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November 15, 2003

The Red MacGregor

Beer of the Night

THE Red MacGregor is of course Rob Roy, the Scottish cattle rustler and subject of overly romanticized novels and movies. One would suppose that's him on the label, but since no one actually comes out and says "Yes, we're using the outlaw laird himself to sell ale," one would also suppose there's no way to tell for sure.

Ha! I say. Ha! Take a gander at the shield on the label again, and compare it to this one, as well as to the one wielded by his memorial statue. Rob Roy's actual sword does differ from the one above, but I'll put that down to the difficulties of detailing a basket hilt at such a small level, and state confidently that the relative of Groundskeeper Willie pictured above is none other than the esteemed Mister Roy.

The Red MacGregor ale is brewed by the Orkney Brewery, which is of course nowhere near where the real Red MacGregor plied his trade, but they appear to be nice people nonetheless. I had considered another of the brewery's offerings, the Skullsplitter for the fall fishing trip, but it was only available over the net, and thus prohibitively expensive. I hadn't been able to find any of the lesser abv Orkney brews locally, so the brewery's entire line of product seemed likely to remain unknown to me for the indefinite future.

Then I walked into Brawley's Beverage on Park Road in Charlotte and found not only the Red MacGregor, but Orkney's Dark Island Ale and Dragonhead Stout as well. Devoted Hraka beer readers ( A shout out to Mom, Father O'Toole and the Bush twins should probably occur here) will remember Brawley's as half of the subject in an August Charlotte Observer story on dueling Park Road beverage stores (registration may be required if the link does not work, try the combination, it worked for me.)

I also found Michael Brawley, the Rugby scrum sized owner of the shop, and a man who didn't mind talking beer at all, much to the dismay of my father-in-law, a devoted Scotch man, and the Sainted wife, both of whom were hoping I would get in, get my damn weird beer, and get out. Mike pacified G-daddy with a gratis cup of Counter Culture coffee's finest, likely gaining himself a java customer in the process, and did the same for the the wife with some sort of pinkish-purple non-alcoholic wine cooler, the name of which I have sadly forgotten. For what it was, it was pretty good. It's also made in N.C. if I remember correctly--I'll call and get the name tomorrow.

To say Mike had a nice touch with the clientele would be something of an understatement. He unfailing pointed out a number of the brews I had taken on the fishing trip, confirming, at least to me, my excellent taste when it comes to evaluating the fruit of the barley. He also had the Harviestoun brewery's Old Engine Oil in stock, and had just sold out of their Bitter & Twisted the night before.

Which turned out well for me, as I can't resist buying up the B&T whenever I run across it, and there were other brews a-calling. I'll still go to the Frugal MacDougal's when I come to visit the in-laws, but I'll go to Brawley's first.

I did actually get around to drinking the Red MacGregor, as opposed to talking about it, buying it, and researching it on the web. It pours a a nice thick, slowly-subsiding head, off-white with a very light orange touch, atop a deep brown-orange body, the color of clover honey. Not much of a nose to it, but then I don't have much of a sense of smell to begin with. There was definitely a sweet, malty essence being given off by the brew, a note confirmed by the first taste of the MacGregor. Carbonation was on the low side after the pour, resulting in a thinnish mouthfeel but giving it a a smooth, smooth drinkability.

The biggest surprise to the Red MacGregor, though by no means an unwelcome one, was the smoky, rauchbier like tone the brew had to it. I hadn't expected that note at all--it gave the tastebuds quite a throw.

The buds, professionals that they are, did eventually rally enough to detect hints of vanilla and caramel in the mix, as well as a tiny citrus tang of hops, and a touch of plumcot.

Yes, plumcot. No, I'm not being pretentious. I don't care what you think. They're my tastebuds, and I trust them.

If you're looking to buy Red MacGregor on the Net, try, Liquid Solutions, or The Tryst.

You can also try calling the American importer of the Orkney Brews, Legends, Ltd, who can probably put you in touch with a local outlet.

But if you're near Charlotte, go see Mike.

For more Hraka ruminations on beer, go here.

Update: The pinkish-purple stuff was Pangle Heimers Sparkling Gourmet Blush

Posted by Bigwig at November 15, 2003 05:22 PM | TrackBack
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The American West glorifies Billy the Kid and you're going to take exception to ol' MacGregor? Psh. The "good guy" Scots were boring. That's why we love the rakes and the rebels.

Oh yeah. I actually liked Tilted Kilt -- I bought it because of the freakin' warning on the package: "Drinking while bagpiping can cause irreparable harm." But the ale, itself (to the best of my memory) is thick and creamy, with a bit of a bite. I guess I'll hae to buy some more and gie back ta ye.


Posted by: margi at November 17, 2003 04:05 PM
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