In the 2010s when craft beer started proper in Scotland and everyone first grew beards and flannel shirts, IPAs were basically your only option — but times are changing thanks to quality Scottish pale ales.
Over the years I’ve noticed a distinct slide away from the kinds of super-hoppy beers a lot of folk dismiss as tasting like soap.
Instead, loads of breweries are leaning more towards IPA’s somewhat tamer cousin, the easy-drinking pale ales.
I’ve taste tested these three pale ales from Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Highland breweries to see if they’re worth drinking, or are beyond the pale —read on to find out my ratings.
Easy Pale, Fierce Beer
- £2.35 a 440ml can on Fierce’s website
- From Fierce Beer, based at Dyce in Aberdeen
- Style: Session Pale Ale
If you’ve never had a pale ale before, this is a great one to start with.
At 4.2%, it’s decidedly lighter in alcohol than most big name IPAs you might be used to (punk is 5.4% for example, and Fierce’s IPA is 5.2%).
I found this beer’s name to be very apt, it went down very smoothly without the bitterness that would offend your exclusively mainstream lager drinker, but also with plenty of flavour that WOULD offend your regular mainstream lager drinker.
Dry, crisp, and simultaneously perfect for a sunny beer garden, or round a pub fire in the depths of winter — and £2.35 a tin is great value.
Now if only Fierce would bring back their animal branding on the cans…
Sunset Song, Burnside Brewery
- £3 each 500ml bottle from the brewery’s website when bought as a £36 12-pack
- Burnside Brewery, Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire
- Style: Pale Ale with added elderflower
In the depths of lockdown, Sunset Song from Burnside Brewery in Laurencekirk quickly became one of my favourites.
Partly due to the fact it was reliably available in Aberdeen drinks shops when booze from further afield wasn’t, but mostly because of how good it is.
Unlike Fierce’s Easy Pale, this one is less bitter and dry, and more juicy and sweet, almost caramel-like in taste, which is supported by the extra alcohol strength.
It’s also brewed with a touch of elderflower, I honestly can’t pick it out but whatever they’ve put into this, it works.
A word to the wise though, make sure you store this upright in the fridge, and pour VERY carefully because there’s loads of (harmless) sediment at the bottom —unless you fancy a sediment smoothie that is.
Organic Pale Ale, Black Isle
- £2.10 a 330ml can from the brewery’s website
- Black Isle Brewing Co, the Black Isle
- Style: Pale Ale
I keep coming back to Black Isle for these beer reviews, and with good reason.
Not only has this brewery got a fantastic range of styles, but they’re made with consistent quality, and this organic pale ale is no different.
This beer poured just a shade darker than the Fierce Easy Pale, but quite a bit fizzier, and with a more juicy, citrus-y taste,
It had a pleasant sort-of sweetness, and would go down perfectly with a classic slap-up meal like steak and chips.
If you fancy something lighter, but still flavourful, to start off a good night’s drinking then grab a can of this.