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Iron Thistle | Rahr & Sons Brewing Company

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Iron ThistleIron Thistle

Brewed by:
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company
Texas, United States

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by roblowther on 05-30-2009

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Reviews: 76 | Ratings: 287
Photo of Thomas_Wikman
3.89/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

This is a local inexpensive beer I've had many times including last night.

(L) It has a clear dark slightly reddish brown hue with an off white head that stays a long time.

(A) It has a nice nutty, smokey aroma with some chocolate.

(T) It has a taste of sweet malts. Caramel, chocolate, dark fruits, and maybe a little bit of coffee. It is a little bit on the mild side but overall it has a pleasant taste.

(F) Smooth and creamy. Pretty good.

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Photo of ChisholmWest
4.22/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.75

Look: Really nice head lasting about 4 or 5 minutes. Left a good amount of lacing all the way to the end. Beautiful color that resembles mahogany.
Smell: wonderful aromas of smoke, nuts, chocolate, and malt
Taste: Strong malt with nice flavors of chocolate, molasses and coffee, with a hint of smoke (why not its a Scotch ale)
Feel: Definitely a higher point beer, not overly boozy but still you can taste the alcohol. A little more hops than I like but not bad.
Overall: An excellent beer, one that I would recommend with out reservation to some one that likes heavier more full bodied brew. Not a beer for someone that lives in the macro lager world. Best serving temp is 52 degrees.

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Photo of Myotus
3.89/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured at 45°F from a 12oz (bottled 03Jan16) into a Thistle. Consumed on 25Mar16.
LOOK: Pours with three fingers worth of dense, off-white foam that dissipates into a quarter fingers worth within two and half minutes, leaving behind a moderate amount of very thick lacing. What I immediately noticed and loved was that the foam head retained its density, never becoming rocky nor porous. Dark brown in color with a ruby tint. There is a large quantity of small rising bubbles. Lacing is thick and moderate.
SMELL: Strong aromas of caramel and tree nuts entangle with mild chocolate, molasses, plums, figs, and smoked goodness.
TASTE: Mild chocolate and molasses flavors first strike the palate to create a sweet and tasty first impression. Strong smoked goodness flavors along with mild tree nuts further unveil the taste complexity that I love and expect from this style. Finally, mild plum, fig, and bitter hop flavors enter as all previous flavors push on.
FEEL: Full-bodied and highly carbonated. Goes down somewhat smooth and creamy. Finsihes with a strong and unpleasant dryness.
NOTE: A good Scotch Ale. I thought the bitter hops could have been toned downed along with the smokiness.

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Photo of atomicbeer
4.13/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

22 Oz draft at Chili's in DFW airport. Beautiful looking on arrival, full brown mahogany with a yummy looking foamy one inch tan cap. First sip very nice: good roasty malt hit, some grassy hop, red fruit, and sherry notes. Mouth is silky smooth. This one slips down easily and hides it's 8.5 ABV, although there is a definite alcohol presence. Usually I'm not a fan of scotch ales due to phenolic taste but this one is excellent!

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Photo of Dinglehacker
3.32/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured into chalice. Deep dark color. Foamy head that dissipates, leaving just a smidge of lace.

Smells of malt, with some light roast.

Tastes roasty, alcohol bite. Interesting balance between heavy and watery.

Mouth is big.

An unremarkable, but enjoyable wee heavy. Fans of the style should try, and will probably enjoy. Just not super distinct.

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Photo of nizzle8287
5/5  rDev +29.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured at about 45F into a pint glass. Nice 3 finger head; dark brown body, but when held up to the light, it's clearly filtered and it shines a brilliant crimson color which enlightens me. Caramel on the nose, coffee, cocoa, almost sweet but not quite, a trace of a ripe dark fruit dimension to it... blackberries maybe? Wow. This is so deliciously smooth. Caramel right away with coffee following. I'm trying not to drink it all before it warms up and I'm failing miserably. Luckily I set out the last bottle I had when I opened this one. I wait a few minutes then pour it up, at about 52F now. Bigger frothier head than before, and it sticks around a good while. Some lacing, but not a lot. Nose is the same. Noticeably bigger mouth feel, though, with moderate carbonation, and it's slick and silky feeling that goes down smooth... Tasting notes are caramel, molasses, a hint of coffee, a bit of toast, considerable Warrior hop bitterness, and just a nice bittersweet moment for a while after that. Overall I love this very well crafted beer and it's highly under rated.

