Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Visiting Williams Bros. Brewing

One of the places I have most looked forward to on this trip is the William Bros. Brewery in Alloa. I really enjoy their heather ale, and I like the idea that they are recreating historical Scottish beers that are tied to their geographic location. Yesterday I was able to make the trek to Alloa and I met with Scott (one of the two owners) as well as Des who is contracted with them. We went over details of the Market Gallery Pub because Williams Bros will be contributing beer, and they are reproducing one of the beers on their system for a 600 bottle run. We also discussed a Meet the Brewery night, as part of the Pub School. The date is yet to be confirmed but will happen in late April. Look for more information within a week's timing.

So the brewery I thought was quite nice. Scott seemed to think that the facilities were old, industrial, and dull but I think that gives it magic. The brewery uses a lot of vintage equipment from breweries in the UK that shut down so that gives their system a nice eclectic feeling. Sure, it wasn't the cleanest and the most well-organized brewery I've ever seen but it added a lot of character and gave the brewery a much more DIY feel than I was expecting (and I am a fan of DIY). These guys also run the bottling for a few other breweries including Inveralmond, Fyne Ales, and I think I may have seen Bridge of Allan in there as well.

I was also surprised at how far away the brewery is from any large town. Apparently there used to be about seven breweries in Alloa because the water is good, but I imagine their distant location put them out of business. I have found that the vast majority of Scotland breweries are in these small towns, or even out in the country, and not in the town centers. A lot of the breweries are very, very small too. While browsing the brewery websites it seemed like many had systems that were maybe 2 or 3 barrels. I've been telling the people I meet with here that in Portland if there were these old buildings sitting around in the city, as there are in Glasgow, people would snatch those up immediately and convert them into a brewery. Locally made beer does a lot for a city's economy and social landscape, especially in a brewpub format. Anyway, I'm not here to tell anyone what to do, it's just an observation that I've made.

Okay, back to Williams Bros. They make a lot more beer than I realized, and I think a good portion of it doesn't actually hit the Pacific West Coast. I've only seen the Fraoch Heather and the Kelpie Seaweed, but there are three other historic ales and then a whole line of other beers. I tried a Golden Ale in a pub the other night, but Scott and Des let me sample the Summer Sun beer, which is a really good session beer. They release it in the US with the name Session on the bottle. It's a nice contrast to the IPA's and hoppy pale ales we see all summer, which in my opinion are too heavy for the summer. They also gave me a Lemon Ginger Beer, which tasted like a good lemon ginger tea. If I end up with a cold or a stuffy nose, I think I'll drink this.

The guys sent me home with a whole load of beers to try out, so I have a bit of work to do the next couple days. After drinking more of Williams Bros. beer I am increasingly surprised that it is not more readily available where I'm from. I think many people would enjoy these beers, especially fans of Full Sail's LTD and Session series beers. Check out their bottle storage space! It's huge, you could fit an airplane in this thing...plenty of room for expansion. Big thanks to Gordon, one of the brewers, for the tour.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My first beer experiences in Glasgow

I've been in Glasgow for a few days now and I thought I would post a little about my experiences. On my first full day I was able to meet up with some of my new homebrewing buddies that I had only met online through Jim's Beer Kit, a great resource for homebrewing in the UK. I was joined by JBK members who I have otherwise known as markbrannan, pantsmachine, and invalid_stout (Robbie). Turns out they really are real people and they are a good group of guys. We first went to the Beer Cafe, which wasn't exactly the type of pub I enjoy but it was a decent warm up. The beers were your classic beers added by a few others that I hadn't seen in the states, but no real microbreweries to speak of. That was fine, but I was glad when we went to Blackfriars just two blocks down. I liked this place a lot but forgot to take pictures. I'll go back.

