Tartan Ale – Alexander Keith’s

Time to kick the hornet’s nest:  The last time I got a bottle of special-release Keith’s beer (their Harvest Ale), I got my wrists slapped and stired some controversy, in my support of it.  You see, I’m not a huge fan of Labatt and what they’ve done to themselves (compare the number of Stella cases to Blue cases you see in the grab-n-go at the Beer Store.  Stand up for yourselves!).  And I don’t generally drink Keith’s, and have a significant problem with them identifying their flagship brand as an IPA.  But as I mentioned in the Harvest Ale post, I know a lot of people for whom Keith’s was a stepping stone out of the macro lager world and into the craftbeer universe.  Now, AB-InBev, and by proxy Labatt, and therefore Keith’s as well, are really starting to get concerned about craftbeer.  So the obvious thing to do, is buy or start a brand (in this case, Keith’s, which already has the benfit of being viewed as “High-end” by most of the macro-drinking population) and produce beers that are simultaneously better than the flagship brews, and yet not so compicated it’s undrinkable to folks who are used to beers made mainly out of corn or rice.  In this end, Keith’s has started their “Brewmaster’s Limited Release” series.  The good news is, the beer (so far), has actually been pretty good quality.  Still pretty simple forms of their style, but much more interesting than, say, a Canadian.  The really good news, is they are giving unintentional (I assume) support to craftbrewers.  If a Bud drinker is curious enough to try a Keith’s Harvest, it isn’t out of the question to think they might, having not been disapointed or gone blind, then be willing to try another beer labelled “Harvest Ale”, say Muskoka’s excellent offering.  Or they might find their Bud just doen’t taste as nice, compared to the new style, so they continue seeking out other more flavourful beers.  So I’m all for these developments.

All this condered, I was very happy and excited when I was notified that I would be getting another bottle from the Keith’s line.  This one arrived in a bubble-wrap filled manilla envelope, which was actually more difficult to get into than the wooden box and lock in the last Keith’s review.  It’s a Scotch ale, a style I don’t drink a lot of, but generally enjoy when I do.  A heavy sweet malty beer with next to no hops and higher alcohol, these beers are great for the winter.

Tartan Ale - Alexander Keith's

Tartan Ale - Alexander Keith's

From a 341ml brown bottle with some undesipherable date stamp on the front label, the beer pours a clear copper brown with a about 1″ of head that dropped to nothing pretty quickly.  Aroma is quite malty and sweet, caramel and a hint even of yeast.  There is a touch of booze that is a little astringent, and a hint of woodiness.  Taste is also fairly malty, more grains and bread than caramel on the tongue.  Strangely, there is still a noticeable hop.  Like, more hop than I got the last time I drank a Keith’s IPA.  Not particularly aromatic, but definitely a clean dry hop on the finish, along with some alcohol warmth (the beer is 6.1%).  The brew is on the medium side of light bodied, significantly fuller bodied than your average macro lager, but definitely on the light side for a Scotch ale.  Some fruitiness is coming out as the beer warms a bit, and the alcohol is becoming more noticable.  For a Scotch ale, it’s remarkably easy drinking, though it’s certianly no lawn-mower beer.  More warming then I would want in warmer months, I would happily take one of these if I found myself in a pub serving only Labatt products.  Is it stylistically a text-book Scotch Ale?  Definitely not, but it is a nice beer, and possibly my favourite of the Keith’s line.  If this was available on tap all winter, and their white was available all summer, I would never fear finding myself in an X and the Firkin again.

Keep up the intersting beers, Keith’s.  Thanks for encouraging people to explore.  Cheers!

8 Comments

  1. Shara
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I am very curious about this beer, but dont know if once i buy it, i will have enjoyed it enough, to drink the other 5 bottles. I found your blurb about it, informative, but i am still longing a little bit more info.
    As i myself am not a beer geek, i find myself comapring other beers, before i try them.
    If you had to compare this beer to another, what would it be?!
    Thanks so much!!

    Shara!!

  2. Shara
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I am very curious about this beer, but dont know if once i buy it, i will have enjoyed it enough, to drink the other 5 bottles. I found your blurb about it, informative, but i am still longing a little bit more info.
    As i myself am not a beer geek, i find myself comapring other beers, before i try them.
    If you had to compare this beer to another, what would it be?!
    Thanks so much!!

    Shara!!

  3. No thanks
    Posted May 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Keith’s seems to have a lot of trouble coming up with an ad campaign that doesn’t have some unintended off-putting brand damaging effects… like the Scotsman played by a child porn collector… now it’s two guys who are the main characters, and a woman who is one’s girlfriend and the other decides to ‘share’ her… kissing her while she stands there passively instead of bopping him upside the head as any real woman would do… in the reality-challenged world of beer ads, women are only the playthings and prizes of men who drink beer. Actually, women drink beer, too, but why choose Keith’s, generally a watery, flavourless and tastelessly marketed product which promotes itself as being by and for boys who don’t get it.

