Tag Archives: Stewart

Stewart Pilsen Launch

Last night saw the launch of two new beers from Stewart Brewing – their fairly new Dopplebock [sic] (7.0%) and their very new Pilsen (5.6%) – which was only bottled at the weekend following eleven weeks of conditioning. The BeerCast were invited along, so we turned up at the Windsor Buffet on Elm Row and joined in the fun. After a quick chat with Steve and Jo Stewart – not to mention a couple of complimentary pints of Holyrood – the pilsner came out for sampling.

It poured a nice pale gold colour with some haze, and had a pretty dominant hop aroma – some orange and even stone fruit on the nose, which was pretty unexpected. Of the two main branches of pilsner, Stewarts’ points very much down the Bohemian – Saaz rather than noble hops, but there’s no corresponding spice or earthy maltiness in the aroma. This continues in the taste – pretty hop-forward for a pilsner, but considering it had only been bottled a few days ago the ‘rawness’ is to be expected. The aftertaste is dry and bitter, with just a touch of malt.

This reminded me very much of the Appellation tasting we attended in May, where the then-new Dopplebock had just been bottled. That time it was also slightly unbalanced – but the tasting last night has proved how far it has come. With a couple of months under its belt the doppelbock is outstanding – full toasty flavours of malt, with just a touch of sweetness, and the 7% alcohol giving a warming finish. Compared with my tasting notes from back in May the difference was really noticeable, the flavours have really come together.

Turning back to the Pilsen, the consensus was that it’s a very drinkable, hoppy lager. It really doesn’t taste 5.6% at all – it could really sneak up on you in a session. Although it lacks some of the characteristic Bohemian maltiness at the moment, hopefully those flavours will come. The bottle design is almost identical to the doppelbock – we were debating whether this would cause confusion – but having a signature range in conjunction with the recently re-branded regular bottled lineup is a nice idea, and will hopefully mean more experimentation for Stewart Brewing in the future.

Thanks again to Steve and Jo for the invite to the tasting

Stewart Brewing website

Stewart Brewing Tasting

Another week, another beer tasting at Appellation Wines on Dalry Road. Becoming something of a fixture for the BeerCast, not only do we get to drink some very good beer, but we also get to meet the producers and ask them questions, which is always good fun. The Stewart Brewery are no strangers to the BeerCast, since operations began in 2004 their distinctive pump clips are a regular sight across the real ale pubs of Edinburgh (they supply 250 pubs in total). In November 2009 they diversified, adding a range of bottled beers to their lineup. I tasted three of these when they first came out, but it was interesting to give them a second go at Appellation. Also on the menu was a BeerCast Exclusive – what Steve and Jo informed us was the first sampling pretty much anywhere of their latest beer – Stewart Dopplebock (7.0%). We began, however, with one of their all-time classics…

Edinburgh Gold (4.8%)
The 2007 SIBA Champion beer of Scotland in the premium bitter category, Edinburgh Gold sings fruity Tettnang hops from the first mouthful. On cask, it’s probably my favourite Stewart beer (although for me Copper Cascade runs it close). I’d not tried the bottled version before, but it compares very well to the cask, and is incredibly refreshing. Interestingly, Stewart decided to go for 330ml bottles rather than the standard 500ml – primarily to distance themselves from the competition, but also to appeal more to restaurants and bistros. I can certainly imagine pairing this with seafood, they would really complement each other.

Hollyrood (5.0%)
At only 3.9%, Stewart’s most popular cask ale Pentland IPA isn’t really strong enough for bottling – shelf-life would be something of a problem. As such, Steve and the team have styled a stronger beer along the same lines, but with more Amarillo hops added to the Magnum base. Weighing it at around 30 IBU’s Hollyrood is dry and biscuity with a fantastic citrus fruit aroma. All of their new bottled range are slightly hazy due to the lack of filtration, clearly this adds something to the flavour.

Embra (5.0%)
I was wondering who thought of the clever name for Stewart’s amber ale – the play on words of Edinburgh is also an anagram of the beer style – but it turns out nobody did until a customer pointed the fact out to them. Embra has Chinook hops added to the Magnum, and gives off sweet, slightly caramelly notes. An evolution of Edinburgh Marathon Ale Embra was the one I was initially unsure about – but this bottle tasted much improved on the one back in December.

St Giles (5.0%)
Named after the historic kirk on the Royal Mile, St Giles gives off some dark, roasty malt aromas. Hopped with Cascade and Magnum it gets better as it warms – all of Stewart’s bottled beers are designed to be drunk cold from the fridge (hence the amenable 330ml sizes), but St Giles really comes into it’s own when it approaches room temperature. The chocolate flavours start to come out, and the strength of flavour improves. Steve acknowledges this is their most challenging beer, but it’s one of the best.

