Tag Archives: Tempest

Beer of the Week – Tempest Old Parochial

As the weekend is just about around the corner (or here right now if you have an understanding boss) it is time for the latest in my series of the fifty-two unsung heroes of Scottish brewing. These are the beers I feel are underlooked, both up here and in the wider UK, and deserve to be in your drinking cupboard for when that two-day holiday appears on the horizon.

This time around it is another beer from Tempest in the Borders – but very different from the Easy Livin’ Pils that featured in week five of this series, back at the start of February. For the back end of September this particular choice is more suited to the kind of weather we have been having lately – not exactly cold enough for stouts, but not warm enough for anything hop led. In short, it’s Scotch Ale season and to celebrate, you won’t regret selecting the best one in the country.

38. Old Parochial (10.0%)
Tempest Brewing, Tweedbank
Style: Scotch Ale
330ml bottle

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

First brewed five years ago, this is a quasi-imperial Scotch with a bit of Wee Heavy thrown in and is deep, dark reddish brown with a first sip that hits you like a caber landing on your foot. It’s enormously boozy, sweet, oaky and has every fruit you can stew and eat warm that you can think of. Fermented out with two different yeast strains, the bourbon-barrel ageing and also the use of smoked malt give this beer as many flavours as you’d ever wish for in a beer. It’s a riot from start to finish and and absolute stone cold classic. It’s one of the best beers of any style to come out of Scotland, ever.

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

The Tempest Springfest: Festivals in Microcosm

Last weekend the good people of Tempest Brewing threw their doors open to several hundred people at their Tweedbank facility for a beer festival – the second they have held there, following on from last years’ Oktoberfest (which will take place again in a few month’s time). I went along with my wife and dog, the first time she had been on a train (the dog, that is) and very quickly realised why it is a perfect small-scale beer festival. Here are a few reasons why it ticks all of the boxes.

1) Getting there

For amazing, on-point beery shindigs like IndyMan or any of the half-billion events in London this is something that isn’t ever considered by the majority of attendees – who simply hop on a Tube or local light rail service and glide to the front gates, #trainbeer in hand. That’s not always the case further afield however and up here the incredible festivals (like FyneFest, say) require more logistics and packing than the guys that went up Everest in the 50’s. Tempest works because it is literally at the end of the train line from Edinburgh; the Borders Rail that admittedly trundles along at 10mph but once you arrive pretty much every single person making it to Tweedbank wanders the same direction for a few minutes to the brewery. This also means you can’t get lost. In theory.

2) The Open-ness

Festivals that take place in brewery courtyards have one major advantage behind them. What they lack in toilet luxury they more than make up for in the ability to wander around and see behind the scenes. Offering tours for the people who attended, or for those that didn’t simply the chance to stare at where it all happens with a cup of beer in hand, immediately puts the connection into place as to where the beer comes from. Also, the folk at Tempest are the most honest around that I know of – having met founder Gavin years ago he is the most approachable and open brewery owner I’ve ever met. Well, either that or he could be the best poker player in the Borders. I don’t know…

3) The Beers

Well, of course. Trying new things is the best thing about beer festivals so having new releases, specials and the like on offer are reason enough to find that platform at Waverley you’ve never been to before. Having the chance to try Old Fashioned on draught was incredible, as was – of course – the Old Parochial from the wood and all of the IPAs that Tempest knock out with abandon. The first beer of the day was remarkable too, Dawn of Justice Citra Session IPA, a fantastic zingy refresher after wrestling with a nervy dog for an hour on the train. You know you’ll get great beer with Tempest, but poured at the brewery and drunk outside, there was nothing better. And I didn’t even mention the Longer White Cloud, In The Dark We Live or Brave New World. Just amazing.

