Tag Archives: Carbon Smith

Breweries to watch out for in 2015

As last year began, I posted the now traditional list of breweries to watch out for in 2014. Looking back, picking Williams Bros to have a big year based on their plans was a fairly safe bet – but the opening of Drygate has gone better than they could have hoped for (at least in my experience, and of others I’ve spoken to who have been there). Pretty much all of the other choices also produced fantastic beer.

The British brewing scene continues to be in good health – and for that, we have to thank the men and women making our beer; for their skill, commitment and imagination. Here, then, is a list of Scottish and English breweries who I think will move to that next level over the course of 2015, or who have interesting stories to watch (with apologies to producers in other parts of the UK, who’s scenes I know less well)…



SCOTLAND

Tempest_Logo

Tempest – When it comes to my overall pick to take the next step in 2015, there’s simply no competition. Tempest finally – finally – have all the pieces in place to move on and really become players in the UK beer scene. That most important piece; the long-awaited new brewery, is in place giving them ten-times the capacity of the old. Added to this is Tempest’s re-brand that took place in August, giving them a cleaner look. When you factor in the beers (particularly their new and growing saison line) there are few producers making a more solid range, across every style. The upcoming Borders Rail Link is even set to terminate a hundred metres from their Tweedbank facility. 2015 is going to be Tempest’s year.

 

 

ForthBridge

Forth Bridge Brewery – It’s almost two years since I first wrote about Dave Robertson’s plans for a brewery in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, and still no sign of the facility appearing in South Queensferry. Well, apart from a couple of photos on Twitter and then the a release of a sprawling proposal that wouldn’t look out of place amidst the wharves of San Francisco. Last year’s main FBB news was the addition of a distilling arm, set to produce whisky, gin and vodka; as well as beer – 110,000 litres a week. Another funding campaign is set for February, before the site is slated to open in September 2015. Dave’s faced plenty of battles so far – but if his facility doesn’t open this year, you have to wonder if it ever will.

 

 

Eden Mill

Eden Mill – The Eden Brewery, St Andrews always felt to me as if they had something of a crisis of identity. Sometimes confused with the Eden Brewery in Cumbria; and othertimes with the St Andrews Brewing Company. But a subtle move towards embracing the pull of spirits has given Eden a new individuality. The Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery are now clear of purpose and image, and I think they are set for big things over the next twelve months. With Paul Miller behind them, it was always a matter of time before they moved to producing hardier stuff than beer, and this dual-wield approach is becoming one of the trends within the industry. Eden Mill, as they are now, are positioned right at the front.

 

 

LerwickBrewery

Lerwick Brewery – Brewing on Shetland has to be one of the most challenging propositions in the industry; there isn’t really a market like it in the UK. Sonny Priest’s Valhalla Brewery on Unst gained competition in mid-2013 with the arrival of the Lerwick Brewery, and with a flurry of announcements at the close of last year, 2015 could be the time when people in a much larger catchment area get to hear their name. Within a short space of time, Lerwick signed distribution deals that, like a game of Risk, moved their beers Scotland-wide, then UK-wide, and then into Tesco. Bold stuff for a brewery with three core beers located on an island as logistically challenging as Shetland. Will it pay off?

 

 

Brewmeister

Brewmeister – Yes, Brewmeister. Everyone’s favourite ‘is it or isn’t it’ brewery have got an important twelve months ahead. Forgetting all the controversy of last year; as they have clearly knuckled down and gone straight, there’s nothing to hide behind but the beer. Employing a head brewer, going through a management shuffle, and systematically changing recipes – it looks as if Brewmeister are now hoping to win out purely based on the product of their brewing vessels. It’s going to be interesting to see how they’ll get on – can they win back people who may have been put off previously? Will the new-taste combine with the new-look to mean new markets? Time will tell…

 

 

CarbonSmith

Carbon Smith – Picobrewing is where it’s at; bedroom breweries are seemingly springing up all over Scotland. And why not? It gets your beers to market without rolling the dice on contracting, and your name is out there instantly. For those who’s primary goal isn’t to make a colossal profit at the end of year one, it’s now a viable proposition. Carbon Smith are the first bedroom brewer to scale up to their own facility (albeit one that measures 16ft x 8ft). But the beers emanating from it so far have been incredible. As the pico- model becomes more prominent, everyone thinking of taking the plunge will be keeping an eye on Carbon Smith’s progression.





