Tag Archives: BrewDog

A festival of BrewDog collaboration? Why times have changed…

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When BrewDog announced, back in September, that they were planning a festival of beers made in collaboration with eleven different British breweries, it raised more than a few eyebrows. After all, back in 2009 when 5am Saint launched, they declared on the label “The UK beer scene is sick. And we are the fucking doctor.”* Well, here we are, four years later, and it seems BrewDog are content to share their surgery with almost a dozen of their peers; or rather, their dispensaries, as the collaboration beers were made available in their network of bars across the country this past Saturday. So what has changed?

*Or the original did, anyway – it was eventually toned down to ‘the UK beer scene is sick. And we are the cure’

Several things – firstly, and most importantly, BrewDog’s reach has increased enormously over that time. From being two brassed-off guys in Aberdeenshire, they now have a fleet of branded bars, a colossal new brewery, and several years of releases under their belts. Calling in favours wasn’t something they could do a few years ago; they simply didn’t have the credit. Now, having made beers with the likes of Mikkeller, Stone, Lost Abbey and Evil Twin, other breweries are far more likely to respond to any suggestive email that emanates from Fraserburgh – particularly now the goading on the labels has been toned down somewhat.

And this is the second reason – when I was up in Fraserburgh last month I put the infamous ‘doctor’ quote to James Watt, and asked him if he still thought it was true. Predictably, but truthfully, he replied that he did not – things have changed so much over that time, and he thinks British beer is far from boring these days. Fair enough – presumably this is why there are more home-grown partnerships for BrewDog, and despite the early intransigence, you’re now more likely to see the products of their peers alongside 5am Saint in the BrewDog bars.

The final reason relates to the bars themselves. Over the past year or so, the content of BrewDog’s blog has changed – moving over from abv-wars and CAMRA-baiting, to articles about the people who work for BrewDog, the staff who are employed in the bars, and the brewery workers in Fraserburgh and Ellon. Is this a sign of the maturation of BrewDog? Or merely a recognition that they are now much more than two blokes and a labrador? Both, I think. BrewDog’s best asset, by far, are its people – and this is why the collaboration beer festival was a great idea.

Each of the teams responsible for a BrewDog bar had the chance to visit a nearby brewery and come up with a beer, which they assisted on during the brewday. The eventual results were synched into the bars, and all eleven put on for the public at once – along with a multi-hop special brewed with the eleven brewers themselves. Four of those breweries actually pre-date BrewDog (by my count, Lovibonds, Fyne Ales, Durham and Arbor [just]), it would be interesting to get their viewpoint on how their beers have changed to fit into the Aberdeenshire outfit’s idea of collaborative partners.

Anyway, so what were the beers like? Well, some fared better than others. BD Leeds/Hand Drawn Monkey’s effort tasted like flat ginger beer, and Shoreditch’s collab brew with Beavertown reminded me of soured soy sauce. Aberdeen/Cromarty’s Black Rocker was almost there, just needed a little more oomph, as did Nottingham/Buxton’s black pale ale, which was hugely resinous, but with surprisingly little backbone. Newcastle/Durham’s Raucus Rubus tasted great, but was dead flat.

There were some absolute belters, though don’t get me wrong – the beer made by BrewDog Birmingham and Lovibonds was fantastic. A 5% lemongrass, lime, ginger and cardamom wheat, it had a great balance of lemon and lime, with a background hum of the spices. They were just outside the top two, however, which (for me) consisted of a Marmalade on Toast beer made by the Edinburgh bar and Tempest – which really did taste exactly like bitter Seville orange marmalade – and a humdinger of an Imperial Brown Coconut IPA made by Arbor and BrewDog Bristol, which took me back to a childhood of paper-bottomed supermarket macaroons.