4) The Queues

Every beer festival needs something that is slightly unnerving. Not bad or disappointing or it can spoil the day of course, but having so many thirsty people drinking 2/3rd measures meant the small bar was five deep at a minimum. The bar staff did a good job and it moved fast though – plus there was the Imperial Bar inside the brewery with ten or so beers on hovering at 10% – but without a printed booklet of the beers on it took standing in line to give you the time to consider the beer blackboard and pick something to drink – and waiting makes the heart grow fonder (for beer), thus meaning the end reward tastes all the sweeter. Oh, also a small queue for one of the best burgers I’ve had for a long time from the Grind, Newcastle.

5) The Attendees

Finally the festival stood out for the number of different people there – families, people with free-running dogs (ahem), beer geeks and raters, regular people, groups of guys having stickfights in the small area of trees. I don’t know, maybe it takes a venue like the Borders, or the backdrop of a brewery, to vest the crowd of the 30-something bearded male domination that I’ve seen in other festivals (I only say that with jealousy as I recently graduated from that age-bracket). Anyway, it just made everything feel much more inclusive, I guess. And having those stand-up plastic urinals made things easier for 50% of those there too – although someone did ask me why the guys were peeing in the handwashers…

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make the Springfest a success, it was a great festival. As a disclosure they supplied me with a free ticket but I’m guessing not with a blog post like this in mind.

Beer of the Week – Tempest Easy Living Pils

As we are now into the second month of the year, it is time for the fifth in my series of fifty-two unsung Scottish beers that need to be in your viewfinder if you’ve never managed to try them before. So far as January ran its course we have had beers from Fyne Ales, Swannay, Broughton and Traquair House, and for this next instalment we move fifteen miles or so due east from the last of those to Tweedbank, the new(ish) home of Tempest Brewing Co.

Aside from all the newly-popular barrel-aged or soured styles that we have access to these days, there can’t be a more instantly divisive style out there than the lager. Through no fault of its own it has been sullied somewhat by the global brewing concerns as they sought to appeal to the everyman and woman drinkers out there. This is a crying shame, as the classic Helles and Pilsners of continental Europe are not only delicious but with nothing to hid behind also one of the hardest challenges for brewers to master. And with Easy Livin Pils, few have mastered them like Tempest.

5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils

Tempest Brewing Co, Tweedbank, Scottish Borders
Style: Pilsner
330 ml bottle

Irrespective of its place as one of the world’s formative beer styles, Pilsners deserve to be in your fridge because they are completely approachable and when made this well, nigh-on unbeatable. As with all of their other beers, Tempest have added the twist of New Zealand hops to this Continental challenger, and being extensively dry-hopped it backs up the dry baseline from the malt with the expected hop bitterness but aided by a hugely uplifting hit of citrus that really surprises – and proves the adage that sometimes you can improve on perfection.

Throughout their career, this is the masterstroke of Tempest; this ability to create enormously drinkable beers by adding their trademark hit of South Pacific flavour. The vinousness of kiwi hops lends themselves beautifully to classical European and North American styles – there’s just something about their arrival into the world of Pilsner that truly works. If anyone you know loves lager then get them one of these and see where it takes them – Easy Livin is one of the most underrated beers in the UK and one of the very best lagers these islands have yet produced.

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

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale

Brewery of the Year, 2015 – Tempest Brewing Co

This was a post supposed to go up before Christmas – the traditional last blog of the year. So it’s almost exactly a month late. Apologies for that, but at least it’s not a time-sensitive post; just one to underline the continued amazing success of British brewing. It refers to the brewery I think make the leap into the next level over the course of this last year, and as with previous choices (2012 Fyne Ales, 2013 Buxton, 2014 Magic Rock) there is something of a theme. The brewery that handled upheaval and embraced change – whilst delivering amazing beers, one after the other – was Tempest Brewing Co.

From their borders outpost in an old Kelso dairy, Tempest had a fantastic twelve months – with the most significant part of that upheaval taking place before February had concluded, with a move to a bespoke new facility fifteen miles to the east in Tweedbank. Founder Gavin Meiklejohn has been talking about a move from Kelso for about as long as I’ve known him, so it was hugely gratifying to see that it had finally taken place. After handing over day-to-day management of the Cobbles, Gavin and wife Annika had one less reason to remain and struck out for a dedicated stand-alone brewery further upstream on the River Tweed.