Dopplebock (7.0%)
So after the four established bottled beers, came the new addition. The Dopplebock was brewed to be as faithful to the style as possible (albeit with slightly different spelling), so the fabled Reinheitsgebot purity laws were followed along the way. Tettnang and Saaz hops were added and the brew fermented at 12ºC. As a true doppelbock, these hops take a back seat to the dark, toasty maltiness that comes out on the nose and the palate. At the suggested cold serving temperature, a lot of the flavours are muddled, but once the beer warms the slight smokiness appears at the first taste, which gives way to the sweetness and warming alcohol. This one is extremely young, having been only bottled four days previously – and with a shelf life of two years will undoubtedly lose a lot of the ‘green’ flavours once it develops. Opinions at the tasting were mixed – as I guess they will always be for beers of 7% or higher – but the consensus was that this one is one to watch for the future.

Thanks to Steve and Jo Stewart for showing us the beers, and Ash at Appellation for hosting. We’ll be back for another tasting event, and will of course post our findings.

Stewart Brewing
Appellation Wines, 43 Dalry Rd, Edinburgh

New from Stewart

After the Caledonian, Loanhead’s Stewart Brewery are probably the closest producer to BeerCast headquarters in Edinburgh. Throughout the real ale pubs in the city, their beers such as Edinburgh Gold and Copper Cascade are found fairly regularly. Within the last few weeks they have launched a new range of bottle-conditioned beers, so we had to snap a few up to sample. Historically, Stewart have concentrated on cask ales, so their lineup of three new beers (plus Edinburgh Gold) in hand-filled bottles is a welcome change of direction.

Embra (5.0%)
Stewart’s first amber ale pours a hazy, opaque dark orange colour – all of their bottle-conditioned range state that they are ‘naturally cloudy’. It smells hoppy with a slight mustiness from the yeast, but none of the promised fruit aromas. It’s very bitter, the hops really coming out on the palate – Embra has almost a pale ale tang to it. It is quite drinkable at 5% though.

Hollyrood (5.0%)
Hollyrood smells almost exactly like Edinburgh Gold, the grapefruit citrus flavours are really apparent from the off. Comparisons with their other beer continue on the palate, although Holyrood is slightly more bitter in the finish. This one’s pretty hazy too, although a lighter golden colour than the Embra. It’s pretty refreshing though, with the biscuity aftertaste.

St. Giles (5.0%)
Stewart’s newest dark beer is named after the historical kirk that stands on the Royal Mile, and is classed as a ‘smooth, malty contemporary taste of Edinburgh’. It’s got a wonderful aroma to it, roasted malt and a slight smokeyness that comes through like a porter. Highly carbonated, it fizzes away in the glass as the head vanishes. Tasting very similar to a porter, it’s the pick of the bunch and has a great strength of flavour.

Scottish Real Ale Festival 2009 – Day 2

Grooben checking the beer list

Another day, another day at the beer festival. We returned to the Assembly Rooms for a second helping of the best of Scotland’s real ale, eager to see what else we could discover. The beers were pretty much the same as the day before, so we fired straight into the list sampling ones that had caught our eye from the Friday. The first beer I went for was the weakest in the entire festival – the traditional Scottish mild, Belhaven 60/- (2.9%). Brewed to a very old recipe, it was characteristically light and roasty. Milds always taste to me like watered-down porters, and this one was no exception. But as a delicate starter beer, it was a nice subtle start to the proceedings.

Next up it was the newest beer from Edinburgh’s other producer, Stewart’s Edinburgh Marathon Ale (4.2%). This family-run brewery from Loanhead make some great beers such as Pentland IPA and Edinburgh Gold, both of which were also at the festival – but Marathon was one I’d yet to sample. It was a very drinkable malty session bitter in the – dare I say it – ‘Northern style’. There was a touch of sweetness to it as well, which came through in the aftertaste. After that, I went for one I was looking forward to from the preview list – Plockton’s Starboard IPA (5.1%). One of Scotland’s smallest breweries, they are attached to the Plockton Inn in the Ross-shire village of the same name, and started up in 2007. Starboard is a strong hoppy IPA with a fantastic dry bitterness. It was pretty cloudy stuff, but that didn’t affect the taste at all – it was superb.

Beer four was one that was also highly rated – it had just been awarded the Champion Beer of Scotland for 2009, decided on the previous day. Sinclair Orkney’s Raven Ale (3.8%) won the top prize, becoming the third consecutive champion beer from that group of northern islands (following 2008’s Scapa Special and 2007’s Dark Munro, both from the Orkney Brewery). Their neighbours Sinclair Orkney did very well indeed this year, picking up second overall as well with Red MacGregor (third placed was Caledonian XPA). Raven had a sweet smell and taste, which was predominantly fruity with a growing biscuit aftertaste. It was nice, and certainly improved as you drank it, but for me there were better beers on show this year.