The interesting thing about it is that pretty much everyone I spoke to had a different favourite. But then, that’s beer, I guess. The other thing is what the staff at the Edinburgh bar got from their brewing experience. Of course, BrewDog aren’t the only company to do this – the Hanging Bat regularly sends its workers to Alechemy to learn more about the processes and pitfalls of brewing – but it’s commendable of BrewDog that they have also adopted this strategy. After all, their barstaff are the first point of contact for many of their customers, and anything that helps their passion for beer should be encouraged – and that is why BrewDog’s new attitude will pay off…

Dead Metaphor Launches 17/10

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Just a quick reminder – if you’d like to be amongst the first people to sample Dead Metaphor (and the first people in Scotland, certainly), it will be officially launched tomorrow night, Thursday 17th, at 7pm in BrewDog Edinburgh. Head down to the Cowgate and chat to me about the beer, the reasons behind it, and (hopefully) how well it’s tasting. Also on the bar, the usual house beers from BrewDog plus two very special guests chosen by me – the latest sour beer from one of the UK’s most exciting breweries, and the beer I think is the best IPA in Britain. Come along and say hello!

Ellon – a look around the new BrewDog brewery

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Following the brewday that Rob from Hopzine.com and myself had been on last weekend at the original Fraserburgh plant, we then travelled the thirty miles or so to Ellon, for a look around the new BrewDog brewery. It’s instantly, hugely different. Despite being in a dip in the road, the external tanks become visible pretty much once you’ve turned off the main road and passed the large Tescos. It officially opened on the 19th of January – one of BrewDog’s shareholders cut the ribbon – so has been online for only eight months. As such, everything roundabout still looks new, and in the process of bedding in. Around the back of the plant, a huge open-sided (for now) extension sits, indicating BrewDog are in no danger of resting on their laurels; as if that would ever happen…

Rob made an interesting point as we were shown inside the brewery: as you wander through the doors, you actually recognise the characters on the tanks. Since the brewery opened in January, so many photos of the painted shark and tiger have been reproduced on blogs and online media that seeing them first-hand gives you that niggle of familiarity you get sometimes at the back of the brain. Rob asked co-founder James Watt which one was supposed to be him – “Well, I like sharks,” he answered, with a grin. The final price tag for the facility we were standing in was over £7m, with over £2m of that coming from the Equity for Punks share scheme (the latest round of which hit a further £3m mark the week of our visit). With a lauter tun, whirpool, direct-feed grist, and jaunty undersea murals (painted by Fisher, from their Aberdeen bar), it really looks the business, and – as I may have mentioned – is absolutely massive.

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After strolling around, with James pointing out all of the features, I think there are clearly two things he is most proud of at Ellon. One is the centrifuge – which has to be one of the largest in the UK – allowing the beers to be bottled without filtration. That hasn’t been without problems; James admitting that early runs either left too much sediment in the beer, or even added oxygen at the same time. Now, though, they are all happy with how the centrifuge is working, and the resultant beer at time of release. The other point of pride at Ellon is pictured below; the bottling line. It was a huge investment, but has dramatically improved the output of their bottled beers, and introduced another level of technology to the facility. Built in Bedfordshire by Enterprise Tondelli, it can fire 15,000 though an hour, which my rudimentary desktop calculator reveals equates to 250 per minute. That, is a lot of Punk IPA.

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Speaking of Punk, James’s pained expression when the subject of the differing Punk IPA arises is clearly noticeable. Improving the consistency of their flagship is something BrewDog have clearly worked on, and been conscious of throughout. With the addition of the centrifuge, larger brewkit and the quality control introduced by the bottling line, James is confident that Punk is in a great place at the moment – and, more importantly, will stay there. Being a living product, all beer is variable, but a flagship exists to pull people in, and needs to be indefatigable. With that, he’s also understandably pleased to get production of their lagers back in-house. When the Fraserburgh plant was operating at full capacity, there was simply no tank-space to condition their 77 and Zeitgeist – but now, they have the room available again. Only a small fraction of BrewDog beer is now made elsewhere; an amount of Punk brewed at Thwaites for canning (presumably in case of emergency).

