MacTarnahan’s was one of the original Portland, Oregon breweries at the beginning of the first craft beer revolution in 80’s. You can still find their Mac’s Amber ale in many locations. Unfortunately, this brewery has been experiencing a steady decline in people’s perceptions. First, they sold to Pyramid. Then Pyramid/Mac’s was bought by Magic Hat. Then a new company, North American Breweries, bought Magic Hat. NAB includes Labatts, Genesee, Imperial (Costa Rica), Pyramid, Seagrams, Magic Hat, and MacTarnahan’s. Their website states that their the largest independently-owned beer company in the United States and with the acquisition of AB by Inbev and the partnering of Coors with SAB/Miller, this may indeed be true. So largely speaking, NAB is a collection of some regional craft brands and a few larger North American lagers (we’ll let the Seagram’s piece slide for now.)
With all of these acquisitions, it seems that MacTarnahan’s has nearly been forgotten in this large portfolio, which I feel is a mistake. The Mac’s Amber ale is a great amber/pale ale style beer that is a direct link to Oregon’s craft beer past and heritage. This is a brand that could have some legs. When I saw their new fall seasonal, Noble Scot Scottish Ale, I was excited to see something that tapped into their heritage as a brewery founded by a man of Scottish heritage, Robert Malcolm “Mac” MacTarnahan.
Appearance: Deep Mahogany with a light tan head and ok retention. Very bright.
Aroma: Toffee, toasted bread, caramel with hints of smoke.
Taste: A big, sweet round mouth-feel leads to a medium length peaty/smokey finish. There is just enough hops to balance the big malt nature. The English varieties used (Northern Brewer, East Kent Goldings) add to the earthy nature of the beer.
Overall Impression: This is a nice beer. I’d say that this beer would more accurately be called a Scotch Ale instead of a Scottish Ale. The 6.5% alcohol and 25 IBUs are well above an export Scottish Ale stats and right at the base of what is considered a Scotch Ale. Labeling aside, the friendly price point of MacTarnahan’s beers makes this a great tasting value.
Availability: Across the western states this fall.