s bloody delicious.
It’s an attractive amber/walnut colour, with some slight haze and a moderately creamy head. the nose is quite fruity, with suggestions of toffee and Ready Brek. The palate also has a fair sweetness, with flavours of spiced, dried fruit. It might be just because I’m writing this on Boxing Day, but it has more than a hint of stale panettone. (this is a good thing) The finish is clean with a gentle bitterness and the 5% abv is just enough to roast your chestnuts.
It took me a few minutes to drain a 33cl can (£2.70-£3, available throughout Edinburgh) but I sure would love to find a pub that had it on cask so I could take my time over a few pints.