ENGLAND

Burning Sky

Burning Sky – I’m not sure if there was an English brewery (aside from maybe Buxton) who generated more of a steadily-rising buzz amongst the beer community last year than Burning Sky. Mark Tranter’s project in East Sussex produced some astonishing beers in 2014, particularly their barnstorming saisons. With their weighty foudres still being left to quietly do their thing, Mark’s website states “…it is not envisaged that the full extent of Burning Sky will be apparent for another 2 or 3 years.” But the secret is already out, and beer drinkers up and down the country will know their name long, long before then. There’s not an English producer I look forward to enjoying more this coming year, than Burning Sky.

 

 

Siren

Siren Craft Brew – Well, maybe it’s a tie with Siren, at least. Finchampstead’s finest are one of those rare breweries, in that they have never, ever let me down. As with Burning Sky, all of their new releases are must-purchases, irrespective of format. This coming year should be a big one for Siren Craft Brew; they celebrate their second birthday in March with a festival of barrel-aged beers (featuring their 2015 Maiden), and anyone who possesses more than a passing interest in collaborations will have marked the new Rainbow Project, as the pairings fully go transatlantic. Siren also just announced the addition of a dry-hopped Berliner Weisse to their core range. I haven’t written a more exciting paragraph than that for some time…

 

 

Roosters

Roosters – Why aren’t Roosters better known? This, to me, is one of the British beer questions I just can’t understand. They make phenomenal beer, both traditional and modern in style. Their pale ales are every bit as good as Oakhams, or those from Fyne Ales. Their branding is brilliant, classic whilst being eye-catching. And the Fozardii are the nicest couple of guys you could ever hope to meet. Maybe it’s the Yorkshire thing – the sheer number of nearby competitors, and the colossal amount of outlets in the region; I don’t know. Anyway, Roosters are a sensational brewery, and to me seem permanently on the verge of a breakout year. Let’s hope that 2015 is that for them. Maybe launching canned beer will make the difference?

 

 

Northern_Monk

Northern Monk – Staying in Yorkshire, we have a brewery that is surely set for that breakout year. After a prolonged period of contracting, Northern Monk finally were able to open their own brewery a few months ago, and in the short time since have built on that considerable wave of support. This is undoubtedly down to several reasons – not the least of which are the fantastic beers they have released, right out of the gate. But, also, it’s because they have embraced (and been embraced by) the city of Leeds; their twenty-tap NMBCo Refectory has quickly become a go-to addition to the scene in this beer-mad city. As they bed in to their new location, expect great things from Northern Monk this year.

 

 

Almasty

Almasty – Finally, we end this lightning-tour of premonitions in the North-East, and with yet another hugely exciting prospect. Mark McGarry, ex-Mordue and ex-Tyne Bank, is one seriously talented brewer, and the chance to head out into the wide world of brewing and produce his own recipes was too big to resist. The ‘Wild One’ (to which Almasty apparently refers) dialled up a stunning brown ale – what else – for his debut beer, and in year of wave after wave of saisons, his Sorachi-hopped version really stood out as well. Now he’s had a bit of time to take stock of the new challenge, 2015 is going to be the year Almasty become impossible to ignore.



So, what do you think? Any breweries out there who you think will have breakout years in 2015, or have stories that you really want to follow? Let me know in the comments. As ever, I’ll be checking back with these eleven breweries at the mid-way point of the year, to see how they have been getting on…

New Edinburgh Brewery – Carbon Smith Brewing

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‘Look out for a massive black dog if my Dad gets there first. I’m talking HUGE dog’ reads the DM, as I’m checking Twitter, waiting for each half of Carbon Smith Brewing to arrive for a chat. Edinburgh’s newest brewery (since the last one), are based overlooking the Meadows – so a pint in Cloisters was the logical place to meet and find out more about them. When the dog, Torin, arrives, the message isn’t kidding. A colossal Newfoundland, he flops onto the floor like a living rug, literally blocking the door. “He does that” says Neil, the Dad, gamely tugging the chain to move Torin’s bear-sized head to let a couple of tipsy tourists leave the pub, which they do, after stroking the shagpile doorstop.

The other half of Carbon Smith is Ollie; ex of the Bottle Shop in Canterbury, ex-triallist at the Kernel (he lost out to the other guy), and now fully fledged, if fresh-faced, brewer. Neil, in between politely fielding questions about Torin, knocks back a cider and tells me about how he got started. “I set up my own cider still in my kitchen, when I was 15,” he says. “We used a Castrol GTX can on the stovetop. I ran washing up liquid through it first, then we started making cider. Had flecks of metal in from the can, but tasted alright. The problem was how to take it all down quickly when my Mum came home – all the pipework was red hot.”

