Is it me or does chap on the label look more cartoony than he used to? That aside I'm sure this beer used to look darker.
Basically McEwan's Export goes a long way back in my beer-drinking history. It's been a hell of a long time since I last re-visited it so, seeing it on the supermarket shelves the other week, I thought 'what the hell' and picked up a bottle of the first beer I ever tried. So before Mordue or Daleside brewing, before Rob's beer quest university days and the rest of it around 70ml or so in the bottom of a tumbler glass was all my dad would allow me. The dark brown liquid with the frothy white head poured from a can. To be honest I never liked the taste much, but I felt like a big man drinking it. An acquired taste you may say. Eight or so years later I would be exploring new beers like Carling, Stella or Newcastle Brown.
My first year university days involved a lot of beer consumption. As the grant for the term came in I would visit the local Booth's supermarket to stock up on bottled beers. Bottled ales from around the nation would adorn my bedroom shelves from the Waggledance to the Old Peculiar. Yet the odd four pack of McEwan's would always be tucked away at the back, four red cans to conveniently take to the next house party or stash for the odd camping trip.
Towards the end of the night is when the McEwan's would come out. The sub on the bench role is how I used to think of it. Once I'd lost the will and abilities to ponder over the nuances of a Black Sheep Riggwelter or the closest local micro's 'Real ale in a bottle' (the word 'craft' in those days existed only in America) the McEwan's would be cracked open. Often accompanied by lashings of Bells Whisky it was almost like a chill-out beer - cheap and requiring little effort to appreciate. The correct terminology, taken from a former, great blogging master is neckable grog.
I think everyone needs neckable grog in their lives from time to time which is partly why I picked up this bottle. I have never tried the stuff from the bottle but pouring it out into a glass for analysis was almost like studying ancient ruins yet somehow the nostalgia wasn't as strong as I thought it would be. In fact I remember it different to this, darker with more deep grainy flavours. I suspect it might have been toyed with over the years. The aroma and initial flavour is of sweet, burnt cinder toffee. Sweet, grainy, crystal malts follow into the finish. It's obviously heavily filtered with a prickly carbonation (a common feature of many triple filtered, pasteurised supermarket bottled beers) but there's still a very subtle underpinning of English hops.
All in all it's not a bad beer. Looking back at all I've tried between now and my first taste poured from the red can I've had a lot worse. The blandest mass market lagers. The vinegary pints, the half stale on the way out pints, diacetly bombs and ropey, vegetal and even explosive bottle conditioned beers. All of them fall short of this. McEwan's Export is the sort of beer you'd be happy to find in some distant beer desert abroad at a Scottish themed bar, or at someone's party in a working men's club where options are severely limited. Yet sadly that's probably the best praise I can give it. Happy memories though.