Odell Brewing Co, an American brewer, tries their hand at the Scottish beer style, 90 Shilling Ale. Is it laughable or laudable? Review by Craig Heap.
90 Shilling Ale
Odell Brewing Co
Tax on beer is as inevitable as water in beer, so much so we all grumble and get on with things without giving it too much thought. The Scots, however, have had a long tradition of embracing inevitable taxation into their beer culture. Today, BrewDog are famous for their low-strength Nanny State and Blitz! beers which cheat Osborne of his extra pennies and rile up middle-class tabloids.
In the past, from the late 1800s to the latter half of the 20th century, the Scottish named some of their beers after the amount of shillings it was taxed by the barrel. The very best and strongest beer is said to have been taxed 90 shillings, and Odell Brewing Co have named their flagship beer in this tradition. They may be an American brewery, but so many British styles are being reinvigorated way across the pond. I mean, when was the last time you had a 70, 80, or 90 shilling style beer in the UK?
It pours a coppery-red, crystal clear beer in the glass, with glowing amber edging. The carbonation is light and the head is more elusive than Sasquatch on bath day. From the first smell, however, you already begin to appreciate why the respected Odell Brewing Co are proud to call this particular expression their flagship beer.
The aroma is immediately complex and pleasing: nuts, honey, caramel, and burnt malt. The mouth feel is rich, velvety and very, very smooth. The body, and the taste, bites down and then swells outward into all the cracks like builders’ foam. The first bite is spicy hops; it then cascades into a sweet cascade of brown sugar and toffee. In the finish there’s a firm, oaky taste underscored by pepper.
The whole thing is damned impressive and each sip has you going back for more. This is partly through the complex flavour, and partly through the hint of boozy astringency which echoes around the rafters of the roof of the mouth at the end of each mouthful. There’s a lot to discover and one bottle will never be enough.