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Being a big proponent of canned beer, I had to ask if they would like to take this in-house too, and of course they really would – it comes down (as ever) to money, and space. With Equity for Punks raising substantial sums, the second of those two issues is also being addressed. The colossal new warehouse areas are set to be completed at the end of October. When ready, the offices will be moved in, allowing the freed-up space to be converted into a visitor centre, shop, viewing platform, pilot kit, and multi-tap growler station and bar. The scope in all this is huge. James himself isn’t sure how many people will make the trip to Ellon to drink or buy growlers, but it’s something he wants to do; and feels he needs to do. Being openly influenced by the US Craft breweries, why wouldn’t you want a multi-tap bar on-site, to run tours, hold events, and wind-down after your shift? Heck, it’s the first thing I’d put in the blueprints.*

*Idea: Equity for BeerCasters

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As we stood outside, craning necks up at the monstrous 400hl vessels, it really hit home just how big the Ellon brewery is, in terms of scale and future scope. Each one of these rocket-sized tanks could fit twenty batches of the brew we had just done up the road, at Fraserburgh. Twenty. Per tank. And more are on order. When you listen to James talking about the upcoming projects, that really isn’t surprising; the future beers and collaborations, the new markets for their products, the London brewing academy (which is still in the pipeline) and the network of upcoming BrewDog bars throughout the world. With Stockholm having just opened, and plans for Sao Paulo being announced the other week, he then reeled off a list of cities that they are interested in that would make Alan Whicker (RIP) blush. I wonder if the bars are now becoming the focus, rather than simple distribution. It could be.

You just can’t help but be impressed by all this. Yes, I still think the language used on the labels is ridiculous, but I can imagine this changing, before too long. BrewDog are progressing. Talking to James, he openly admits that they could have done some things differently, and that BrewDog, as well and Martin and himself, have changed dramatically over the last six years. Yes, he’s still irked about the GBBF’s rules and regulations, for example, but they are moving on from the CAMRA-bashing (which is now noticeably less evident than it used to be). I asked James about one of the more infamous quotes attributed to him – that ‘British beer is boring’ and he puffs out his cheeks. “Things have moved so fast since 2007, there’s so much going on at the moment,”. So, does he still think British beer is boring? “No, not at all!”

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BrewDog are all about identity. It’s what pulls their legions of fans in, and what makes them splash out money on the share offerings. It’s also what pushes some people away, of course. As BrewDog increase in size, and move on, this punk identity and ‘us against the world’ mentality sits a little oddly when they are currently expanding throughout all corners of that world. As such, one of the other, oft-mentioned, sticking points is that why would a counter-culture organisation sell their beer in supermarkets? I asked James this, as well. “It’s such a small percentage of our overall sales,” he shrugs. “It’s all about putting good beer in people’s hands. Showing them there’s an alternative.”

That’s an answer I’ve heard before, but didn’t really appreciate what it actually meant – until (earlier that day) we’d met Steve up in Fraseburgh. He’d tried his first ever BrewDog beer from Sainsbury’s after becoming bored of their four for £6 bottled ales, and seen the BrewDog beers aside them on the shelf. After liking them, he went to work at BrewDog’s Newcastle bar, and with his background of home-brewing, eventually moved to Scotland, and now brews at their HQ. You never used to hear of this kind of thing – it was all bravado and the attitude, as BrewDog positioned themselves in the market. But just as the abv-wars and stunts are decreasing, their blog is now populated with the stories of the people involved in making BrewDog what they are. They’re a business, of course they are, but as they move forward they now seem to be projecting this very different, and very welcome, identity.



Dead Metaphor will be launched officially at this year’s Indy Man Beer Con in Manchester, and subsequently in the home-town BrewDog bars of Rob and myself (i.e. Leeds and Edinburgh), before going on general sale in keg and bottle. Thanks to James and the team for the tour, and to Zarah for permission to use the middle photo of the beer tasting – it was Cocoa Psycho from the tank, and it was fantastic.

