Note first that the name of the brewery, ‘Fyne Ales’ is not a boast, it’s because of its location, at the head of Loch Fyne in Argyll. The brewery is ten years old and according to the Good Beer Guide, supplies 430 outlets from its ten barrel plant.
I was recently sitting in the excellent Prince of Wales pub in Foxfield, drinking companionably with a friend. We each had a pint of Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack, which we agreed was a very fine pint indeed. In fact, we concurred, we’d never had a bad pint from Fyne Ales.
I decided to follow up on the thread, and shortly afterwards bought four bottled Fyne Ales. The labels are smart and uniform, giving a little information about each beer. As I prefer to do, I drank them in order of increasing ABV.
The first was Fyne Ales Jarl, a 3.8% blonde ale, described on the bottle as ‘A hoppy blond session ale’. It pours with a bright pale yellow colour and a creamy white head. The aroma is of strong fresh citrus. The flavour is also strong, grapefruit pithiness with strong fruity hop bitterness. The finish is dry, and gets drier in the aftertaste which is long and bitter. Absolutely brilliant. That would indeed provide me with a happy session.
On to the second, my beer from the Prince of Wales, Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack. This is a bit stronger than Jarl at 4.4% and the bottle bears the description ‘A blonde & fruitily hopped ale’. And yes, they do spell it ‘blond’ on Jarl, and ‘blonde’ on Hurricane Jack. So then, another blond(e). It pours as a very pale yellow, with a white fairly short-lived head, unlike the Jarl head, which lasted to the bottom of the glass, by which time it had sculpted itself into a proper weird shape. Fun. There’s a strong citrus smell (hang on, haven’t I been here before?). The taste has strong elements of grapefruit pith and hops (yes, I have been here before). The flavour is not as strong as Jarl, but otherwise pretty similar.
Moving on, I came to Fyne Ales Avalanche, 4.5% and described as ‘a straw coloured well hopped ale’. Hmm. Another blonde then. The beer is a pale yellow colour. There is a clean citrus aroma, and the taste is strongly citrus pithy with a lot of hoppy bitterness. It’s clean and crisp, but I’m sure I’ve tasted something very similar recently.
With a slightly sinking feeling, I poured my final bottle into my glass. Oh, and yes, I do wash my glass out between beers if I’m doing a tasting. Fyne Ales Highlander has an ABV of 4.8% and the label describes it as ‘a fine strong traditional ale’. With a little relief, I noticed that the colour was not pale yellow, but palish orange. Not a blonde then. There is a faint caramel aroma which I liked very much. The taste is slightly warming. Malty with toffee notes. There are also hints of orange in there, Hops appear towards the end of the taste. The aftertaste is small and short, but dryish. I’m not exactly sure what type of ‘traditional ale’ this is supposed to be – an English bitter or a Scottish heavy, maybe. Either way, it’s terrific.
Don’t get me wrong here. These beers are all excellent. I would happily drink any of them again. It’s just that the first three are so similar, it’s very hard to tell them apart. There are differences, but the similarities far outweigh them. I’d like to try them side by side on hand pump, but to be honest, if I walked into a bar that had all three of these on, I’d be disappointed at the lack of choice.
I’d be happy to encounter Highlander and any one of the other three ales in a pub, but not more than one.
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