Three months ago, we interviewed Paul Fallen – the man behind Fallen Brewing Company – as his new start-up operation was about to receive their first contracted run of beer. Produced at the Traditional Scottish Ales facility in Throsk, the debut release was a 5% peat-smoked porter (Blackhouse) – an unusual launch style in a market usually tested by Pale and Golden Ales. As it happens, these two types of beer were next on Paul’s list (together with an amber ale, which is hitting the bottle shops as we speak).
Tasting the first beers from a new brewery who contracts to somebody else is always a tricky prospect for the reviewer. Brewers are, by their nature, perfectionists – the good ones, at least – and are rarely completely satisfied with the first results. But, as they attempt to build a brand, the casks/bottles have to be released into the market. It must be agonising, knowing that drinkers’ first impressions can be vital as to whether they will then return for a second pint, or buy some more bottles on their next shopping trip.
Blackhouse – ‘crafted using a blend of old and new, dark and light’ is, as you’d expect, the colour of a cloudless night in the Western Isles. The aroma is pretty much all phenolic peat, as the smoked malt comes out above everything else. It’s not intense though, and neither is the flavour – the peaty edge leads into a liquorice aftertaste, which combine to form an earthy, liquorice root flavour. It’s good, and noticeably different to the other peat-smoked beer recently released in Scotland – Old Worthy Pale Ale (which, of course, is not a porter).
Grapevine is a 5.4% Pale Ale, intriguingly named in honour of the largest grapevine in the world (all 5,000 square feet of it), that apparently used to exist near Stirling. Brewed by TSA with Magnum, Motueka and New Zealand-grown Cascade, it’s an NZPA, and has a fair amount of orange citrus about it. There’s also a slight honeyish element, and an evident malt profile, that comes through and takes over the finish. Chatting to Paul, I know he was after more hops in the Grapevine, so expect future versions to have more of that Kiwi citrus.
The final beer we got to try was Odyssey, a 4.1% golden ale. Billed as ‘an ale for lager lovers or a lager for ale lovers’ these kind of ‘tweener beers can sometimes find themselves stuck somewhere in the middle. Going for the ‘ale for lager lovers’ angle, at cellar temperature Odyssey has some faint citrus from the Cascade, but the spicy Saaz is overwhelmed by biscuity malt. Lager drinkers might not appreciate it, but the dry and very bitter finish was rather nice.
The fourth Fallen Brewing Company beer – Dragonfly – should be in the shops at the moment. As with the others, it is contract-brewed at TSA – but Paul is hopeful of constructing a bespoke brewery in Stirlingshire as soon as possible. Clearly, taking full control of his recipes is extremely important. When he manages to become fully independent, look for several interesting projects to begin…