The Orkney Brewery in Sandwick on the Isles of Orkney – a small group of islands off the northern tip of Scotland – was founded by Roger White and his wife Irene some 15 years ago. It is situated in a former schoolhouse set amid lakes and grassland on the Mainland of Orkney.
They brew a wide range of quality ales, including: Skullsplitter, Northern Light and Dark Island; and have won many awards including the International Brewing Industry Awards championship cup (2002) for Red MacGregor.
A lot of the beers from Orkney have Viking-style names celebrating the rich Norse history of the Orkney Islands, but Roger White, being a descendant of the MacGregor Clan, thought that it was appropriate to name this beer after his ancestors.
Red Macgregor comes in at 4% ABV in draught form, but 5% ABV in the bottle. I’m reviewing the draught ale which is a fairly common guest ale in pubs around Scotland and is making inroads abroad as well.
Red MacGregor Ale pours to a lovely, rich, chestnut colour with flashes of ruby-red, and moderate carbonation forming a rocky, off white head which leaves a decent amount of lacing. There are some nice aromas, most noticeable among them being a dominant sweet malt. Some toastiness is evident, along with a little peat-smoke, a yeasty earthiness, and a gentle, flowery hop aroma.
It is light-to-medium bodied and has quite a soft and creamy mouthfeel. Initially, the flavour is all sweet malt, but dig a little deeper and there are hints of toffee, raisins and caramel – it’s a malt-lover’s dream. As with the nose, there’s a peat-smoke taste, some yeasty flavour, and a very slight citrus twang. It finishes with more malt flavours before a faint floral hop bitterness creeps in to balance out the beer nicely.
At 4% ABV, this is an excellent, tasty beer with lots of malt character, and is a very typical Scottish Heavy. Malt is the by-word here, so if you lean towards the hoppier end of the beer drinking scale, you might find it a little too sweet.
I wouldn’t foresee any problems matching this with most foods – anything from the richest meat dishes to simple bread and cheese – but most especially traditional pub fare. Of all the beers from The Orkney Brewery, this is perhaps the easiest drinking, and to my mind, probably the best all-rounder.