Tag Archives: Eden Brewery

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

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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.

 

 

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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…

Breweries to watch out for in 2014

Last year, right at the beginning of January, I posted a list of breweries to watch out for in 2013. Looking back, the overall pick to take that next step (Cromarty Brewing Co) had a terrific year, and pretty much all of the other choices also produced fantastic beer. Despite the pressures of the recession and the increasingly contested market, 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 UK breweries who I think will move to that next level over the course of 2014…

SCOTLAND

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Williams Bros – There can’t be a brewery in Scotland with a more exciting 2014 ahead than the brotherhood from Alloa. Following the announcement back in August of a £1m expansion (the ramifications of which I discussed back then), two months later it was revealed they were going halfsies on a new ‘craft’ brewery in Glasgow with the C&C Group (i.e. Tennent’s). Stand by for an exclusive BeerCast report on that particular chestnut very soon, but with so much going on, Williams Bros have to be the Scottish brewery to keep an eye on this year.

 

 

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Tempest – The Borders’ finest were my overall pick to break out in 2012, and they certainly delivered some fantastic beers, cementing themselves in the Scottish brewing scene. The reason I’m tipping them again for 2014 is that, finally, it seems as if the light is at the end of the tunnel for their long-awaited expansion plan. There’s still (at least) one issue to be resolved, but once everything is squared away, the old dairy can be mothballed and Gavin and the gang can spread their wings and really aim for the top. Given the instant success of their barrel-ageing programme (see: Old Parochial), Tempest aren’t far off being there already.

 

 

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Alechemy – This Spring will see the second anniversary of Dr James Davies founding the Alechemy brewery, and it arrives in the middle of a very important year for the Livingston outfit. Following the steady building of the brewery, within the last few months all kinds of things have changed, with multiple hirings, new kit, a re-brand, a barrel-ageing programme, and an entire second line of up-to-the-minute beer styles. 2014 has to be the year where all of this pays off, and the long-awaited bottling line is surely a huge step in the right direction.

 

 

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Arran – I’ve had my differences with Arran Brewery MD Gerald Michaluk in the past (or to be exact, he had differences with me), but yet again this coming year seems to be one that could define his brewery. After the 2012 meta-expansion plan was torpedoed by the Government, Arran have left the Isle of Skye brewery at the altar and will look to open a second mainland brewery instead (at St Fillans on Loch Earn), and then a third at the Rosebank distillery in Falkirk. Share offers, distilleries, bars, bottling – it’s all in there too. Who will stand in his way this time?

 

 

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Innis & Gunn – My outside bet for this year are everyone’s favourite chippers, Innis & Gunn. Loved by many as a gateway to interesting beer, derided by others for not having their own brewery, I think 2014 could be pivotal for Edinburgh/Glasgow’s finest. If you could lay money down on the brewing industry, I might well put a modest each-way sum on Innis & Gunn taking the plunge this year, and breaking free of the Wellpark’s comforting, lager-filled umbilical. So far, I&G have built a hugely successful empire through contract-brewing; surely now is the time for them to stand up and actually become the brewery they, and others, think they should be.

 

 

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St Andrews – I’m listing the St Andrews Brewery here, but I may as well have added their near neighbours Eden Brewing as well – both are in the starting blocks for a fairly big 2014. Eden are expanding their Guardbridge site, increasing brewkit and exploring markets for their products (and also, again, looking at different forms of booze). St Andrews, for their part, have won a Sainsbury’s deal, and have just opened a brewery tap in the centre of the town (having leapfrogged Eden from Glenrothes), and are poised to complement it with a bespoke facility, located right within the centre of this increasingly sought-after beer market.

 

 

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Pilot Beer – Finally for Scotland, keep an eye on the most recently-arrived producers in this list. Having flipped the covers back on their branding, the first Pilot beers are just starting to hit the bar counters. That said, things are very much in the testing phase at the moment, however, and Matt and Pat are girding their loins for an official launch sometime in the spring. Watch out for how they get on; as two Heriot-Watt graduates bringing beer-making back to Leith, Pilot certainly have huge potential.

 

 

ENGLAND

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Greene King – Yes, Greene King. This (fairly safe) bet comes purely on the back of December’s announcement of a £750,000 microbrewery expansion for the East Anglian powerhouse. Having spent a six-figure preliminary fee merely on scouting the project, GK are clearly placing a significant percentage of their eggs in the ‘craft’ basket. Other big regionals have dabbled first, of course, but how the St Edmund brewhouse fares will surely determine whether ‘craft’ is able to become as ‘mainstream’ as Greene King believe.

