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Iron Thistle - Rahr & Sons Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Iron ThistleIron Thistle

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

70 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 70
Hads: 268
Avg: 3.85
pDev: 24.94%
Wants: 18
Gots: 59 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company visit their website
Texas, United States

Style | ABV
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy |  8.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: roblowther on 05-30-2009

Available : February Release
Break out the bagpipes with your lederhosen! We’re proud to present our Iron Thistle Scotch Ale – Rahr’s first National Grand Champion winner. This dark, Scottish ale has a bold taste dominated by a smooth, sweet maltiness balanced with a low, hoppy bitterness. So don your kilts and enjoy. Here’s to your health – Slàinte! Prosit!


Dark Brown


2 Row, Vienna, Crystal, Chocolate, Carafa Special II
Deeply Malty, Caramel, Light Hops
Brie, Aged Gouda
According to a well-respected expert, Iron Thistle pairs really well with grilled or steamed vegetables because “they won’t have to scream to be heard.” Since we find screaming vegetables unappetizing, we think this is a perfect pairing.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 70 | Hads: 268
Photo of MurphyMacManus
4.38/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. brown bottle into snifter.

A: Brown with an off-white head that fades to a thin layer of lace. Seems minimally carbonated.

S: Caramel, toasted brown bread, and just a bit of alcohol.

T/M: Thick, chewy mouthfeel with minimal carbonation. Very mild roasted/smoky malt character. Flavor profile is mostly caramel and toasted brown bread. A bit sweet, but not cloying. Slight bitterness in the finish.

Overall: Tasty and not overdone. Some brewers dial up the "smoky" flavor in their scotch ales, and the result is a beer that tastes like caramel-coated bacon. Iron Thistle is not one of those beers.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a snifter. Beer is amber / orange with a little haze and a big head, lots of lacing, moderate to high carbonation.

Aroma is sweet with a mild smoke.

Beer is medium to light in body, smokier than I expected, strong throughout, a decent finish, a little malty, strong but probably not a repeat with me.

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Photo of Kornoms
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a very dark, opaque brown with only a small head. Has a floral, pine smell, not too faint, but not strong. There is a nice toasted malt and caramelized flavor with a pleasant mouthfeel. We haven't had many Scottish Ales, but we really enjoyed this one and would definitely try others.

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Photo of videofrog
3.38/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a thistle glass.

A: Dark reddish brown with red highlights around the edge. Towering light beige head that settles into a disc that stays around for a while. Sporadic lacing down the glass.

S: A bit muted. Sweet malts with a slight roastiness. A bit of breadiness with some hops way in the background.

T: Dark chocolate, bitter roast, sweet caramel toffee flavor. Aftertaste is slightly bitter.

M: Carbonation is normal for style; mouthfeel slightly thin for the style.

O: As a lover of the Wee Heavy/"Scotch" Ale style, I was missing the peat smokiness and hint of scotch I'm used to. If not for those expectations, I would've enjoyed this more. Above average and worth a try.

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Photo of Lawl3ss
3.37/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Chilled four hour old growler (and they tapped a new keg to fill it) into a 12 oz. stemless tulip.

Look- Clear deep brown with orange-gold highlights. Two fingers of loose beige head that fell pretty quickly leaving decent rings of lace. I like to swirl bigger beers and look for some "stick" as it falls down the glass- this one doesn't at all, in fact it looks pretty watery.

Smell- Sweet, dark malt with backing of earthy vegetation. Maybe a touch of chocolate. Not really getting a whole lot, but it's not unpleasant. Not sensing the alcohol 8% would usually indicate.

Taste- Well done but standard toasty-roasty flavors span the biscuit to black spectrum, followed up with a lingering baked graham cracker/herbal mix. Once again, it's done a good job disguising the alcohol, but it's not as bold as I'd like a wee heavy to be. It's all well put together, but nothing stands out other than the slightly wonky finish.

