Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Custom Brewcrafters' Scotch Ale

Custom Brewcrafters are based in Honeoye Falls, just south of Rochester.  They've developed a great reputation for themselves over the last 13 years as an 'offsite brewpub' for many of the restaurants and bars in Western New York - their business model is to develop specially customised, hand-crafted beers for their clients.  These include a lot of the best-known bars and restaurants in Rochester and Buffalo - for instance, The Old Toad Authentic British Pub on Alexander Street in Rochester now serves two custom-made CB ales, Nut Brown and OT20 - proudly continuing the British tradition of pubs supporting local micro-breweries.  They've got a fantastic-looking facility with a newly-opened tap room that also serves food - soon I'm hoping to make an Upstate Brews excursion to do a tour of the place.

In addition to their custom brews, Custom Brewcrafters make their own range of beers and ales which they sell on site, in grocery stores and in bars and restaurants.  The other day I picked up their Brewer's Sampler & Seasonal Brew - featuring 6 of their Scotch Ale, plus 2 each of Canandaigua Lake Ale, Cream Porter and English Pale Ale.  I'm guessing this is their winter edition so the Scotch Ale might get changed out for something else in the summer.  As this seems to be the 'winter brew', let's start with this one.

Aroma - My first impression was of a fresh-baked malt loaf - fruity, bready and very rich.  There's a hint of bitterness lurking in the background but it doesn't intrude on the malty goodness.

Appearance - This brew has a deep copper colour, with amber hues.  It's cloudy, with very little head - very little carbonation is evident.  This isn't a bad thing - a lot of the English ales I had in the UK were similar, because they brew using different methods.  Carbonation is de-emphasised, creating a less prominent head, and the cloudiness could either be chill haze or naturally-occurring sediment that is included in bottle-conditioned ale.  Either way, it's nothing to worry about and it was actually a pleasant trip down Memory Lane.

Taste - Very malty, rich, raisin notes in there too.  Bursting with malty goodness.  Kind of like a Christmas spice cake.  Bitterness slightly evident, but this is a very pleasant tasting beer indeed.  You really wouldn't think of this as a 6.5% ABV beer, because the flavours are so rich.  Tastes of a perfect winter evening.

Mouthfeel - This is a very smooth drink, the carbonation is very light indeed and the mouthfeel is closer to uncarbonated Real Ale than most of the beers I've tried (Rohrbachs being a notable exception - the carbonation in their brews is also pretty light).

Aftertaste - This has a rich buttery finish, the hint of bitterness from the aroma is evident but, again, not overpowering.  The overall impression is of a sweet, rich winter treat that keeps you warm on the cold Upstate NY nights.

This was an absolutely fantastic beer, and I think it'd be churlish to give it anything less than 5 out of 5.  Partly because its style is closer to the English ales I first fell in love with; but also because it's an extremely high-quality product with some subtle undertones, which is very drinkable and well-suited to the season.

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