While in Scotland recently we had a day trip to Dumfries. After calling at their Wetherspoons for lunch we had a while to kill before the next bus back to Kirkcudbright. A quick shufty at this year’s Good Beer Guide set us on course for a nearby pub and the chance of an interesting selection of beers. We ended up in the Cavens Arms on Buccleuch Street and I ended up with a pint of beer produced in Scotland result! The beer I ended up savouring was Top Banana brewed by the Caledonian Brewery.
The Caledonian Brewery (known locally as the Caley) is based in the Slateford area of Edinburgh, Scotland. Brewing began in 1869, when the brewery was opened up by George Lorimer Jnr and Robert Clark, and was then called the Lorimer and Clark Caledonian Brewery. At this time Edinburgh was a town well known for its breweries and there were over 40 concentrated in the city which was referred to as “Aulde Reekie” because of the strong smell which the brewing produced.
When George Lorimer passed away in 1919 the brewery was taken over by the Vaux Group, who were in control until the eventual threat of closure in 1987. Thankfully there was a management takeover which kept the brewery open. This was the state of affairs until 2004, when Scottish & Newcastle purchased the brewery premises. A new Caledonian Brewery was formed and this is the one that is now a successful and thriving concern today.
Caledonian beers are a common sight in pubs nationwide, thanks mainly to the success of their Deuchars IPA, which won national acclaim when it was Awarded the title of Champion Beer of Britain in 2002. But Caley brew far more beers than just that one and, thankfully, it is now quite common to see some of their other beers on the bar. These include 80/- (a fruity red/brown beer at 4.1% ABV), XPA (a pale flavoursome beer at 4.3% ABV) and Rebus (named after the Ian Rankin character at 4.4% ABV).
*A Bit of Background*
Top Banana is part of the Caledonian seasonal beer portfolio. They have a beer for each month throughout the year. This one is actually the choice for May, but it is available after this time we drank it at the end of June. Bananas were chosen because they are apparently the Sales Director’s favourite fruit! In actual fact he hated bananas and it was all planned as a joke at his expense. It is brewed using Fairtrade bananas and was originally intended to debut at Wetherspoons pubs, before launching into the open market.
Top Banana weighs in at 4.1% ABV and each brew is produced using around 3kg of Fairtrade bananas and a blend of hops (in this case Challenger, Pioneer, Sovereign and Bodacea).
*Look, Aroma & Texture*
Looks wise, Top Banana is a darkish golden coloured beer with a reasonably long lasting, off-white head. The aroma is quite malty, giving it a slight toasted bread smell. This is mixed with a subtle fruitiness (not surprisingly there are some banana elements there) and a little sweetness (again possibly attributed to the bananas). Texture is smooth and medium bodied, with a nice mouthfeel.
*Tange’s Taste test*
Of course there is a noticeable taste of bananas in this brew, but not nearly as much as in beers such as Charles Well’s Banana Bread Beer the bananainess (I’ve made a word up!) isn’t overpowering and it is possible to drink it if you aren’t a big fan of that particular fruit. This sweet fruit flavour is balanced nicely by the hop mix, which gives bitterness, a hint of the floral and a slight citrus taste. The underlying flavour is a soft biscuity malt that brings all the other elements together. This all leads from the sweet to a dryer finish a reasonably long lasting bitter aftertaste.
~~~WHAT I THOUGHT.
I really liked my pints of Top Banana. It is an easy to drink, mid strength beer that is well balanced and full of subtle flavours. The banana taste was there, but not so strong as to dominate or overpower the taste buds. What you do have is a good quality flavoursome and pleasant beer. Apart from the banana my favourite taste in Top Banana is the base soft malt and the slight bitter flavour that comes through towards the end. The bright golden colour is also quite appealing to the eye and on a warm sunny day in Scotland it was a very tempting looking beer indeed!
We sampled our Top Banana in The Cavens Arms in Dumfries, where we paid approximately 2.40 a pint (it wasn’t my round). I have since had it in tow of my local pubs The Market Hotel and the Portland Hotel (both in Chesterfield town centre) where we paid 2.20 for the former and 1.59 for the latter, per pint. So expect the price to vary from outlet to outlet and also from place to place. Whatever you pay though, you are assured of a tasty and refreshing pint of beer.
Don’t monkey around and pick yourself a pint of Top Banana! But do it soon before stocks run out or wait until next year and go bananas!
Caledonian Brewing Company Ltd
42 Slateford Road
0131 337 1286