Despite the rugged sounding name, the Edinborough Innis & Gunn Brewery have only been around since 2003 and was founded, Dougal Gunn Sharp, who used his middle name and his brother’s, Neil Innis Sharp, to title it.  A group of 30 or so staff from GTA The Keg locations, and myself, sat and listened to Peter Allison, their global brand ambassador explain the history of the beer and their (mostly) exclusively oak-barrel brewing methods, along with a tasting session, which kind of goes without saying. Interestingly enough, 30 is also the number of staff that run Innis & Gunn, on a global scale.

Their Edinburgh brewery, formerly the historical Caledonian Brewery founded in 1869, was one of the last of of its kind when it was purchased by the Sharp son’s da’, Russel Sharp, in 1987. A bit shocking considering there were over40 by the time beer brewing hit its peak in 1860, but the lack of naturally grown hops must have been a drawback to their production cycle — Scottish soil is too alkaline to grow it, however they use  alternatives like heather or fruits and gruit. Another thing that I learned was that before the Reinheitsgebot of 1516, that is, the official beer standardization laws, breweries were using wacko products to cut their fermentation process, ranging from opium (yum!) to arsenic (not so yum, more like…croak.)

So, onto the actual beer. Most people are used to tasting oak aged wine, but oak aged beer has a really interesting sweetening effect. Oak contains naturally occurring vanillin (similar to vanilla pods), with an incredible flavour profile, see above, that’s released into the beer while it is aged and gently heated in the casks for 77 days.  The result is a sweet, savoury, and fruity 6.4 % alcohol bath for your palate that may be a bit overpowering at first but the taste really grows on you after a few gulps.

We were also treated to the Innis & Gunn Spiced Rum Cask beer which, as you can guess, has been aged in rum casks, giving it an even more caramel flavour.  The Rum Cask beer is actually their most decorated beer, having one numerous in the British Beers category. Also on the table was their soon to be released Winter Treacle Porter, a recipe Dougal found in ancient recipe book from the 1800s titled “Scot’s Cellar”. Apparently it’s not a true porter, as treacle (what we call molasses), is just added to the brewing process partway through to give it that a rich sweet flavour that you might associate with sugar cookies, christmas, and winter seasonings.  This is what the Brit’s actually call a “wee heavy” beer.  One thing I almost forgot… Innis & Gunn also treated us to a bottle of their un-oaked beer, that is, beer before it gets barrelled, to give us an idea of the before and after tastes.  It sounds intriguing, but not really something you’d wanna drink on a regular basis.  The dominant tastes were bitterness and maltiness, with a pronounced drying effect on the mouth.

The tasting also had another purpose, which was to promote the Innis & Gunn Bartender’s Choice contest, a bar-industry user submitted idea contest where the winners would win a trip to Scotland and have their beer idea actually bottled and sold internationally! They are running the contest in Canada, England and Sweden of all places.  I met two awesome, friendly and very serious bartenders from the Vaughn Keg location who showed up with their proof of concept already completed and professionally designed. Good luck Angela (who also runs her own vodka-based blog The Vodka Doll, how cool is that? More bartenders should blog more often!) and Tassia! May the luck of the Scots, err I mean Irish, errr, I mean African princesses, be with you!

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Comments ( 1 Comment )

Very nice article.
If you are every looking to sell your Bartender’s Choice Book that Innis & Gunn gifted you for taking part. Let me know. I have been on the hunt for one for a while to add to my I&G Collection.

D'James added these pithy words on Dec 11 14 at 8:17 pm

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