 

 

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Beavertown – The flood of microbreweries in Hackey has lessened (a little) of late, but one that has recently moved in the other direction are Beavertown. Having relocated a couple of miles eastwards to Fish Island, Logan and his crew have even more of a local community to become a part of. Beavertown are so utterly of the moment that non-‘craft’ beer drinkers may never have heard of them; but there isn’t a British brewery around now that gets more flavour into their beers, or does it with more inventiveness. Beavertown are set for a breakout year.

 

 

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Wild Beer Co – Somerset may be a considerable distance from Edinburgh, but the beers from Wild Beer Co seem to be almost omnipresent here. That’s a testament, in part, to how much of a beer town Edinburgh has become, of course – but also it’s down to the work ethic and experimentation of the Wild Beer team. There’s no shortage of ingenuity at work down in Westcombe; this can be seen both in the number of collaborations they enter into with the brewing industry, and their recently-awarded status of best new business in Somerset. Clearly, the word is out.

 

 

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Alpha State – I’m going to be honest here, other than the name of the man behind the operation, I know absolutely nothing about Alpha State. And yet, this is one of the great things about drinking beer; turning up at a bar one night, taking a punt on something called Alpha State Citronvand, and being hugely rewarded. Jonathan Queally is making some spellbinding beer – alongside the Citronvand, Neapolitan and Sorachi Red IPA formed as good a trio from the same producer as I tried in 2013. I can only imagine the kinds of beers that will emanate from Alpha State this year – but I’ll be keeping an eye out, that’s for sure.

 

 

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Bad Seed – I know I’ve mentioned Bad Seed quite a bit recently, but their debut beers were as good a launch line-up as I can remember. Hailing from rural North Yorkshire, their decision to make beers they liked rather than beers that would fit the local scene was hugely brave; as they start to get more widely noticed, that decision should hopefully pay off handsomely for them. Look for the word to spread wider in 2014, as Bad Seed’s bottles make it to thirstier parts, and they take steps down two very popular modern-day beer roads, those marked ‘kegging’ and ‘collaboration’.

 

 

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Buxton – Only a couple of weeks ago I picked Buxton as my brewery of the year for 2013, so they really had to be in this list. The main reason is that as I write, the Peak District resounds to the clang of hammers and the soft Irish cursing of Colin Stronge. Once the new Buxton brewery is fully online, and their capacity increased accordingly, look for all of the reasons why they were so good last year to be multiplied by a similar factor. If everything transfers to the new facility (and I’ve no reason to doubt it won’t), Buxton could be on the brink of something very special.





I’ll be revisiting this list later in the year to see how the breweries are getting on, and whether tipping them for greatness was the right way to go or not. Which breweries do you think will have a great twelve months?

Turning Green into Gold – why are breweries switching to cider?

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The other day, I saw this tweet appear on the timeline of the Eden Brewery at St Andrews:

So, Eden at St Andrews are adding a wasp-friendly string to their bow by diversifying into the production of cider. Following on the heels of Arran Brewery, who announced in April they were doing something similar, will other breweries north of the border begin to explore the possibilities of liquid sunshine? Would people buy it? And why might breweries be dipping their toes in this increasingly crowded market?

The reason may actually be alluded to in that last question – cider is one of the biggest trends at the moment, both in the on-and off-trades. You only have to look at the television once a week to see a new cider producer popping up with a clever marketing campaign. Since the mid-2000’s, when the Labour government cut and then froze duty on cider, growth skyrocketed – and on the back of this Perfect Storm, Magners appeared.

Serving cider over ice became a lightning-bolt moment. It made the drink current, cool (both literally and figuratively), aided bars to shift them without refrigeration, even (you could argue) made a pint of cider look more appealing; more like something you’d drink on a Friday night, rather than a flat-looking glass of juice supped moodily at a youth centre. Let’s hope nobody ever gets the idea of serving beer over ice. Well, unless it’s lager (which had its own game-changing moment; the lime plug).

People were drinking cider before Magners came along of course – blimey, I should know – but street-corner gangs of Strongbowe’d schoolkids aside, there must be many more options available these days to the apple-curious (or pear-curious, or blackcurrant-curious etc). Actually, Strongbow is another case in point – continually relaunched, re-advertised, TV marketing pushing, pushing, pushing it into the nation’s consciousness.

Today, we have ‘premium fruit ciders’ – pigeonholed brilliantly the other week by Pete Brown – and numerous, small, ‘craft’ cider producers, springing up with provenance and quirk in place of brashness and ice. The market already looks crowded – why would brewers want to get involved? Well, possibly because of the magic marketing B-word; Branding. In a crowded sector, standing out from the start is the hardest thing.

