Ale to the King.

Edinburgh's quality beer and ale review and culture site.

Archive for the tag “inverness”

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: The Beers

Brew at the Bog, a festival who’s beer is supplied almost exclusively by Brewdog? This is something Ale to the King couldn’t say no to!

Ale to the King believes that beer is best viewed in the context in which it exists, be that history, whether its from bottle, draft or pimped-out carton, environment its drunk in, distance from birthplace… the list is almost endless. So Brewdog beer served at an inaugural festival that bears much of their branding in the Highlands was a special context indeed.

The beer selection looked great, with pre-festival reports of Punk IPA, 5AM Saint, Zeitgeist Black Lager, 77 Lager and the IPA is Dead range (Citra, Bramling Cross, Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin). Sadly, upon arrival the IPA is Dead range was nowhere to be seen and bar staff weren’t sure what had happened to it. A shame, since I was really looking forward to trying those I have yet to have the pleasure of, but the beers offered were still something to get excited about!

The weather was incredibly cold, the wind and chill blasting in from the Moray Firth, bringing with it flakes of white from the snowcapped mountains. The first beer I tried, and my general go-to grog, was the Punk IPAThe cold really pervaded all the beers, blasting them ice-cold. Using Ale to the King’s previous review as a control, the iciness of the Punk IPA on pump really brought out the tropical flavours, totally overriding the citrus notes. It also boosted the sweetness in the after-taste, leaving the mouth feeling like it was coated in glycerine. Certainly odd but for a different, exciting tasting experience I’d really recommend throwing a can or two in the freezer and drinking at sub-zero temperatures.

The 5AM Saint on pump was similarly altered by the temperatures (I really felt sorry for the bar staff, clutching freezing cans and plastic cups all day). Compared to how it normally comes it was especially sharp and mouth-clenchingly tart. Unusually it took on a very bitter quality on the mid-taste and there was a great, new prickliness to the after-taste. Another one to put in the freezer for a taste experiment.

The 77 Lager was, predictably, unaltered by the cold. Being a lager its naturally served cold; not this cold mind, which lowered the flavour intensity somewhat and really brought out a quality of fine mineral water.

The Zeitgeist Black Lager felt extra carbonated and left a pleasurable tingle on the lips that turned prickly in the cold air. Despite this extra fizz the Zeitgeist Black Lager brought out a unique and overwhelming peppery flavour. A serious twist on an already intriguing beer and another worth experimenting with.

So despite the lack of the IPA is Dead range the beverages on offer at Brew at the Bog were a brilliant, very interesting lot that really changed in the conditions the festival afforded. Unless the beer storage and delivery are changed next year, prepare your tastebuds for an intriguing and surprising journey.

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: Bogbain Farm/Brew at the Bog Venue

Continuing Ale to the King’s coverage of Brew in the Bog festival we turn our eyes to the venue itself.

Bogbain Farm is just south of Inverness, a good three hour drive from Edinburgh (obeying speed limits).

However, what a drive it is; its almost worth the excursion itself when you get across the Forth Bridge, past the dual carriageways (why are there no motorways in Scotland?) and hit Cairngorms National Park.
Before long you’re cruising through some spectacular countryside of snow-capped mountains and mirror-like lochs.

Make sure you check your petrol guage before setting off however, there was a slightly hairy moment when I underestimated how lacking in filling stations some areas of Scotland are.

Also take care when you hit the A9. This stretch is known for lunatics and we encountered our fair share along here.

Arriving at the farm, the camping area was located at the furthest end of the field. Here the cold weather works for the venue. Since campers were allowed to drive right up to the camping area the hardness of the ground prevented the field turning into a boggy, tyre-tracked sludge.

The camp-site was surprisingly small, but then this was the inaugural event, thus was never going to attract the numbers of, say, Wickerman Festival. This had both its merits and flaws. On the meritorious side it kept everyone together and created a more friendly, communal feeling amongst the small number of campers. Had it the run of the whole field then no doubt everyone would have spread out separately and it just wouldn’t have had that special ‘festival’ feeling.

However, that inability to spread out also meant those who would have preferred a quieter experience and got to bed/rise earlier were penned in with those who preferred to party until daybreak.  If you’re coming next year and prefer to wake a little earlier make sure you bring some earplugs.

Something everyone appreciated though, regardless of party-disposition, was the view. Stretching out across the horizon was a gorgeous scene of the Moray Firth. Make sure The campsite viewyou face your tent away from this to avoid an incredibly chilly, draughty night!

As for the performance and, more pertinent/important to Ale to the King, ale serving area, the building and surrounding grounds seemed very appropriate. Being a farm it felt suitably earthy and unpretentious for something that was supplied exclusively by Brewdog, yet had a slightly left-of-field feeling which fit the beverages  equally well. Ale to the King believes all craft beer should be considered within the context of that around it, and there’ll be more talk of that in tomorrow’s post on the beers, but in brief, it worked very well.

As a venue to partake in proper beer it offered something really unique that I’d highly recommend. Outwardly it was very scenic, a large, pretty farmhouse and barns with charmingly decorated disused farm equipment dotted about. Inside was the small The Bothy stage which played host to some great acoustic acts and was, crucially, warm! Decorated with a ornate accordions, fairy lights, tables and chairs and a stuffed otter, it was a great place to relax with a Zeitgeist Black Lager.

The second stage, Go North, was a mid-size white-walled barn. From the roof hung ropes of those old-fashioned fairy lights which are essentially painted lightbulbs. The whole thing was very charming, if bitterly cold.

The main bar itself was something of a treat. Inside the larger, more exposed wooden barn, the beer was ice cold, no doubt helped by the weather but the staff remained friendly and were very pleased to help and even offer advice on what brew would suit one’s palate. Looming over this was a massive wagon (or some other farming contraption this writer is too ill-educated to have identified otherwise).

Beside this was, amusingly a sandpit, replete with toys to play with and the straw-lined floor made the whole area utterly unique. Just outside this was the grassy courtyard, surrounded by an overhanging roof that allows one to stand outside yet be sheltered from the elements should the sun raise its head.

Its an utterly charming, interesting, and with all the odd bits and pieces around, intriguing place to drink craft beer; if there’s another ale-filled event here in the future, festival or otherwise, Ale to the King has no reservations in recommending this as a great, unique place to enjoy yourself.

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