05 September 2006

KOTBR Review #3: Three Floyd's Robert the Bruce

We have decided to add some new features to the reviews of the Knights of the Beer Roundtable. For example, we will now start to give a little bit more info about any new bars we frequent for the Roundtable, like MacNiven's, where we were at for the most recent tasting. Jim also adds photos of the establishment and the beer of choice. And we've also instituted a new rating system - the 5 Mug Review, with 5 mugs being simply an amazingly fantastic beer, and 1 mug being Coors Lite.

Only two of us - Jim and I - were able to hold court for this tasting, but we did the best we could for you. We gathered at MacNivens, a Scottish specialty bar located on Mass Ave., in the building where Brother Junipers used to be. Our beer for the week is Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale (6.5% ABV) from Three Floyds. For those of you not familiar with Three Floyds, shame on you! It's (in my opinion) the best microbrewery in Indiana, located way up north in Munster. We have decided that an "on-location" review from Three Floyds is coming up. Not only does Nick Floyd (one of the 3 - along with his brother & father) produce some fantastic beer, but the food in the brewpub is incredible.

Interesting fact: Three Floyds is located in the middle of a non-descript corporate park. Prior to the opening of their brewpub last year, visitors wanting to sample the brew took a seat at a picnic table located back in the warehouse.

Jim: This week’s meeting of the Knights of the Beer Roundtable took place at MacNiven’s Restaurant & Pub, which is one of my favorite Downtown Indianapolis pubs. Owners Stuart and Troy used to be managers at the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery on Washington Street, and they ran an excellent establishment while they were there. The food was always good, and the beer was almost universally top notch. Fortunately, both of these attributes are also true at MacNiven’s, which focuses on Scottish food and drink. This is not surprising considering that the land of bagpipes, kilts, and haggis is Stu’s native country. Stu also gets a thumbs up from me because he’s always happy to turn on Fox Soccer Channel or GolTV for those of us who are thirsty for a little soccer as well as a good pint.

Chris decided we would wait until we got to MacNiven’s to pick the beer we would review, although we knew we were going to choose a Scottish ale as our target beer. That only made sense since we were having a drink at a Scottish pub. As we looked through the pub’s hefty beer menu, I warmed up with a fantastic beer (Shmaltz Brewing Company’s He’Brew Genesis Ale) that I think the Knights should review in the future because I’m curious to see what others think of it.

I’ve enjoyed just about every beer that I’ve tried by Three Floyds. But I was unimpressed and a bit disappointed by Robert the Bruce. At first sip, I didn’t find much of a nose to it, but as I had a few more sips, I sensed a mostly hoppy nose. This, I think, is a bit unusual for a Scottish ale, which usually has very malty nose. As for the taste – It, too, was hoppy, not malty like a typical Scottish ale. In fact, the hops overwhelmed nearly all other aspects of the beer for me, so much so that I had a hard time picking up other notes of flavor. In my opinion, the bite from the hops was too much for a Scottish ale, and I found that the aftertaste hung around much longer than I wanted it to.

However, the taste wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Robert the Bruce does start with a nice bit of sweetness on the tip of the tongue, and it isn’t as dry as Belhaven’s. So, I can’t totally pan this beer. Adhering to our new “five mugs” rating system, I give Three Floyds’ Robert the Bruce two-and-a-half out of five mugs.

Chris: Jim and I schlepped to MacNivens for this week's Roundtable. MacNiven's specializes in Scottish food and beer, though both their food and beer menu are diverse. You know its a good bar when there is a seperate menu just for the beer. I've been to MacNiven's on several occassions, and have never left unsatisfied. While it does tend to get a bit loud, and it's one of the few restaurants that still allows smoking, it's still a quality watering hole. Perhaps my favorite thing about MacNiven's is that, in good weather, the front windows roll up, and you can have a stool looking out and Mass Ave and heckle the passers-by.

We went to MacNiven's only knowing we were going to rate a Scottish Ale. I warmed up on a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA while we debated our choices. Our finalists were Belhaven's Scottish Ale and Robert the Bruce, and we decided to go with the local guys in the end.

I must say here that I've had Robert the Bruce on a few previous occassions, all from the bottle, never on tap. I've always been pleased. Not so much this time. All I can attribute it to is possibly a bad keg. In the new 5 Mug Review system, I can only give it 3 Mugs (2.5 for overall taste, and another .5 because it comes from Three Floyds - and their reputation alone deserves a bump in the ratings).

It has a dark brown color - no surprise there, considering it's a Scottish Ale. For about half the pint, the nose was completely muted to me. I thought it may have been the smoke drifting over from other tables that had stunted my sniffer. But after a few drinks, I started to pick up a strong hop scent. Typically, the Scottish Ale is heavy on the malt, but I just could only pick out hops.

Honestly, all I got out of this beer was hops. That's what leads me to think we may have been sampling a sub-par batch. I knew I was supposed to be getting more malts that hops, but the hops just totally overpowered everything from the nose to the tongue.

I think I could pick out a slight nutty taste, but I can't even say that for sure. The bite wasn't noticeable, but the aftertaste was a bit clingy. I really looked forward to some water to wash the taste out.

Luckily, I'm good with hops, so I could drink it. But it wasn't doing what it was supposed to do, and that's why the average rating.

Now, I wanted to insert some pictures that Jim had taken of our Robert the Bruce, but Blogger mysteriously won't let me post them now that I'm near the end. Technology - hmmpf!


  1. Sounds like I wouldn't have liked the beer this night. Worked out well that I didn't make it.

    As for the techical issues with blogger, I've had similar problems. I find that if I download all the pictures before typing I don't have the same issue.

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