Blackfriars was one of these places with a real bar and good taps. There were probably about 7 good looking beers, and some bland ones as well. I had the Williams Bros Golden, a beer that we don't see in the United States, and it's not one of their historic ales either. That was a nice drink, smooth, with a nice head. The more I drink Williams Bros the more impressed I am. I had a wonderful beer, Goldihops, by Kelburn Brewery, which was my favorite of the night. I also sampled the Inveralmond Lia Fail, which was a delicious malty smooth beer. I was also able to try a Williams Bros Fraoch from a bottle. Pantsmachine bought that for me because he read on this blog that I was interested in tasting the beer in its own homeland. Well, the beer is actually very different tasting than the one I've had before, it loses a lot of flavor and aroma through it's long trek to Portland, Oregon (although it still tastes good in Portland). The beer has a much, much stronger heather aroma. I can identify the heather aroma because I have made up four batches of heather ales now and when you boil the heather, it has a strong aroma in the brew kettle. The Fraoch in Scotland also has a much weedier type of flavor, which is present in the beer I had in Oregon, but was much stronger here. It's a bitterseetness which was quite pleasant. For fun I also sampled a Sierra Nevada Pale and a Sierra Nevada Torpedo (the other guys bought, I sipped it) and whoa, what a bummer, those beers have lost even more flavor in their transport. The Pale I could barely taste or smell, and the Torpedo's alcohol flavor had been heightened, but still tasted good enough. That was a great experience to have.

The next day I met up with a few other homebrewers from JBK. Two of them were Geoff and Owen, who are leading the upcoming homebrewing demo. Also present was Robbie again and Des who currently works with Williams Bros. We sampled loads of beer that I brought from Oregon, the list is here. I also added a Deschutes Abyss and a Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti to the list. We had a blast; the time disappeared very, very quickly and I'm afraid we all realized we were late getting home for our various reasons. So in a rush I left the gallery a little too messy (sorry Market Gallery, if you're reading!) and Owen forgot his keys. I believe the favorites of the night were the Hopworks Secession Black IPA (Cascadian Dark Ale) and the Laurelwood Organic Free Range Red. The guys actually liked most of the beer but those were clear standouts. I was glad Laurelwood was on the upper list because that's my favorite beer in Portland. Des left me a couple nice BrewDog beers that I'll try later. There is more to come, please stay in the loop by checking back.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Care Package to Glasgow

I'm leaving for Glasgow in a few days and I've been in touch with a couple homebrewers and beer bloggers that I'll be sharing some US beers with. I think I've done pretty well here. I wanted to make sure that I'm bringing beer you can't get easily in the UK and stuff that represents the West Coast pretty well. Being from Oregon, I have a bit of Oregon pride so most of the beers are from here. Also, I wanted to make sure that these beers are still a little hard to find, even in Oregon. So if you happened to make a trip to Oregon, you might not be able to find these so easily. Some are seasonals and/or specials, not found in normal beer stores. Also I should add that I'm still on the lookout for a Russian River Pliny the Elder, but it seems most places in town have sold out. Here's a list of what I'm bringing and why, starting left to right:

-Upright Brewing - Gose - Upright blew my socks off when I had their sample tray. They are an extremely experimental brewery using all sorts of strange herbs and flowers. They've made an Oyster Stout and they often age many of their beers in wine barrels. This is the Gose, a beer style that is quite rare, brewed with coriander and salt. Additionally Upright has the best artwork on the bottles that I've ever seen.

-Laurelwood Brewery - Organice Free Range Red - Lots of breweries here are using organic ingredients. Laurelwood was the first in Portland to do this and this hopped up Red Ale really shows that organic beer has the ability to be just as good as any beer. This is one of my all time favorite Oregon beers. Laurelwood is a brewery for hopheads.

-Hopworks Brewery - Secession Black IPA - Another organic brewery. Hopworks is only 2 years old but has taken Portland by storm. They're beers are outstanding and diverse. The secession is a black IPA, also called a Cascadian Dark Ale, and has received lots of attention for various reasons, including the recent request from authorities to remove the Cascadian flag from the bottle. Cascadia is a specific location in the US (and Canada) and many feel that we are so different from the US that we should seccede; this beer celebrates that.

-Dogfish Head - India Brown Ale - As far as I know Dogfish Head isn't available in Scotland so being that they are the most infamous US microbrewery I figured I better bring a bottle. This is my favorite of theirs. I think it is underrated and that their 60, 90, and 120 minute IPA's are a tad overrated.

-Bison Brewing - Imperian Brown Ale - Another organic brewery, this one hailing from Berkeley California. These guys rock, and are super committed to organic beer. I figured we've got a Cascadian Dark Ale, and the India Brown Ale (which could be the same thing), why not go for an oversized normal brown? I haven't even tried this one myself, but I trust Bison with my life.

