Tag Archives: Williams Bros

Beer of the Week – Williams Bros Nollaig

Not long to go with the year-long journey through the most unsung beers Scotland produces – so with just two left it’s time to roll out the big guns. Next Friday the series concludes with the single Scottish beer I consider to be the most under-rated; but before that there’s time to fit in a festive version of this post with the fifty-first of fifty-two, a seasonal release that deserves to be in the line-up of this brewery year-round.

Christmas beers often have a range of spices in their arsenal but surely the quintessential festive ingredient is the lesser-used spruce tips. What’s more Christmassy than Christmas trees? This particular beer revels in the resins, pairing the actual thing (from the spruce tips) with the hop-derived (from Centennial, with Citra and Goldings also on hand). When it comes to brewing with these arboreal ingredients, there are no masters of the art that can hold a branch to the Brotherhood from Alloa. The penultimate unsung Scottish beer is the fascinating Williams Bros Nollaig.

51. Nollaig (7.0%)
Williams Bros, Alloa
Style: Spruce IPA
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
From the Fine Wine Company online (as 1 Litre growler)
(also available in 330ml bottles from local Aldi stores in Scotland and from Williams Bros online store – although currently out of stock)

Sure, you don’t get many Spruce IPAs – but if you had to rank them this would be at the very top of that small piece of paper. It’s a masterpiece. The spruce tips – not pine, as in the case of Williams Bros’s other tree-based throwback Alba – are harvested green and introduced into the boil in a giant herbal teabag. The effect it has on the beer is incredible – a true example of the brewers’ art of complementary flavour.

The natural piney, woodsy notes from Centennial and Goldings (respectively) – with a fair dash of citrus from Citra – play off beautifully with the oily resin from the spruce tips. It’s not for the faint of heart – this is a thought-provoking, perfumed floral thing of wonder. There’s some light caramel, tea-like tannins and then the faintest tingle of spruce. It casts your mind back to how beers likely used to be, and where they have ended up. Nollaig is amazing, and if it weren’t so Christmas-themed a perfect year-round beer. Hell with it, trees grow 24/7 so this beer should be available then as well.

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
50. Stewart Brewing Cauld Reekie

Beer of the Week – Williams Bros Profanity Stout

Friday is here so that brings with it another beer recommendation from yours truly. Each and every weekend this year will be kicked off with a Scottish beer I think is flying under the radar and needs just a little bit more love – because we have so much incredible beer up here, sometimes the truly great ones can get lost. So here’s another tip for you – as we swing into October, it’s stout time.

Mind you, it’s always stout time in Scotland. I don’t think there’s a style that a part of the UK does better than Scotland and stouts. There are nearly ten in my list already, for evidence – and the next beer to join them might just be the best of all. Williams Bros are no stranger to making dark beers, and they are so prolific that it’s inevitable some are arrived at later rather than sooner. But when it comes to Profanity Stout, all roads should lead towards it.

39. Profanity Stout (7.0%)
Williams Bros, Alloa
Style: Stout
330ml bottle

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

This is a real sneaky one. It certainly doesn’t hit you like a 7% ABV beer should, which is quite something. However you should get a fair idea of its advertised strength from the sheer variety of flavours it fires at you, one after the other. Coffee and liquorice. Dark red fruits and salted caramel. Roasted malt and flowery hops. It’s a masterpiece of blending different elements into an overall whole. Profanity Stout is every bit as good as the sum of its parts and an absolute shoe-in for one of the best beers to come out of Scotland this decade.

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

Beer of the Week – Williams Bros Midnight Sun

Just as the weekend rolls into view once more, so does another quick-fire beer recommendation from yours truly. Each Friday throughout 2017 I will be nominating a Scottish beer that I believe is currently flying under the radar, but which in reality is a bona fide classic. If you’ve not tried it, then this will hopefully give you a push towards giving it a go and discovering just what I mean.

For this time, given that it is the last Friday in June and the start of the summer, it’s time to embrace the pouring rain currently being experienced with a spiced porter. Normally the provision of festive evenings and armchairs, there’s no better beer to reach for when the mid-point of the year brings with it horizontal sleet and a cloudbase fifty feet off the ground. Close the shutters, find that armchair and enjoy the incredible Midnight Sun.

26. Midnight Sun (5.6%)
Williams Bros, Alloa
Style: Porter
500 ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Great Grog’s online shop (as individual 500ml bottles)

Let’s start with the elephant in the room – the spices. So often a foray into the spice rack can bring overload (whether in my cooking or some of the beers I’ve sampled over the years). In both, the key is subtlety and balance. Midnight Sun introduces only a single added ingredient in this regard – fresh root ginger. And it’s a revelation. So many spiced dark beers throw in cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and all kinds of other things. This is fine of course, but the more you add the harder that balance is to achieve. This is beer, not a chai latte.

