Thursday, March 31, 2011

Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale

Scotch Ales are up there with porters and stouts on my style favorite list, which is fitting given my somewhat shady ancestry. Like all Rutledges, I am descended from 16th Century border raiders who enjoyed crossing into England and engaging in numerous acts of criminality such as the theft of farm animals and the burning of barns. So nefarious were the Rutledges that it took 500 armed men to drive them back to Scotland in 1528. Some of the expelled Rutledges fled to Ireland. Others absorbed themselves into Scottish clans. The rest found their way back to England, where they resumed their acts of illegality and eventually settled in Bewcastle parish. Notable American descendents of the Scots-Irish Rutledges include Edward Rutledge (youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence), John Rutledge (the only United States Supreme Court justice to ever be relieved of his duties- largely due to speculation he was insane), writer Archibald Rutledge (a poet laureate of South Carolina and a hugely popular American outdoors writer in the early 20th Century), and musician Edward Rutledge Hawn (father of Goldie Hawn). American descendents of the Scots-English Rutledges included the southern moonshiners to whom I can most likely trace my lineage. But far from emerging from the womb with a predilection towards the family specialty, I've never had much of a taste for the hard stuff. Beer, on the other hand, I loved from the first sip. Scotch Ale in particular tastes like I was born to drink it. Perhaps I was. I would kill a man for an Orkney SkullSplitter draught. And it's not just the Scots that know how to make a wee heavy. American craft brewers like Founders have got it going on.

If the Founders Dirty Bastard is my favorite American Scotch Ale, then Great Divide's Claymore is a solid #2. Named for a Medieval Scottish sword, this is a malt-forward wee heavy with a rich caramel flavor that won me over instantly. Super malty yet not overpoweringly sweet, warming but not boozy, this is definitely one of the "mildest" Scotch ales I've had. Yet in this case, mild doesn't equal bad. The malty flavor is a perfect balance of smoky and sweet, and a subtle hop presence adds a soft kiss of bitterness. You know I love a smooth beer, and this bad boy is really smooth. Formerly a winter seasonal, it has been graduated to year-round status. Thank heavens! This is one beer I would like to keep in stock at all times. It's no SkullSplitter, and it's no Dirty Bastard. But it's a damn fine ale in its own right - a delicious malt-bomb of a wee heavy like the Rutledges have been drinking for 500 years. Pure dead brilliant!

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