In spite of the noise, it's a unique and fascinating place. Where else can nature fans spot throwbacks to the Pleistocene, like the shy, retiring Loch Ness monster and the colorfully plumed Queen Mother? Where else can duffers triple bogey while 9-ironing souvenir divots from the world's most hallowed golf links?
When the Scots aren't busy showing off their brute strength by throwing telephone poles around, they like to cozy up with a buckskin-bound copy of Ivanhoe and a nice plate of haggis. Haggis, for those of you who are still culinarily innocent, is a traditional Scottish dish of organ meats and oatmeal stewed in a sheep's stomach. It's one of those preparations that should really only be described on a need-to-know basis, but not all Scottish cuisine is quite this bizarre.
Even the irascible gourmand Samuel Johnson claimed that if any epicure could travel instantly in search of sensual gratification, "wherever he had supped he would breakfast in Scotland." And today the country has several Michelin-starred restaurants. Here are two strong Scottish ales that will fit the bill of fare, be it haggis or something more contemporary. For contrast, I've also thrown in one American porter with a Scottish accent, made on the wild heaths of downtown Portland, Oregon.
Traquair House Ale ($4 per bottle)
In a shady glen on the River Tweed, about 30 miles south of Edinburgh, is a romantic pile of stone architecture known as Traquair House. Originally a castle owned by the kings of Scotland (the labels on the back of the bottles show the famous bear gates leading into the property), it dates back to the 10th century and is claimed to be the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. Beer has a long history at Traquair, too. We know that the household was producing ale when Mary, Queen of Scots, visited Traquair in 1566.