Swannay Orkney Blast

Swannay: Orkney Blast (Scotland: English Strong Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Clear thick gold. A cm of creamy and loose bubbles that leave sud rims.

Nose: Barley. Lemon. Slight grit or salted rocks. Soft caramel. Resin, digestives and peach.

Body: Soft and hoppy. Light bitterness, rises slightly over time. Hop oils. Juicy grapes. Mossy greenery. Dried apricot. Prickly. Golden syrup feel and taste. Resin. Peach.

Finish: Tart white grapes. Hop oils. Dry bitterness. Salted popcorn. Greenery. Gherkins. Peach. Jolly ranchers. Slightly earthy.

Conclusion: An IPA Barley Wine hybrid? Ok, at 6% abv that is a bit low for what I would expect for a barley wine, pretty much spot on for what I would expect an IPA to be. Hmm, so what elements are going to shout barley wine I wonder, what is going to make it such a stylistic mash up?

I’d guess that it is the thick texture, quite syrupy and backed by a quite resinous character that makes it a slower drinking experience than you would expect from an IPA. The actual hop bitterness you would expect from the IPA side is actually comparatively restrained. The hop character is shown much more in the fruity notes – it feels like lower abv fruit backed barley wine rather than an IPA to me. Oddly it is the side I expected to be more emphasised that seems less shown here. Then again, these days IPA seems to be attached to anything with high hop flavours, so I can’t blame this one for following that trend.

Behind those welcome characteristics are a few rougher elements – quite a bit of greenery that doesn’t fit – a mossy character. There is also a slight salted rock roughness that could be interesting if used well, but here again it doesn’t fit with the syrupy character. The thicker texture makes the rough elements grip too much, and so stick around long enough to outstay their welcome.

It feels unpolished – lots of big flavours but little integration and those harsh off notes. Still drinkable, but feels over clingy and resiny for the thickness.

Ok, but not really a style mash up that works.

Background: Ok, I normally go with how a beer describes itself – however this calls itself an IPA Barley Wine, which is a bollocks term in my opinion, so I went with the ratebeer call of English Strong Ale which seemed a fair shout. Anyway, drunk while listening to some Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath. Good old school metal. This was a birthday present – many thanks!. You may hear that a lot in the next few weeks. Pretty much all my friends gave me beer. I have good friends.