Over the last few years Scotland has developed a thriving microbrewing scene, as more and more brave souls take the plunge into something greater than homebrew. Back in 2008 Stuart McLuckie first offered up his wares to the public, from a small plant in deepest Fife. Luckie Ales may be relatively new on the scene but already have an interesting range of beers on offer. Aside from an 80/-, a mild and an amber ale Stuart also puts out a range of historical ales, such as the 8.1% Edinburgh 68/-, last brewed in 1885 by Usher’s at the Park Brewery on St Leonard’s Street.
Stuart originally brewed on an industrial estate in Dunshalt, but when a more favourable unit with a one barrel plant opened up near Cupar he switched locations. Historical recipes are obviously something of a passion for him, as also in the Luckie Ales range is Amsinck East India Pale Ale (6.4%). Championed in the mid-19th Century by the Victorian brewer and writer George Stewart Amsinck, it clocks in at 180 IBU’s. Other rare occasionals include a 6.7% Export Stout based on a Younger’s recipe from 1897, and a Russian Imperial Stout from the old Barclay Perkins Brewery in Southwark.
It’s great to see a small-scale producer opening their account with some truly classic recipes. With the capacity available they can be very hard to get hold of, but having had a few of them the Edinburgh 68/- is outstanding – a fruity, woody, toffee-filled gem. The Amsinck EIPA was a different matter, furiously carbonated and astonishingly bitter – a real blow-the-cheeks-out bomb. These experiments work more often than not, however, so when a shipment of brand new Luckie beers arrived at Cornelius on Easter Road – including a brown stout that consisted of only twelve bottles – it was a foot-race to pick some up.
The first new offering is a 4.5% Best Bitter. Being of humble Lancashire stock the most Northern of styles usually brings a nostalgic tear to my eye. This one brought even more, as it exploded on opening, erupting pretty much in every direction. After stemming the flow, I was left with an opaque beige liquid with a thin head – but my goodness. A gentle malty palate, with a touch of caramel sweetness. Toffee and brown sugar on the finish – it was sweet but not overly so, had that balanced BB mouthfeel, with a yeasty note that carried the smoothness on into the finish. Really very, very nice indeed.
The other beer is the aforementioned twelve bottle run – Luckie Brown Stout (7.6%). The total opposite of the bitter, opened nervously at arms length it produced not even a whisp of pressure. Utterly black and viscous, almost totally flat it gave off huge roasty coffee aromas. Dark, roasted coffee beans came on the taste at first, before mellowing though a slightly creamy middle. The finish is more roast, with a slightly oaky/boozy end. As it goes on, more alcohol becomes evident – there’s a really great malt balance running through the stout.
I emailed Stuart not long after he started, having got hold of a pilsner he released (and which I’ve not seen since). One of the things I asked was why he had a midge on the label of his beers – which I think offended him as he replied that it was a hand-drawn dragonfly. Hopefully that’s water under the bridge, as if he carries on brewing beers like this we’ll be featuring Luckie Ales again and again on the BeerCast…