Dead Metaphor – a BrewDog brewday

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It’s been a while since the last BeerCast brewday; those semi-regular occasions when I have to get up earlier than normal, try to remember what actually happens when beer is made, and end up clambering in and out of slippery, steaming metal containers. Looking back, it was actually six months since our trip up to Black Isle, so it was long overdue for another day spent loitering in eyeshot of a hard-working brewer, wondering when the small green plastic spade would be handed over, those eyes suddenly sparkling at the thought someone else would be mashtun monkey for the day. So, anyway, around a month ago, an email arrived from James Watt of BrewDog, asking if I’d like to be part of a team of beer writers collaborating on a project with the Aberdeenshire outfit. Following Scottish beer, as I do, it seemed remiss of me that I’d never actually been up to see them, either at their original Fraserburgh home, or their recently-opened cathedral to craft in Ellon. So, I said yes, and last weekend found myself at the end of long journey, in ‘the broch’, where it all started.

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It seemed very fitting that making a beer revolving around words was going to take place in Fraserburgh. Although I try to cover everyone and everything that’s happening in the blossoming Scottish brewing scene (79 breweries and counting), I’ve written more about BrewDog than any other brewery; 40 posts, in total (Stewart Brewing are next, with 27). I guess we all know why: stunts, marketing, great beer, conjecture, gimmicks, arguments, taxidermy. In short – there’s never a dull moment when it comes to ‘the Scottish brewery’ (as I have seen them referred, Macbeth-like, on a beer website I – typically – can’t now find the link to). Words are one of BrewDog’s most important trades. The beer, the bluster, the bravado – it all contributes to column-inches. And that makes reputations, builds brands, attracts shareholders, engages (or infuriates) consumers. It all adds up. And on that Saturday morning, it added up to me standing in the surprisingly small original brewery, looking at the sacks of malt for our brew, knocking back a coffee and blearily rubbing the eyes.

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I was there with Rob Derbyshire from Hopzine.com, Shipley’s YouTube sensation – here loading one of the sacks of grist into the hopper to be juddered into the mash tun. James and the team at BrewDog gave us free reign over what to do – so we came up with an idea revolving around writing. Specifically, how to overcome the dreaded problem of the blinking cursor. A beer to get the synapses pinging when you need to write something, a lunchtime (or earlier) heart-starter to fire the brain up and unlock the fingertips. A 6.5% coffee and chocolate oatmeal milk stout. Sweet to pick up the tastebuds, chocolately for the sugar rush, and coffee to knock some sense into the cortex. And oatmeal because it’s Scottish. Plenty of different malts involved, hopped with Magnum to a reasonable IBU, and then layered with Square Mile coffee, lactose and 100% Venezuelan Black Cacao.

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Following the mashing in, the real brewer – George, who was as patient with us as you can possibly get – cleaned down the copper and fermenting vessel #6, and we had an impromptu picnic in the sun outside. The long drive up the coast from Aberdeen had been grey and bleak, the 8am haar blanketing everything outside of about fifty yards. However, as we were grappling with the sacks of dusty grain, the sun appeared, and blazed away all day. I honestly never thought my first visit to Fraserburgh would give me sunburn, but there you go. This building on the left, by the way, is the original BrewDog brewery (the concrete one, not the corrugated one on the right). Since the Spring of 2007, that’s where it’s happened – aside from the beers contracted elsewhere, of course*. Brewing non-stop, round the clock until a few months ago, as you roll up outside, you really do think it must be round the back of this fish-processing lean-to, or whatever this is. But no, that’s it. It’s quite incredible.

