From classroom to brewhouse…

(left to right) Damon Scott, Steven Kersley, Kevin Emms and Colin Lymer

It may not be the most obvious career path for a beer blogger*, but in my distant and murky past lies a Masters Degree in Marine Biology. For my final year project, I was tasked with evaluating pollution recovery in the Humber Estuary. Now, when people hear the words ‘Marine Biologist’, their minds – or the minds of girls at parties, as I was hoping – turn to things like coral reefs, turtles and whales. They don’t tend to think about knee-deep black mud, driving rain and endless worm-counting. Or if they did, they would quickly move on to a suave IT graduate in flash clothes that didn’t smell of bitumen and formalin.

I mention this – not because I discovered that macrofaunal polychaetes have a propensity to avoid oil-fouled sediments – but because this coming week a much more interesting and worthy MSc project is coming to fruition. Here in Edinburgh we have, at Heriott-Watt University, one of the foremost centres for brewing research in Europe – the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD). This year, four students at the Centre are designing, brewing and launching their own beer, entirely from scratch – and the debut of their labours is to be revealed this Thursday (21st), at the Guildford Arms.

The four students have each taken charge of a different side of the business – brewing (Damon), sales and marketing (Steven), brand design (Colin) and project manager (Kevin). Cue plenty of Apprentice jokes about Kevin getting fired if things go wrong, no doubt. Not that they will, of course – the whole exercise is being overseen by Steve Stewart of Stewart Brewing, the beer having been produced at their Loanhead facility under supervision of Stewart head brewer Iain. It must be a fantastic learning experience for all concerned, and as such a great first step into the wider brewing world.

The ICBD has some extremely learned graduates – alongside Steve such notables as Alastair Hook (Meantime), Rob Theakston (Black Sheep), Martin Dickie (BrewDog), and Stewart Howe (Sharp’s) have all sharpened their spigots out at Riccarton. And that’s just the brewing half of the course – whisky buffs can no doubt list their own who’s who of distillers to match. This is the first year that a group of current postgrads have come together to produce, market and distribute their own beer as part of the course – and it’s a fantastic idea.

The beer that the guys have come up with is a 6.5% American-style red ale called Finch. Hopped and then dry-hopped with Amarillo, the name reflects the link between Edinburgh and another of the city’s famous students – Charles Darwin. Their company name does as well – Natural Selection Brewing (suggested second beer…Beagle Brown Ale). It sounds fantastic, and thanks to wonderful artwork from artist Claire Odecki, it looks the part as well. Available in cask and bottle – of which 15 and 3000 have been produced, respectively – we wish the lads all the best.



Finch will be launched at the Guildford Arms at 8pm on Thursday the 21st of July. We’ll be there of course, and will post our review and thoughts of the night on Friday. In the meantime, keep up with Natural Brewing Co announcements on their blog, or via their Twitter feed. Robbie over at I’d Rather Have a Glass of Beer interviewed Steven from NBCo last month, you can read that post here.



* Which apparently isn’t a valid a career anyway

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