Out the way, Deuchars!
Whatever your industry, focus groups are a great way to find out what people think of your idea, whilst there’s still time to do something about it. Brewing is no stranger to this – after all, there’s little point in crafting a beer if nobody will want to drink it. One of the many new breweries currently springing up in Scotland are the Eden Brewery at St Andrews – and this week they held a focus meeting in Edinburgh, asking for feedback on their new beers.
We featured Eden back in June, following the release of their first two bottled beers – Clock Brew and the 19th Brew IPA. At the time, I wondered whether they had enough about them to interest beer lovers – but I also said that I should reserve judgement until I’d had them on cask. Over the intervening time, the market in Fife has really worked for them, and they are struggling to keep up with demand (proving, again, how inaccurate this blog can be).
At present, Eden are still contract-brewing at Williams Brothers in Alloa – but their shiny brewkit is residing forlornly in Maidstone, awaiting shipment up the M1. Chatting to founder Paul Miller, he estimates they will be up and running at the Guardbridge site within three weeks from now – which is great news. There’s a palpable sense of nervous excitement, as brewer Scott Gowans is currently planning their first trial brew to test the kit.
Paul had originally banked on a large 20bbl brew – which would have immediately elevated Eden to the scale of Cairngorm or Highland in terms of scope. However, to be initially more practical, this has been scaled back to 6bbl. Alongside this, Eden have ordered a significant amount of fermentation and conditioning kit instead, to allow more small-batch runs. Speaking to them, they certainly have lots of plans for the future, particularly working closely with the University of St Andrews.
The focus group concentrated on four of Eden’s fledgling cask ales – which included the two I’d tried before in the bottles. As I had expected, the beers had much more life to them – carbonation and conditioning really helping the flavours come out. The 19th Brew IPA has more citrus to it on cask than in the bottle – albeit still as a quaffable, session-strength IPA rather than something more hop-forward (of which, a beer is in the works, apparently).
The Clock Brew was the beer of the night for me, it has morphed from a balanced, slightly peppery number into a sweet, dark toffee ale, akin to an 80/-. There’s a great blend of malts there, everything sits very well together. As to the new lines, the Auld Seggie Porter is Scott’s first ‘me’ beer, and rocks up at 5.6% – although it’s hard to tell, there’s a deceptively low alcohol hum throughout, and lots of fruit.
The final beer we tried was Eden Harvest Reaper, a recreation of a historical recipe from over a hundred years ago. Still a work in progress, it was extremely vinous – it’s great to hear that the barley was sourced from a farm nearby in Cupar. Paul told me the grower sows fields to make his own whisky (legally, of course), and has been laying it down for many years now, without having sold any yet – which must take some balls. Eden have now signed up to take his surplus grain for their brewing.
We’ll hopefully be making the trip over the water to check out Eden’s brewery as soon as we’re able – many thanks to Paul and the team – and, of course, the St Vincent and Stockbridge Tap for hosting the focus group. Eden are absolutely on the right track, and with a number of promising projects in the wings, could be making a big name for themselves in the near future. You can follow their development on their website.