I have for a long time been a fan of Innis & Gunn Original, so recently, when I found a stockpile of different Innis & Gunn beers in a local supermarket, I decided that it would be a good idea to try them all out.
Firstly, I wanted to find something out about the brewer, so turned to my trusty Good Beer Guide. Astonished, I discovered that Innis & Gunn do not brew their own beer, but subcontract that lowly task to Tennent’s. A range of bottled beers is produced, but as far as I can see, none of them ever make it into a cask.
The regularly produced beers are ‘Oak Aged Beer’, ‘Original’, ‘Blonde’ and ‘Rum Cask’, or so it states in the GBG. Frankly, I find that rather confusing, as I have only ever seen one I&G label that does not have ‘Oak Aged Beer’ on it. That was I&G Blonde, which has ‘Lightly Oaked Beer’ on its label. So what is meant by ‘Oak Aged Beer’ in the GBG list? I don’t know, I can only assume that they got the information from I&G themselves.
Be that as it may, I tried out five I&G bottles, and will review them, as ever, in order of increasing ABV.
The lightest of these beers is 6.0% Blonde. These beers are heavy-duty, and not to be trifled with! Blonde is a light yellow in colour. It has a fresh, fruity smell and is exceptionally smooth. It is very full-bodied, fruity and sweet with sweet vanilla overtones. There is a distinct spirituous overtaste. Excellent.
Next is Original, a little stronger at 6.6%. A lovely golden colour and beautifully smooth, Original has quite a bready aroma and taste. There is the characteristic sweet vanilla and subtle hints of oak from the barrels that it is matured in. There is a slight hint of whisky in the aftertaste. Quite exceptional.
The remaining three beers are all brewed to the same strength, a meaty 7.4%.
Rum Finish is, as its name suggests, matured in rum barrels. The colour is a deep ruby and on at least one occasion, the head behaved very curiously. It didn’t last after pouring, but then regrew afterwards. I had to try this with another bottle, but this time the head behaved quite normally. Bizarre. Like Original, this beer has a sweet, bready smell. The taste is a sweet toffee malt. There is fruit, a little spiciness, hints of vanilla and an alcoholic zing throughout.
Spiced Rum is a darkish orange. With the now familiar bready aroma, this beer is quite extraordinary. Finished as it is over oak infused with spiced Caribbean rum, the rum flavour is very evident, along with vanilla and toffee. It is smooth and utterly delicious.
Finally, I sampled a Winter Treacle Porter, a seasonal special, I presume. The flavour here is much like Original, but noticeably stronger and with quite an alcoholic overtaste. It is sweet and treacly, so the beer is not misnamed, and there is an engaging dryness.
Overall, then, I found these beers to be exceptionally good. There is a unique set of flavours that instantly identifies every one of these beers as an Innis & Gunn, but beyond that, each one is different, and each one is utterly superb. I recommend all of them to you.
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