Breweries, therefore, already have a foothold in this regard. Arran have their island thing going on, St Andrews a ready source of thirsty punters/students in the town. People scanning shelves/fridges that aren’t in a beery mood might think to themselves that they fancy a cider instead. But shouldn’t that prospective new convert be gently introduced to their beers instead?

If moonlighting as a cidery makes money for the brewery, then fair enough. In Scotland, the market for fruity booze is dominated by Dunbar’s finest, Thistly Cross. Have old heads cocked a sideways glance at East Lothian and thought they could get a piece of that pie? Time will tell as to whether people will buy into it, as there’s more to cider-making than just juicing apples. If these brewery cidermakers hit it off, others will certainly begin taking an interest…

Eden, in focus

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.

New Scottish brewery – Eden at St Andrews

As we said last week (and the week before) Scotland is very much the place to be for new brewery openings. The market is flourishing as we move towards the second half of 2012 – proof that there are many thirsty people out there, keen to buy local beer. The latest arrival on the scene is the Eden Brewery at St Andrews, riding the wave of new ales surging into Fife (by my reckoning, there are now six breweries there, either producing or in the planning stages). This week, I met with the man behind Eden, ex-MolsonCoors man Paul Miller.

Undoubtedly one of the most enthusiastic beer people I’ve ever met, Paul could barely keep still as he ran through his ethos and the finer points of his operation. “I’m pretty much kicking every ball at the moment,” he told me, clearly revelling in the freedom he now has, following thirty years working in the corporate arm of the industry. “I was in the Greyfriars the other day and heard someone recommending an Eden beer to a tourist, as it was locally made – I could have kissed him!!!” he enthused.

For the moment though, that helpful St Andrews barhound wasn’t strictly correct – Eden are contract brewing at Williams Bros in Alloa until their own plant is fully functional. With Bob Phaff of the similarly new St Andrews Brewing Company currently working from a facility in Glenrothes, there’s a creeping, Risk-like game of encroachment as they both work towards their goal of operating in the golf-crazy University town. Paul’s fledgling site is actually owned by the University – the old Seggie Brewery at Guardbridge, on the River Eden.

Come the end of July, and Eden hope to have everything on site, including bottling. To begin with, their first two releases will be bottled and casked – but other dispense methods are in the pipeline, as are several interesting projects that would take them in another direction. Two more beers are planned for August, giving them a four-strong core lineup. One of Paul’s main interests is converting people into locally made, craft beer – as such, their initial releases are self-proclaimed ‘entry-level’ beers.

This is an interesting strategy – and one that is closely linked to the decision to run with clear glass bottles. Feedback from pre-launch focus groups – one thing immediately noticeable about Paul is that he does his homework – was that potential customers would rather see the colour of the beer on the bar/shelf to get an idea of what it might be like. I’ve heard this before, and can’t refute it. The gamble is that if the beers do become light-struck, will that craft-curious person go back for a second bottle?

I doubt very much if he shares the view of the Greene King rep who stated that even if prospective punters did get a beer that had been affected, they wouldn’t be unduly bothered. Eden produced two trial versions of their bottled beers, in clear and darker glass – but it was the see-though that the people went for. I get the impression that if things do become an issue, it won’t be long before the alternative is re-considered. Anyway – Paul was kind enough to drop off samples of the two launch beers, so what are they like?

First up, the 19th Brew – designed primarily to be a balanced, sessionable IPA for drinkers looking for an alternative to lager. Even just glancing at it reinforces that impression – pale, flat, straw yellow in colour, it looks like a session golden ale. Following a faint, grassy aroma the predominant flavour is a lemony bitterness. Although the finish is reasonably dry, unfortunately it’s just not challenging. The branding might encourage people to move away from the big macros, but will the beer keep them interested? I just don’t know.

The other beer from Eden is Clock Brew – a 4.3% Scottish red ale. Thankfully, this is better – deep ruby brown with a faint wispy head, the aroma has that same tinge of grassy, hay-like biscuity malt. The flavours are more pronounced – there is a slightly bitter peppery edge to it, as promised, and the finish is quite bready – like eating a dark crust from a loaf. The balance of these flavours is just about right, with maybe a touch more carbonation helping even more, giving that lift to the different components.

I’d be interested to try these again on cask, to see how they fare from a different method of dispense. Both current Eden beers have been designed to build the brand into a certain sector – encouraging more people into decent, local beer. As the brewery in Guardbridge comes online next month and the rest of the lineup is introduced, I’m sure the interest will only build further. I’m also certain that Paul’s natural enthusiasm will pull Eden in the right direction. Keep an eye out for their beers across the Kingdom over the next few weeks.



Eden Brewery at St Andrews website