2012 is shaping up to be the year that contract brewing exploded in Scotland – we can barely keep up with the new producers appearing here at the moment. There are many reasons why contracting is becoming so popular, but one of the more important – according to the man behind one of those cuckoo breweries* – is that it ‘de-risks’ the startup, allowing an easier way into production.
Paul Fallen is about to get his hands on the first run of his debut beer – Fallen Brewing Co’s Blackhouse (a 5% peat-smoked porter, no less), brewed in conjunction with Traditional Scottish Ales in Throsk. Giving over your ideas to someone else – at such an early stage in your business – must take a certain amount of courage, but the advantages are there, for those who are willing.
“The hardest thing for a start-up brewer is getting your foot in the door” explains Paul. “TSA have agreed to run approximately one 5bbl brew a week for me – I could have gone with a larger brewlength, but until you start, you don’t know how it’ll do.” This is the Catch-22 facing small contract brewers – how much do you go for? End up with too little, and struggle to build the brand, or get too much, and not be able to shift it?
It seems like Fallen (brewery and man both) already have most of the important details in place. The recipes for the core beers are all ready to go, and the long-term plan is to open a bespoke facility in Stirlingshire – an area with a few breweries already, but enough space to feature more. Also, crucially, Paul has signed up with a distribution company to get his beer out there – which will help tremendously.
After the first beer – which is being packaged at the moment – the subsequent brew runs will round out the rest of his core range. A 4.1% blonde ale (Odyssey) will follow, together with a 4.6% amber (Dragonfly) and a 5.4% kiwi-hopped pale ale (Grapevine – surely crying out for Nelson Sauvin). Keen to be as broad a church as possible, from the start Fallen Brewing Co will release their beer in cask, keg and bottle.
Following that, and down the line once his own brewery is on-line, a monthly special has been promised. “Freedom is the most exciting thing,” Paul continues “The specials will appear when the new brewery does, but they’ll be whatever my imagination can come up with.” So, it looks like Fallen are starting in the right way – build the core lineup, then unleash the creativity when the time is right.
Blackhouse smoked porter should be appearing in pubs very soon, so keep an eye out for Fallen Brewing Co beer – and, of course, we’ll be covering any official launch in the near future.
* Cuckoo Brewing has to be one of the most unsuitable terms in the industry. It implies some kind of malicious intent on the part of the newcomer. We’ve yet to hear of someone draining away their host’s beer and replacing it, leaving them unawares…