Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted

My first beer review! Though I really don’t like to use the word ‘review’; it sends the message that I actually know what I’m talking about.  How about…my first ‘compilation of notes outlining the aroma, flavour and drinkability of a fine craft beer’…hmmm, no, too long winded.

I guess ‘Drinking Notes’ will do.

The beer I’ve chosen for my inaugural Drinking Notes is Harviestoun’s Bitter & Twisted. This is a Blonde Beer hailing from Scotland that I picked up at my local 1st Choice Liquor; it is also beer #76 off my epic list!

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The bottle says:
The name of the beer takes prominence in the middle of the label. I think the name is clever, referring to the bitterness of the beer and the ‘twist’ of refreshing citrus that you’re supposed get at the end. Just above the name is a mouse standing in front of some hop cones, looking very mischievous. It gives the bottle an aura of ‘elegant, but cheeky’. The mouse also found its way onto the bottle cap; turns out it’s the breweries logo. At the bottom of the label are three words: SPICY, AROMATIC & ZESTY. This gives me the impression that I’m about to enjoy a beer comparable to a Pilsner, or a Belgian Blonde. Nice. The rear label outlines the flavour profile in more detail, and also suggests that you enjoy this drink cold; so straight out of the fridge and into the glass it goes!

First Half:
Poured from a 500ml bottle into a pint glass, the head is small and disappears quickly. This could be due to my pouring technique; my bartending skills are a little rusty. It’s a much darker brew than I expected; the colour is a light orange/amber and cloudy, with no particles floating about. The initial aroma also surprises me. It smells thick, and try as I might all I can identify is molasses.
The first taste confirms what I smell. The beer feels thick on the pallet and has soft carbonation, with molasses flavours again being all I can get. The flavour lingers before a sharp bitterness right at the end; not intense, but very enjoyable. This bitterness increases after each sip, but never overpowers.

My heart sinks a little…SPICY? AROMATIC? ZESTY?…the label seems to be lying to me.

Second Half:
Halfway through the glass, and the citrus flavours suddenly poke their head out. This opens up other fruit flavours, like apricot and orange rind (there’s a real Jam and Marmalade theme happening here) The flavours seem to sit on the back of my tongue until I will them to leave, at which point they are replaced by the same bitterness as before; but now it’s accompanied by a slightly peppery aftertaste. The aromas have also changed; the molasses is gone, replaced by strong orange citrus and apricot, with a little bit of toffee.

It took a little while, but the three words on the front label now make perfect sense. I assume that allowing the drink to warm up is the magic key that has unlocked these flavours…so much for enjoying it cold. (I guess Scotland has a different idea of a ‘cold’ beer too Australia). The aromas become maltier towards the bottom of the glass, and the citrus becomes a little more tart. It’s interesting and enjoyable to the last drop.

Final Thoughts:
This beer was nothing like the Pilsner/Belgian Blonde that I was imagining, instead being more like other UK Bitters that I’ve tried before. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad thing at all, just unexpected. Once I got over my initial surprise, I was able to enjoy this drink for what it was. And enjoy it I did. Letting it warm up was the best thing I could have done for it, allowing it to unveil the SPICY, AROMATIC & ZESTY flavours that were promised from the start. As an Aussie, I wouldn’t consider this a sessionable brew; I wouldn’t drink this to cure my thirst. Instead it’s a drink to appreciate and enjoy, slowly, in the cool of the evening.

One question still troubles me; is there an international standard to what is considered a ‘cold’ beer?

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