*And more on that on Thursday, in a post about BrewDog’s new Ellon facility

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After the move to the new plant, the old brewery is quite a strange place, almost a bit eerie. The tiny offices at the back sit abandoned, BrewDog decals and the like adorning empty rooms. There are two stores in between, used to house barrels filled with all kinds of ageing – the smell coming from some of them is incredible. Despite Ellon coming online at the start of the year, brewing still goes on in Fraserburgh – George is tasked with overseeing BrewDog’s small runs and unusual offerings – for example, a berliner weisse was happily conditioning away in one of the tanks, and tasting like it was very nearly there. James is very proud, I think, to show people where the company actually began, particularly given the place where they have ended up. BrewDog are sometimes accused of being grandiose, but when you speak to them about how far they’ve come in six years, they are anything but.

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Fraserburgh is known for a few things – not all of them good – but fish is one that really stands out. Over the years, the industry has dwindled away from the North-East coast, leading to several of the less welcome issues in town, but without wanting to sound trite, the fish and chips there are amazing. It was great to sit outside the brewery with a box on the knees, watching the seagulls wheel around, frustrated. Just the other side of the coastal road, over a raised grassy bank, we could hear the sea picking up, despite the warm sunshine.

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I needed a good feed, as it turned out, to build up the energy to shovel and scrape the grain from the mash tun. As ever, getting in was easy, the vertical press-up to get out less so. Half an hour inside the steaming tun is as good a sauna as you’ll get, and by the time I’d finished I felt like one of those oven-in-a-bag salmon ready meals. Anyway, it smelled fantastic, and I’m sure the beer will turn out to be a cracker. After some thought, we’re sticking with the writing theme and it will be called ‘Dead Metaphor’. As beer writers, buzzwords are becoming more and more ingrained in what we do – both used by us and debated (endlessly) on social media. A dead metaphor is a term or figure of speech that has lost its original meaning through overuse; and modern beer writing is full of them. We wanted to get it back to the most important thing of all: the beer. The beer is what matters, not semantics.

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George getting to work on one of the added ingredients; the Venezuelan Black, which comes in five-inch cylinders of pure chocolate – like what happens when you try to make a chocolate mousse in a mug and it goes horribly wrong. Forcing them into a blender, carrot-like, helped (or it did if you held the lid down when the switch was turned on, ahem). But grating it like a block of cheddar was also the only way to get the stuff into small enough pieces to go into the boil. The coffee was also added at that stage; for our beer it was Sertão, from Carmo de Minas in Brazil – chosen to add a caffeine perk to the brew, but also because the toffee and chocolate notes would complement the lactose and the Venezuelan Black really well. The only thing left to do was drop the grated chocolate into the boil by hand.

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Ah. Yeah. Hot steam, and all that.



Dead Metaphor will be launched officially at this year’s Indy Man Beer Con in Manchester, and subsequently in the home-town BrewDog bars of Rob and myself (i.e. Leeds and Edinburgh), before going on general sale in keg and bottle. Huge thanks to James, Zarah and Sarah for the invite, and to George, Steve and Stewart at the brewery for letting us get in the way. On Thursday, I’ll be putting up another pictorial post, about BrewDog’s hugely impressive new brewery, at Ellon.

UPDATE 19/09 – Rob has published his post on the brewday – check it out here

BrewDog pick a fight they can’t lose. Again

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It’s been fairly quiet of late, up in Ellon. As in BrewDog have been quietly fitting out their enormous space-age brewery, quietly bringing outsourced operations back in house, and quietly releasing some impressive beers (Jackhammer, Hello my Name is Beastie). However – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – the other day they seemed to have fallen foul of a regulatory body regarding their flavourful language used in their non-marketing marketing strategy. The Advertising Standards Authority laid down a ruling (in full here) on the Aberdeenshire outfit, following a single anonymous complaint from a member of the public.

