Tag Archives: Stewart

Beer of the Week – Stewart Cauld Reekie

Just three more Fridays remain in 2017, so time for the final few selections in my great under-rated Scottish beers feature. It’s been quite a haul, in both senses of the word, but here we are – only three more spaces to fill with unsung heroes of Scottish brewing. To be honest this feature could carry on into next year given how prolific our brewers are, north of the border (but it definitely, definitely won’t).

Anyway this Friday rolls around with the most fitting of styles for this series – the one that has probably resulted in more inclusions than any other. Stout. On starting this odyssey back in January I had no idea the brewers of Scotland produced so many amazing, under-appreciated stouts. I guess we have so much dark, chilling weather here that they become almost a necessity. And this particular stout is very much a necessity.

50. Cauld Reekie (6.2%)
Stewart Brewing, Loanhead, Midlothian
Style: Stout
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At at Stewart Brewing’s online shop (as individual 330ml bottles)

If I had to sum this beer up in a single word it would likely be ‘welcoming’, as that is the feeling it gives you. Deep and dark, with a big liqourice backbone the stout is roasty and enormously drinkable for over 6%. There’s a fair bit of dark stewed fruit in there as well and this is very much another beer you’d want to take straight from the cupboard. Don’t trouble the fridge with this one. It’s a fabulous stout and should be a year-rounder in their repertoire (if it isn’t already).

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial
39. Williams Bros Profanity Stout
40. Windswept Tornado
41. Campervan Pacific Zest
42. Swannay Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout
43. Cromarty Ghost Town
44. Fyne Ales Vital Spark
45. Knops Musselburgh Broke
46. Orkney Red MacGregor
47. Cross Borders Porter
48. BrewDog Jack Hammer
49. six°north Hop Classic

Linger

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Why do people drink? For me, it fills the gaps between meals – but it’s a question that has been asked ever since beverages more tasty than water were invented. Ever since ‘Ug the curious’ discovered that you could ferment fruit and became the most popular Neanderthal on Earth, people have wondered just what it is about alcoholic beverages that attracts others, or (more pertinently) keeps them coming back. One of the important reasons is in that last sentence, of course – the fact that they have that mild toxic effect we return to time after time. Taking aside the social aspects of this question for a minute, the other main reason why those who drink do so – as if you needed a moment to even consider – is the flavour. That’s why there are different styles of beer; it’s why wine is infinitely more complex than red or white, and it’s why Advocaat exists. It shouldn’t, but it does.

Flavour is not just a single experience, a lone point, though. As anyone who’s attempted to judge beer has discovered, for our favoured beverage it is broken down into different distinctions. There’s general flavour – i.e. ‘what am I experiencing right now’, and there’s aftertaste – i.e. ‘what am I experiencing…right…now’. Each of these has further quantifiers. From the hop-forward power IPA that lights up the tastebuds before the glass has left the lips, to the long, drawn out finish of something beefier. In fact, if we want to break into another plane entirely, I remember the very first ever tasting notes written on the BeerCast were of (if you can believe it) Sagres Bohemia – a representative of the lesser-known Portuguese Dunkel style – which was summed up in April 2007 in the following manner…

Dark, Portugal, strong, subtle…has pre, current and after taste

Now, aside from being still the best tasting note I’ve ever seen (and a riot of oxymorons), it even borders on the metaphysical. A beer that has a pre-taste is one that is definitely worth seeking out, you would think. Of course, it’s the final words of that note that are important in that regard – the aftertaste is crucial in beer. It determines instantly whether you like what you have decided to take a punt on, whether you’ll be ordering another, and whether you’ll need to break into those polo mints on the way home or not. For me, without doubt it is the most vital component of a beer. And the most vital component of that is Linger. How long those flavours stay around makes or breaks a beer. Even those styles – like, say, mild – that don’t have a long aftertaste can still have an amazing linger; they can provide a base flavour you enjoy long after putting the glass back on the table.

Maybe it’s a simple progression – flavour > aftertaste > linger. Or maybe it’s just semantics on my part – but I always differentiate between those last two. Aftertaste coats the mouth as you swallow, and then linger is what you get after you count to five. I think I remember reading once about cigar smokers ‘rolling the flavours around in the mouth’ – and it’s maybe along the same lines (although I’ve only ever attempted to smoke a cigar once in my life, and it ended with me regurgitating my £2 pints of Carling into a bush outside Hull University). The experience of enjoying a lasting flavour is by no means limited to beer – the number one lingering sensation has to be garlic – but there are plenty of ales out there that give you an amazing result, long after you expect it.