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Photo of Premo88
3.91/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz. bottle poured into small snifter
(Jan. 29, 2015 born-on date)

L: black with no light but dark brown with amber/dark orange highlights up to light; pushed up a small beige head of foam, not but 1/4- to 1/3-inch tall, not much to stick so no sticking; CLEAR ... as the glass empties, it's crystal clear ... very pretty dark-amber color, and an occasional bit of lacing

S: malt and more malt ... dark roasted barley, some coffee, some dark grapes/raisins ... very dense smell, like there's a chunk of malt in there ... sweet hints peek through ... now a bit of oak and maybe some vanilla -- there's a lot here, including now grain, sour grain ... and can caramel lack sugar? if so, there's an unsweetened caramel smell now

T: very wood/earthy-flavor to start, almost salty, then all that dark-roasted malt kicks in following the aroma notes ... coffee, unsweetened raisin bread (?) ... man, the understated sweetness is very unexpected but it's working -- the swallow starts off with a woody/salty taste then ever so slowly allows some sweetness to chime in as the aftertaste progresses. might be some peatiness ... wood-earth notes here are hard for me to describe, but the bottom line is the nose is sweeter than the taste; the wood is NOT burnt like in an American brown/porter/stout but literally just like wood smells

F: weighty, full but good carbonation to lighten it a little, and it isn't slick ...

O: dang good beer, at times feels like an American stout, but the wood notes and almost peat-like notes give it a Scotch-ale feel ... the aftertaste is as good as the taste; also feels a bit like a winter warmer, but that's not so bad -- it's keeping in the UK ale family, right? it's both sweet and noticeably not sweet at the same time ... interesting brew.

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Photo of pnelting
3.91/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Dark almost black with tan/off white head.
S: Sweet malt and caramel.
T: Follows the nose. Sweet and smooth. Caramel notes, maybe some brown sugar or vanilla. Little bit of earthiness in the finish.
M: Full bodied and sticky.
O: Nice Scotch Ale, maybe a little on the sweet side but would have again for sure.

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Photo of msromberg
4.14/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Diego's, Westlake. Very nice Scottish ale. I generally find Rahr products to have more bitter hop flavor than I like. The hops in this one are very nicely balanced by the heavy malt flavors.

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Photo of Anaxagoris
4.21/5  rDev +9.1%

Awesome scotch ale. Pours a very deep amber with little to no head and very little lacing as you drink it. The aroma is that of sarsparilla or a root beer smell, followed by an definite caramel aroma and just a hint of vanilla. The taste is very similar to the aroma, it starts off like a childhood memory, a simple glass of root beer on a summer night. Then it quickly transitions into a caramel creaminess again with the hint of vanilla. The mouthfeel, although a seemingly medium bodied beer, is quite full. With the powerful bubbles lingering on the tongue for quite awhile. This is a great example of scotch ale. Many thanks to @kjkinsey

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Photo of mattcrill
3.51/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Aroma: Moderate burnt candied sugar notes up front. Low fruity esters of plum and raisin persist. Esters become more prominent as the beer warms with dark cherry notes and fig. No hop aroma. Clean fermentation character.

Appearance: Deep brick red pour with a low off white head. Moderate head retention. Appears still in the glass.

Flavor: Dark bready malt character up front. Firm earthy bitterness provides the counterpoint. Low peppery alcohol fusels help add to the sensation of dryness. Balance is nearly even with the dark bread malts, peppery fusels, and earthy hop bitterness forming a well-knit profile. Finish is clean and dry. Aftertaste lingers faintly of the peppery fusels.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with high carbonation. No alcohol heat.

Overall impression: A sipping Scotch Ale that is firmly bitter. I was surprised at the bitterness due to prior reviews I read. Maybe I had a fresh sample. I would decrease the carbonation and decrease the fusels to allow the rich malt character to shine. Enjoyable but probably needs some age on it.