The complaint apparently revolved around this passage on BrewDog’s website:-

“BrewDog is a post Punk apocalyptic mother fu*ker of a craft brewery. Say goodbye to the corporate beer whores crazy for power and world domination … Ride toward anarchy and caramel craziness. Let the sharp bitter finish rip you straight to the tits. Save up for a Luger, and drill the bastards”.

An ‘internet user’ challenged whether this would be likely to cause offence, the ASA agreed, and asked BrewDog to remove the passage, and (presumably whilst ruffling their hair) told them to ‘take care to avoid causing serious offence in the future’. The matter was also referred on to the ASA’s compliance arm, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

For their part, BrewDog removed the passage, claiming (presumably whilst kicking the carpet, hands in pockets) that they were going to take it down anyway, to make room for content on their Equity for Punks share scheme. So, all good then. Ohhhh…this is BrewDog, I forget. Possibly regarding the section of the ruling which stated ‘[BrewDog] did not provide a substantive response to our enquiries’, co-founder James Watt tweeted thusly.

Well, they do – whether you consider BrewDog’s grinding of the English language to be advertising or not (I do, of course it is), the ASA covers online and social media. What they don’t have is any real teeth – from their immediate stance on Twitter, it looks apparent that the Aberdeenshire brewery aren’t for backing down (generating the genuinely clever hashtag #KissMyASA). The CAP will presumably monitor the situation, and have the ultimate power in issuing further sanction against BrewDog if they repeatedly offend – or re-instate the ‘offending’ paragraph; which looks inevitable, given the flurry of tweets from both James and their official account.

So what can we expect to eventually happen? Well, if branded a repeat-offender (or to put it into context for this complaint – a potty mouth), BrewDog could potentially be summoned to a meeting to discuss their compliance – which would be a PR open goal for them, I bet you 50p right now they turn up in a tank – and then the CAP could issue official sanctions. Effectively, this could feature the brewery being placed on an advertising checklist (aka the naughty step), currently featuring other notables such as ‘Your Psychic Destiny’ “unsubstantiated claims of genuine psychics” and ‘Kidz 5 a Day UK Ltd’ “unable to demonstrate the powdered drink contained fruit and vegetables”.

The ASA and CAP also work closely with the Office of Fair Trading, but in my (admittedly limited) knowledge of these three-lettered agencies, the OFT are unlikely to lift a finger over bad language. BrewDog have, effectively, been backed into a corner that contains a comfortable sofa, minibar, gold-plated loudhailer, and fibreoptic broadband connection. Deep down, they must realise nothing can be done to stop them. Which is why they have always ‘courted’ controversy. But, with regard to being sanctioned by industry watchdogs, BrewDog have (as I said before) a very specific history. Back in 2009, the Portman Group received a complaint about the language used on the label of Tokyo*, that the wording of the 18.2% beer encouraged excessive drinking.

To cut a very long story short, it transpired that the single member of the public who submitted that complaint was, in fact, BrewDog co-founder James Watt. Yes, he complained about his own beer to garner publicity. And now, here we are again, four years on, with another single-complaint received by an agency, regarding language used by BrewDog. As a result, once again, their legion of fans are goaded to get up in arms, generate many Tweets of support, column inches, etc etc. So, have they cried wolf a second time? Are they the backs-to-the-wall punks, defending free speech on the internet? Or is this a genuine issue of concern to a member of the public and potential customer?

You know what? I don’t care. The central issue, for me, right here is that BrewDog’s marketing language is utter rubbish. It always has been, but in an end-of-the-pier, learned-from-Stone kind of way. Now they are a multi-million pound company, with a dozen bars and countless employees, it just grates, particularly as it seems to be getting worse. ‘Rip you to the tits’? Fuck off. Yes, it’s their website, and they can write on it what they want, but it’s not free speech if you’re trying to sell someone a product. You can’t hide behind that whilst generating PR. Back them if you like, buy into it by all means, but realise what they are, and what they really stand for.

