This week I shipped down a beer selection from north of the border. Harviestoun makes solid, traditional British beers but there’s an occasional twist. The Ridge Pale Ale is a boozy, spicy pale ale with oodles of malt. Whippet is a delightful small beer I can happily drink at lunchtime. And Ola Dubh, a black ale aged in Highland Park whisky casks, is rich, smoky, and satisfying.
While my friends love their beers, they get worked up into a frenzy at the mention of beers matured in whisky casks. So, when news of Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh reached the Bourbon County Boys, things rapidly kicked off in the group chat. Combine that with a discount celebrating International Beer day, and you’ve got yourself a party.
Rather than stocking up solely on barrel-aged beer, I figured I should test what else Harviestoun had to offer. I picked up Harvie’s Choice: a mixed case highlighting some of their best and most interesting beers.
The Ridge Pale Ale
Harvie, the brewery’s little mouse mascot (or mousecot, if you prefer) has a little American flag here. I suspect we may be in for something hop forward in style.
The Ridge is a mash up of the best ingredients from “the mighty America and the even mightier Scotland”, as the brewers put it. Ironically, the ingredients from this side of the pond are English, not Scottish. We have East Kent Goldings and Fuggles hops for bitterness, then Amarillo and Apollo for aroma.
Ridge pours blonde with a slight haze. For all the chat about hops in the brewers’ notes, on the aroma I’m mostly picking up the malt. There’s a little grassiness, but that’s soon playing second fiddle to light shortbread and pale grain aromas. On the palate it’s very light and a little sweet. A dash of banana to start, evolving to lemon peel, green apple, and toasted white bread. Somehow it’s a little boozy and spicy on the finish, which I’m not averse to in the slightest.
Not really what I was expecting but a good beer nonetheless. 3/5
Whippet Pale Ale
At just 2.3%, this is perhaps less of a whippet and more an Italian Greyhound. I can make comments like this now, since I have become a dog owner.
This Whippet is golden and perfectly clear. There’s very little head: much like my dad’s parking history, this beer has been heavily fined.
Ginger biscuits and lemon zest on the nose. The aroma is pleasingly robust for a small beer. It’s a little light and thin on the palate, reminiscent of alcohol-free beers like Nanny State, but that sharp bitterness is far less in your face. There’s malt backing it up, digestive biscuits, with orange and coriander seed hanging around on the surprisingly long finish.
Not a beer I’d drink all night. But as a quick refresher at lunch time? I think we may be onto something. 3/5
Old Engine Oil
In my experience, beers named after delicious things are often overcompensating. By that measure, Old Engine Oil should be one of the tastiest beers out there.
It certainly has a consistency not unlike engine oil: it’s thick and gloopy, inky black with a generous tan head. Once that’s settled down we pick up the aroma: chocolate, raisins, and charcoal. On the tongue rich and fruity blackberry flavours balance roasty, coffee, dark malt dryness.
It’s not a perfect beer. The mouthfeel is more porter than stout, despite the “craft stout” claim on the label. The darker flavours are nice but veer into tasting burnt, like overroasted coffee. But all in all, this is a decent beer. It’ll make a great winter warmer later in the year. 3/5
Not to be confused with Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, Ola Dubh is what you get when you aged Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil in Highland Park whisky casks for six months.
It’s an intimidating beer. 8% ABV, inky black and thick, on pouring I’m immediately greeted by a rich, smoky whisky aroma. Caramel, oak, damson and cola all mingle on the nose.
The palate starts fruitier, but as the flavours unlock we’re rewarded with a transition from liquorice and juicy dandelion and burdock into chocolate malt and smoke, all backed up by a satisfying, reassuring boozy warmth. I’m pleasantly surprised by how light the mouthfeel is: unlike the BCS soy bombs of pre-pandemic days, this beer is effervescent, even quaffable. It’s certainly not nearly as chewy as some of those imperial stouts. We’re finally rewarded with a deep and warming finish, a mix of damsons and chocolate.
I don’t regret picking up a selection box from Harviestoun, as it’s given me a chance to explore their wider offering. But I do regret not picking up another case of Ola Dubh. This stuff is very, very good. 4/5