One of the “lesser” beer styles in terms of visibility and hype is the scotch, or Scottish, ale – at least here in the US. That said, brewers and beer-drinkers with refined palates know that when done right, this rich, malty, lower-ABV beer can approach some pretty lofty heights. The more of this style I imbibe, the higher it goes on my list of favorites. Speaking of favorites, the other night in Decatur, Georgia, I had the best scotch ale I’ve ever tasted. It’s from Athens, GA’s TERRAPIN BREWING, and it’s called 90 SHELLING SCOTCH ALE. It’s a play on words, you might say. See, traditionally the Scots use a “shilling” number to denote how high in alcohol the beer might be – so an 120 Shilling would be a big ‘un, 30 Shilling not so much. Seeing as how Terrapin uses a turtle as their mascot, this is the 90 SHELLING ALE. Groan.
I was lucky enough to make another visit to the amazing BRICK STORE PUB, easily one of the finest beer bars in the land. See that picture below this text? That’s the beer case I was looking at all during my meal and my drinks, upstairs in their “Belgian room”. It was stocked with dozens upon dozens of rare, local, imported and aged beers of all stripes. Yet I wanted to go local and get what was fresh & on tap, so I asked for TERRAPIN 90 SHELLING scotch ale. It poured a very dark, but barely translucent reddish-brown. Gorgeous. I was hit with intense maltyness, reminiscent of bread and very light spices. It actually had a mildly hoppy bitterness as well, which took the normal sweetness of this style of beer down a notch. I totally loved it. I saw it in bottles the next day, but it’s part of a limited series from Terrapin, and won’t be around much longer. I’m gonna have to find a reason to go to Atlanta again soon and bring back a suitcase full. 8.5/10.