The reason Midnight Sun works so brilliantly is the ginger adds its characteristic warming hum alongside that of the 5.6% alcohol, really elevating the finish – and with oats added to the beer as well the creaminess comes from the malt bill rather than unnecessary additions of vanilla, cinnamon or other sweeter spices. The ginger doesn’t overwhelm you – but it shouldn’t. Instead its spicing combines with the roasty chocolate malt to create a truly balanced beer and – in my eyes – the best ‘speciality’ beer being brewed in Scotland today. If you’ve never tried it, you really should – simple as that.

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

Beer of the Week – Williams Bros Seven Giraffes

The weekly calendar has flicked over to Friday once again so that can mean only two things. Firstly, it’s pretty much the weekend so you can start turning attention towards beer (as if you haven’t already) and secondly your recommendation on what to go for is right here. Every seven days I’ll be picking a beer from the Scottish brewing scene that is perhaps flying under the radar and deserves to be discovered if you haven’t already.

This week’s unsung hero is an elderflower and lemon IPA. The first of those ingredients is used by a few breweries as a late infusion of flavour into the process but the undoubted kings are the boys from Alloa, Williams Bros. At least three of their regular beers feature it (Good Times and Birds & The Bees are the other two) but this particular brew involves the addition of lemon to really bring home the flavour qualities of a bright, zesty IPA. I’m talking about the fantastic Seven Giraffes.

19. Seven Giraffes (5.1%)
Williams Bros, Alloa
Style: India Pale Ale
500 ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At The William’s Bros online shop (as individual 500ml bottles or 330ml cans)

In reality the reason this beer works so well is probably not down to the elderflower and lemon at all. The backbone of seven different malts (which are responsible for the name, as chosen by the daughter of Scott Williams) includes Munich, Rye and Crystal and these leave an element of sweet caramel on the palate which combine with the floral flowers in a really unexpected way. Also the stars: the C-hops (Cascade and Chinook) and in particular the first of those which work with the lemon to add that crisp, pithy bitterness to the finish.

It’s as if each of these added ingredients has been paired with a series of supporting elements to really make the beer as a whole come to life. You can’t drink a pale ale that features Cascade without drawing comparisons to Sierra Nevada and Seven Giraffes does have the same intense drinkability about it. Yet for me it’s the influence of the malt bill that pulls everything together and makes this particular beer a brilliant depiction of the balancing act that brewers go through on a daily basis. And when they get it right, the results can be spectacular.

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

Breweries to watch out for in 2017

Here we are, staring bleary-eyed at another year having rolled around. 2016 saw lean times on the BeerCast in terms of writing, but there was more than ever going on in the world of brewing in the UK. As this is now the tenth year I have been writing about beer, that is more than reason to fire up the presses once again.

Time to kick things off in the traditional manner by taking a look ahead at some producers in England and Scotland to keep an eye on throughout the course of 2017. I’ve done this every year since 2012 and you can have a look at previous predictions here; 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012).

As ever, these are a few breweries who have interesting stories to keep an eye on and see how they progress – I’ll post a follow-up midway through the year to chart their progress…



SCOTLAND

Williams Bros – My overall pick to watch for Scotland would be the Brotherhood from Alloa. Williams Bros announced yesterday morning a planned expansion that’s short on concrete detail but includes a scaling up described as ‘radical’ and an overall aim of providing a bespoke packaging service for small-scale brewers looking to begin exporting. Williams Bros embraced canning last year, and waters thus tested they could carve themselves another niche pairing other can-curious breweries with exporters such as the Craft Beer Clan of Scotland (with whom they have an existing barrel-ageing programme). It’s barely two years since WB last expanded (to the tune of £1m); the fact that they are looking to re-up in 2017 is fascinating.

 

 

Bellfield Brewery – One of the increasing trends to follow over the course of the year could be ‘specialist’ breweries. The way the market is going, having a point of difference that works can boost producers into public consciousness way above (and irrespective of) the size of their business. Take Bellfield – Scotland’s first exclusively gluten-free brewery. The end of last year saw the Edinburgh producers secure their first UK-wide listing, charting a rapid increase in scope that their planned bespoke brewhouse will be able to supply. If this comes online and more beers are added to the portfolio (of existing Pils and US IPA) then look for both co-founders to use their media backgrounds to truly make Bellfield known up and down the country.

 

 

Fierce Beer – You may well have heard of Fierce Beer, but if you haven’t then chances are 2017 is the year in which you will. They blew onto the scene last year in a way not seen for a while – since the first brew in May, ex-oilworker homebrewers Dave Grant and David McHardy ratcheted everything up almost immediately. Within three months they had secured investment to expand into a brewhouse in Dyce, created a core line-up of ten different beers and launched into London by taking over the Rake in Borough Market. One of the great things about the industry at the moment is that brewers can create ranges with peanut/raspberry/habanero and it is in no way a gimmick. Fierce by name, Fierce by nature – look out, 2017.