Mouthfeel- Like I was expecting, it's fairly light for the style. It's smooth, creamy even, and the moderate amount of carbonation is soft-edged. Mildly astringent at the start and finish, with an appropriate amount of dryness. Some Scotch ales are pretty gnarly, but this one goes down extremely easily. You wouldn't know it was 8%, it drinks like an 80/- or full porter.

Overall- I hate to do it, but I've got to dock this one points for style, even if the style originated as general indicator of alcohol content. It's "Scottish" seeming, for sure, and packs an alcohol punch that you don't feel coming, but it falls a bit short in the complex malty flavor department. Still pretty darn good, and one of the most drinkable specimens of the further-yet-North Atlantic style I've had. Despite this, I probably wouldn't seek it out unless I wanted a buzz or was trying to introduce someone to the style.

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Photo of omnigrits
4.08/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Red's Porch.

A. It's always difficult pinning down the colour of a beer in a dark bar. This one came to the table looking dark brown, but holding it up to let some light pass through reveals a deep ruby red. The head is off-white and vanishes pretty quickly.

S. Almost non-existent. I often find this with bar-poured beers over beer from a bottle at home so I add a half point for it. What's there is simply sweet, nothing much else.

T. The taste has much more going on. Plenty of brown sugar flavours, a little toffee, rich malts, and some hops in the background. I'm tempted to say that the flavour is greater than the sum of its parts, which means, to me at least, a very well made and put-together beer. It's almost like an old fashioned cough drop of the sort you used to buy from a jar by the quarter pound from little corner shops in Lancashire.

M. Medium bodied and nicely under-carbonated.

O. As long as you're not adhering strictly to the style guidelines, this is a very drinkable beer. Some writers have put paid to the idea that Scottish beers are sweeter and less hopped than English beers, and this is one that helps to crush that myth. The sweetness is nicely held in check and there's a pleasant bitterness in the finish.

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Photo of BeardedRiker
3.97/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

You know, when I first started drinking Rahr beers, I wasn't too impressed, but over the last year or so I've come to appreciating much more. It probably started when I first tried their Winter Warmer. I thought it was delicious. Then I drank their BBWW and was extremely impressed. It's one of those beers you can't get enough of. Now I've had their Iron Thistle and I'm convinced any of their beers that use roasted and/or chocolate malts then I'll like the beer. The Iron Thistle is no exception. Also, I don't think I've had a Scotch Ale that I've disliked.

Iron Thistle pours out clear and the darkest of brown, but a brown-ruby color when held up to the light. The head is light brown while being about a finger and a half high. It fizzes itself out fairly quickly. No lacing. With the name Iron Thistle, it's not a tantalizing name as far as the beer goes, but this does look good.

Mmm...I like the smell. As expected, it's malty as hell. Dark roasted malts bring out nuttiniess, coffee, and a brown sugar sweetness. Chocolate malt is present too. There's a bit of anise or liquorice. I do get some hops that warm the nose with spice.

The taste is where this beer shines. Coffee and chocolate malts are strong with a brown sugar sweetness that's underneath. It has a nice nuttiness throughout, as well as a slight hint of booze. This sort of reminds me of the BBWW but the flavors are not as strong. You know, at the end I get a sort of tobacco-ish essence with it. I've decided while I'm a hop head, I also love beers that use the roasted, dark malts.

This has a medium-low carbonation that makes it very smooth with its medium body. Iron Thistle is oh so drinkable.

Another Rahr beer that's damn good and another Scotch Ale that I really like. Rahr is now one of my favorite Texas breweries.

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Photo of beesy
3.75/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a standard pint glass. Thank Tommyhock!

A - pours a fairly clear medium brown, slightly mahagony, color with a medium brown one finger head that dissipates quickly.

S - Nothing sexy going on here. Maybe some brown malt and some yeast profiles.

T - Lots of chocolate as it warms. Very malty. Some caramel present and with a toasty/biscuity maly detected. Not much in the way of hops detected, but not expected.

M - A somewhat slick, full bodied beer.

D - Somewhat low as it's fairly viscious although it drinks more like a 5 or 6% abv beer instead of an 8%.

Overall a pretty enjoyable beer in a style I usually don't gravitate to. Lots of flavor and drinks easier than expected.

