Battle of the Brewers

Posted by on Jul 28, 2011 in Scottish Beer | 5 Comments

As a phrase, ‘Battle of the Brewers’ conjures images of notable beer producers charging around the course of Total Wipeout, while beer bloggers aim jets of Pale Ale at them, and poke them with mashing forks. Whilst that would liven up any Saturday night schedule, in reality any conflict between brewers usually takes place in more relaxed surroundings (insert topical joke about Sam Smiths/Cropton here). A Brew-off is a great way for people to sample beer – a blind tasting of each product, with a free vote on which was nicer.

Last night at the Queen’s Arms, Stewart Brewing hosted such an event, having challenged their good friends Williams Brothers Brewing. The rules – each were to formulate a 5% cask summer ale, and both would go on sale alongside each other. The winner would receive nothing but kudos – and the chance for a spot of banter, no doubt. All proceeds were to be donated to Maggie’s Cancer Centre. Throw in a few raffle prizes, and the whole thing turns into a great idea – and no Richard Hammond in sight, either.

The beers – branded X and Y – were served at the same time, and both poured a very similar golden colour. Having had more than my fair share of beers from each of the participants, I (and this is not meant boastfully) picked which was which after a single sip – as did the others sat around our table. X had a certain crispness to it, whereas Y had an almost caramel sweetness, that built into the aftertaste. The hops were there in both, but the yeasty edge of Y made it harder going – and less summery – than the bitter crispness of X.

After casting our votes – and winning a prize in the raffle (which we didn’t allow ourselves to be influenced by, obviously), there was a show of hands as to who in the pub thought were behind the beers. Most people seemed to follow our thinking, although there were plenty that had gone the other way – such is the beauty of a blind tasting. Beer X certainly had that characteristic Stewart Brewing hop profile – so I for one was extremely relieved when it was revealed that it was indeed from their brewery (BeerCast integrity intact for another few days, at least). Y reminded me instantly of Williams Bros Joker – which, as it turned out, was more than a co-incidence.

The overall voting reflected the thoughts of our table – when the slips of paper were counted, Beer X wound out a comfortable winner – 77 votes to 49. It was certainly more summery, and as the weather was unseasonably warm for an Edinburgh summer (i.e. actually warm), it went down a treat. Stewart took the win then, and are apparently looking for another brewer to challenge (Westvleteren?). The best news of all was that around £1,000 was raised for Maggies, which was fantastic. Cheers to Steve Stewart, Bruce Williams, and their respective teams for the hard work that went into the Battle. If they fancy a shot on the Total Wipeout course, I can always email the BBC…

Stewart Brewing’s Summer Ale should appear in a few Edinburgh pubs over the next few weeks – and if you’re reading this at the end of July, both beers are still on at the Queen’s Arms…


  1. Paul
    July 28, 2011

    Have to say, I enjoyed The Williams beer. I tend to go for beers that have either a Caramel, Toffee, or Roast flavour. And this had lovely caramel!

  2. Benjii
    July 28, 2011

    Fair enough but I think the better beer won. I absolutely agree that the Stewart’s Beer (X) had similar hops to previous beers, i.e. Festival Ale. The Williams (Y) was also very nice but I found the sweetness a little cloying after a while. I think the hot weather definitely played a factor though, it was unseasonably warm! Great night and thanks for the shirt!

  3. Richard
    July 29, 2011

    A little background to our raffle win – we noticed after the first draw that we’d been given both halves of one of our tickets – number 94 – by mistake. So there was no way that one was going to come out! Benjii’s partner Sevare went up to the desk and got the Stewart guys to put the ticket back into the pot – and (you probably know where this is going) number 94 was promptly drawn out at the next raffle. So we had to give Benj+Sev something, the tshirt seemed the most obvious as red is much more your colour mate… 🙂

    Paul – Williams Y really was a sweet caramel-filled beer, and no mistake. It might not have fit with the theme of summer, but if it was your thing then good on you – it reminded me a bit of a US Imperial IPA, except without the hops – plenty of rich, caramel sweetness, only not as much hop bite. As Benjii said, they were both good beers however.

  4. Bitterman
    July 31, 2011

    Mmmmm, caramel….

  5. Richard
    July 31, 2011

    The other c-word!

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