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Let’s Celebrate Burns Night With Scottish Beer!

Burns Night This week, I have been learning about what my Scottish chums get up to on these cold winter nights. I have been hearing about this feast of celebration you call Burns Night, which will take place next Wednesday 25th January. As your favourite Squirrel Beer Detective, I decided to investigate further & have asked my squirrel relatives in the Caledonian Forest to fill me in on the details.

Robert Burns (also known as Rabbie Burns) is a much-loved Scottish poet & songwriter, so they tell me, who wrote in the late 1700s. The most well known of his creations is the poem & song “Auld Lang Syne”, sung all over the world on new year’s eve.

Lovers of all things Scottish across the globe celebrate his life & work every year with a Burns Supper on 25th January. These Suppers often follow a standard format of speeches, bagpipe playing, poem recitals, eating & drinking. That sounds like my kind of night!

Following the host’s welcome speech, the guests join in with what’s known as:

The Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae let the Lord be thankit.

A traditional soup such as Scotch Broth or Cock-a-Leekie is served to start the meal, then everyone stands to welcome in the main course.

The Entrance of The Haggis A piper playing bagpipes leads the way to the table followed by the cook who brings in the haggis. The haggis is then welcomed in:

Address To a Haggis

Burns’ poem praising the haggis is recited. In this vintage film clip, the performer speaks almost as if he is welcoming an old friend!

After a whisky toast, the guests will tuck in & enjoy their food. Following the meal, there follows a series of toasts, recitals & speeches including:

The Immortal Memory: remembering Burns’ life & poetry

The Appreciation: where the host thanks the previous speaker

Toast to the Lassies: where the men complement & drink to the ladies’ health

Reply (sometimes known as Toast to the Laddies): where the ladies complement & drink to the mens’ health.

Then general singing, dancing & drinking begins. I love the way that the food & drink are given their rightful reverence in these celebrations.

Scottish Beer But where, I hear you ask, does beer fit into all of this? Well, my friends, this is all an excuse for me to tell you about Scottish beer! There is a very fine tradition of brewing in Scotland that goes back centuries. Not only does this magnificent country produce some of the world’s finest whiskies, some of its contemporary breweries are also making their mark. Innis & Gunn, West, BrewDog, Williams Brothers, Harviestoun, Fyne Ales & Orkney are among those achieving worldwide acclaim. Some even use whisky barrels to age their beer, giving the beer lover an all-round Scottish experience.

Belgian Scottish Beers Just to confuse everyone, when you order a Scotch in Belgium, you will be served a beer, not a whisky, but that’s the Belgians for you! You could say that whisky is in fact distilled beer, but let’s not go down that road for now. The term Scotch Ale in fact refers to a particular range of beer styles, the most common of which is recognised as being similar to an English Barley wine & is otherwise known as a “wee heavy”. These ales are dark, full-bodied & reminiscent of sweet stouts with complex chocolatey/toffee flavours & plenty of alcohol.

Grandpère Squirrel was a big fan of Gordon’s Scotch (known as Douglas Celtic Ale in Scotland) which was brewed especially for the Belgian market at 8.6%ABV. Served in a beautiful, thistle-shaped glass, Grandpère would enjoy a few of these every day for health reasons, so I was told.

Beer Experiments Time for some experiments I think. After last week’s investigations into taste, flavour & how the senses are linked with emotions, I have been eager to try out some Heston Blumenthal-style inspired magic tricks. I want to see if we can transport ourselves to bonnie Scotland by tasting Scottish beer while stimulating our other senses. Here goes.

I suggest that you try Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Co. (see tasting notes below) or you could try any other Scottish beer or even a wee dram of whisky.

Make sure you are sitting comfortably with a minimum of distraction. Place your wine glass & unopened beer (at the correct temperature of course) on the table in front of you. Have your computer/smartphone ready on this page. Now open & pour your beer & play the video below.
Swirl your glass then take a deep sniff with your eyes closed. Now take a slurp of your beer, still with your eyes closed, & listen to the sounds on the link.
Now play the next video. This time watch & listen (you may want to turn the volume up on this one) while you enjoy your beer. Surrender to the experience!

So, how was that for you? Let me know how you got on or if you have any other suggestions. Bon weekend mes amis

Brand Name Fraoch Heather Ale
Overall impression A hazy, pale amber-orange, aromatic, medium-bodied & medium-light Scottish Gruit Ale. Flavoured with heather & bogmyrtle & with a honey & caramel sweetness, an exciting, citrusy, herbal spiciness & a long dry finish.
Food match Hot smoked salmon with warm potato salad
Product info
Colour Amber
Origin Alloa, Scotland
Brewery Williams Bros. Brewing Co.
Brewing ingredients Barley malt, wheat malt, heather, bogmyrtle
ABV% 5.0%
Beer style Scottish Gruit Ale. Gruit is a mixture of herbs & spices added for flavouring & preserving beer, which was used in many countries in the Middle Ages before the use of hops
Tasting notes
Look Pale amber-orange, hazy, with gentle carbonation
Smell Floral, herbal, honey-caramel
Texture Medium-light, medium-bodied
Taste Sweet/spicy
Flavour Honey-caramel sweetness & a floral/heather/herbal spiciness
Finish Lingering dry
For more info Williams Bros. Brewing Co.