Breweries to Watch 2013 – five months on…

At the beginning of January, just as the year started, I posted a list of British breweries to watch out for in 2013. Despite the ongoing financial pressures, the scene here is flourishing – more breweries are opening now than ever (in living memory, at least). Having said that, it’s still a tough industry in which to survive, of course – requiring long hours, hard work, and the ability to fend off constant demands of needy bloggers. Speaking of which, five months down the line from the original post, it’s time to check back with those eleven breweries, and see how they have been doing, as we approach the halfway point of the year…



SCOTLAND

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Cromarty Brewing Co
I pegged Cromarty Brewing Company as the brewery to watch this year, and so far Craig Middleton hasn’t let us down. His latest effort rolled off the production line on the Black Isle last week – a 2%, triple C-hopped, ‘un-stout’ (joining in with one of the brewing trends of the year; beers between 2 and 3%). Keeping up with demand has been Craig’s biggest problem to date – so the recent arrival of two 32hl and two 16hl conditioning tanks is great news for Cromarty fans. Having effectively doubled capacity at the brewery, Craig should now be set to keep a regular stock in place, secure even more accounts, and rightfully become known throughout the UK.



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Arran Brewery
Arran Brewery MD Gerald Michaluk went all-in for 2013, having announced a merger with the Isle of Skye Brewery, and a huge expansion plan that included a mainland bottling plant, distillery and series of bespoke bars. However, the wheels came off in fairly spectacular fashion when the Scottish Government turned down his FPMC grant application. After issuing a few withering press releases, Gerald re-grouped and is blazing ahead with parts of the project anyway – although the Skye merger is off, the Falkirk Brewery is set to continue. Also, Arran cider will soon appear, as will an historic Iron Age ale, and a whey wine. Distribution has begun to the continent, and Arran have also recently become the first UK brewery (to my knowledge) to begin producing sake. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ still holds sway on Arran, clearly.



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Knops Beer Co/Archerfield Fine Ales
I predicted a massive leap upwards for Bob Knops this year, as back in January he was waiting for the Archerfield Estate project to come on-line in East Lothian (with some nervousness, no doubt). Five months down the line, the brewery is there, the people are rolling in, and the beers are heading in the opposite direction. As well as the core range, for the first time in a while Knops Beer Co released a new beer under their own label; the Spring-reveal of Knops ‘Premier Bru’. The creativity that had been kept in check for so long due to the vagaries of contracting has finally being released. With a stable base from which to build – and a huge amount of physical space in which to do so – Knops are really starting to kick on and should have a hugely productive year from here onwards.



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Fallen Brewing Co
Speaking of contractor breweries, one of the half-dozen that operate in Scotland at the moment are the Fallen Brewing Company; another one-man operation getting beers out via the TSA plant in Throsk. At the moment, Paul Fallen is still in the process of getting his own brewery established – since the new year, the business plan has gone out and the multi-stranded planning applications are nestling in the appropriate pigeon-holes. Once everything comes together, expect a flood of beers to come from the Kippen plant – until then, keep watching Paul’s Twitter feed.



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Alechemy Brewing
Livingston’s Alechemy Brewing Co blasted on to the scene last spring, and over the first few months of this year they show absolutely no signs of slowing down. Owner James Davies can’t get new fermenting vessels in fast enough, and has taken on new members of staff to help with the near-incessant demand. Currently, the expanded Alechemy team are busy sourcing kegging equipment to begin taking their beer in yet another direction (bottled beer having appeared a few months ago). With house beers and dedicated Alechemy taps appearing all over Edinburgh (the latest being the Bow Bar), and custom beers also increasingly prevalent – look for Alechemy’s beers to appear in England with increasing regularity. They have also even re-branded their Twitter feed



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BrewDog
2013 could become the key year for BrewDog, as the grace period following the opening of the new Ellon plant draws to a close, and the legions of punks look for something tangible to result. Or maybe they don’t, as the enjoyable/infuriating marketing juggernaut rolls on – spearheaded by the recently re-announced BrewDog TV show. Will ‘BrewDogs’ catapult James and Martin into the mainstream they so desperately crave? Beer releases this year have been largely positive so far, and the subtle re-shuffling of lines has moved Alice Porter and Jackhammer more towards the forefront. Similarly, will the next few months enable BrewDog to move more into more established markets, to cash in on the success of their bars? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, yesterday’s tweet from James Watt hints at yet more to come – something concrete? Or PR fluff?



