We went to our local beer festival in the early spring this year. I was really looking forward to it because it is always a good chance for me to try out some beers that I wouldn’t normally come across. This year’s selection came predominantly from Scotland and the North of England (along with a choice of local wines and continental bottled beers).
We tried some beers from Harviestoun, Bridge of Allan, Belhaven and Caledonian breweries ~ all were interesting and varied in style and taste. One such beer was Raven Ale ~ from the brewery that brings us Dark Island (4.6% ABV), Skullsplitter (8.5% ABV) and Dragonhead Stout (4% ABV).
The Orkney Brewery is based in the Isles of Orkney, just off the Northern tip of Scotland, in an old Schoolhouse. Brewing started there in 1988 (by Roger and Irene White) and since then they have produced an excellent range of bottled and cask Real Ales. They export to the mainland and also to other countries around the world (apparently they do a roaring trade in the USA!).
They have won various awards for their fine products, including medals at the Brewing Industry International Awards 2002, Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2001 and Champion Beer of Scotland 2000.
Raven Ale weighs in at 3.8% ABV and is made using malted barley, hops and water. Looks wise it is a pale golden colour with a little hint of orange; it has the appearance of a Pale Ale. The aroma is pretty hoppy, with a hint of citrus and a floral tinge. The texture in your mouth is light and lively; very refreshing and smooth too. There’s also a little bit of spiciness in there that makes your tongue tingle!
It would go down really well with food too, because it has isn’t too overpowering and wouldn’t dominate the taste of your meal. There is enough flavour and interest in there to make it good to drink on its own too!
Taste wise Raven is quite a complicated little number. It is rich, fruity and has a tastiness that is perhaps unusual in a “session” beer of this relatively low strength. The initial flavour is lemony (from the hops) and this is balanced by a pleasant light maltiness (I have heard from my brother, who lived in Scotland for many years, that it used to be very malty, but has since mellowed into a much better beer).
It can have the tendency to be a little on the dry side, but this is cut through nicely by the other flavours ~ fruity and buttery. The finish is refreshing and light, leading to a citrus after taste that lingers smoothly in your mouth. Altogether, a well balanced and tasty beer that is well worth a try.
We paid for our beer at the festival using tokens that we purchased on entry, but expect to pay anything from 2.00 to 2.60 a pint. I have since this on rare occasions as a guest beer, but the only downside is that it is only on RARE occasions. The other Orkney beers seem to pop up more often than Raven ale; more’s the pity! The up side is that you can buy 500ml bottles online ~ from http://www.beers-scotland.co.uk/orkney.asp for around 30 for 12 bottles.
If you do see it in your local then I thoroughly recommend that you sample some ~ it’s tasty, easy to drink and makes an excellent choice for an afternoon or evening drinking session.
The Orkney Brewery
+44 (0) 1856 841802