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Photo of BroGL
4.75/5  rDev +23.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I am far from a connoisseur, but I have tried perhaps 3 dozen different craft beers. This one remains my favorite. It taste great, it looks great, it feels great, and it smells great. It has a kick, but the alcohol is nicely masked. It's dark, sweet, and smooth. I keep thinking I will find a beer I like better, but it eludes me. The only reason I am not giving it a perfect score is that I'm sure there is a better beer out there that is better suited to its style. When I find it, it will get the 5. Until then, this is my personal favorite. It may not be for everyone, but it hits me perfectly.

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Photo of Atlas1
3.53/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I have this on tap right now in my kegerator. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it's exceeded expectation.

Pours a nice, very dark brown color with a full bodied head. Really nice lace. Lots of mahogany when held up to the light. A really pretty beer. The nose is strong and malty sweet. Lots of dark fruit, with some apple and pear as well. Herbal, but not overly so. The taste is also strong with malty sweetness. Heavy on the fruit and herb side. Not much hoppiness to speak of, which is fine, considering the style. Still, it's not as dense as I'd expected, but it is strong and sweet. It grows on you over time. Mouthfeel is firm.

In my humble opinion, this is not the best example of a Scottish style ale. That said, it's a fine beer. It really does grow on you over time. The sweetness of the beer, which seemed over-powering at first, begins to subside and mellow out after a few sips and/or pints. It's not for everyone, of course, but it's not a bad beer. If you want a better (albeit stronger) example of the style, try Old Chub. But if you want a nice, easy-sipping Scottish style beer and you don't mind some sweetness, give this a go. Cheers.

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Photo of mjurney
4.15/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep brown color with some ruby red highlight. I could see some bubble rising up from the side of the glass. Small spongy head.

Very rich, malty, deep caramel, roasted malts, brown sugar, dark fruit.

Rich and malty, brown sugar, deep caramel, roasted malts, dark chocolate. Mild hop bitterness towards the end, mainly earthy-leafy. Finish is dry, a little smoky. Body is full, smooth, dry, easy drinking.

It's an excellent Scotch Ale.

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Photo of facundoCNB
3.19/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

A deep brownish red .. Looks black under low light. Finger of head which dissipated immediately. Smells of malt, copper/oxidation.. Slight toasted grains/chocolate notes.
The taste is much better.. Charred bitter flavor up front, heavy dark malts/roasted grains,
Medium in body, medium carbonation.
This beer's alright. It was a throw in, so I can't complain bit it doesn't make sense how this has a higher rating than banhof's Berliner weisse per say. I know it's different styles, but for a wee heavy this is pretty damn bland.. And that other beer is sour and salty as shit and has a lower rating.. Mind control.. Think of just this beer on its own. Still, a meh example on the style.

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Photo of kennymule
3.48/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours as dark as night and the head quickly dissipates, however a gentle swirl of the glass brings the head back to life due to the abundant carbonation.

S: I pick up some licorice, raisin, caramel notes.

T: Nice burst of malt, matches the nose for sure, followed by good bit of hops and dry burnt cocoa finish.

M: Great mouth feel, not heavy at all. Nice carbonation to balance the sweetness and accentuate the hops.

O: A really nice beer and at 8.5% abv it's easy to drink, so be warned, this is not a session beer. Good job guys, even if you are from Dallas. Go Rockets.
Serving type: bottle

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Photo of decoy727272
4.99/5  rDev +29.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours with a very dark brown color, almost black. It has a little clarity, but hardly noticeable unless you hold it up to a light. It smells malty and chocolatey, but is light to the nose. I enjoyed the lightness to this beer. It has aromas of a stout, but is a smooth more drinkable beer. I enjoyed this beer a lot, I can't wait for their next seasonal.

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Photo of LeeryLeprechaun
3.71/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Rahr Iron Thistle

Pours dark brown with a slight off white head. Head quickly comes back to life with a gentle swirl of the beer. The beer is dark and mystic, deep in color.

