Overtone X anCnoc
Beer meets whisky, and true love is born
Saturday 27 August 2022
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It’s hot when we reach Glasgow Queen Street, the engines injecting dust and the scent of motor oil into the humidity we wade through en route to the open air of George Square. There’s a coach waiting for us there, already full of people also heading to Overtone’s brewery on the outskirts of the city. This bunch of beer and whisky enthusiasts have gathered to celebrate a rare and wonderful collaboration between anCnoc single malt whisky and our friends at Overtone Brewing.
Knockdhu Distillery where anCnoc is made is an innovative one, not so much in terms of technique or equipment, but the way it uses traditional methods and un-mechanised processes to produce a whisky that’s modern in design and attitude. anCnoc’s Craft Cast series speaks directly to and of this ethos. The guest list is packed with crafters of textiles, chocolate, furniture and beyond, all of whom have gathered together for the first collaboration in the series to celebrate the art of craft.
“This Craft Cast series is about us partnering with other craft producers” says anCnoc Global Ambassador, Stuart Baxter. “It’s about us working with them and exchanging ideas concerning what “craft” actually means; there are a hundred different definitions of the word, and all of them are likely all right in one way or another”.
We pull into the industrial estate Overtone calls home and pour out of the warm bus into cooler evening air that lends a certain sultry quality to the striking scene and soothing cocktail that greets us. Made using anCnoc 12 year old, blood orange, grapefruit, mint and plenty of ice, the amalgam of honied tones and sharp zingy citrus provides a restorative welcome to the event, which has transformed the brewery into a space that crackles with creativity.
With Overtone being an existing partner of anCnoc, and already using its barrels to age beers in, the brewery is a meaningful place to kick off the series. Speaking to Karan Nagpal, sales rep at Overtone, he says the relationship with anCnoc has been a particularly fruitful and creative one. “With the various adjuncts that are often added to beer, it isn’t always possible to return barrels to distilleries” says Karan, “but since we started working with anCnoc this has been something we’ve been more conscious of”.
Obviously, experimentation of this variety has been undertaken before by the likes of Jameson and Guinness, and Glenfiddich in its IPA experiment, but there is something special about it happening here on such a small scale, and with such an emphasis on craft, whatever that means to you. There is no place for dogma among the ranks present, for all that a practice steeped in tradition is the reason for everyone’s attendance.
The respect people have for anCnoc and Overtone speaks to a belief that these masters of their respective crafts will act in the interest of history, tradition and flavour, when they move to integrate their niche and high end products into the spheres of a younger, more modern audience. They’re open to experimentation, and they want to hear your thoughts.
Stuart and Karan lead a beer and whisky pairing that quickly becomes a vivacious and engaging debate; thoughts and detected flavours are shouted from various parts of the room, attendees are engaged, opinionated and become more confident in adding their voices to the raucous clamour as Stuart revels in the language of participants that frame their opinions as subjective as opposed to what’s viewed as ‘correct’ in the whisky world.
anCnoc has been toying with the idea of bringing back the tradition of a ‘half and half’ - a half pint of ale and a half a gill of whisky – for some time. Whisky and beer are made in similar ways so it’s no surprise that they go hand in hand. For Stuart, there are no rules and it’s about experimenting with what works for you, whether that’s harmonious flavours that match or a bold taste experience with ones that clash.
Karan similarly marvels at the almost equal split between those who prefer complementary over contrasting flavour profiles, or vice versa, and have a definite preference for one of the three pairings.
Some think the honied, heather, floral qualities of anCnoc 12 – matured in a combination of select American oak ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks - is well matched with Pink Cashmere's Citra, Cashmere and Hüll Melon hops, while others find the beer too sharp a contrast to the whisky’s sweetness.
Some think it a wild waste to pair anCnoc’s 24 Year Old whisky with the Boogie Nights sour, a lip-smackingly tart, tropical explosion that rounds off its imitation of a pornstar martini with a surprising note of vanilla. Are they ill suited to each other? Is it a mistake to pair flavours that aren’t opposite, or similar, but simply different? I can’t be sure, but the combination makes me laugh out of shock, amusement, and absolute perplexity. That pairing is my favourite.
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