Beer: Salty Scot Brewery: Parallel 49 Style: Scotch Ale ABV: 7.5 percent
Another week, another brewery shipping its beers to Arizona shelves. Parallel 49 isn't your usual new entrant to the American craft beer landscape, however -- namely because it's not American at all. The brewery's located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada -- America's hat!
Parallel 49's three founders -- Anthony Frustagli, Nick Paladino, and Mike Sleeman -- grew up in east Vancouver, fewer than 10 minutes from where the brewery now stands. In 2008, the three friends quit their jobs to open the 40-tap St. Augustine's restaurant, a spot which quickly became a craft beer destination in British Columbia. Fueled by their connection to the craft beer industry, the guys teamed up with Michael Tod and Graham With in 2012 to found Parallel 49. The brewery's named for the 49th parallel, the latitude that makes up the 2,000-mile border between Canada and the United States.
Speaking of names -- Parallel 49's got some of the best-named product around. Observe:
- Banana Hammock, a hefeweizen
- Lost Souls, a porter
- Hoparazzi, a pale lager
- Ugly Sweater, a milk stout
- Schadenfreude, a marzen
- Gypsy Tears, an amber ale
- Humphrey Biere de Garde, a biere de garde (my personal favorite name)
- Salty Scot, a Scotch ale
We'll discuss that last one today. Parallel 49's winter seasonal, Salty Scot, is brewed in the style of Scotch ale, a beer type also commonly referred to as "wee heavy" that's traditionally heavy on the malt flavors and low on bitterness. This Canadian-made version is no different -- the beer goes through a long boil, which caramelizes the malt and develops rich toffee flavors, and contains only 17 IBUs of bitterness. The unique aspect: It's brewed with salted caramel.
Poured into a snifter, Salty Scot is colored like its flavor additive -- a dull caramel brown with soft haziness. On top of the liquid, a light drizzling of sandy tan bubbles pops and fizzes. Red grape is the most noticeable aspect of the aroma -- interestingly, the traditionally caramel-y brew is almost tangy and wine-like. There are subtle but noticeable hints of caramel and biscuits, as well as a soft mineral essence I'll ascribe to the addition of NaCl.
The flavor is, again, less malty and more fruity, almost berry-like. Hints of toffee appear occasionally amid grapes, noticeable alcohol content before touches of toasty biscuits, smoke, and, yes, salty caramel flash at the finish. Engaging carbonation enlivens the medium-light body -- which would be ideal in, say, a Belgian dark ale. Here, in a bold, malt Scotch ale, it seems out of place.
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The experience of drinking Salty Scot is much like the experience of eating salted caramel: The flavor is never really as alkaline as you expect or hope for. The beer, overall, is less a salty Scotsman, more a fruity Frenchman. Still, it's always nice to see new beers to try out, eh?
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.