A game of two haufs
It's a classic Scottish pairing - here's how to make your own
Saturday 15 January 2022
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The hauf ‘n’ hauf (half and half, to non-Scots speakers) is a national institution. It is a traditional form of drinking, once solely the provenance of becapped old men, now becoming more popular with every age group.
A half pint of beer – usually a lager, though a bitter or Guinness may also be requested – is served alongside a shot of whisky. The shot, or dram, as we call it here, was historically called ‘a half’. The reasons for this involve the official measurements of the time, with the Dictionary of Scots Language noting that the phrase “a wee hauf” could mean half of a half gill – “a quarter” to those without poetry on their tongues.
Across the UK, since the Weights and Measures Act of 1963, landlords are able to choose whether they sell alcoholic spirits in 25 or 35ml measures. It would be unusual to be offered a 25ml dram though, as no self-respecting Scot would stand for it.
Still, while it may be tempting to have a much larger measure of whisky in the house, perhaps alongside a 500ml bottle of beer, this writer thinks a little is lost in the quantity. A hauf ‘n’ hauf is a delicate drink, a soft way of enveloping a night. Where the American boilermaker aims to get the drinker minced as quickly as possible, our Scottish version is more subtle.
In a true hauf ‘n’ hauf, whisky and beer are imbibed in tandem, a sip of one following a sip of the other. Taken this way, they come together to create something new.
Blair Bowman is the creator of World Whisky Day, the author of A Pocket Guide to Whisky, and is currently engaged as a Food and Drink Tourism Ambassador with a focus on Whisky Tourism. It’s fair to say he’s one of our foremost whisky experts. He is also used to running events highlighting some of Scotland’s incredible culinary offerings, and took the time to speak to me about matching whiskies.
“In the last summer before lockdown we did a one-night-only beer and whisky pairing pop up in Edinburgh – Hop Scotch. We did flights of beers and whiskies to show people you can have a lot of fun by mixing and matching.”
Another event was called Malt Melt: “Grilled cheese sandwiches paired with whiskies. You could buy a flight, three mini sandwiches and three mini drams, and taste each together.”
Key to both events, said Blair, were giving people options to help them find what they liked. “Different serves to get people interested.”
“At Hop Scotch, we served a Caol Ila 12 with Timmermans Strawberry. We also had Bulleit bourbon with light style beers such as Saison Du Pump. Another was a Singleton Malt Master selection, which was quite fruity, with a darker beer.”
“It worked well and it was a lot of fun. A lot of people were drinking things they wouldn’t normally try.”
Blair was enthusiastic about the hauf ‘n’ hauf, saying that it was a favourite order of his own. “It was my thing. I’d enjoy seeing what was on the optics, what was the Malt of the Month, then seeing what beers were on and make my own mini pairing.”
Something else that Blair is passionate about is training and trusting hospitality staff to make recommendations about the drinks they have on offer. He encourages people to ask their servers, perhaps mentioning what you’ve enjoyed before. “Most bars are good at letting you try beers,” he remarked. “You can ask to taste, ask for recommendations. It makes it more interactive.”
For those of us drinking at home (which, in early 2022, looks like just about everybody), Blair had some recommendations for choosing whiskies to go alongside your specially selected box of craft beers. “You could do it as someone brings the beers and someone brings the whiskies. You could be very geeky about it and make up a grid and see which one works best.”
The key, said Blair, is that you’re looking for contrast or a different acidity. Two drinks that are too similar in flavour profile might not bring out the more interesting notes in either. “Juicy or fruity beers – peachy, raspberry – those work well with a smoky whisky. A lighter style lagery beer, or non-heavy IPA, could go with bourbon or a sweeter style of whisky.
A richer, heavier ale or porter will go with something that’s on the fruitier side of whisky.”
Blair wants us to get creative. “It might not be the most obvious pairing.”
A good starting point is to think about what you like in beer, whether that’s a chocolatey stout or a creamy pale ale, and then to try to find a whisky that offers enough contrast. The most important thing is that you have fun trying beers and whiskies together, and don’t let it get too serious – you might stumble onto an incredible flavour combo that you can’t help repeating in years to come.
For an intro into how to team beers and whiskies together, we’ve matched some of the delicacies in your Beer52 box to some of Scotland’s best-loved malts. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Don’t be shy to tell us if you find a stand-out pairing!
Gun-toting nano penguin peach pale ale • Drygate
This ridiculously named beer is as fun to drink as it is to say. Toasted malt, stone fruit, bitter.
Try with: Glentauchers 10 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt. Notes of sharp apple may bring out the sweetness in the pale ale, dulling the hoppiness.
Alternatively: Highland Park 12 Year Old. Warm spices, heather and honey. Team this with Drygate’s offering for a Christmasy glow all year round.
Grapefruit lemonade crush • Vault City
A session sour perfect for hot sultry days – or dreaming of them. Tart, tropical.
Try with: Highland Park 18 Year Old. Floral, fruity and full of honey, this will soften the puckering experience of the beer.
Alternatively: Balvenie 12 Year Old. Chocolate and raspberry, with rich brioche. This is a classic malt that might bring that sour beer back to earth.
Walrus organic oatmeal stout • Black Isle Brewing Co.
With the creamy head and filling porridge goodness you’d expect from a superior oatmeal stout. Malted chocolate, slight bitterness, espresso.
Try with: Talisker Storm. Slight pepper, vanilla and chocolate gives way to bonfire. The sweetness and cocoa notes in both the stout and whisky match, while the smoke adds a grown-up element.
Alternatively: Bruichladdich the Classic Laddie. Elegantly floral, the champagne of whisky. Like cutting your mocha with perfume.
Session NEIPA • Brewgooder
Brewgooder is an accredited B Corp, working with Charity:Water to provide access to clean water to communities around the world. Not only can you feel good about the beer, it’s a tropical, hazy delight. Floral, tropical, pineapple.
Try with: Glenmorangie A Tale of Winter. With cinnamon, ginger and dried fruit it is the seasonal opposite to Brewgooder’s summer session IPA, though the spices will delicately highlight the fruity notes in the beer.
Alternatively: Lagavulin 12 Year Old. Smoke turned up to 11 to counteract the juicy notes in the NEIPA.
Weizen • Windswept
This traditional-style German wheat beer was Camra’s Champion Beer of Scotland for 2019. Banana, caramel, biscuit.
Try with: Benromach 15. A Ferment favourite, this iconic Speyside is matured on high quality oak for 15 years, allowing it to develop a rounded and complex character that plays very nicely with Windswept’s champion beer. Cracked black pepper and apples play over dark chocolate, rich forest fruit and sherry, with just a hint of smoke wafting over the whole thing. An absolutely stellar pairing.
Alternatively: Dailuaine 16 Year Old. Full bodied with a fruit-forward flavour and a lick of smoke, just rough enough to give the wheat beer a run for its money.
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