ENGLAND

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Buxton Brewery
Over the other side of the border, the pick of English breweries to look out for this year (in January, at any rate) was Buxton. That was largely down to their breakout 2012 – building up to a seventeen-strong lineup, with a double-figure number of standouts. Pound for pound (or barrel for barrel, really) there are few better British breweries out there. So, this year, there may have been cause for concern when they lost James Kemp, their head brewer, in April. But stepping into the Peak District Purofort’s is Colin Stronge, ex-Black Isle and Marble, and one of the most riotously inventive brewers out there. With Denis ‘Anorak’ Johnstone also recruited (from Scotland, as with Colin) to cover sales and marketing – Buxton have tied up key positions and are ready to up the ante again in the second half of 2013.



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Arbor Ales
Arbor are a brewery very much with an eye on the future, and having released more beers than ever north of the border, since January I can see where they are going. Beer is all about experimentation – and the great thing about trying new producers – as I did when I sampled Arbor’s Impy Stout (produced in collaboration with Raw Brewery), is the feeling of warm recognition when other beers subsequently creep into your drinking field of vision. For Edinburgh beer-fans, the April takeover at the Hanging Bat widened that field enormously, with crackers such as Goo Goo G’joob and the brilliant Lime in the Coconut. We’re a long way from their south-west base of operations, but so far this year, Arbor are spreading to all parts – and that is very much a good thing.



LondonFields

London Fields Brewery
Since opening for business in 2011, the London Fields Brewery have been firmly part of the resurgence in brewing in the other capital. As there are dozens of new producers in the city, with several in Hackney itself (where London Fields are located), they have needed to raise their game recently, just to maintain position in the pack. Although the beers have been well received – Shoreditch Triangle IPA is a cracker, for example – a recent foray into hosting the London’s Brewing event did not go well, and resulted in a fair bit of negative publicity. However, the intention was honourable (stepping in on behalf of the London Brewing Alliance); whether it has dented their momentum, or their enthusiasm for hosting further events, time will tell.



Hawkshead

Hawkshead Brewery
In the original post back in January, I mentioned Hawkshead as “having all the ingredients to become the kind of ‘big regional’ that everyone can aspire to.” I don’t know if that’s exactly what they have in mind, but for the time being, their size may preclude it. However, the compliment stands – Hawkshead produce some stunning beers, across the full range of the brewing spectrum. It’s been a quiet year so far for them (up here in Scotland, I mean), but I have no doubt there are some interesting beers coming out of their amazing Staveley beer hall. I suppose I should get off my backside and get down to their summer beer festival at the end of July, rather than waiting for them to come to me…



WilburWood

Great Yarmouth Brewing Co
Finally, I selected Great Yarmouth to be on the list purely because of the head brewer – Wil Wood, and what he had achieved at Fyne Ales. After taking the long journey from Argyll to East Anglia, I’d expected the beers from his new brewery to be just as good. However, what I wasn’t expecting was the reason behind the move. After only a few months, Great Yarmouth Brewing Co has (effectively) been wound up; it was a Trojan horse for the newly re-launched Lacon’s Brewery. This famous British company, a Norfolk institution, received a lot of publicity a few weeks ago, when the return was announced – but I’m not sure how many realised Wil’s new brewery was a directly-related dry-run. Well, Great Yarmouth’s loss is the whole of East Anglia’s gain – it looks like the suggestion to watch their progress was well-founded.