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Here are five of the best Scottish beers I can think of for Linger – with these, the rewards just keep on coming.

Tempest Unforgiven (5.4%)
A juniper rye ale with smoked oak, on cask this one goes on and on. Smoked and rauchbiers are (in)famous for their long, deep aftertastes, the addition of juniper gives this one a lift away from the full-on sausage-meat effect of some of Germany’s finest, towards a sloe-gin element that really works.

Loch Lomond Silkie Stout (5.0%)
This particular style is perfectly suited to yielding a long, rewarding linger – but the balance of malt right at the beginning is where it really pays off. Silkie is a stout that has a fantastic ashen dryness on the finish, that you can really taste for a while after. Proof that it doesn’t have to be hoppy to be moreish.

Highland Old Norway (9.0%)
Barley Wines are a prefect illustration of beers that leave you with a complex, enduring far-aftertaste. And like many of their beers, Highland’s is the best in Scotland for the style. Old Norway is a masterpiece, with a linger of figs, honey and warming, walloping alcohol.

Fyne Ales Vital Spark (4.4%)
I’ve never really been entirely sure what style Vital Spark is (a medium mild?), but it’s my favourite beer that they produce. This is largely down to the fantastic flavours that it leaves you with – the key here being the blackcurrant fruitiness that blends into the roasty finish.

Stewart Brewing Chilli Reekie (6.2%)
Another ingredient bound to linger, Stewart’s chillied-up version of their strong stout Cauld Reekie has a rising subtlety of heat which works really well with the base components of the beer. Chilli is easy to overdo, and this one gets the balance perfectly correct (unlike the worst beer linger I ever experienced)…

Craft Beer Rising Glasgow

A beer festival held in a marquee, hosted by a brewery, within the grounds of a larger brewery; Craft Beer Rising. This Russian doll of beer took place over the weekend at the Drygate facility in Glasgow, having moved north for the first time since its London inception. I ventured across from Waverly to Queen Street on the Friday to check out the trade day and then hopefully blunder into the public session that followed. Last Craft Beer Rising, at the Truman Brewery in East London, us freebooting ‘trade’ types were clinically ushered out in the interval,* so it was a welcome surprise when, as the Drygate trade session clock ticked down, rather than squawking ‘YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR BEER IN THREE…TWO…ONE’, a PA announcement suddenly yelped into life that those of us already there would be subsumed into the public session that was about to begin. Hoorah! The white exhibitors’ wristband I had slyly acquired to avoid being turfed out would not be needed, after all.

* But…but…I’m a beer blogger!! [sniff]

There was quite a strange atmosphere on the Friday at Craft Beer Rising – somewhat inevitably, maybe. The morning after the night before; Thursday’s vote on the Independence referendum still fresh in everyone’s minds. The trade session itself was particularly muted, brewers staring out from behind their palleted bars, or talking to a couple of people at a time, at most. For a blogger like myself, this was great, as I could buzz from one stall to the next, repeatedly asking questions, like the last wasp of summer. Brewers, being as amenable as they usually are, were only too happy (at least on the outside) to chat away, and in the process I learned a fair bit of fascinating future plans from several of them. All of it, naturally, off the record (such is life). However, let’s just say I had thought I’d seen in all in the world of beer labelling; so watch out in that regard.

Talking to a few of the beer drinkers who arrived for the public session – or ‘bluebanders’ as us white-banded types could have piously referred to them, the number one item of feedback they had about Craft Beer Rising was the cost. Twenty-odd pounds to get in (although a net fifteen, as that included a fivers’ worth of tokens) it sounded, to many, to be on the high side of average for a beer festival, even one appended by the word ‘craft’. Maybe that had combined with the post-indyref atmosphere to keep numbers down; the Friday evening session was as quiet a beerfest as I think I’ve ever seen (although it must be said the Saturday sessions apparently sold out). Still, that meant a better chance of sounding out some interesting beer; and so it proved.

Beer of the festival for me was Harbour’s 8.7% Chocolate and Vanilla Imperial Stout; a nigh-on perfect joining of these two most complementary of flavours for strong, dark beers. Right from the off, a wow beer. Not far behind that was Stewart’s Lemon Grass-hopper Saison, created on the Craft Beer Kitchen kit by a couple of competition winners, the blend of kaffir lime leaves, ginger and lemongrass again worked beautifully. In fact, such was the buzz around this one, don’t be surprised to see this beer upscaled to the big Stewart kit and released to a wider audience. Still on the ‘things in a saison’ trend, the collaboration between Williams Bros and Stillwater – Stravaigin (6.7%) – was another humdinger. Interestingly, I’d had this before, at the Edinburgh Beer Bloggers’ Conference, but with a few more months in the keg has made it much more vibrant, clean and zesty.