Aroma is sweet and malty, a lot of caramel in the aroma.Some molasses like aromas.

Very sweet and rich, almost but not quite cloying. Burnt toast at the finish.

Mouthfeel is rich and full.

Really enjoyable beer, I like how smooth and rich it is. A great representation of the style in my opinion.

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Photo of Can_has_beer
3.46/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours very dark brown, almost black with an off-white head

S- The smell was very unique, peaty & earthy but not in a pleasant way. I was almost wondering if the bar did not clean the lines recently, but of course I have no way of knowing.

T- Tasted like a cross between a wee heavy and porter. It was decent, but nothing memorable

M- The mouthfeel was very true to style, being sticky and medium-bodied.

O- Decent. I need to try this again, except not on tap. I'm thinking it may be better from a bottle.

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Photo of MattSweatshirt
3.88/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Down the middle pour brings a light tanned head and a dark body with plenty of ruby coming forth when held up to the light.

Big malty nose of sweet chocolate, light smoke, roast, and cherry.

Plenty of carbonation on this for the first few minutes. Roast and chocolate lead with underlying smoke.

Really enjoy the chocolate malt going on. Great Scotch Ale.

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Photo of Pegasus
4/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Massive, dense tan head with excellent persistence crowns a nearly opaque amber body.An abundance of Belgian-like lacing adorns the glass wall.

Aroma: Dark, mildly peaty and smoky malt notes utterly dominate the aroma, although there is an abundance of caramel as well.

Taste: Opens with a wave of dark caramel, and and earthy peat flavor. As the taste progresses, wood and smoke flavors appear. Late in the taste, there is bitter cocoa as well, and a bit of coffee. Finishes with moderate, lingering burnt caramel, and peaty earthiness.

Mouth feel: Smooth, rich, very full and pleasant, with just a hint of carbonation.

Drinkability/notes: Seems a bit off-style, the grains seem over-toasted.

Presentation: Packaged in a standard twelve-ounce brown glass long neck bottle with a pry-off crown, served in a New Belgium Brewing chalice.

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Photo of a0lbudman
4.24/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A-Dark color with a reddish tint with a tan head that fade fast
S-Roast Aurora and a sweet malt smell and SME hops present
T- malt sweetness with a hop bitterness in the aftertaste that is supported by a good roastes malt flavor
M- medium body with medium carbonation
O-Great beer I see why it won a medal at the GABF

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Photo of pasdachuri
3.02/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Had this on-tap during a June 15, 2013 brewery tour.

Pours a darker brown with a thick creamy head.

Smells malty with a slight smokey undertone.

Taste follows the nose with sweet malt, slight bitterness and a smokey after taste.

This was not as heavy as I expected given its appearance and style.

Overall a decent brew but not my favorite selection from Rahr.

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Photo of mactrail
3.74/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Very dark brown in the Duvel tulip, with a modest head. Decently spritzy on the tongue. Substantial mouthfeel. Sweet beginning and a long, moderately bitter aftertaste.

Malty and fairly rich. Just a touch of smokiness and a little butterscotch. On the dry side, almost like a Belgian beer, after the malty start. Dark roasted malt with some charred grain and burnt sugar. Slightly woody with a hint of grape leaf tannins. Quite tasty overall. I like the restrained sweetness. From the 12 oz bottle purchased at Texas Wine in Fredericksburg.

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Photo of sweemzander
3.62/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

My third beer in the local flight at the Common Table, TX. Reviewed from notes via tap pour.

(A)- Pours a darker burnt sienna color. Some tan froth formed. Minimal lacing.

(S)- A deep toasted caramel and raisin aroma. Kind of dry, but sweet at the same time.

(T)- I like the light roasted/toasted aspect of this with a classic raisin and underlying caramel malt sweetness. Ever so sherry-like on the finish as hints of red to dark fruits start to show up as it warms.

(M)- A good carbonation level and balance to it. Fairly sweet throughout with good complexities. Very minimal bitterness.

(O)- A solid scotch ale for sure without being too overly sweet or cloying.

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Iron Thistle from Rahr & Sons Brewing Company
3.86 out of 5 based on 287 ratings.
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