Ollie also started at 15, and ended up being funded by Kent University to run their beer festivals, and conduct brewing classes for his fellow students. In the meantime, he was busy accumulating degrees in physics (“I’ve got three,” he says, simply). Now, in between working shifts at the Potting Shed, he brews four times a week, on a sixty litre kit in his fourth-floor flat. “We got three units from the bargain bin at IKEA,” says Neil, grinning. “To support the weight of the boiler, we picked up a door for a pound. It all sits on that. We’ve got the kit in a cupboard, and it vents out of the kitchen window with a fan.”

I ask Ollie if he owns his flat. “No, it’s a rental.” What does his landlord think of this? “Oh, I haven’t told him.” But you live there on your own? “No, it’s an HMO, my flatmates like trying the beers, though.” Ollie tells me this is all temporary, however; the father and son duo are negotiating the rights to a small unit in Newington. Importantly, it’s also all above board – everything in the flat is fully licensed; it took Ollie four weeks to get the paperwork sorted, and brewing operations officially approved. With the small scale of their brewkit, and fan-dispersed outflow, they contend you wouldn’t even know they were there.

Until last week, that is, when an articulated lorry suddenly turned up in their road, delivering a pallet of keykegs from the Netherlands. It took Ollie almost an hour to carry them all up the 94 steps to his flat. Now, they sit piled in a spare room, waiting to be filled. For the moment, keykeg is their prime dispense method – with Ollie’s connections at the Potting Shed, they will be able to have Carbon Smith beers on draught there for the immediate future. Bottles will follow – they are busy collecting as many as they can to be sterilised and repatriated.

I think hearing that fact was when it really hit me – what Ollie and Neil are doing is commercial homebrew. That’s not meant in a disparaging way, by any means – they are so small that this is the level they are at. But bargain-bin tech and steeping labels from spare 330’s? This is what homebrewers do, in kitchens and garages all over the country. The difference here, is that they have applied for (and been granted) permission from Environmental Health to legally produce this beer in that very kitchen.

Does this change the game?

Until now, contract brewing has been the main way for those lacking brewery-capital to get their beers out there. Pay someone else to make it for you, handing over control, but whilst gaining an immediate route to market. Yet what’s more immediate that knocking a beer up in your kitchen and selling it? Admittedly, the scale of Carbon Smith Brewing means that they won’t be making cash hand over fist – but equally their overheads are so low that, at this stage, it doesn’t really matter.

Ollie has plans on his own brewkit, well within a couple of years. To get there he needs money, but also he needs people to be aware of him and his brewery. Putting your own beer out in this method – like e-publishing – means that when you can eventually get the money together for a 5, 10bbl kit, or whatever, the market already exists for your products. Like e-publishing, it’s not the route to riches, but it removes that year of contracted beer that isn’t quite how you intended. How many contractees would have wished to control everything, exactly how they would wish, from the very beginning?

“If I balls up a brew, it only costs me twenty quid,” says Ollie. As we talk, Neil asks if I fancy a sample, whilst looking at his son’s man-bag. When I say yes, out come a couple of (actual) Sodastream bottles, brim-full of foamy beer. “I’ll just go and ask if we can do this here,” says Neil, before returning, request granted, with a couple of glasses. The beers are an IPA, which is good, but still conditioning, and a milk stout that is beautiful. Deep, sweet and lactic, it’s really very good. Alongside these two beers, upcoming brews will include a peppercorn Belgian rye pale ale, a cinnamon beer aged on apples, and a beer involving rose petals.

Clearly, Ollie is revelling in the freedom he currently has. Carbon Smith are so small in scale, his ‘trial batches’ are gallon brews. Using these to build up a portfolio, and gain local custom, could be all-important when he, and his father, scale up to a profit-making sized brewkit. By that point, another few breweries will be in Edinburgh, most likely, all going after the same market. Have Carbon Smith got the jump on them? All for the sake of completing a few forms, and having to strip the steam-peeling wallpaper from their kitchen?



Carbon Smith Brewing – Website and official Twitter feed. You can try their debut beer – the IPA – this Friday (the 11th), at the Potting Shed on Bristo Square. However, Ollie told me this is only ‘the softest of soft’ launches – an official launch will take place later in the year. Just look for the HUGE dog.