It was tough at this point to avoid the barrel-aged Even More Jesus being poured from an open bottle on the Siren bar, but I’d wanted to try Undercurrent again ever since managing to get a quick half at the Hanging Bat, many moons ago. It didn’t disappoint; the oatmeal pale ale was as great as I remembered. Once again, it reminded me of a grapefruit power bar, should such a thing exist. Finally, the fifth beer of five that really made the pages of my notebook tingle was another collab – Camden’s jaunt with Beavertown, One Hells of a Beaver. Sold underneath a sign proclaiming where ‘The Home of Hells’ was (as if you were in any doubt), this mashup of Gamma Ray and Camden Hells was really quite something. Proof, if any were required, that whatever and however you want to quantify it, ‘craft beer’ is still on the rise…



Thanks to the organisers of Craft Beer Rising for the trade ticket, and the staff at Drygate who had to put in extra shifts to get it all working. The atmosphere reduced somewhat towards the end of the night, unfortunately, as news filtered through as to what was occurring on George Square (past which those of us from Edinburgh would have to go to get the train). A real shame, but as the mood in the city was better at the weekend, hopefully that pervaded to the festival as well.

Get Your Brew On

SouthernH1

When it comes to the world of homebrewing, competitions are nothing new; ever since cavemen discovered berries could be mulched into a fermentable paste, groups of self-beerians have gathered together to assess who has the better skills (it took the invention of the wheel to solve the cavemen’s next problem: distribution). That homebrewers are willing to submit their careful creations to the scrutiny of their peers quashes one of the myths of the craft – that they are all doing it just to get loaded as cheaply as possible. Sure, the 25p a pint brigade do still exist, but many homebrewers recognise that working their way up from extract kits to full mash can – for some – lead to the ultimate scaleup; their own brewing facility.

Here in Edinburgh, the Southern Bar on South Clerk Street has always had an affinity for the art of homebrew – possibly because of its proximity to the city institution that is Brewstore (formally Edina). Last year, the Southern hosted their first annual ‘Get Your Brew On’ competition for local kitchen superheroes – with the winning entry to be brewed commercially by Stewart Brewing. As it turned out, during the judging process one beer was head and shoulders above the others – First World Problems, a 6.2% Belgian IPA brewed by James Hardacre. This promptly went into production, and even now sits as the highest ranked Stewart beer on RateBeer (I’m not sure how they necessarily feel about that).

Fast-forward twelve months, and the second iteration of Get Your Brew On has rolled around – although the number of entries has decreased a little from last year, it’s still pretty impressive. I was part of the finals judging panel (not particularly on reputation; I was down for the day before but was bumped when I couldn’t make it). Tasting the eight beers that made it through was interesting – as all beer judging is – two winners having been selected from each of the four categories. Variety was certainly there – we had everything from a steam beer to an imperial treacle rye stout (rye certainly seeming to be an ingredient of the moment).

The most unique thing about the Southern’s competition is the element of feedback. Rather than judge the beers, noting down the numbers for appearance, aroma etc and then meekly having to fish for the calculator app to add three sevens, a twelve and a five, Get Your Brew On delivers precise feedback. Anyone who enetered a beer can come back and request the judges sheets, which include non-standard questions such as ‘how could this be improved’ – now, seeing as I’m not a brewer and have never homebrewed, that’s not any kind of advice I feel qualified to give, but the professional brewers on the finals panel were able to give that kind of detailed feedback.

The overall impression I had of the 2014 competition was that it was far more even than last year – making the judging a much harder process. Also, despite my earlier comment about homebrewers having a higher moral ceiling than simply getting loaded, the lowest abv of the finalist beers was 5.5% (the highest, 9.5%). That’s probably a reflection on the styles that got through, of course. Speaking of which, the overall winner was something of a welcome surprise in style terms – a 90 shilling, brewed by Rory Lancellas. Creamy, sweet toffee, with a perfect level of carbonation, it was hugely impressive. Rory’s 90/- will now be brewed commercially by Stewart Brewing – look out for it in the bottle shops soon!

