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Oct 13, 2013 01:13 AM

Rants and small raves on British / Scotch beers and the texture issue

this weekend I tried a couple scottish brews I've never had: Traquair House Ale and Traquair Jacobite....

House Ale is described as "ale fermented in oak barrels... a traditional scotch ale or 'wee heavy'..."

Jacobite is a scotch ale of sorts with some mild spice notes (coriander, and ?),

They were both okay. The House Ale was my fave but I wouldn't run out to buy it, but I'm glad I tried both...

But the point of this post... something I've noticed in nearly every British beer... they have a thin texture. Anyone else notice that? Like there's ample flavor but at the same time this watery quality... and it really detracts from alot of their brews, IMO...

I think texture is one of the least-appreciated dimensions of both great beer and great wine... well, in the wine-world it's more recognized perhaps... but beers have the same issue, a lush rich texture just enhances the experience whereas a thinner texture detracts, even if you hold all the flavor elements equal...just sayin'

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  1. Haven't had the Traquair House Ale in years. It is quite good but had to find where I am (Tokyo). I don't recall it being thin or even watery, but British beers are a bit timid when compared to U.S. microbrews, though they seem appropriate for their alcoholic strength.

    Would like to try the Jacobite some time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Tripeler

      maybe I'm over-selling the wateriness... not to say there isn't full-flavor here, just lacking lusciousness for me.... and this is hardly the only brit beer like that IMO.

      1. re: TombstoneShadow

        I think you are certainly on the right track. To me, most UK beers seem timid (well, except for Brewdog) and are savored quite differently from U.S. microbrews, particularly those from the San Diego area. Myself, I like Belgian beers particularly for their interplay of flavors and textures, though I have a particular fondness for Hair of the Dog beers from Portland.

    2. Not sure about the Traquair beers, but it's not uncommon for British beers to include some sugar, which of course would thin the body.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jim Dorsch

        I find this same mouthfeel on the Samuel Smith line, for example...

      2. I think with most British Beer the lighter weight(and Alcohol) has a lot to do with the drinking culture. The less heavy Beer allowing one to spend more time socializing without getting Snockered.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          interesting... I came across some comments saying that Samuel Smith Imperial Stout (usually a richly-textured beer varietal) which is only 7% abv, low for a stout (especially an imperial) as you describe......

          but the Traquair Jacobite is 8% abv... so does alcohol really have much to do with a silkier / richer mouthfeel?

          1. re: TombstoneShadow

            No, but the amount of Grain and the unfermentable Sugars do.
            The higher % Beers tend to be the exception rather than the rule in Briton as many other places.
            Most of the British Stouts are lower alcohol Beers, Guiness ≈5% Beamish ≈3.8% McMenamins≈4.6% Murphy's≈4%

        2. I've never heard of a thin tasting Traquair House so you may have gotten a bad bottle(never heard of that before either). A Wee Heavy, as in all Scottish beers, is fermented cool(it's cold in Scotland) and should retain a good deal of body due to poor attenuation of the yeasts. It could be that you are looking for that hop bite that is so prevalent in craft beers. You will not find that in traditional Scottish beers. Hops don't grow in Scotland( it's cold in Scotland) and hops had to be imported from England. History shows us that Scotland and England didn't like each other for most of the last 1,000 years so the Scots brewed with very little hops. Traquair House is made of pale malt and roasted barley and boiled long to intensify the sugar
          As too the Brit beers being thin, they are still(IIRC) taxed due their strength, so they tend to try to get as much flavor with the least amount of alcohol

          1 Reply
          1. re: niquejim

            I believe you're right about the tax, although it might be based on alcohol today, whereas it used to be based on OG.

          2. I tried a Tetley's which is very low ABV but has the flavor of a Scotch Ale but less pronounced and thinner, while still having a creamy texture

            If you are looking for something sessionable it is worth a go

            I generally like Smithwicks on draft and this would be thinner and creamier - I guess perhaps a Guinness Smithwick hybrid, however that is probably putting it wrong since they have been making Tetleys since 1836 :)