Bear Republic - Racer 5 - I think this is one of the best breweries on the West Coast so I could not leave them out. Racer 5 is likely their most popular beer, it is a well balanced IPA, but for those craving hops it will definitely not disappoint.

Hair of the Dog - Adam - Adam is an old world ale and Hair of the Dog is one of Portland's favorites among the extreme beer geeks. They are an experimental brewery that makes sure each batch is a little different and always nice and complex. We'll see what they have in store for us this time.

Ninkasi - Spring Reign - This is a seasonal from what is likely Oregon's fastest growing brewery. These guys have released just a few beers, all of which are perfect (well, except for one but I won't get into that). Spring Reign is a favorite among many of my friends and they have been looking forward to this beer for months.

Bridgeport Brewery - Highland Ambush - This is an oak-aged Scotch Ale. I figured we might as well throw in a Scottish ale and see what the Scots think, right? Bridgeport is a solid brewery in Portland, they were one of the first brewery's around to push the hop boundaries in an IPA and they make what I consider to be the classic Northwest IPA. They also make a mean fresh hop IPA. I haven't had the Highland Ambush so this will be new for me too.

Like I said, I still want to find a Russian River Pliny the Elder. I could have bought the Russian River Supplication, which is an aged Sour Ale but I really want to try to find this other one. For anyone who likes hoppy beers, Pliny the Elder will likely become your favorite beer. I just hope I can get my hands on one. They show up every month or two and disappear quite quickly here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Awards for Homebrewers - International Beer Challenge

Good news to the homebrewers participating in the Market Gallery Pub. The beer that is selected for the short production run at Williams Bros Brewing will also have the option of being entered for free into the International Beer Challenge. The IBC discovers and rewards the finest beers from across the globe and in association with its media partners, promotes its medallists to buyers and retailers throughout the world. This is a tremendous opportunity for the homebrewer.

It is not too late to sign up if you are a homebrewer! Please get in touch asap. Email ericmsteen AT gmail.com.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pub School - All Grain Brewing Demonstration


What: All-Grain Brewind Demonstration
When: April 7th, at 5:00pm - about 9:00pm
Where: The Market Gallery (334 Duke St. Glasgow)
Other: Please bring dinner for yourself and one (or more!) of your favorite brews
Cost: Free

Have you ever wanted to brew your own all-grain beer? Want to make the switch from extract brewing to all-grain? This workshop will be led by local homebrewer, Geoff Traill, and he will show you the ins-and-outs of brewing at home. Another local beer maker, Owen Sheerins, will be assisting Geoff. Together they'll be making up an English Bitter Ale, which will in turn be available at the Market Gallery Pub on April 30th. This is the first of four weekly Pub School events at the Market Gallery in Glasgow.

Geoff is a homebrewer and final-year economics student at the University of Glasgow. He brews 10 gallon all-grain batches of beer on a home made, single tier brewery built from stainless stock pots. Geoff's favourite beer styles to brew and drink are well-hopped British and American ales, as well as German lagers. He learned it all thanks to the fine folks at Jim's Beer Kit Forum. He writes this great homebrewing blog over at Hop Topic.

The malt and hops for this demo have been generously donated by Rob from Self Store Depot. , You can get in touch with him here about his brewing ingredients.

Pub School
The Pub School is a weekly educational event-series that explores the aesthetics of beer and brewing in Glasgow. Beer making is an art form that influences our daily routines more than one might initially realize. Drinking beer, as pointed out by conceptual artist Tom Marioni is a social lubricant and I would add that it is also a social glue. The act of drinking a good beer, although a small action, is inherently a form of activism; it is a social act with political side-effects as it helps build community, place, and interest in local business. For the Pub School, the public is invited to consider the blurring of art and beer by taking part in homebrewing demos, beer sampling sessions, lectures, presentations, pub-crawls, and more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Discount & Prize for Participating Homebrewers

I have a couple exciting updates for any homebrewer participating in the Market Gallery Pub. To participate as a homebrewer, go here.

1. Discounted Beer Bottles
Scott at Glenbrew in Glasgow has offered to sell bottles for £2.50 per 12 bottles to anyone purchasing the bottles for the Market Gallery Pub.

2. Prize for Homebrewed Beer
At the Market Gallery Pub one beer will be selected to be reproduced in a 600 bottle run on the system at Williams Bros Brewing. The beer will be sold via mail order and in specialty shops.