The implications of this kind of thing are hard to fully appreciate, even for someone like me who hangs around breweries every now and again (asking educated questions like ‘what’s that for?’ or ‘where does that go’?). Whilst most of us can appreciate what it’s like to move house, few can also get an idea of what it is like to also maintain stock levels and fulfil orders at the same time. Yet breweries manage this, running both sites until one is fully tested and up to speed, and the other can be mothballed and the kit either brought along as well as a small-batch pilot kit, or sold on to another brewery just starting out.

Tempest finally cut loose in 2015, with their new facility. As so often happens, they converted this break from Kelso into a clean break by also re-branding and hiring more people. Gone is the South Pacific-style devil and in its place a cleaner, more modern, logo which to me at least has the look of a Southern Ocean whale descending into the deep. The bottles now stand out a lot more, with different artists involved in the smaller-scale releases. Sure, I’ll miss squinting at the stamped beer name to work out what each bottle is on the shelf, but the branding change is much better, and very welcome.

At the same time as the move, the new hires, and the new look, Tempest managed to produce some utterly fantastic beers. I don’t think there’s a Scottish producer who has a better grasp of one of the styles of recent years – saison. Their Saison du Pommes is truly fantastic, and alongside other 2015 releases such as Marmalade on Rye, Harvest IPA, Longer White Cloud and the recent (but still monumentally under-appreciated) Double Shuck Imperial Oyster Stout, proved that the beers coming out of their new brewhouse are better than any before.

The other vital act of moving locations is to maintain the standard of your core beers – and it’s immediately noticeable that Tempest staples such as Brave New World, Red Eye Flight and Brave New World are also tasting even better than before, some with a long-awaited chance to tweak certain aspects. There was even a relaunched Old Parochial brew to welcome in the close of the year – surely one of the very best beers for ageing created north of the border (although these days, that is a category with a lot of competition).

When it comes time to think about Brewery of the Year, it’s about more than just the beer. It has to be great though – with beers across styles that make you sit up and take notice – but for me the thing that stood out about Tempest is how at ease the new brewery seemed, from the outside. The beers are even better than they used to be, the new lines are every bit as inventive, and the entire operation looks to have taken that expansion utterly within stride. It even has it’s own dedicated rail link, for visitors.*

*Other Tweedbank attractions are available.

So whilst other UK breweries had amazing years in 2015 – Siren upped their game yet again, Cloudwater hit the ground running, and the London scene continued to grow arms and legs – for me it was Tempest that managed, and then utterly exceeded, expectations. They are my brewery of the year for 2015.

Best new beers of 2015…Tempest Harvest IPA


So, the final beer in the five-part best-of list for 2015 is here – a perfect example of a brewery doing what they have come to do best, and then pushing it just that little bit further. It proves – once and again – how that blend of experience and experimentation result in some truly fantastic beers…

Harvest IPA: Mosaic Saison (6.7%)
Tempest Brewery, Tweedbank, Scottish Borders
(keg, bottle, September)

It’s one of those decisions brewers face – stick to what you know, or do best, or decide to pin back the ears and take on new styles in a totally different direction. As it works out, most breweries go for the latter with a hefty dose of the former, and it’s the ones that have built up experience with a core set of styles who usually nail the more unusual ones first time. Take Tempest – they have become one of the finest exponents of saison in the country at the moment, and yet one they released at the tail end of this Autumn was even better.

Their fruit-based saisons have been great, but the first in a new series of Belgian/IPA hybrids was truly special – and is a great example of what happens when that already fantastic baseline is tinkered with. In this case, that tinkering involved bucketloads of Mosaic hops – and the result was a fantastically juicy, citrus layered beer that straddled all kinds of beery worlds, but in perfect balance.

