Upon first glimpse, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and ÜberQuell Brauwerkstätten do not seem to have too many similarities. One is a traditional independent bottler and high-profile whisky club from Edinburgh, Scotland. The other other is a young brewpub and best-in-town pizza joint from Hamburg, Germany. When you take a closer look at the two, however, you will discover that the Leith-based drammers and the Sankt Pauli-based brewers have more things in common than you might have thought. They both produce and bottle outstanding beverages. They both constantly push themselves to try new things and reach new heights. And, plain and simple, they are both incredibly good at what they do! So when I got an invitation to the “SMWS X ÜberQuell” mash-up tasting, I did not have to think twice about accepting.
Before the actual degustation began, ÜberQuell’s co-founder Axel and The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s local brand ambassador Chris filled us in on the histories, philosophies and agendas of the entities they represented. Of course, we also got some advice on how to savor the served boilermakers (i.e. drams and beer combos). Chris suggested the following procedure: Start by sipping the whisky neat to get an idea of the distillate’s actual taste. Then, proceed with a mouthful of beer, followed by another slug of uisge beatha. In a perfect pairing, the two will bring out the best in each other. In a great pairing, at least one of them will get some nice support from the other. And in a not-so-good pairing, one will completely overpower the other. Luckily, all of the duos we were served fell into the first two categories.
We started with a frisk and citrusy Benrinnes 16yo named “Easy like Sunday morning” served together with one of ÜberQuell’s seasonal beers called Sunny Spring Ale. As both the whisky and the brew were rather light in character, they did not bring forth totally new qualities in one another. Nevertheless, they interacted very nicely and the whisky gained additional sweetness from being enjoyed alongside the brew. Next up was a 17-year-old Auchentoshan labeled “Sunshine in a glass”. The Lowlander’s slightly bitter pomelo notes harmonized perfectly with the Supadupa IPA’s exotic passion fruit flavor. While our first two whiskies were both of respectable age, bottling number three was a bit younger… but equally amazing! Matured in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel for 9 years, the expression with the playful name “Fresh and fruity frolics” came from renowned Speyside distillery Aberlour and brimmed with coffee beans, dark chocolate and squished brambles. In the mouth, these deep and intense sensations were complemented by a shovel load of salt; a striking flavor profile that gave an Oscar-worthy perfomance on the stage provided by the light and lean Lieblings Imperial Lager, which we drank on the side.
Blair Athol, which is owned by Diageo and located in the Highlands, is a distillery I had not had too many touch points with before. What a negligence! Despite its young age of 7 years, “Honey cake with elderflower icing” burst with flavor. Hazelnuts, caramel, brittle and burnt sugar were some of the dominating notes I found in it. This abundance of sweetness chimed together mighty fine with the pronounced fruitiness of the Double Neipa (ÜberQuell’s take on the booming New England IPA style) we were served at the same time. “The combination of smoke and chocolate always works,” Axel told us before the final pairing was due. The first, we got from a 17-year-old Laphroaig with the puzzling name “Dance of Dove and Dram at De Librije”. The second, we gained from a mouth-watering Choco Porter by Maisel’s & Friends. Yes, the last beer of the evening was not one of ÜberQuell’s own creations, but a guest brew. As Axel and his team see other craft beer makers as their companions rather than competitors, they always have one or two non-proprietary ales on tap as well. That’s one helluva attitude, guys!
All in all, me and my friends spent more than four hours at the cool n’ comfy premises of ÜberQuell that evening. And we would have stayed even longer if we did not have to go to work the next morning. The drinks, the people, the location and the program were all super-awesome. So, what else is there left to say? Not much, except this: If you live in Hamburg and want to join us the next time or if you come from one of the many other cities where The SMWS has local brand ambassadors, make sure you keep an eye on the Society’s upcoming events. While some of them are exclusively available to those who own a membership card, most of them (like this one) can be booked by members and non-members alike. See you around!
Benrinnes 16y0 (36.112) (Single Malt/ Speyside / 17yo / 56.3% / 258 bottles / ~90 Euro)
Auchentoshan 17yo (5.51) (Single Malt/ Lowlands / 17yo / 52.7% / 210 bottles / ? Euro)
Aberlour 9yo (54.43) (Single Malt/ Speyside / 9yo / 59.5% / 228 bottles / ~55 Euro)
Blair Athol 7yo (68.11) (Single Malt/ Highlands/ 7yo / 57.9% / 282 bottles / ~55 Euro)
Laphroaig 17yo (29.214) (Single Malt/ Islay / 17yo / 59.1% / 216 bottles / ~120 Euro)
ÜberQuell Sunny Spring Ale (Session Ale / 4.3% / 32 IBU)
ÜberQuell Supadupa IPA (India Pale Ale / 6.0% / 50 IBU)
ÜberQuell Lieblings Imperial Lager (Lager / 5.6% / 40 IBU)
ÜberQuell Double Neipa (Experimental Ale / 7.5% / ? IBU)
Maisel & Friends Choco Porter (Porter / 6.5% / 20 IBU)
The SMWS @ Web: http://www.smws.com/ (Whisky)
ÜberQuell @ Web: http://www.ueberquell.com/ (Craft Beer)
Hansemalt @ Web: http://www.hansemalt.de/ (Host)
Alle Vögel Fliegen Hoch @ Web: https://www.allevoegelfliegenhoch.de/ (PR Agency)
*** I was kindly invited to the event by Alle Vögel Fliegen Hoch. ***