Origin: Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
Scotland’s Innis & Gunn specialises in oak ageing beer — “like no other beer”, they’ve been known to claim rather inaccurately, although their take on the process is unusual. It came about when Dougal Sharp, then brewer at Caledonian, was asked to create a beer purely for seasoning barrels destined for whisky production. It was never intended for consumption, but Dougal noticed it being enjoyed by distillery staff. Innis & Gunn followed in 2003 as what was almost certainly the UK’s first commercially marketed oak matured beer. I&G is a beer firm rather than a brewer, mainly commissioning from Greene King subsidiary Belhaven, though they’re also now contracting to Tennent Caledonian’s Wellpark brewery in Glasgow. Bottled beers aren’t bottle conditioned.
I confess I’ve never been a great fan of I&G, finding its flagship products rather soft and sickly, so this beer came as a very pleasant surprise. Canada is an important export market for the company, thus these strong specials which first appeared a few years back to mark Canada Day/Fête du Canada on 1 July. At first they were matured in Canadian oak but this 2011 version, presented at the Live Beer Blogging session of the Beer Bloggers Conference, uses bourbon oak and is hopped with Fuggles.
A reddish beer with a cherry tinge and a light bubbly head, this has an inviting, definitely casky wood aroma with a smokey bourbon note and a touch of cheese. As usual with I&G the palate is sweetish but very minty, fresh and spicy, quite unusual with a very well balanced mix that includes spiced orange and notes reminiscent of coriander, though to my knowledge none is added. A lightly spicy, toasty finish continues the slight minty tone, with a touch of charcoal. Definitely the best I&G I’ve tried and also popular with my fellow tasters.
Read more about an earlier version of this beer at ratebeer.com: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/innis-gunn-limited-edition-canadian-cask-oak-aged-beer-bottle/103719/