A wedding brewday at the Craft Beer Kitchen

Hop trials on the exterior of the brewery. The current frontrunner, in terms of height, being Phoenix (left)
Since I last visited the headquarters of Stewart Brewing, even more things have changed at their gleaming Loanhead facility; progress there, seemingly, just can’t be satisfied. The space-aged brewkit fitted last year is soon to be joined by two further colossal tanks; each larger than anything Stewart Brewing have had so far, destined to help deal with the sheer popularity of their core beers such as Holyrood. As things stand, the small-run and the experimental have to be fitted in wherever possible, when time and space allow. Yet, having said that, change also has recently been afoot in that regard, with the arrival of the Stewart Brewing Craft Beer Kitchen.




Launched officially three months ago, the Kitchen has seen a substantial number of bookings already. The three tuns (seen here being photobombed by a plastic bin), were custom built in Glasgow; the engineering company apparently being so taken with them, they now fabricate and produce them for general sale. Despite looking like a cross between an old-school milk churn and a one-person hot-tub, they are controlled by sensors and impenetrable pipework (impenetrable to me, at least). As a unit, the Craft Beer Kitchen is overseen by Bruce Smith, ex-of Natural Selection and Heriot-Watt, and now Stewart’s ‘Innovation Brewer’ – which presumably means all eyes turn to him in the ‘what could we brew next’ meetings.




Speaking of brewing, the reason why I was there was very simple. I’m getting married next month, and figured it would be nice to do something I’ve seen other bloggers (such as Nick) do, and brew a wedding beer. I’m already curating a beer list of some of the Scottish beers that have meant the most to me over the years, but also thought it would be great to have a hand-made, personalised beer that was produced just for the day. Having originally planned to make a Sierra Nevada clone, (it was my gateway), when Bruce said he makes more of that than anything else, and my brewteam for the day included the West Coast Whirlwind himself, Elixir Brew Co’s Benjii Bullen, the result was that we ended up standing around a tupperware tub of gorse flowers, something nobody had even tasted, much lesss brewed with.




The beer that we came up with was a 5.6% American-style brown ale with elderflower, gorse, honey and then matured (for a short while) on toasted coconut. The idea (once I’d moved away from the Sierra) was to think about a flavour that defined my childhood; Fizz Wiz coconut macaroons. Nowadays, when you hear that m-word you think of tiny French crumbly things in garish colours (or, I do – I know they are spelled differently). But back in the day, my occasional reward for behaving in ASDA was a chewy, teaplate-sized, coconut macaroon with edible paper on the bottom. It’s a flavour I still love today, hence the toasted addition to the brown ale. The elderflower and gorse; well, when you ask Benjii to ‘have a look in his cupboard’, that’s the kind of thing you end up with…




As it happened, raw gorse flowers taste remarkably like mange-tout peas, which is something nobody was expecting. We’ll see whether they come across in the beer as a balancing tannic bitterness, or as the suggested floral, almost pina colada sweetness. I’m glad we pushed the boat out – if you’ve got all the facilities there, you may as well, after all. Having said that, the Stewart brewing guys told me that people generally ask to simply brew things they want to drink, with birthdays being the most popular reason given. Speaking of parties, the other new arrival at Stewart’s since my last visit is their brewery-wall multi-tapped growler station; an idea I’ve discussed with other brewers, and one which usually results in eyes glazing over and thirsty pauses in the conversation.




The Craft Beer Kitchen vessels use pellet hops and malt extract, for operational ease, to shorten the process and make it bearable for non-brewing types (although we used all-grain, on the day). Everything sluices out following the brew; for things that might interfere with the plumbing, a strainer is needed (‘the world’s most expensive muslin bag’, as it was referred to). Here, the gorse and elderflower prepare for their dunking, although it looks like they are about to be jettisoned from an airlock. Hopefully, these flavours should all go really well together, with the sweetness of the honey – which actually had a citrusy, almost lemon curd flavour – working with the coconut and being balanced by the floral botanicals. We used Chinook and Citra, which should bring back another layer of pithy grapefruit to build with the others.




Following all that, the wort was transferred to the bullet-shaped plastic fermentation vessels, and the yeast pitched – which is what I’m doing here. We were going to do a forty litre batch, but in the end scaled up to eighty. That’s two litres of beer per wedding guest, which with the curated list, you’d think would be enough. Wouldn’t you?




