That might not seem like big news, and perhaps it’s not, but Traquair House is one of favorite places so I never miss a chance to talk about it. If you’ve never been to the brewery, it should definitely be on your beer bucket list. It’s not easy to get to, but it is worth it. Oh, and the beer is terrific, too. If you haven’t had their beer, you should correct that … immediately.
Traquair House Ale shows a deep reddish-amber color and full, velvet-like body. The aroma offers a hint of rich oak; the flavor is opulently malty, complex, and deep but subtle. OG 1.070; IBU 26; ABV 7.2%.
Traquair Jacobite Ale, first brewed in 1995, is spiced with hops as well as another traditional seasoning: coriander. Deep brown; spice and leather aroma; full body; exotic, engaging character and finish. OG 1.075; IBU 23; ABV: 8.0%.
From the press release:
In 1566, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, visited Traquair House on the banks of Scotland’s Tweed River with her infant son James, who would later become King James I of England. During that visit, she drank good ale brewed at Traquair.
Descendants of the same family have lived at Traquair since 1491. Beer was brewed there from the earliest times until some time after 1800; in 1965 the 20th Laird of Traquair, Peter Maxwell Stuart — following his heart and his family heritage — brought the tiny brewery back to life, brewing traditional ales in a 1738 copper brewkettle and fermenting them in wooden vessels.
Traquair House Brewery is known today for excellent ales — traditional, historical, masterpieces of rich, full, engaging flavor: a taste of Scotland.
It’s a cool place, with a cool history, making cool beers. What more do you need to know?
This week’s work of art is by a Scottish artist, George Harvey, who painted Hop-Picking around 1839. The setting of the painting is believed to be in the Kentish area of England.
This week’s work of art is by a Scottish artist, John Quinton Pringle, who around 1904 painted Study of a Head, which is also known as Man With a Drinking Mug.
Here’s how the National Gallery of Scotland, where the painting is hung, describes Pringle and the work:
Pringle trained as an optician in 1874 and ran his own business as optician and electrician from 1896 to 1923. He used his shop as a studio after hours painting predominantly small canvases, like this painting. From around 1895 he developed an interest in French Impressionism, which influenced this work. This is one of three portraits Pringle made of an elderly man who frequented the Saltmarket area of Glasgow and visited the artist in his shop. The sitter was nicknamed ‘Kruger’ due to his supposed likeness to Paul Kruger, the Boer resistance leader and president of the Transvaal republic in South Africa. The painting is thought to date from 1904 – it is signed and dated but Pringle’s style makes it difficult to read.
This week’s work of art is the holiday-themed “The Wassail,” by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Scottish watercolourist and architect, designer and sculptor. He was best known as “a designer in the Arts and Crafts movement and also the main exponent of Art Nouveau in the United Kingdom” and he had “considerable influence on European design.” Born in 1868, The Wassail was painted in 1900.
The original painting is in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Below is a detail of the center panel or section of the painting.
Wassailing is, of course, a traditional English and European custom that took place around the holidays, sometime around Christmas and in other traditions into mid-January. To read more about it, there are interesting accounts at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas, About.com, Time Travel Britain and White Dragon.
To learn more about Mackintosh, Wikipedia is a good place to start or the biography at his “official” website, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There’s also a small Wikigallery with two dozen works and a good list of links at ArtCyclopedia.
It’s hard not to chuckle a bit when BrewDog manufactures another controversy to get free publicity. Their latest, and possibly greatest, stunt is their new world-record beater — at 55% a.b.v. — The End of History. As if a 110 proof beer wasn’t enough, each of the limited bottles (only 12 were made) cost £500 (approx. $770 U.S.). And they sold out in mere hours to consumers from the Canada, Denmark, England, Italy, Scotland and the U.S. Why, you may ask — besides of course supply and demand? The answer is no doubt designed to bait the press and especially animal lovers, because each of the twelve bottles is inside a small stuffed animal. That’s right, a taxidermist placed a bottle inside the body of 4 squirrels, 7 weasels and 1 hare, all collected as roadkill.
The BBC was the first to weigh in, calling it “perverse.” They got a twofer of outrage from both Advocates for Animals and Alcohol Focus Scotland. Libby Anderson, policy director for Advocates for Animals was quoted as saying “[i]t’s just bad thinking about animals, people should learn to respect them, rather than using them for some stupid marketing gimmick,” forgetting that animals are nearly ubiquitous in advertising, from cute and cuddly to perverse and scary. Remember the Foster’s Farm chickens driving around hoping to be eaten? She adds “[i]t’s pointless and it’s very negative to use dead animals when we should be celebrating live animals. I think the public would not waste £500 on something so gruesome and just ignore it.” Sorry Libby, I guess you don’t know the public as well as you thought, because it sold out in less than a day. Others have called it “shocking” and in “bad taste.”
Here’s how BrewDog describes the beer:
The End of History, at 55%, is the final installment of our efforts to redefine the limits of contemporary brewing.
This blond Belgian ale is infused with nettles from the Scottish Highlands and Fresh juniper berries. Only 12 bottles have been made and each comes with its own certificate and is presented in a stuffed stoat or grey squirrel. The striking packaging was created by a very talented taxidermist and all the animals used were road kill.
To me, the proof that it’s a put up lies in this fact. If you read much philosophy, perhaps the title of the beer, The End of History, sounds familiar? It should, because it’s taken from a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History and the Last Man,” which itself was based on an earlier essay published in the international affairs journal The National Interest. Fukuyama’s original 1989 essay is online, and a percentage of the later book can be read online through Google Books. In referencing the title, BrewDog comments that “this is to beer what democracy is to history.”
There’s also a pretty funny video about the End of History, you can find more about the beer at BrewDog’s website.
Last night Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco hosted a little meet and greet with co-founder James Watt of BrewDog in Scotland. Having just enjoyed a cheesesteak together at Jim’s Steaks with James (and Greg Koch and Bill Covaleski) in Philadelphia the week before, I felt duty-bound to find out how he enjoyed the state sandwich of Pennsylvania.
I was handed a 5 a.m. Saint when I walked in joined the conversation already in progress. Apparently, cheesesteaks don’t compare favorably to haggis, but I think it’s all about what you grew up with, so I take no offense. We talked World Cup, Philly and beer, of course. John Dannerbeck and Dana Blum, both from Anchor Brewing, added golf to the discussion, and it turns out James is a big fan. I then moved on to the Hardcore IPA, brewed with American hops like Simcoe. At 9.2% a.b.v. and the Simcoe, it’s more like an American version, which is what they were going for.
I was going to leave early, but James opened bottles of both Sink the Bismarck and Tactical Nuclear Penguin so I stuck around, not wanting to miss another opportunity to try them both. This version of Bismarck had far more peaty aromas than the last one I had — a plus, I think — and the Penguin had a thinner mouthfeel and more spirity flavors, with less roasted malt character.