I’ve no idea how many new brewery launches I’ve been to over the years – it sure seems a lot. Irrespective of the beermaker who is breaking cover, and the style or number of beers that they are opening their account with, these events always have a certain amount of common ground. Chief amongst them is the underlying backdrop of mild concern as the brewer or brewers anxiously wait for the first beer to be poured, or the first feedback given. I can only imagine what that feels like, as the product of months or likely years of work behind the scenes finally see the light of day. But this week, I experienced at least a little more of what that might be like, with the launch of the latest Edinburgh brewery, Valve Brewing Co.
The main reason for this is that the man behind the brewery is Paul Marshall, otherwise known as BeerCast Paul – one of my closest and oldest friends. I like to think I’ve become friends with a few guys over the years who own breweries, but this is very definitely the first time it has happened the other way around. I’ve known Paul for over twenty years, and have shared an interest in beer for pretty much the exact same timespan, ever since the days of £1.20 pints of McEwan’s 70/- at University (bought at the main student bar as neither of us dared venture into the smoke-filled ‘real ale’ bar our student union had).
Anyway, I’ve known for years that he wanted to start a brewery – we shared a flat and a lot of bottles of homebrew for some time. Maybe that’s why I can empathise slightly with how he must have felt as the first three of his beers poured at the Stockbridge Tap last night – but even then, only just. Actually, when I asked him he replied that it was all slightly surreal, as though he could see his pump clips there, and read his brewery name on the board, but couldn’t fully reconcile what he was seeing with the fact that he had finally launched his brewery. I doubt he’s the first brewer to have this reaction, either.
Valve Brewing Co are just one of a small flurry of new producers opening in Edinburgh at the moment – the scene here has quietened a little since 2012 when the last cluster of local breweries arrived – but it’s still getting ever larger. Based in the south of the city, Paul brews in his converted garage and uses the twin influences of traditional English styles and ingredients (he’s from Yorkshire, but none of us are perfect) with the heavy-hitting US hops. Having also lived in California, styles of the West Coast have also underpinned much of what he plans to release – as evidenced by the first three Valve beers out of the gate.
Matchbox, for instance, is a classic blonde ale hopped with Summit and Summer and is enormously easy to drink, whereas Number 23 IPA takes its name from the homebrew batch that was the progenitor for his US-hopped India Pale Ale (and I can’t tell you what it tasted like as the entire cornie keg had gone before I’d finished the other two – which I guess tells you something). Finally, there’s the 3.8% Garden Hop Bitter – a fairly unique Edinburgh beer as it was single-hopped with Target that were grown and harvested from Paul’s back garden. You can’t get more local than that. Look out for others to arrive soon, as he works his brewing schedule around his day job.
It’s always great to meet new brewers, and find out about how they got to that nerve-wracking tipping point of no return as the brewery name is chalked up on a board for the first time – or as likely these days, added to RateBeer and UnTappd – but it’s even better to know those brewers first and share it with them. I don’t use the j-word lightly (or ever, usually), but for this particular brewery launch, it has been great to share a little in that journey. You can keep up with how the city’s newest brewery are doing via the links below, and thanks to the team at the Stockbridge Tap for another great – if slightly surreal – night.