In a series of articles, John Scott explores some Scottish beers, and pairs them with classic Scottish music.
Scotland is arguably the producer of the world’s finest whiskey. Wait: let’s start again.
Scotland is unarguably the producer of the world’s finest whisky (note lack of ‘e’ there). Given that whisky is basically distilled beer, it should be no surprise that Scotland’s craft beers are also emerging as world beaters.
Brewdog, based in the North East of Scotland are leading the Caledonian craft beer charge. From its origins in 2007 as a tiny two-man business, the brewery became Britain’s fastest growing food and drink manufacturer. Along with a state of the art brewing facility, Brewdog now own 25 bars in cities across the globe, including one in Brazil.
Brewdog’s mission is to show drinkers that that there is more to beer than the insipid brews served up by the majority of major manufacturers. Taking their cue from the West Coast’s IPAs, Brewdog’s beers are loaded with hops and often contain additional flavorings such as chili, lemongrass, cranberries or jasmine blossoms.
Punk IPA is perhaps the brewery’s signature offering; the most popular of its core range. The beers pours with a light amber color and a good white head with light lacing. Hops are a beer’s backbone and Brewdog beers have a stronger backbone than most. Punk’s hops provide it with a nose of tropical fruits. In the mouth there is caramel from the malt, quickly giving way to a strong hit of grapefruit and a long astringent finish with a hint of pine resin. This is a beer that deserves time to savor.
To accompany my Punk IPA tasting I have chosen Framed, the 1972 album by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Harvey was a punk before the term had ever been coined in relation to music. Raised in The Gorbals, the roughest, toughest area of a rough, tough Glasgow, Harvey left school at 15, reportedly drifting through 36 jobs including a stint as a lion tamer, before his tenure in a skiffle band led to him winning a talent competition. He formed the Alex Harvey Big Beat Band in 1959 and in 1960 the group played a gig supporting Johnny Gentle and his back up band. This back up band just happened to include a certain Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe.
The Big Beat Band became the Big Soul Band until Harvey left to try his hand at a solo career which saw him join the pit band for the London production of Hair for five years. In 1972 he formed The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – or SAHB as they were commonly known – who released their first album Framed later that year.
Framed laid down the blueprint for everything the band would become: a mix of raw blues, rock and roll, glam rock and vaudeville. The album opens with the title track – a Leiber and Stoller cover performed with a huge crunchy riff from clown-faced guitarist Zal Cleminson. “I never did nothing! I was Framed!” Harvey screams but do we believe him?
Across the course of the album, Harvey leads us from barroom to bawdy house to execution chamber with the band providing a tight but loose hard rock accompaniment. On their cover of “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” SAHB add a brass section to the mix -sheets of seismic bass trombone and dog whistle sax – and the dynamics and sense of space in the arrangement gives a hint of just what a spectacular live act they were.
Brewdog’s Punk IPA and Harvey’s protopunk passion are a perfect partnership. Give them a try — you are in for a treat.
Written by John Scott