There have been rumours circling around Leith’s Pilot brewery for the best part of two years now. Although it remains a small local brewery, it has a large and growing fanbase due to the quality of the beer and a canny online presence.
There is no shortage of demand, but sadly even from the start they could never brew enough to meet that demand.
So, of course there has been constant chatter of expansion or relocation (or a buyout -yikes!) Until one of these things happens this means that you rarely see their stuff outside of the capitals better pubs.
So, it came as a bit of a surprise when they released a brace of imperial saisons on the unsuspecting public at the arse end of the Summer. Bottled Pilot beer being an annual event (if you’re lucky) and saison being a style they had never attempted before, this seemed a bit of a gamble at best and a waste of their talents and time if they ballsed it up.
Just to life hard on themselves, they have fermented the beer with either white grapes, red grapes or honey. Of the three initial releases, I was immediately taken by the Blush (red grape) as being the most interesting and closest to their stated aim of bridging the gap between sparkling wine and beer.
It’s a very pretty beer; a hazy, muddy ruby with a decent sized head, managing to look like both a pink champagne and a fancier alcopop. It has a very assertive nose and although the brewery was vague about where it sourced the grape juice, I thought I could pick out the fusty, bruised raspberry character of Grenache.
The palate is reasonably full bodied, with initial flavours of summer pudding and boiled sweets, giving way to drier, yeastier notes of herbs and bread. The finish is surprisingly light and delicate for such a complex beer, in fact it’s almost neckable.
It’s a rather brilliant beer, but I doubt it will succeed in winning over many prosecco drinkers. It simply isn’t very wine-like at all. If I had it blind, my first guess would be that somebody had mixed a shandy with equal parts Flanders red, cider and lemonade.
I had major reservations about this stuff, it just seemed a bit “gimmicky” and at 10-11% abv, about twice as strong as I like my saison. But I have had three bottles of it already (not just now- earlier in the week) and it gets better with every glass.
It costs a tenner for a 75cl bottle which includes a donation to the Pilot charity* foundation.