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Photo of imasloth
3.85/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Dark red, almost purple with a creamy off-white head that starts big and sticks around.

S- Sweet black malty scent, with a hint of anise (a substance that I'm not very keen on, thus the score).

T- Light bitterness upfront, followed by rich malt. Very straight forward but also very delicious.

M- Medium-bodied, but very smooth for such a high alcohol content. No bitter feeling in mouth, but a light coating of sweet malt.

O- It's good, not great- like a lot of Rahr beers. I'd certainly drink it again and even buy a six pack, but it won't overwhelm you.

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Photo of army01
4.88/5  rDev +26.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A review of the 2010 offering, opened in January of 2011.

A: Deep brown in color with trace red highlights. A small, light tan/off white head that is quickly reduced to light lacing.

S: Sweet malty smell with hints of chocolate

T: Sweet....Malts. Malts. Chocolate. Malts. No bitterness whatsoever.

M: A sweet flavor, that I believe grows sweeter with time.

O: I love this beer. The "Wee Heavy" is a favorite style of mine, and Rahr's Iron Thistle might be my favorite offering of all, that I think has grown better with age.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of gtermi
4.35/5  rDev +13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: I poured this out of a 12 oz bottle into my Rahr glass I got from the tour. It pours a very nice dark brown with a red tint. The beer had a very nice white thin head that quickly fade. Just a great looking beer.

S: The smell is very nice too. I am getting a nice amount of roasted malt, a lot of chocolate malt and it also has a little amout of smoke.

T: This is a delicious beer! I have never had this before and it just blows me away. I am getting a lot of chocolate notes and also some roasted malt. I love the malty taste that lingers on the tongue.

M: The beer is very smooth and it just goes down like water. There is a little tingle on the tip of the tongue, but other than that there is no crispness at all. Just an all around amazing mouthfeel.

O: I cant believe the ratings arent higher on this beer. It is very easy to drink, tastes great, looks and smells great. I think this is one of the best beers Rahr has ever put on the market and I am glad that I can find it anywhere.

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Photo of kkipple
3.89/5  rDev +1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks go to Freeverse for hooking me up with a bevy of new Texas brews. The reviews continue!

12oz bottle (nice label, no freshness date) goes into my big Allagash tulip. Some would question the choice of an 8% scotch ale on a 95 degree Columbia afternoon, and I would be one of them... quick review because I have lots to do this Sunday:

A. Low / no head, simply a ring of bubbles around the edge of this very darkly colored brown brew. One of the darker Scotch Ales I've encountered. No lace, no bubbles. Looks thickish.

S. Comprehensive. Sweet, but restrained layers of malt, with cocoa, light coffee and some prune. Perhaps a minor buttery note, and some booze. It's good.

T. Really not bad; I was afraid this would go the sticky-sweet route but it works well. The malt-heavy thickness is sufficiently dried out to let the roast, cola and darker fruit shine through, with a difficult to place nut-like flavor lingering long into the finish.

M / D. Lower carbonation, medium body. 8% is well hidden. Drinks rather well actually, there is a mildly annoying sour red wine like note here but it is easily ignored if you keep drinking...

Iron Thistle is a lot better than I was expecting, and certainly worth a shot if you happen across it. Now, back to the house chores!

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Photo of champ103
3.31/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark brown with some ruby highlights around the edges. A two finger beige head forms with good retention at first. Though the foam fades to a small ring with light lace.
S: Initially I liked this. Lots of toasted malt, light smoke, and wood. Though an over barring diacetyl aroma that really detracts for me as this warms up.
T: Toasted malt, bread, chocolate and a substantial metallic flavor. That diacetyl is present, but not as over barring as the nose.
M/D: A medium body but thin and watery. A gritty and kind of dirty feel. Easy enough to to drink. A nice sipper.

For the most part this is enjoyable. A little disappointed, this being my favorite style. To much buttery diacetyl and a metallic flavor is the down fall. Though worth a try.

