Our Beer Man’s VerdictThere can be few greater compliments to a venue than – glass in hand, belly full and a smile illuminating your face – there is nowhere else you would rather be.
That’s what an evening in the Anderson feels like.
The Highland town of Fortrose is a fair jaunt from the Edinburgh home of Lunchquest, but this eccentric establishment makes the long journey – combining breath-taking scenery and the nerve-shredding A9 – worthwhile.The Anderson is a grand old monochrome building which dominates the main street. In the autumn sunshine, it’s a fairly impressive sight – although there aren’t too many clues it’s anything special. An observant beer geek, however, may detect obscure bottles lined up at the window or signage for celebrated European brewers Mikkeller and Duvel.
The welcome is warm and informal, with a hint of mischief from the quick-witted staff – there’s an effortless ease about the place. The eponymous host is Jim Anderson, a larger-than-life American who decided to move to the Black Isle after a career in beer in the US.We have an overnight stay – the rooms are comfortable and full of character. The food is terrific – cooked by Jim’s wife Anne, it uses local produce but has an unmistakable American accent.
But the beer is king. As the sign at the bar has it: “If we don’t have what you drink, drink what we have.” Quite an invitation. The draught beers are chalked up on a board and would impress in most pubs. There’s Brewdog Jackhammer, Marble Lagonda and a few other delights alongside some others from local brewers and a couple to please more conservative drinkers.
The bottled beer list might be the finest in Scotland. There’s a decent selection from the UK – but the range of Belgian beers is extraordinary, with strong support from some of the best from Danish mavericks Mikkeller and the US.
The only downside is that the range is so good it’s tough to know where to begin – or, indeed, where to end. So I start with a half of the sweet, light Timmerman’s lambic kriek (£2.40) while perusing the eight-page list.
That’s the perfect precursor to the Duchesse de Bourgogne (£4, 330ml bottle) – a wonderful sweet, tart Flemish red ale which tastes the way I always hope red wine would. I stay in Belgium for the next couple of drinks over dinner in the whisky bar: the classic crisp Saison Dupont (£4, 330ml bottle) and the more assertive but smooth and aromatic 9.5% Duvel Tripel Hop (£6, 330ml bottle).
We retire to the lively lounge bar for dessert and more drinks. The Mikkeller Spontanpeach (£7, 375ml bottle) is wild – literally, thanks to the spontaneous fermentation – mouth-puckeringly sour with the subtlest kiss of peach. There’s not many places to go after that, but the Kernel double Citra IPA (£7, 330ml bottle) is a fitting climax – the 9.7% ABV balanced against the sharp citrus kick and aroma.
It’s a wrench to leave – but the consolation of a bed just upstairs softens the blow somewhat…
Fortrose, by Inverness IV10 8TD