Brewers have to be amongst the best multi-taskers in any industry – they regularly deal with formulating new recipes whilst continually producing core beers, and then shifting everything on to free up space for the next batches. Stewart Brewing have been frantically keeping the plates spinning out at their Loanhead base for some time, waiting for the much-needed new facility. Moving round the corner into larger premises will really free them up to do more things – and yet, despite being pushed to the limit, they have recently managed to find the time to launch two brand new beers.
The first of these arrived last week, at an event hosted by the Abbotsford on Rose Street. Zymic is a cask 3.5% golden mild, following in the footsteps of Light Edinburgh Draught as their summer quaffer which also fits with CAMRA’s Mild in May ethos (whether by design, or co-incidentally). The name refers to the product of fermentation, and the beer was hopped equally with Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo. Despite the typical grey, cold Edinburgh weather, a decent turnout headed down to the launch.
The other brand new beer is considerably different. Radical Road is the first triple hopped beer Stewart have produced. A labour of love for head brewer Iain Couper, the IPA had hop additions in the kettle, fermentation tank, and then during conditioning – mostly with a new Polish variety called Junga. Ending up at 6.4%, it was debuted in keg and bottle at the Red Squirrel on Lothian Road. Over a hundred people had registered for the event, and as such it was also well attended.
I think both of these beers can be seen as something of a statement of intent by Stewart. On the one hand, they have continued to cover the session cask market in Edinburgh, and chip away at the incumbent Caledonian. Zymic is another in this lineup, and once the two weeks of summer arrive, I imagine this will be pushed out to more pubs to sit alongside Edinburgh Gold and Hollyrood. The IPA, on the other hand, is laying down a different kind of mantle. As a one-off brew (although it may inspire others of a similar style), and not released on cask, I wonder if it’s almost a beery ‘loss leader’ for Stewart.
Having seen plenty of bloggers offered a free bottle of Radical Road (as were we, also), a very clever PR blitz could pay dividends in the future. It’s a term I hate, but us ‘beer geeks’ love a mega-hopped IPA, so attracting attention online by rolling out a punchy India Pale Ale and putting it in the right hands* is the perfect thing to do. Coupled with a new cask quaffer for the more universal beer drinking market, and they could be onto a winner.
Of course, if you’re going to go down that line, the products need to speak for you. Zymic is supremely sessionable, with a touch more citrus than their entry-level Pentland IPA. On first taste I found it gently oily, with orange rind on the flavour – but a second pint a week later was more muted, with more of that Stewart biscuity malt edge. Designed to be drunk outdoors in the sunshine (should such a thing occur at any point in Edinburgh), I can imagine many pints of this being sold.
As to the Radical Road, it’s a belter. This one really is orangey, with sweet floral honeysuckle stickiness and a proper citrus finish. I knew Iain was happy with it, but it’s far and away the best keg beer they have produced. Pitched perfectly for the hopheads – it has a great balance, as you can’t just throw hops in things and expect it to work. When the bloggers get their bottles, I expect a lot of positive reviews – not to mention pressure to make this more than just a one-off.
I was asked on Twitter if it’s the best beer Stewart have ever produced. It’s a cracker – and is definitely up there – maybe you could argue that the Black IPA and Coconut Porter shade it, and the second version of the Dopplebock was also outstanding. I was going to make a pun about RR marking a Radical departure from Stewart’s regular Road – but thinking about those relatively recent dark beers, they are on that path already. Once it leads to a new brewery, expect much more.
*If you assume beer bloggers are influential in any way, that is