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Classic Beer of the Month September 2014: Caledonian Deuchars IPA

Caledonian Deuchars IPA, 3.8%

Deuchars IPA has become a classic beer in a little over twenty years.

Caledonian DeucharsWhen this pale golden ale was introduced by Caledonian Brewery in the early 1990s, there were few similar beers in circulation. It wasn't just the straw-like hue that marked the beer out as different; it was also the emphasis on citrus and floral notes from the hops.

In its native Scotland this was even more striking, given the nation's history of dark, malty beers. Not surprisingly, therefore, the beer became very big very fast, soaring onto the bars of Scotland's real ale pubs and soon edging south over the border, too.

As the guest beer phenomenon took hold, Deuchars proved to be a popular choice for licensees and its fame spread rapidly across the country. By the time the beer was judged Champion Beer of Britain by CAMRA in 2002, there were few drinkers who had not heard of it.

Such an accolade inevitably meant yet further expansion, especially when Caledonian was acquired by Scottish & Newcastle and then by Heineken, and this brings us to the point today where Deuchars IPA is almost taken for granted and overlooked in favour of newer, more exciting brews.

The beer is brewed at Caledonian's Victorian brewhouse in Edinburgh. Pale Optic and Golden Promise malts are used in the mash tun, topped up by brewing sugar, and the boil takes place in the brewery's magnificent open kettles – great copper cauldrons fired from below.

Whole-leaf Fuggle and Aurora hops go early in the copper, with swirling aromatic notes provided by late hopping with Savinjski Goldings and the addition of more Aurora, Savinjski and some Willamette in the hop back.

Supremely Drinkable

All this adds up to Deuchars packing loads of flavour for its modest 3.8% ABV and yet remaining supremely drinkable. On a summer's day, there can be few more refreshing cask ales you can order – if you can pronounce the name, which is 'dewkars' and not 'dewchars', 'doychars', 'derchars' or any other awkward slant you'd like to put on it.

For this little problem, you can thank one Robert Deuchar who acquired a brewery in Edinburgh in the 1890s. His successors sold up to Newcastle Breweries in the 1950s and the site was closed. Many will not have remembered Robert, had not Caledonian paid tribute to his work by acquiring the brand and creating this beer in 1991.

In those early days, the name of the beer was slightly longer. It was first listed as R&D Deuchars IPA in the Good Beer Guide where it was given the minimal tasting note of 'a well hopped session beer'.

As editor of the Guide through the 1990s, I followed the progress of the beer to the point where that description blossomed into a fulsome eulogy that painted the beer as 'extremely tasty and refreshing' with a lingering aftertaste that was 'delightfully bitter and hoppy'.

Demanding drinkers addicted to today's hop monsters may contest that last remark but that shows how quickly times have changed. It also reveals how clever beers such as Deuchars have opened the door for today's more extreme creations.

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