Another week, another beer tasting at Appellation Wines on Dalry Road. Becoming something of a fixture for the BeerCast, not only do we get to drink some very good beer, but we also get to meet the producers and ask them questions, which is always good fun. The Stewart Brewery are no strangers to the BeerCast, since operations began in 2004 their distinctive pump clips are a regular sight across the real ale pubs of Edinburgh (they supply 250 pubs in total). In November 2009 they diversified, adding a range of bottled beers to their lineup. I tasted three of these when they first came out, but it was interesting to give them a second go at Appellation. Also on the menu was a BeerCast Exclusive – what Steve and Jo informed us was the first sampling pretty much anywhere of their latest beer – Stewart Dopplebock (7.0%). We began, however, with one of their all-time classics…
Edinburgh Gold (4.8%)
The 2007 SIBA Champion beer of Scotland in the premium bitter category, Edinburgh Gold sings fruity Tettnang hops from the first mouthful. On cask, it’s probably my favourite Stewart beer (although for me Copper Cascade runs it close). I’d not tried the bottled version before, but it compares very well to the cask, and is incredibly refreshing. Interestingly, Stewart decided to go for 330ml bottles rather than the standard 500ml – primarily to distance themselves from the competition, but also to appeal more to restaurants and bistros. I can certainly imagine pairing this with seafood, they would really complement each other.
At only 3.9%, Stewart’s most popular cask ale Pentland IPA isn’t really strong enough for bottling – shelf-life would be something of a problem. As such, Steve and the team have styled a stronger beer along the same lines, but with more Amarillo hops added to the Magnum base. Weighing it at around 30 IBU’s Hollyrood is dry and biscuity with a fantastic citrus fruit aroma. All of their new bottled range are slightly hazy due to the lack of filtration, clearly this adds something to the flavour.
I was wondering who thought of the clever name for Stewart’s amber ale – the play on words of Edinburgh is also an anagram of the beer style – but it turns out nobody did until a customer pointed the fact out to them. Embra has Chinook hops added to the Magnum, and gives off sweet, slightly caramelly notes. An evolution of Edinburgh Marathon Ale Embra was the one I was initially unsure about – but this bottle tasted much improved on the one back in December.
St Giles (5.0%)
Named after the historic kirk on the Royal Mile, St Giles gives off some dark, roasty malt aromas. Hopped with Cascade and Magnum it gets better as it warms – all of Stewart’s bottled beers are designed to be drunk cold from the fridge (hence the amenable 330ml sizes), but St Giles really comes into it’s own when it approaches room temperature. The chocolate flavours start to come out, and the strength of flavour improves. Steve acknowledges this is their most challenging beer, but it’s one of the best.
So after the four established bottled beers, came the new addition. The Dopplebock was brewed to be as faithful to the style as possible (albeit with slightly different spelling), so the fabled Reinheitsgebot purity laws were followed along the way. Tettnang and Saaz hops were added and the brew fermented at 12ºC. As a true doppelbock, these hops take a back seat to the dark, toasty maltiness that comes out on the nose and the palate. At the suggested cold serving temperature, a lot of the flavours are muddled, but once the beer warms the slight smokiness appears at the first taste, which gives way to the sweetness and warming alcohol. This one is extremely young, having been only bottled four days previously – and with a shelf life of two years will undoubtedly lose a lot of the ‘green’ flavours once it develops. Opinions at the tasting were mixed – as I guess they will always be for beers of 7% or higher – but the consensus was that this one is one to watch for the future.
Thanks to Steve and Jo Stewart for showing us the beers, and Ash at Appellation for hosting. We’ll be back for another tasting event, and will of course post our findings.