Last Orders

2016-05-22 15.53.11I’ve written about him quite a bit already and I’m certainly not alone in hailing his merits, but it’s sadly time for one last column about Stuart McLuckie, Scotland’s (maybe even the UK’s) best brewer.
Despite (or perhaps because of) his lack of self promotion, the tiny batches of beer that emerge sporadically from his Markinch brewery enjoy a stellar reputation. Personally, I consider his stouts and lagers to be world beaters.
But all good things must come to an end and after a few decades at the mash tun, Stuart is retiring to spend more time as a jobbing folk musician. Fortunately we managed to squeeze one last brew out of him and it’s a belter.
The (clunkily named) Luckie Ales Resurrection Series 1835 X-Ale is one of Stuart’s historical recreations of defunct Scottish beers. He had a pop at it last year, but has now tweaked it a little bit to make it a worthy swan song.
It’s a fine example of an old ale, which has to be one of the least fashionable styles out there. If you are unfamilier with old ales, they are most akin to extremely big bitters or maybe unusually dry barley wines. It’s certainly very British (or more specifically Burton), lacking the heady aromatics and complex, citrus character of an American (or American influenced) hoppy beer.
It is absurdly pretty: delicately effervescent, with a moderate head and a hue of brilliant, shiny, shiny gold. The nose is quite closed, I can’t get much, except a suggestion of caramelised apricot and Werthers Originals. It’s a very full-bodied beer, with the palate exhibiting the famous Luckies robustness and balance. The overriding flavours are of butter, shredded wheat, spruce, fancy olive oil and roast hazelnuts. The 7.5% abv is obvious without ever getting too hot and the finish is long and cuddly.
This would be a cracking partner to a solid, meat-and-two-veg kind of dinner
We have ten cases of this awesome drink that have been conditioning downstairs for the last couple of months. We also have a case left of his original crack at the X-Ale. If you want the more recent stuff, look for the white caps
It comes in at £4.70 for 50cls, which I think is a small price to pay for what is not only a glass of Scottish brewing heritage, but also a superb beer in it’s own right.
Of course this doesn’t really mean and end to Luckie Ales: the brewery will continue under a new owner (a guy called Martin-hello Martin!) who will continue to produce the flagship beers, before using it to develop his own stuff. Stuart has even left tantalising hints that, although he no longer has a brewery, he is open to collaborating with others and has some interesting things in the pipeline.
But for now, lets raise a glass to Stuart and thank him for proving that good beer doesn’t have to be revoloutionary.