The origin story of Innis & Gunn is an interesting one. Their unique beers were born from ales that they originally used to season barrels destined for whiskey. The plan was to trash the beer after giving the barrels what they needed. However, some brewers spoke up and thought the beer was pretty damn good. So soon after, the Innis & Gunn Original Scottish Ale was born, and the brand has progressed ever since.
The folks at Innis & Gunn were nice enough to send us some of this very beer, along with a couple other samples. Let’s give them a taste.
Innis & Gunn Original Scottish Ale
The Original Scottish Ale is the flagship beer that put Innis & Gunn on the map. An interesting fact about this style is that there are three styles within it: light, heavy and export. These sub-categories are directly related to the strength of the beer. On that note, at 6.6% ABV, the Original is within the scope of the light category. It’s aged for 77 days, 30 of those in oak barrels. There’s a beautiful amber color when poured into the glass, and the beer has a very crisp and moderately bitter taste with light carbonation levels and sweeter aromas. There is a definite toffee and vanilla presence here that contributes to the caramel-malt flavor and establishes balance in the beer. Being on the lighter spectrum of this style, Original Scottish Ale is an excellent option for drinking during warmer months.
Innis & Gunn Toasted Oak IPA (English IPA)
This English IPA was aged over lightly toasted oak for 41 days in their trademark Oakerator. The Oakerator is simply a large fermenting tank that cycles the beer through the oak repeatedly to infuse the flavor. With a very malty nose and a strong vanilla finish, the toasted oak left an indelible impression on this beer. Style wise, it’s a true English IPA with a malty flavor profile, and the Styrian Golding hops lend a very light bitterness with great aroma. The beer itself, though, is a little too sweet. I prefer the American IPA style simply for its herbal and citric flavors rather than sweet and malty ones. However, Innis & Gunn’s Toasted Oak IPA is still one of the better English IPAs I’ve had. But I think it could benefit from being aged a little longer to mellow out the sweetness, and possibly even an increase in its low 5.6% ABV.
Innis & Gunn Rum Aged
This is the Original Scottish Ale aged for 57 days with rum soaked oak chips using the same method as the Toasted Oak IPA above. The Rum Aged beer used to be aged in actual rum barrels, but despite that change, the recipe and aging time has remained the same. This process essentially turns the beer into a light scotch ale with a final red/brown color. It’s a gorgeous looking beer and the rummy oak chips definitely impart some sweet and spicy notes into the beer. Though I could have used a little bit more of the rum element myself, the overall experience is nicely balanced. And at 6.8% ABV, it commands a sweet, rich and warming profile, which I think makes Innis & Gunn Rum Aged a fine candidate for fall and winter drinking.
Innis & Gunn is a unique breed of Scottish beer. While I always recommend drinking local, it’s helpful to maintain a worldly palate to more accurately study different styles of beer. We certainly learned a few things here, so by all means, get yourself a little taste of Edinburgh, Scotland this summer.