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Photo of gnemesis
4/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Received this 12oz bottle from JJfoodie as another amazing extra. I poured it into a snifter on 2/21/2011.
This beer pours dark brown, almost black, and has a small amount of tan colored head perched above. This scotch ale is all malt in a wonderful way. My nose picks up gobs of caramel, a bit of sweet chocolate, a dab of vanilla, nice sweet maltiness here. The taste follows through and adds a touch of roasted malt and a quick waft of smoke. The body is medium and is laced with a medium amount of carbonation. I was happy with this interpretation. Smooth, mellow, malty but not overly sweet. I would have another were it available to me.

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Photo of Thickfreakness
4.04/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Got in a GREAT trade from JJFoodie

A- Almost Black! Nice Ruby hips when put up to the light. Big tan head that diappears rather quickly. Not much lacing...

S- Coffee!!! Tons of roasted coffee, toasty malt, brown sugar, dried fruit and more coffee!!! Just a whisper of alcohol.

T- Again... no surprise... Coffee!!! Lots of it! Sweet caramel malts, figs, cinnamon, clove and burnt wood. Just a touch of bitter hidden by the sweetness. This Wee goes down very nicely!

M- Syrupy, yet kinda thin... does that make any sence? Robust coffee, toffee, and sweetness roll over the tongue. Just a hint of bitter on the finish.

D- This is a delicious Wee Heavy! Full flavored, yet goes down really easy! It basically has one flavor... but it's one hell of a flavor!

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Photo of jlindros
3.83/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Exiled for this one.

Pours a fizzy 1.5 finger head that fades semi quickly over dark maroon almost purple dark brown color.

Nose brings plenty of dark malts, light creamy malts, caramel, brown sugar, some earthy malts and earthy herbal hops, light porter like roast.

Taste starts creamy and fairly rich, very porter like to start but not quite as dark and roasty, lots of malts, a bit caramel and brown sugar, creamy malts, touch of vanilla, some earthy and slight herbal hops, light bitterness and just a hint of minerality, hint of smoke, with a bit of sweetness and just the slightest hint of booze. As it finishes it dries quite a bit, but leaves a bit of sweet malt flavors, some herbal earthy hop flavors, and touch of minerality with hint a booze.

mouth is creamy and medium bodied with decent carbonation.

Drink is good, doesn't quite drink like 8% but has a touch of booze, creamy, a nice dry finish, smooth, and drinkable.

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Photo of jsanford
3.67/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Pint Glass.

A - Pours a very dark (almost black) brown with slight reddish highlights and a 1-inch khaki-colored head that dissipates quickly, leaving just the slightest of ring and haze.
S - Dark caramel-y malt, fig preserves, chocolate, and roasted nuts, with a bit of baked cookie. Reminds me of a Fig Newton. Very unique smell, I like it.
T - Nice and malty, with more figs, raisins, chocolate, and baked goods. Slight hint of booze towards the finish. Almost Brandy-like.
M - Medium, slightly creamy body with "prickly" carbonation.
D - Pretty drinkable, not really noticing the ABV. This was a nice surprise, I had no idea what to expect from this brewery.

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Photo of EgadBananas
3.78/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Very, very dark red/brown, almost black (as the bottle hinted at). Very like tan head of a solid finger adorns and leaves minimal lacing. Lots of bubbles streaming up the glass.

Aroma is malty sweet, very roasted, slightly charred and smoky, nutty, and very bready/doughy/yeasty sweet.

Malty sweet, roasted, hints of booze, some chocolate and caramel notes. Finish is bittersweet.

The feel is maybe medium, more crisp than smooth. Carbonation spikes just a hair. Finishes clean, but feel is overall on the lighter side.

Drink ability is good. Feel aside, it's a right tasty Wee Heavy.

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Photo of JMad
4.12/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I poured a 12 oz bottle into my pint glass...

The beer was an oily, dark brown, there was a very thin off white head.

It smells of dark fruit, fig, and toasted caramel malt.

I could taste raisins with a slight herbal hop bitterness, a bit of alcohol and a buttered toast aftertaste.

This one has a thick full body, it warms you up and has low carbonation.

