In the latest instalment of ‘drink this now’, Linda Scarborough works up a thirst for Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer from Scotland.
In 2002, master beer brewer Dougal Sharp was approached by renowned Scotch distiller William Grant to supply beer to season its whisky casks. (Whisky is usually aged in oak casks that previously held bourbon, sherry or port, and in this instance they hoped their whisky would take on the beer’s sweet, malty character.) The first batch of beer went in for 30 days and, having achieved its purpose, was discarded to make way for the whisky. But some inquisitive souls at the distillery sampled the beer before tossing it out, and found that it had been transformed by the oak… and Innis & Gunn was born.
There are three variations of Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer available in South Africa. With varying degrees of woody smokiness and unique flavour notes, each beer has very fine carbonation (comparable to mousse in sparkling wine), making it smooth and very sippable.
The Innis & Gunn Toasted Oak IPA is crisp, refreshing and zesty, with a lively citrusy bitterness and some lighter floral notes lent by its aromatic hops character. Matured for 41 days over lightly toasted American oak heartwood, it pairs well with battered fish or a fragrant curry.
The Innis & Gunn Original boasts a beautiful pink-amber colour and a smooth mouth feel, with biscuit, toffee and vanilla notes. Of the three beers available in SA, the Original is matured for the longest ¬time –77 days – in bourbon casks. Match it with pulled pork sliders or grilled seafood.
The Innis & Gunn Rum Finish is the full-bodied heavyweight of the trio, matured for 57 days over oak heartwood that’s infused with rums for a deep red colour, flavours of soft fruits and a spicy, warm and sweet finish. Match it with mature cheese and sweet preserves, or a slow-cooked roast.
This unique melding of the best things about beer and whisky will please fans of both. The fact that it’s made in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a result of happy serendipity gets Innis & Gunn my vote. It’s pretty premium stuff, though, so you can treat yourself to a case from Norman Goodfellows liquor stores or Yuppiechef.com for about R330 for six bottles or R470 for 12, or order it at a restaurant in the list below:
In the Western Cape: Bascule Bar, Fat Harry’s, Beerhouse and Banana Jam.
In KZN: Unity, Frank’s Speakeasy, Lupa Osteria, Bellevue Café, Stretta Café, Republik, Marco Paulo, Dropkick Murphy’s, Harvey’s Restaurant and Harry’s Cocktail Bar and Havana Grill.
In Gauteng: Casalinga Ristorante, Churchill House, De Kloof, Ritrovo Ristorante, Beerhouse, Foundry, The Grillhouse, Capital Craft Beer Academy and Rocket.
Innis & Gunn is also available at the domestic and international SLOW lounges at OR Tambo, Cape Town International and King Shaka airport.
We’ve also just heard that Luke at Culture Club Cheese in Bree Street, Cape Town, is maturing Belnori’s jersey buttercup cheese in a bath of Innis & Gunn Rum Finish. Looking forward to giving that a try!