Beer guide to Scotland
Scotland's brewing tradition dates back 5,000 years
Scotland is a destination for die-hard beer lovers. Archaeological finds have concluded that its brewing tradition dates back 5,000 years.
Today, Scotland maintains its position as one of the UK’s largest brewing centres, and the Scots have their own terms for draught beers, which are often referred to by their alcohol content and by a 19th century shilling categorisation. The names refer to the cost of a Hogshead (54 gallons) of beer when the pound was divided into shillings and pence, the higher the shilling amount, the stronger the beer.
This naming tradition has been continued by some breweries, which categorise their beers as Light (60/-) under 3.5 per cent ABV, Heavy (70/-) between 3.5–4 per cent ABV, Export (80/-) between 4–5.5 per cent ABV, and Wee Heavy (90/-) over 6 per cent ABV.
Brews to look out for
Glasgow: Tennent is synonymous with lager in Scotland, so for lager fans, this is the one to request when in Scotland. Its labels include Tennent's Lager containing 4 per cent alcohol, Tennent’s Special containing 3.5 per cent alcohol, Tennent's Ember containing 4.2 per cent alcohol, Tennent's Light Ale containing 3.1 per cent alcohol, Tennent's Super containing 9 per cent, and Sweetheart Stout.
Edinburgh: The local Caledonian Brewing in Edinburgh is one of only two surviving breweries in a city that once supported more than 40. Its 4 per cent plus Deuchars IPA and 80/- ales are available on-tap and bottled. They also have another five labels, so at Edinburgh airports, a Caledonian brew is a likely bet. Look for 4 per cent Flying Scotsman or the organic 4.4 per cent Golden Promise containing a sweet malt flavour.
Another famous Edinburgh brewed beer is McEwans. This is a strong brand and one that will likely be found in any airport either north or south of the border. McEwan's Export is a 4.5 per cent strong, caramelised, dark beer originally made for export. It remains one of the most popular canned or bottled beers in Scotland, so will most likely be available at the airport.
Aberdeen: This part of Scotland boasts a Tennent Caledonian brewery and also the Belhaven Brewery, which has elegant trademark bottles. Bellhaven produces a range of cask and bottled beers and its 80/- is available in both. Bellhaven’s 7 per cent Scottish Stout is an award-winning creamy-headed, black-coloured stout. Other labels include the 4.2 per cent Robert Burns Ale and the 4.9 per cent Cask or 4.6 per cent bottled St. Andrews Ale. So if you’re in the area or even further south near Dundee, these are the brews to ask for.
Thirst quencher: Today, microbreweries are proliferating in Scotland, as in other parts of Europe, and now spread to the northern-most isles. However, as far as the main airports are concerned, aside from mass-produced international lagers and ales, labels from close-by breweries are the most likely beers to be found.
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Updated May 2014