 

 

Fyne Ales – One nugget that slipped out unnoticed towards the end of last year was the fact that the champions of Argyll had started a programme of spontaneous fermentation. Having obtained seven French wine casks a very special beer was encased within and is apparently going to remain there for at least two years. But instead of adding Fyne Ales to the 2019 brewers to watch list, they probably deserve keeping tabs on much sooner than that – their barrel-ageing programme is set to reveal all kinds of treasures (if you like Imperial Stouts, for instance) and when coupled with the fact that 2017 is the fifteenth anniversary of their first full year of brewing, expect one of the best breweries in the UK to get even better.

 

 

Dead End Brew Machine – Speaking of Fyne Ales, their sponsorship of the 2012 IBD Scottish Homebrew Competition resulted in Zombier, a porter created by Jake Griffin and Chris Lewis. Both now have microbreweries of their own, and to be honest either could be in this list. Jake’s Up Front had an amazing year last year – I can only hope that Chris’s concern has a similarly breakout twelve months. From debuting a passion fruit IPA (Dead One) in March, Chris brewed at a series of different places with every single result being outstanding. Glasgow has seen a surge of brewing talent arrive over the last year or so, which is fantastic to see. If Chris gets more brewdays in the bank over the next few months, be sure and track down anything he comes up with.





ENGLAND/WALES

Harbour – Moving into England, we start with Harbour Brewing Company. This time last year Eddie Lofthouse and his team were brewing on a 10BBL kit and pondering a few changes. That resulted in a new 30BBL kit, a new canning line and a new head brewer in Stuart Howe. A year of consolidation is far from on the cards however as they are soon to rip out that canning line for a larger one (a sure sign that aluminium is back and here to stay) and are planning on building an entirely new warehouse to free space for an enlarged brewery. Their second expansion in two years will see Harbour replacing almost their entire core line-up and refreshing the packaging to boot. So no signs of slowing down in Cornwall…
 

 

Camden Town – It’s just over a year since AB-InBev wrote the biggest cheque to be seen in British brewing for quite a while – the around £85m to buy Camden Town Brewery. Since then the packaging has been tweaked, fellow subsumers Elysian flew over for a collab (their shared AB-InBev parentage not making this ‘did you know?’ blog post), and new beers were released. Oh, and a colossal new brewery constructed in Enfield. Come the spring, the facility will be open and from then on it will be fascinating to see where Camden Town (and their beers) end up, both figuratively and literally. Only time will tell – but a lot of eyes will be turned to North London in the meantime…

 

 

Elusive – Andy Parker was on this list last year, and he’s going on it again. Back then it was down to the strength of his collaborations and the prospect of the upcoming brewery build in Finchampstead. Now, it’s because his brewery is complete and he has started production. Like Chris Lewis, I’m not quite sure Andy knows just how brilliant he is as a brewer (even with the homebrewing awards) – although a glance at a few Golden Pints roundups from across the beer writing world would make that immediately obvious. Andy is now advertising for a part-time brewer to join the team, and with more new beers hitting the shelves than ever, I’m genuinely excited to see where the next year is going to take him.

 

 

Lines Brew Co – Moving into Wales, the sudden demise of Celt Experience under Tom Newman was a real shame – but thankfully he bounced back pretty quickly with a new brewery specialising in Farmhouse Ales and with no beer brewed more than once. All of these things make Lines Brew Co worth watching, and their base in Caerphilly will undoubtedly be home to all manner of fascinating experiments in brewing, ageing and harnessing of the mighty yeast. With beers already out, expect word to similarly escape in 2017 about this particular Welsh brewery – certainly if the standard of beers they brought to IndyMan back in October are anything to go by…

 

 

Cloudwater – Finally, we have Cloudwater. They were the number 1 English brewery to watch on this list last year, and (although an easy pick) certainly came through to justify it. I wasn’t going to include them for 2017 – they are off on that upward curve already – but a few days ago the announcement was made that they are ceasing cask production and will be focusing on keg and bottle/can, with cans then taking a higher percentage of their beer. This is going to be one of the stories of the year to follow, as evidenced by the staggering outpouring of beer blogs that resulted. Have a read of the best of them here, here and here and then make a mental note to check back a few months from now to see if Cloudwater’s decision was a positive or negative for the industry.



And the place you can check back is right here, around June/July when I’ll be revisiting all of these stories to see how each of the ten breweries are faring. Let me know in the comments below if there are any other breweries who will have breakout years in 2017 or will have stories to follow!

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.