Beers Going Head-to-Head
On Tuesday night, Rock Bottom Bethesda brewer Geoff Lively unveiled this year's batch of his award-winning Highland Courage Scottish ale. I really like Highland Courage -- a dark, malty ale with good richness and balance -- so I was doubly pleased to find it on the English-style hand pump as well as the usual draft.
Trying them side-by-side, the cask-conditioned version is the clear winner. It's served a few degrees warmer (though still only about 44 degrees) and the conditioning really brings out the malt profile, making it almost closer to a gourmet stout than a dark ale. Lively told me that he prefers to let customers try tastes of each style to let them decide -- ask your bartender for samples -- but "if you like Scottish ale," he said, "you should be drinking the cask. ... When it's not as cold and carbonated, you get to taste all the flavor in that beer."
No matter how you serve it, this beer is a treat: The "regular" Highland Courage took home a silver medal from the World Beer Championships in 2002 in the "Scottish-Style Export" category, while the cask-conditioned version won silver at the national Cask Ale Festival in Chicago in 2003.
Lively expects to have the beer on hand until early March, when it's time for the annual Fire Chief Ale to be tapped. The cask Highland Courage is produced in smaller quantities and won't last as long, so make your way to Bethesda in the next week or two if you want to take the head-to-head challenge.
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