It’s been around a month since Alechemy Brewing flicked the switch on their shiny debut brewplant in Livingston, and began producing beer for the people of West Lothian. In those few short weeks, they have concentrated on two core beers – Cairnpapple IPA and Five Sisters, yet things are now beginning to move even more rapidly for James Davies and his team. On Wednesday, before heading off on a 25-cask delivery run to the North-East of England, they launched their third beer at the Stockbridge Tap, in a mini takeover.
We headed down to sample them all – having had to cancel a brewday with James this week, we were keen to try the beer – and also chat to James about his philosophy and anything in the pipeline for the immediate future. With so many new producers on the Edinburgh scene, James is pitching up at exactly the right moment. For the time being, the West Lothian market is still reasonably small – so he has been mostly getting his beer up inside the bypass for us city drinkers.
First up on the tap takeover, the beer that constitutes the lion’s share of the packed transit for the journey to England. Cairnpapple IPA is 4.1% and named after a notable local hill, a site of habitation since Neolithic times. There may be something of the power of suggestion, but I got a lot of pineapple from Cairnpapple – alongside orange and other citrus. A lot more punchy and bitter than I was expecting, it’s really nice. Very fruity and finishes very dry.
Archie at the Stockbridge Tap had also got hold of a one-off dry hopped version of the Cairnpapple – this was more peachy and therefore dialled back the bitterness. It allowed the softer fruit flavours to come out more – between BeerCast Paul and myself, we were split – I preferred the original, he went for the dry-hopped version. We then moved onto Alechemey’s debut beer – Five Sisters (4.3%). Packed with Chinook, the piney edge to it works really well with the earthy bitter flavour, giving a rich caramel mocha flavour.
Then, the reason for the event – the launch of James’s new beer – Cockleroy Black IPA. Coming in at 4.8%, the latest in the long line of British black IPA’s is a nice beer – leathery, citrus hops and with a roasty finish, it’s more like a hoppy old ale. Slightly muddy – it leads to the eternal debate about black IPA’s, and whether they should fit to style or not (the BJCP seem to believe a true black IPA drunk blindfolded would not give you any clues about it’s colour).
Styles are all blurred now anyway – everyone’s brewing everything, to their own interpretations and specifications. James’s version had a brown tinge to it, and a noticeable portery aftertaste – but it’s down as a black IPA and that’s that. There’s a lot going on in the beer, but overall it comes out very well on the finish, as the hops have their say against the roasty flavours (and aroma – it really smells of coffee).
We’ll be keeping an eye on the next beers to move up towards the city from Livingston – James is keen to brew a proper lager sometime soon. As we reschedule our BeerCast brewday with Alechemy, we’ll hopefully be helping out on something exciting. To get to this level of brewing on a new kit, inside a month, shows tremendous promise.