For example, Fyne Ales Vital Spark (4.4%) is a dark ruby ale with so much fruit in the malt it almost tastes of blackcurrants. The hops come and go, and the richness of flavour give it a great lasting finish. It’s fantastically drinkable, and a prime example of a session beer that isn’t pale and slightly hoppy. However, we learned at the festival about the sad death of Fyne Ale’s co-owner Jonny Delap. It was only a couple of months ago that we met him on a trip to Cairndow in Argyll to pick up some beers for a long weekend – he was such a friendly man and will be sadly missed.

The last beer I tried in the festival was Hillside/Deeside’s Broichan (5.2%). After thinking very highly of their Nechtan yesterday, the Broichan was just as interesting, although very different. A strong Scottish ale, this was fruity but not like Vital Spark – more pruney than blackcurrant. There was a smokiness to it as well – the tasting notes suggested it would be a “perfect beer for fireside drinking with cheese and oatcakes”. I don’t think you can argue with that, it was even pretty good when drunk around a rickety table on a Friday afternoon.

So that was it, another Scottish Real Ale Festival over. We managed to get through a huge amount of differing ales, with various degrees of success. The overall winners might have been Raven Ale, Red MacGregor and Caledonian XPA – but for us the standouts were Windie Goat’s Gutter Slab, Hillside/Deeside’s Nechtan, and Plockton’s Starboard IPA. We’ll hit the festivals again at August’s Great British Beer Festival in London. See you there…

Wetherspoon’s Real Ale Festival

The world’s biggest beer festival is running at the moment, up and down the UK (until the 14th of April). How they quantify that, I don’t know, but the good folks at JD Wetherspoon are having a celebration of real ale that even the BeerCast felt compelled to attend. I say ‘even the BeerCast’ because our local Wetherspoon’s isn’t really the kind of place you’d normally find us. You won’t find it in our pub guide to Edinburgh, for example (there are actually five here, if you count the two at the airport).

That’s not us being real ale snobs, either – perish the thought. It’s just the large, cavernous interiors and be-shirted groups of lads on WKD don’t really spell out a decent beer experience. But they do serve real ale – and are so vast you can usually get a seat. My Dad used to have meetings in his local Wetherspoons, far up the back on the raised no-smoking area (this was a few years ago). It used to be so empty, while waiting for his colleagues, he’d read one of the books on the shelves – placed there purely for atmosphere and effect – and leave a bookmark in for next time.

Anyway, we were up the other week at the Standing Order on George Street, enjoying some seriously good pints of my personal favourite local beer – Stewart’s Edinburgh Gold, at £1.90 a pint no less, when we saw the advert for the upcoming beer festival. Returning last week, they had a mightily impressive range of beers on offer that particular night, from a festival programme of 50:-

Young’s Bitter (3.7%) Wells & Young’s, Bedford.
Chocolate Drop (3.8%) Caledonian Brewery, Edinburgh.
Sunbright Ale (3.8%) Marston’s Brewery, Staffordshire.
Oakham JHB (3.8%) Oakham Brewery, Peterborough.
Elgood’s Old Wagg (4.0%) Elgood’s Brewery, Wisbech.
Sunchaser (4.0%) Everards Brewery, Leicestershire.
Hook Norton 303AD (4.0%) Hook Norton Brewery, Oxfordshire.
Eden Pure Ale (4.3%) Sharp’s Brewery, Cornwall.
Hopping Hare (4.5%) Hall & Woodhouse, Dorset.
Pedigree Six (6.0%) Marston’s Brewery, Staffordshire.
Abbot Reserve Ale (6.5%) Greene King, Suffolk.

So much to choose from on a cold Wednesday night. We started off on Everard’s Sunchaser, which was a pale lagery-style beer with German hops giving it a really moreish taste. Next we went for Elgood’s Old Wagg, which didn’t go down quite as well, lingering a bit too long in the finish, and with an odd maltiness to it. Finally we ended up with the Marston’s Pedigree Six, apparently brewed exclusively for Wetherspoon’s. The stronger alcohol taste really mixed well with the hops, and a spicy fruitiness made it very good indeed.

So if you’ve got the need for a beer and find yourself in a random UK high street over the next four days, you could do far worse than sounding out your nearest JDW. Certainly they have their issues – the people immediately in front of me at the bar bought a round of Tennants and Aftershock chasers – but they should certainly be applauded for sponsoring a real ale festival of this magnitude.

JD Wetherspoon