Edinburgh has a rich history when it comes to breweries – the golden age at the turn of the twentieth century supported well over thirty in the city. These days, that glorious (if ultimately untenable) number has reduced to a mere one – Slateford’s Caledonian. Their last major competitor, McEwans, was recently demolished for housing – although the old Fountain brewery had been a redundant shell for a long time.
On the other side of the bypass are Stewart Brewing, who are enjoying a purple patch as they seek to enlarge their premises in Loanhead. Apart from them, Bob Knops puts out his Edinburgh beers via TSA’s equipment in Stirling, and Innis & Gunn do the same via the Wellpark in Glasgow. But there’s certainly room for other brewers to enter the local market – Edinburgh drinkers are notoriously thirsty, particularly as we’re approaching Spring and then our two weeks of Summer.
Well, buckle up Edinburgh beer fans – there are now four new players on the scene. If proof were needed that British brewing is in a healthy place, this is yet another example. We’ll be running full features on each of the new producers when we can get a chance to visit them (as only two are currently in action). Until then, here are the names to bear in mind with regard to new beer in the Lothians this year…
If you looked up ‘work in progress’ in a brewer’s dictionary, it would currently show a picture of Alechemy Brewing Ltd. At this very moment, their brewery is being welded together in a prefab unit on the Brucefield Industrial Park in Livingston. Founder James Davies moved up to West Lothian from Nottingham, with designs on opening a production brewery in an area with little beery presence. Over last weekend, the conditioning tanks arrived, and at the time of writing the rest of the kit is en route or being plumbed in.
James is keen to get his beers on the market as soon as possible, with Alechemy concentrating on the cask market. Edinburgh should see a lot of their beer very quickly, with rumours of a launch event at one of the city pubs. Alongside the draught, James will also be putting out a smaller range of bottled beer on shorter runs – looking towards the bigger abv options and hoppier numbers. Clearly, if you’ve ever read more than a single post on the BeerCast, you’ll know that’s right up our street.
Keep checking their Facebook page as the rest of the gear goes in, and once the beer is flowing, we’ll be sure and try the beers when they arrive. James is obviously very enthusiastic, and wants to run an open, friendly brewery – so once they are on their feet, anyone in the Livingston area (or beyond) is welcome to head down and pay them a visit.
DemonBrew’s Dave Whyte isn’t exactly a new producer – his Summer Storm was well-received at last June’s Scottish Real Ale Festival, for example. But the size of the kit, lack of storage space available, and a certain amount of politics all mean his beers are very rare – and only now are beginning to appear in Edinburgh. Using the striking but archaic five barrel plant at the Prestoungrange Gothenburg (the ‘Goth’), Dave averages a brewday per week and has recently begun to set his sights wider.
The equipment is owned by Fowlers Ales, but not currently used by them – it had been operated as Prestonpans Ales, but the brewer Roddy Beveridge tragically passed away in 2010, aged only 43. Dave works independently from these two organisations, but sells his beer to the Goth – putting him in the unusual scenario of ‘cuckoo’ brewing in a brewpub with a ready market. However, speaking to him the other day he would clearly love to take the kit to a new location and go solo.
Dave’s passion is new world hops – specifically the Pacific Jade/Gem varieties from New Zealand. The Goth’s most famous beer (other than the discontinued Fowlers Wee Heavy) – Gothenburg Porter – is produced by Dave, but he clearly has his sights set on hoppier additions to the lineup. Having said that, he recently invited the Heriot-Watt Brewing Society along to produce their festival beer – a 6.6% stout. If he can get a wider distribution network in the city, look for his beers to really take off.
Of our four new producers, Eclipse Brewery have the longest road ahead of them – as they have no kit, and are just at the very initial stages. However, having spoken to co-founder Michael recently, they clearly have a strong idea of where they want to go. Having formed an LLP company, they are currently sourcing a bespoke brewery to be sited in Edinburgh (or more likely on the outskirts). Once in place, they are keen to get their beers on the market before the end of the year.
Michael’s background lies in Germany, and he told me he wants Eclipse to produce unusual beer that you can’t get anywhere else in Scotland – such as a recipe involving authentic Bamburg rauchmalt, for example. He’s extremely enthusiastic in his outlook, but well aware of all the huge hurdles they need to overcome before anyone can enjoy an Eclipse Rauchbier. Unlike our first two newcomers, they are going for the bottled beer market initially, rather than starting off casking their products.
Their blog will be fascinating to follow – having started from scratch following a number of years homebrewing, they have nothing concrete other than Michael’s recipes. However, once they get that concrete (and steel) in place, the real work will begin. Every frustrated blogger has thought about opening their own brewery – we’ll be following Eclipse closely to see how they get on.
For a business to succeed, one of the things needed is to find a gap in the market. Bob Phaff identified one – the lack of any decent beer in St Andrews. Other than a couple of decent pubs – and one very decent bottle shop – all those thirsty golfers, students and tourists have a disappointing set of options from which to choose. No longer, as the St Andrews Brewing Company have arrived to supply eastern Fife (and beyond, as Bob’s beers have already arrived in Edinburgh).
Currently working on a 4bl plant located in Glenrothes – which came online in late February – the eventual plan is to operate nearer to St Andrews itself, but having a central location probably works in his favour at the moment. With Yorkshireman Stuart Noble on board, they have already produced a core lineup of five beers – all in bottles at present. Ticking every box, their lineup includes an IPA, golden ale, and an oatmeal stout – each one with a distinctive label designed by local artist Susan McGill.
St Andrews Brewing have strong foundations – they are positioning themselves into a ready market, have their range of beers already formulated, and are already putting them into local bottle shops. As the word spreads, look for more beers to be added to the selection as Bob and Stuart build on their early momentum.