Having pitched the yeast and sealed up the fermenters, Bruce wheeled the plastic bullets off to give the little powerhouses a bit of quiet-time to begin their vital work, and we sauntered around the brewery a bit before heading off. It’s a great idea, the Craft Beer Kitchen, and others like them (such as the new public kit at Glasgow’s Drygate) – using what used to be known just as pilot kits as a centre for the public to head out and let their imaginations go. It gives the brewery another source of income, but it also brings them closer to their customer base, as usually the interaction occurs in someone else’s pub, or supermarket. Apparently Stewart Brewing have already had repeat-visitors, which is great to see. If you’d like to head along to the Craft Beer Kitchen and brew your own, check out the Stewart Brewing website. Many thanks to Steve, Jo and the team, and especially Bruce, for helping us put together the beer. Now, the next thing is the name…

Stewart Brewing launch Craft Beer Kitchen

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Knocking out the various half-thought ideas that end up on this website, something I take for granted – without doubt – are the brewdays I end up going on. Those long, cold mornings standing in industrial units, unavoidably getting in the way, trying not to break anything. They are great fun, sorting out with a brewer beforehand what you’re going to be making, coming up with ideas, losing the hair on your arm as you do the first addition of hops. That familiar glint in the brewers’ eye when time comes for one of the vessels to be cleaned, as they sidle away towards the shelf where the sponges are kept. It’s all part of the fun.

I’ve always wondered if that particular experience is one that could be replicated commercially. ‘Pay and Play’ beermaking for the public, giving anyone a chance to rock up and sort out a malt bill, be a brewer for the day. Well, in Edinburgh (or more exactly, Loanhead), you now can – last week Stewart Brewing launched their Craft Beer Kitchen, based in a small corner of their impressive new brewery, just the other side of the bypass. All prospective brewers need to do is get in touch, book a brewslot, and pony up.

Two different batch-sizes are available – 40 or 80 litres, with the former all bottle, and the latter either bottle, or bottle and cask. This seems to be some investment by Steve, Jo and the team, with three separate brewing systems installed – but it looks to be paying off already, Jo telling me they have already had a lot of interest, and days are being booked up. “We’re open to making anything that’s legal,” said brewer Bruce at the official launch, which took place on Friday at the Southern Bar.

To me, one thing that should be – if not illegal – then at least frowned upon is beer brewed with carrots. Say whaaaat? Yes, Friday’s launch also featured eight beers produced on the test kits, as an idea of what can be done. Root vegetables can work; there are some great beetroot beers out there (and many that are undrinkable), but the 48 Carrot Ale was a real face-scruncher. So called because that number were grated directly into the brew, it had a fraction of a Belgian tickle, then a big, rooty carrot finish. Tasted exactly as intended, and many people loved it – however I was firmly in the other camp. Very firmly. Indeed.

Another beer that went down really well on the night was Earl Grey Amber, brewed with leaves from the distinctively-flavoured tea. Also a great idea, but it tasted like running through a burning Bergamot factory, barrels of Earl Grey syrup exploding in your wake. I wrote the words HUGELY FLORAL several times over. It seems like these kitchen kits don’t half get the flavours into the final product! (Although, having said that, the Popcorn Pils was more grassy than popcorny, which may have been a good thing).

The standout of the event was, for me, the Watermelon Wheat, an idea more breweries should investigate – it works beautifully. The balance of sweetness between the hefe and melon components really came together; in fact, it was almost on a par with 2013’s Cool as a Cucumber landmark for refreshment, just a cracker. Also great, the Blackcurrant Berliner Weisse, even if the combination of fruit and lactobacillus resulted in the beery equivalent of a Muller Fruit Corner; it also worked really well. Ditto the honeysuckle and peach of Ka Pow, a 7.7%, beefed-up, Ka Pai.

Finally, aside from the rich, earthy and perfumed double IPA Poker Face, the remaining standout was Hopricot Pale, an apricot-infused pale ale created by the homebrewing hive-mind of the Brewstore. 6.2% and hopped with Amarillo and Galaxy, it also contained 1.3kg of apricots in 75 litres, which gave a swarthiness I really liked. Orange, peach and a biscuity finish were there too, but the star was undoubtedly the dirty, apricot skin flavour; that simultaneous sweetness and bitterness you get from eating them. Great stuff.

You could argue, I guess, that how these beers turned out didn’t really matter – they were all experiments, designed to get people thinking about what could be achieved on the test kits. That’s the take-home point here (pun intended) – the key thing about the Craft Beer Kitchen is that openness of scope; it yields a chance for people to be creative, and come up with anything they like. Being available to all, it’s a great idea for those who always fancied the idea of being a brewer for the day, or taking the next level with their homebrew. It’s yet another point of variety in Edinburgh’s flourishing beer scene…