Will Hawkes: 'You should try some Scottish beer even if you don't like haggis'
Plenty of whisky will be drunk to celebrate Burns Night, which is all well and good. But would it be treasonable to suggest that Scottish beer is worthy of as much attention as its world-famous cousin?
Not if you listen to Jo MacSween, of the famous haggis makers. "Whisky and haggis are a bit like an old married couple; I almost feel unpatriotic in suggesting that they should split up and that the haggis should have a fling with beer," she says, and it's hard to disagree.
Actually, you should try some Scottish beer even if you don't like haggis. Scotland has a formidable brewing tradition and there are a number of modern brewers who demonstrate that old knack for working with malt and hops: the likes of Fyne Ales, Williams Brothers, Tempest, Harviestoun and, of course, Brewdog.
Any discussion of "The Scottish Brewery", as sensitive Camra types are wont to put it, must reflect on Brewdog's impressively abrasive approach to marketing, but (and this is the key) no UK brewery has done more to put new flavours in front of the average punter.
A series of share offers have allowed them to build a new brewery close to Aberdeen, meaning their beer is increasingly available. They've also opened a bar in Stockholm, with more to follow in São Paolo and Tokyo.
Punk IPA, their flagship beer, can now be found in supermarkets up and down the land but it's their old-world IPA, all marmalade and hard-edged bitterness, that would work best with haggis – or without, if you're not that way inclined.
Three to try
Brewdog Old-World IPA
The Fraserburgh malcontents' take on a traditional English IPA is big on austere, old-fashioned bitterness. 7.5%, £7 for 650ml, brewdog.com
Harviestoun Ola Dubh
Aged for up to six months in barrels once used for Highland Park, this refined brew has plenty of oaky, smoky whisky character. 8%, £4.55 for 33cl, beermerchants.com
A collaboration with homebrewers Jake Griffin and Chris Lewis, this deep-black porter offers chocolate, coffee and a touch of honey. 6.9%, £3.49 for 33cl, beerritz.co.uk
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