16 November 2003
The Babbity Bowster
21 September 2003
19-21 June 2003
CAMRA Edinburgh Traditional Beer Festival
Scottish Craft Brewers at Beerfest
The CAMRA Scottish branches, supported by the Society of Independent Brewers (Scotland), held the inaugural Traditional Beer Festival from 19th- 21st June in the most palatial venue for a beer fest I have ever experienced. The Assembly Rooms, George Street in the centre of Edinburgh, established in the 18th century, provided rooms with carpets and parquet flooring, gleaming chandeliers and highly decorative ceilings and friezes. Even so the rows of beer kegs did not seem totally incongruous. Nearly 70 Scottish beers were available, (plus a few more from “Furth of Scotia” as they sometimes say round here). As soon as we heard of the event Scottish Craft Brewers enquired whether it would be possible for us to be represented and to offer free samples of beers crafted at home. CAMRA were unstintingly accommodating, offering us space and tables to set up shop with no charge, for which we offer grateful thanks.
Our intention was simply to try to show that beers brewed at home could stand full comparison with those from commercial breweries; to offer advice and encouragement to existing or potential home brewers, and maybe to recruit some new members to SCB or CBA. We had some concerns about having sufficient beers as we had notice of the event only in April, which was precious little time to get organised. Our stand borrowed heavily from the pattern of CBA stands at GBBF and we are indebted to the experience and assistance of James McCrorie, who is of course one of our members. There was also a potential problem of manning the stand, as apart from James, only Hayley Griffin and I had had experience of GBBF. But we need not have worried. 6 Corneys arrived, 3 from Ian McAnally and 1 each from Aled Murphy, ( our Secretary), Les Howarth and John McGarva, so that I felt mine was surplus to requirements and contented myself with providing a few bottles (including the only bottle conditioned lager on offer), as did John Findlay, (our President). Everyone who supplied beers took turns in manning the stand and were available to talk to punters who were tasting their beers. They were supported by Hayley Griffin, (our Treasurer), Pam Cooper, Andrew MacKay, Robin Jones, Neil Williams, Norrie Pedersen and Andrew Warwick, who was there mainly because he had recently set up a micro- brewery and had beer on sale. Special thanks are due to Davey Martin, proprietor of Edina Homebrew, in Edinburgh, who provided samples of brewing ingredients for display, particularly malts and hops, and who helped prodigiously with transport.
But how well were our beers received? First session on Thursday was restricted to the “trade” and we were visited by several of the “micro” exhibitors who were without exception complimentary about our beers and happy to chat with us about brewing. Thursday evening was a little slow, both for us and “the trade”. The public seemed a little suspicious of home brew and many had to be teased into tasting. It is whispered that, late on, Les Howarth resorted to soliciting. Anyone caught with an empty glass, or with no one to talk to, was cajoled to try a sample. Well done Les.
Friday and Saturday were busier (apart from a period on Friday evening when a rock band blasted everyone out of the bar area). Many tasters expressed surprise at how good our beers were. Ian McAnally’s “No Name Bitter” and his “little brother” of one of Scotland’s newer stouts, and Aled Murphy’s Double Amber Ale, based on a 19th century recipe, were warmly received. On Saturday, bitters from Les Howarth and John McGarva came on, plus Ian’s “Standard Shed Bitter “ to replace the empty “No Name” keg. All were different but were great beers in their own right. By mid-Saturday, people were coming to ask for beers which had been recommended by friends. Many times people commented that one or other of the beers was the best they had tasted at the show.
Camra officials, both local and national, who visited the stand, also seemed impressed by our efforts. The Ayrshire Branch invited us to have a stand at their Troon Beer Festival in mid-September. Again it is a bit short notice to get beers ready but we shall see. It is very rewarding to receive plaudits for our beers so that is an incentive.
I hope Camra are happy with the results of their ground-breaking event in such an elegant environment. I would like to express out thanks to Colin and Aileen Valentine and to Ken Davey, the organisers, for accepting us so readily and making us so welcome, and to those of their task force who voluntarily helped us carry away our gear.
Well what a busy 4 days we had! What a great time though – spreading the message about craft brewing. Tasting the brews with the many visitors to our stall. This is the premier beer festival in Scotland and was staged in the opulence of the Assembly Rooms, in the New Town.
To our surprise, we found a lot of lapsed full mash brewers who had packed up their mash tuns a long time ago. Hopefully, they’ll come out of retirement. We also tried to woo some of the general public into the brewing fold. We’d like to think that we’ve opened their eyes to making good beer at home!
The general consensus was that the stall was a success. In fact, it was such a success we were invited to another beer festival on the West Coast.
Our beers came across as good quality and the standard left a very good impression with everyone.
Thanks to Dougall McCrorie, Bill Cooper and all the Craft Brewers who manned the stall over the 3 days/nights. Thanks to all the Craft Brewers and Dave (at Edina Homebrew) who supplied beer and items for the stall. A special thanks goes out to Colin Valentine, from CAMRA, for allowing us into the Festival.
More images from this and other Edinburgh Beer Festivals are here.
Bridge of Allan Brewery
Bridge of Allan
Okay…we know the membership don’t like AGMs…too much of the wrong kind of talking! The kind that is not really about brewing! However, our expedition to the Bridge of Allan Brewery was very well attended. The Visitor Centre was pretty much ‘jam-packed’.
There was no formal agenda to the AGM as such but we managed to get through the morning business painlessly. Ian (McManus) gave the Presidential review of the year: The Caley Brewery AGM; the trip to Masham (where Les and Aled where the only ones to find the free bar!); the BBQ at the Breadalbane Brewery; Craigs Farm and the gastronomic extravaganza (the food was good – Ed) that was the Calton Centre meeting.
We voted in a new President, John, as Ian (McManus) stepped down after his 2-year term. The members of the committee who worked with Ian during his ‘term of office’ would like to thank him for his efforts at ‘the Helm’. During his term we held the first Scottish Craft Brewing Competition (2002). We hope to have another for the end of this year and Ian will have some part to play in that venture too.
Such diverse things as Cornelius Kegs to grain mills came up. Along the way we discussed the Caledonian Brewery where the mash is raked during the sparge. They also employ a two and a half hour boil (remember they use direct fire coppers!). It was also noted that the brewery brew beers with higher EBUs for the English market.
Other news included the move of Fisherrow’s 10bbl brew kit to Killin, where Andrew, Pat and Tober are going to install it at their Breadalbane brewery. From 200L to 10barrels is some hike in capacity! We wish the guys the best of luck. We were only there at our September BBQ and they hadn’t finished the brewing room at the end of the Byre!
Safale S-04. This comes into the conversation at practically every meeting! This time it was praised for the good pack down it has. Now I had never used this yeast until last month – being a fan of the Wyeast strains available. I do have a selection of dry yeasts in reserve (just in case) and this was one of them. I used it to ferment and Amber ale and I am impressed. No wonder some smaller commercial brewers use this yeast – it starts quick and forms a good head before packing down. It also tolerates ‘dropping’ (i.e. after 24hours the wort is transferring to another fermentor leaving a lot of dead yeast and trub behind) very well.
All of this chat was interspersed with beer tastings. We’d like to thank all the people who brought beer for tasting and of course to Ian (McAnally) for the usual Cornelius of beer.
After lunch, we were treated to a tour of the brewery by Douglas (Ross) the owner and head brewer.
Thanks to Douglas and the team for the food, tours and the great beer!
We were treated to a talk on malting from Reginald Agu, of Scotmalt.