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What makes someone decide on a particular beer? Picture the scene, you're standing at the bar (or the local bottle shop) scanning the range of ales on offer but just can't decide which beer to have. There are beers you've had before and didn't enjoy (so scrub them) - there are beers you've had before and enjoyed, but you want something new. Barring recommendations, or experience of a particular brewery, I think it quite often gets down to the name. Evocative named beers like: Dog's Bollocks, Old Peculier, Waggledance or Old Engine Oil for example, would pique my curiosity and tempt me into sampling them - if I hadn't already.
Orkney Brewery must have had someone like me in mind when they were trawling for names as all their beers have names that entice me. Like this one, The Red MacGregor.
The Orkney Brewery (in Quoyloo, just 1 mile from Skara Brae) brew a wide range of quality ales, including: Skullsplitter, Northern Light and Dark Island; and have won many awards including a few for this one Red MacGregor. A lot of the beers from Orkney have Viking-style names celebrating the rich Norse history of the Orkney Islands, but the former owner, being a descendant of the MacGregor Clan, thought that it was appropriate to name this beer after his ancestors.
The most famous of all the MacGregors isn't the actor Ewan, but Robert, or Red Rob - you may remember him from such films as 'Rob Roy' starring Liam Neeson (although it's not thought that the real Rob Roy spoke with an Irish accent!). Rob Roy MacGregor (1671 - 1734) lived, and died in his bed aged 70, in Balquidder in the Trossachs - north of Stirling. He is hailed as a hero - a sort of Robin Hood figure by some, and as a thieving gangster who ran a very successful protection racket by others. The truth, I suspect, lies somewhere in between. It's said the origins of the word 'blackmail' derive from his practice of stealing cattle and returning them to their owners upon a payment of grain, or 'meal', hence - black meal.The label on the font, or the bottle, depicts a wild, red-haired highlander. Presumably Rob Roy.
Red MacGregor comes in bottles and casks but I'm reviewing the draught ale which is a fairly common guest ale in pubs around Scotland. Crystal and chocolate malt give this beer its colour and roasted malt flavour; Cascade hops, which are more common to lighter coloured beers give the floral fruitiness.
Meanwhile... I was in the pub with my wife last night and I said I love you. She said is that you or the beer talking ? I replied it's me talking '''to''' the beer...
Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac? He stayed up all night wondering if there was a dog.
Back to the beer....
THEY SAY "... delicate, floral and fruity, with notes of violets, cherries, toffee and caramel. Fruits combine with a juicy malt character and hints of toasted malt, with a biscuit malt and spicy hop finish."
Red MacGregor Ale pours to a lovely, rich, chestnut colour with flashes of ruby-red, and moderate carbonation forming a rocky, off white head which leaves a decent amount of lacing. There are some nice aromas, most noticeable among them being a dominant sweet malt. Some toastiness is evident, along with a little peat-smoke, a yeasty earthiness, and a gentle, flowery hop aroma.
It is light-to-medium bodied and has quite a soft and creamy mouthfeel. Initially, the flavour is all sweet malt, but dig a little deeper and there are hints of toffee, raisins and caramel - it's a malt-lover's dream. As with the nose, there's a peat-smoke taste, some yeasty flavour, and a very slight citrus twang. It finishes with more malt flavours before a faint floral hop bitterness creeps in to balance out the beer nicely.
• The Verdict •
At 4% ABV, this is an excellent, tasty beer with lots of malt character, and is a very typical Scottish Heavy. Malt is the by-word here, so if you lean towards the hoppier end of the beer drinking scale, you might find it a little too sweet. I wouldn't foresee any problems matching this with most foods - anything from the richest meat dishes to simple bread and cheese - but most especially traditional pub fare. Of all the beers from The Orkney Brewery, this is perhaps the easiest drinking, and to my mind, probably the best all-rounder. It's probably not all that commonplace on draught UK-wide, but bottles should be available from a supermarket near you.