  4. No thanks
    Posted May 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Keith’s seems to have a lot of trouble coming up with an ad campaign that doesn’t have some unintended off-putting brand damaging effects… like the Scotsman played by a child porn collector… now it’s two guys who are the main characters, and a woman who is one’s girlfriend and the other decides to ‘share’ her… kissing her while she stands there passively instead of bopping him upside the head as any real woman would do… in the reality-challenged world of beer ads, women are only the playthings and prizes of men who drink beer. Actually, women drink beer, too, but why choose Keith’s, generally a watery, flavourless and tastelessly marketed product which promotes itself as being by and for boys who don’t get it.

  5. Posted May 24, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    No thanks, I’m fairly disenchanted by most beer marketing too. Though I don’t have a TV, so I really don’t see much of it. Mostly Bud Light ads during golf tournaments I watch online. Which leads me to agree whole-heartedly, the ads generally horribly mis-represent women.

    I can only imagine that the marketers assume (and I know I’m generalizing here) that women who care about being objectified are probably discerning enough to not drink their product, no matter what the content in the ad is, so they don’t stand to loose them as consumers. They are fighting to maintain the dumb-jock demographic, who mainly drink beer because it’s cold, fizzy and gets them drunk. It also probably affirms their heterosexuality somehow. For this demographic (and I have to assume it represents the bulk of their sales), they need to appeal to one of three things: Nationalistic pride (see most Canadian ads), imagined family history (kiddie-porn collector in kilt and aran sweater with a Scottish brougue; images of rugby players in non-descript kit), or their understanding of their sexuality (which is to say, magazine-hot women displaying parts of their bodies and acting in a way that supports the dude’s “identity” and doesn’t challenge them at all). We see a similar (though less obnoxious) parallel in pick-up truck marketing, which is intended to make blue-collar guys doing factory work feel like they’re sexy loggers or hot cowboys or attractive construction workers by driving a Ford.

    It’s a shame no major brewery is giving much credence to marketing the beer because it’s actually a good quality product (though I suppose in many cases it’s not, so they’ve got to focus on something). The closest I can think of, is Creemore Springs print ads, which generally feature a logo and the slogan “100 years behind the times” or something like that.

    All this aside, I still think that Keith’s putting out these lines of specialty brews is a good thing, as it could serve to connect macro-brewery drinkers to styles they have never had before, which could then lead them to drinking better quality beers. The dudes who buy beer because it has the hottest, largest-breasted bikini-clad women in their ads are a lost cause anyways; besides, they don’t actually like the taste of beer (hence light beers served, literally, ice-cold). As for the rest of us, we can direct the energy of our dislike for major brand marketing to participating in encouraging people to seek-out better quality products.

    Thanks, No Thanks.

  6. Posted May 24, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    No thanks, I’m fairly disenchanted by most beer marketing too. Though I don’t have a TV, so I really don’t see much of it. Mostly Bud Light ads during golf tournaments I watch online. Which leads me to agree whole-heartedly, the ads generally horribly mis-represent women.

    I can only imagine that the marketers assume (and I know I’m generalizing here) that women who care about being objectified are probably discerning enough to not drink their product, no matter what the content in the ad is, so they don’t stand to loose them as consumers. They are fighting to maintain the dumb-jock demographic, who mainly drink beer because it’s cold, fizzy and gets them drunk. It also probably affirms their heterosexuality somehow. For this demographic (and I have to assume it represents the bulk of their sales), they need to appeal to one of three things: Nationalistic pride (see most Canadian ads), imagined family history (kiddie-porn collector in kilt and aran sweater with a Scottish brougue; images of rugby players in non-descript kit), or their understanding of their sexuality (which is to say, magazine-hot women displaying parts of their bodies and acting in a way that supports the dude’s “identity” and doesn’t challenge them at all). We see a similar (though less obnoxious) parallel in pick-up truck marketing, which is intended to make blue-collar guys doing factory work feel like they’re sexy loggers or hot cowboys or attractive construction workers by driving a Ford.

    It’s a shame no major brewery is giving much credence to marketing the beer because it’s actually a good quality product (though I suppose in many cases it’s not, so they’ve got to focus on something). The closest I can think of, is Creemore Springs print ads, which generally feature a logo and the slogan “100 years behind the times” or something like that.

    All this aside, I still think that Keith’s putting out these lines of specialty brews is a good thing, as it could serve to connect macro-brewery drinkers to styles they have never had before, which could then lead them to drinking better quality beers. The dudes who buy beer because it has the hottest, largest-breasted bikini-clad women in their ads are a lost cause anyways; besides, they don’t actually like the taste of beer (hence light beers served, literally, ice-cold). As for the rest of us, we can direct the energy of our dislike for major brand marketing to participating in encouraging people to seek-out better quality products.

    Thanks, No Thanks.

  7. kevin king
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    who is the woman in the new alexander keith commercial were two guys kiss the same woman

  8. kevin king
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    who is the woman in the new alexander keith commercial were two guys kiss the same woman

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