Selling beer in Scotland was never a particularly difficult job and in recent years it has become a whole lot easier. The much commented upon (not least of all here) blossoming of the Scottish brewing scene has seen an exponential rise in quality, range and demand of this once unremarkable drink.But away from the exotic brews, hype and attention grabbing antics of our new celebrity brewers, there is something even more interesting going on: The production, development and consumption of beer has become strangely democratic. The lines between enthusiast, homebrewer and businessman have become quite fuzzy.
Back in the day, I remember my annual Christmas present of a Boots home brew kit, which birthed a couple of dozen pints of mediocre bitter. Thanks to operations like The Brewstore on South Clerk Street, today’s amateur brewers are more knowledgeable and have access to a much wider range of ingredients; consigning my half-arsed student efforts to the drip tray of history. (Quite often, our customers share their creations with us and they are mostly brilliant).
If an enthusiast wants to take things up a notch, they can book a session in the Craft Beer Kitchen out at the Stewart Brewing Company. Here you can brew beer on a small commercial kit, experiment with different recipes and chuck it into a cask for that big party.
One way of making the next step to becoming a commercial brewer is to become a “cuckoo”, renting out space, time & equipment in an existing brewery. This is the route taken by both Benji at Elixir Brew Co and Jaan at the Black Metal Brewery. Both these guys make excellent beer with very different styles and identities to their host breweries.
So, with all these options open to us, what route did we take when we came to producing a beer to celebrate our shops tenth birthday? The truth is, we chickened out. After all, to stand out amongst this sea of high quality grog, ours had to be exceptional. So we asked Stuart Mcluckie of Luckie Ales in Glenrothes to knock up something a bit special for us and thankfully he rose to the challenge and absolutely knocked it out of the park.
The resulting beer is a big (11%+) barley wine the colour of polished copper. The nose has a bucket of dried fruit and candied peel with more than a suggestion of toasted hazelnut. The palate is woozy & boozy, with good length, but finishes dry. It’s a stonkingly goood winter warmer that will reward long-term cellaring.
At a tenner a bottle, it’s far from cheap, but it’s among the best beers I’ve had this year.
But I would say that, wouldn’t I.