In writing this final post I’ve realised that every single one of my new British beers of the year is 6% or over – this isn’t really indicative of my drinking these days (I’m still drinking more of Jarl and Dead Pony Club than pretty much anything else), but maybe it’s a subtle reminder of how to become memorable, with so many fantastic beers out there. If nothing else, the Harvest IPA was without doubt the most notable ‘is this strong? You can’t taste it’ beer of 2015. As Gavin at Tempest always says…drinkable…

So, that’s it for the sixth running of the traditional end of year best-of list. For more details on how Tempest put together their Harvest IPA, check out their blog post here. There were some fantastic beers that didn’t quite make the list – it’s been another brilliant year for new British beers.

There’s one more blog post to go this year – next week it’s the big one. The BeerCast’s Brewery of the Year…

On the double – the rise of Tempest Brewing Co


“My relationship with hops is a difficult one,” says Gavin Meiklejohn, leaning against the back bar of the Safari Lounge in Edinburgh. “I mean, they got me into brewing – but the global demand for specific varieties just leads to shortages. Especially once the big boys step in. Take Nelson Sauvin – the price for 20kg of Nelson has doubled. They are a finite resouce you know, you can grow them, but you can’t pick them fast enough.” Gavin is the founder of Tempest Brewing, the borders producer that have recently moved from an old dairy building in Kelso to a much larger unit on an industrial estate in Tweedbank. At a tasting event hosted by Cornelius Beer & Wine, he expanded on his love for that particular, increasingly hard to find, hop.

“I wanted a New Zealand terroir hop for my flagship,” he said, holding up a bottle of the always excellent Long White Cloud, and talking about how his home-brewing career in New Zealand began his path towards owning a brewery. “This beer came with me from there. It was the style that got me into beer in the first place – it’s Kiwi hops, for me. Long White Cloud isn’t an NZPA – it’s made in Scotland. Right from back when we used to hand-stamp the name on the bottle. It’s just getting harder now, though – everyone wants Nelson Sauvin.”

Long White Cloud isn’t a single-hopped beer; it also contains other (equally hard to source) New Zealand hops; Waimea, Rakau, Kohatu and Motueka. Gavin also asserted that he thinks there are few breweries in this country using New Zealand hops like Tempest – and when it comes to a beer like this one I’d have to agree. It captures the vinous nature of the country as well as any other beer I can think of, that’s for sure. There’s a citrus quality at first, like a Marlborough Sauvignon, before the equally typical greener notes come through as in a New Zealand Reisling.*

* That’s about all of the wine chat I’m good for…

Yet now, Long White Cloud has direct competition – and from the same source. The Cornelius tasting event was also a platform for the launch of an imperial version, Longer White Cloud, which rolls in at 10.2%. The original may not have been on my list of beers to double up, following the appearance of Fyne Ales Ragnarok (aka Imperial Jarl) three months ago – but it might as well have. Longer White Cloud is another of those ‘Oh, that would really work’ ideas that only seem to make sense once somebody else has suggested them. (Although I am still holding out hope for a Pilot Imperial Ultravilot at some stage).

As you might expect, such is the gravity of this one that it veers away a little from the sharper, zestier fruit of its namesake and instead leads with sweeter stone fruit like apricot and peach, with a fair whack of melon in there as well. As Gavin said, “A beer like this could have high residual sweetness with the big body, very syrupy, but we worked out how to dry it out with our house yeast but at the same time not make it too bitter – we really wanted to make it drinkable. I guess we achieved it, we’re really happy.”

That seems to be a key word for Tempest at the moment. After struggling for years at the previous location, and with a re-brand at the start of this year, their move has come at the perfect time; it really does seem as if they are all a bit happier than in previous years. But it was whilst we were all tasting their new Imperial Oyster Stout Double Shuck (brewed with 200 Lindesfarne oysters) that Gavin underlined his long-standing philosophy, “It’s all about balance, and taste. That’s what I want to achieve. That’s what they’ll probably put on my tombstone – drinkable…”

Many thanks to James and the team at Cornelius Beer & Wine for hosting the evening. For an in-depth look around Tempest’s new facility in Tweedbank, check out the ever-fantastic Walking and Crawling blog for a behind the scenes tour.