I thought this was an excellent winter beer, don't think I could drink very many though.

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Photo of SuperSpy
3.8/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz brown bottle poured into an Iron Thistle glass (the glass commemorating the 2009 National Grand Champion winner, awarded at the 2009 U.S. Beer Tasting Championships). I have to thank my dad for the glass.

A - A very dark brown with a small tan head. The head doesn't stick around for long but that's ok for the style. Also, it appears to be bottle conditioned which makes it a bit cloudy.

S - Very malty, with a bit of caramel, roasted malt, and earthy tones underneath. Smells like it's going to be full-bodied and chewy. I'll have to knock off points if it fails to deliver...

S/M - Medium-Full bodied, a bit chewy, and quite smooth. The flavor is malty, but not overly sweet. No real smokiness, but definitely some roasted malt. I pick up some prunes. No hop flavor. The high ABV is not noticeable at all.

D - A very easy beer to drink. Dangerously so considering the ABV. There is some room for improvement but Rahr has produced a very good beer.

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Photo of FJBrewster
4.6/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a Shiner on-tap and the bartender asked if I'd ever tried Rahr. I said no and he let me sample several. My favorite was Iron Thistle. Went to the brewery in Fort Worth yesterday for their Saturday tasting and confirmed that it's my favorite. In act, they didn't put it out until 30 minutes before closing because that's what everyone wants and they run out.

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Photo of elniko
3.68/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into pint glass.

A: Rich caramel coloring with nice size head and lacing. Nice looking brew.

S: Rich malty tones with some chocolate notes as well.

T & M: Creamy mouthfeel, tones from the nose come through in the taste. No smoky notes as I would suspect from Scotch ale, I get more chocolate.

D: Quite drinkable despite high ABV. Solid effort by Rahr.

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Photo of briman
3.63/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown and clear, with a nice 1 inch cream colored head that retains well but leaves not a trace of lace along the edges of the glass. Not surprising for an ale of this style.

Strong malt aroma, slightly sweet, and displaying a distinct caramel character.

Flavor is malt dominant, with elements of caramel and maybe a touch of roast. I don't get any real smoky element, or noticeable fruit component. Finish has a mild bitterness that seems more characteristic of roasted barley than hops.

Medium to medium-full body, with moderate carbonation. Only slightly thick, with a touch of a chewy element. Little bit of warming comes through, but overall the alcohol is hidden quite well. No doubt that contributes to ease at which this one goes down.

Overall a good beer, would like a little more of a smoky character, but certainly would have this again.

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Photo of HardTarget
3.97/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 12 oz. twisty, some marketing on the label, but not much info. Served in the branded thistle glass.

A) Deep ruby red/black body shows some clarity with strong backlight. Holds a preacher's collar of dirty tan but doesn't lace the glass.

S) Bready, slightly sweet grape malt with whiffs of alcohol.

T) Mild overall flavor. Malty grape soda base, no hop flavors noted, but no excessive sweetness in the malt either. Hides the alcohol expertly.

M) A bit fizzy, lively carbonation keeps it from being heavy, even a wee heavy. Light prickle after the swallow.

D) Dangerous, I'm taking large pulls and enjoying them. A gentle giant this one, easy laid back smooth talker. Solid work Rahr!

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Photo of twiggamortis420
3.9/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle of this new <bottled> brew from Rahr and Sons. Pours a very dark brown color with only a few highlights showing around the edges. Foam is thick and creamy with decent retention and lacing.

Nose is malty and nutty with a touch of peat. A bit chocolaty and somewhat sweet smelling. Fruit is pretty low for the style and this might be passable as a foreign export stout.

Malty and smooth with a bit more roast than most scotch ales. More chocolate as well. Peat is on the low end and does not display a whole lot of smoky flavor. Hops and a touch of burnt toast contribute a much needed bitter kick on the finish. ABV seems nowhere near 8%, pretty damn drinkable. I must say, this might be my second favorite Rahr beer behind the winter warmer. Pretty tasty beverage here.

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Iron Thistle from Rahr & Sons Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 70 ratings.