Real ale is a taste of heaven in liquid form. Merlin’s Ale, a cask ale brewed in Scotland by Broughton Ales, certainly lives up to expectations. And why wouldn’t it, it’s in good company. Broughton Ales produce a range of a dozen or more widely respected ales including Old Jock, a traditional Scottish ale, the strong Border ale and probably its most famous, Greenmantle ale named after the famous novel by John Buchan. This has been brewed since Broughton first opened and has proved to be one of its most popular products.
Most of the ingredients for Broughton ales are sourced in the UK and New Zealand. This includes the barley and hops used in the brewing of Merlin’s ale. And when it comes to yeast, Broughton make use of their own strain in addition to other dried yeasts that they source as required.
Drinking Merlin’s ale is a pleasing experience. When it arrives on the table the first thing you notice is its pale golden colour topped with a white head that lasts the length of the glass. It has a slightly malty taste and a pleasant spicy hop aroma. It is full of flavour and very satisfying on the palate, but not overpowering. It slips down the throat smoothly and has a slightly sweet honied after taste. It is a middling strength drink of 4.2% abv, so you can drink a couple of pints without too much worry of an awful hangover.
If you close your eyes while sipping this beer, you truly get a sensel that you are tasting a drink with a history of kings. It would be easy to imagine King Arthur sitting at his round table with his famous knights toasting a successful campaign with Merlin’s latest wizardry, this delicately coloured but robust ale. This imagery is reinforced by the oval blue label of the bottled version containing an archetypal image of the famous wizard.
In reality, Merlin’s Ale doesn’t have such a long history. Broughton Ales is a small brewery established in 1979 by David Younger and James Collins. While David Younger comes with a distinguished brewing pedigree, he is descended from the famous Younger brewing dynasty of Edinburgh, the brewery premises has a more disturbing past. It used to be an abattoir. Still it is nicely situated in the Scottish Borders region, and despite going into receivership in the mid 1990’s, it was rescued and is still going strong. In fact, whilst popular in its native Scotland, the brewery is looking forward to a growing export market and that includes expansion into the United States.