Origin: Innerleithen, Scottish Borders, Scotland
Traquair House is the oldest inhabited stately home in Scotland and a new wave craft brewer ahead of its time. In 1965, several years before the launch of CAMRA, the rediscovery of Britain’s diverse brewing heritage and the subsequent rise of the microbrewery, the then laird, Peter Maxwell-Stuart, discovered an Elizabethan brewhouse in the grounds (what a thing, to own a house so huge you stumble upon bits of it you never knew existed) and brought it back into use with the help of Sandy Hunter from the nearby Belhaven Brewery, now a subsidiary of Greene King. Peter has since died but his daughter Catherine continues the family tradition.
For years the brewery turned out only one beer, Traquair House Ale, to a traditional recipe, but started to diversify a bit in the 1990s, and also experimented with a few commemorative ales. In 2001 it celebrated its 1000th brew with a limited extra-strong edition of its signature beer which, like its standard products, is filtered but unpasteurised and capable of ageing. I found a batch at Ville Nouvelle Wines, in a basement on Broughton Street in Edinburgh’s New Town (thus the name), a nifty little wine merchant that also does a small but well chosen range of Scottish microbrews. Noting the best before date of December 2010, I bought a trio with a view to seeing how they developed.
I first opened one in 2003, discovering a soothing, rich and well-balanced very dark brown beer with a reddish tinge and a moderate foamy head. A rummy, cakey aroma had Turkish Delight notes, heralding a prickly malty cakey palate with rum and raisin and blackcurrant and mint flavours reminscent of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon wines. A toffeeish warming finish had more malt, burnt toffee, and lingering hints of subtle smoke and hops.
In January 2009 I dipped into my stash again to find a dark mahogany beer with a bubbly yellow head and a finish that had turned leathery, with meaty gravy notes and spice. There were also thick gravy notes in the sweetish, rummy, spirity palate, with mint and dry wood to balance the maltiness. A long and complex finish dried out with a touch of roast, more mint, powdery hops and woody red wine tannins. Surprisingly the beer slipped down easily, registering little of its true alcoholic weight.
I’ve still one bottle left which, I suspect, has a good few years’ life left in it. Look out for future reports.
Read more about this beer at ratebeer.com: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/traquair-1000th-brew/11994/