In search of Scottish legends

Strong or seasonal? Gordon ales: the charms of Finest Scotch and Xmas

Gordon Xmas GlassGordon Finest Scotch, easily recognisable by its blue, green and yellow tartan, is part of our tradition of Scotch Ales. This Scottish dark beer originates from the capital city, Edinburgh, where it was first brewed. Scotch Ale is the name originally given to strong ales from Edinburgh, Scotland. Beer nerds also call it ‘wee heavy’!Its colour ranges from golden amber to deepest brown, with a fairly pronounced smoky taste that comes from being brewed with whisky malt.The uniqueness of this characterful beer is due to a development process that uses smoked barley as well as due to a strong malt flavour, which brings to mind the sweetness of natural brown sugar, and a peaty taste at the back of the palate. The bitterness and hoppy flavours are more subtle, allowing the malt to dominate. The alcohol often makes its presence known and pleasantly enhances the taste.This brewing treasure chimes well with its birthplace, where malt is in abundance and the temperatures fairly cold, much to the enjoyment of Loch Ness’s famous resident!Now John Martin was one of the first brewers to secure this tradition, and it has been brewing Scotch Ale in Belgium using the same recipe and the same designation since 1924.

Beers for all seasons?

The Belgians should be proud of their know-how and creativity, and they have become masters in the art of brewing craft beers. However, it was the Group’s founder, John Martin, who came up with Gordon XMAS, the first festive beer especially dedicated to the spirit of Christmas.A unique variation on the famous Gordon Scotch Ale, Gordon Xmas brings warmth with its creamy foam, flavour of candy and tranquil woody aromas - just the thing for a joyful celebration with friends and family. It is a proper Christmas present. To this day, Anthony Martin, John’s grandson, keeps this heritage special by only sharing it once a year, for a few days over the festive period.

British tradition, Belgian taste

Following the example and the success of the Anthony Martin brewery, which is famous for Gordon Xmas, several Belgian brewers have followed suit over the past fifteen years, with some satisfaction. In fact, these “seasonal” beers are enjoying constant growth, including for export. Really, it’s no coincidence that Gordon Xmas was the first in this niche market as the brewery’s founder, John Martin, brought back this tradition himself from his native United Kingdom. It used to be a tradition there among local brewers to offer their best customers a characterful beer made from the remaining malt and hop reserves gathered in the autumn. In so doing, they were following the seasonal rhythms of the barley harvests (end of August and March-April) and the start of the brewing season at Michaelmas (29 September). On this date, they would produce a first brew intended to reach maturity in the winter, under stable temperature conditions due to the coolness of autumn. The relative cold would therefore protect the beer better from microbial bacteria, while the emptied granaries could receive the new harvests of barley and hops. Even further back, there was even an October beer. In fact, you could say that the Christmas beer is still the first beer of the brewing season, at the same time as being the last one consumed during our “calendar year”.

Proud of its origins

It is true to say that Gordon beers today have truly become Belgian speciality beers, having in reality created this market at a time when consumption was dominated by Pilsner-type or lambic beers.However, the brand has remained true to its roots and proudly bears the tartan and motto of the Gordon clan (By DanD, which means Steadfast). Its symbol is the thistle, the proud emblem of the era. As a matter of fact, a field of thistles helped the Scots to repel the Vikings, who were planning to take them by surprise in the middle of the night. Walking barefoot in the dark, the Vikings couldn’t help crying out in pain as they came upon the spiky plants, so waking up the sleeping Scots.Gordon still pays tribute to these values of strength, loyalty and courage.This historical gem should therefore be enjoyed proudly, but in moderation…