Beers of the Month:
A Mountain of Beer
The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) beer awards, judged by brewers and industry experts, have chosen Harviestoun’s Schiehallion Cask Lager (4.8% abv) and Red Willow’s Perceptionless New England IPA (6.6%abv) as the best in the UK for cask and keg respectively.
In addition, NE Session IPA (4.7% abv) from Lakes Brew Co came top in the best bottle or canned category, despite it being only the third time it was brewed at the eight month-old brewery in Kendal, Cumbria.
Harviestoun has been brewing in Alva in the shadow of the Ochil Hills in Clackmannanshire since 1983, so they were making craft beer in Scotland long before it became a popular trend. Back under independent ownership following a brief corporate hiatus, it is one of Scotland’s most-awarded breweries and they consider themselves a modern craft classic.
Harviestoun was created by master home brewer – and former chip shop owner – Ken Brooker in a shed in a field using salvaged and scrap materials. And like all great beers, there’s a story behind every one of his ‘babies’. Schiehallion (pr She-hal-ion) is named after a nearby Perthshire mountain, regarded as Scotland’s favourite after Ben Nevis. In 1774, Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne used its unusual conical shape in measurements and experiments to determine the mass of the Earth and to get to grips with its gravitational pull. It hosts diverse botanical habitats and geological curiosities and is reputed to be the home of fairies (derived from its Scots Gaelic name).
Ken Brooker’s Bitter & Twisted (4.2% abv) was so named after he received a driving ban – his wife’s description of his angry mood at the time.
The crisply elegant Schiehallion Craft Lager wallows in a high wheat content that coaxes a level of sweetness into the beer with a large amount of late hops for a unique flavour (bread, grapefruit and honey). The hop regime includes Hallertau Hersbrucker from Southern Germany chosen by the mighty Ken for the earthy qualities it imparts, plus the Herr Brooker connection didn’t go past him.
Ken Brooker retired in 2006, while Harviestoun master brewer Stuart Cail – formerly of Vaux in Sunderland – has recently also stepped away after almost 25 years in the hot seat, being replaced by long-term head brewer Amy Cockburn.
It just goes to show that if you have the talent and determination to give yourself a mountain to climb, the rewards – and awards – come pouring in.
Great mouthful from Eyemouth
Aye Been Blonde (4.3% abv) is described as ‘light and refreshing like the spray from the North Sea on a blustery Eyemouth day’. Admirable words for a vegan-friendly sessionable beer showing citrus hop notes (perceptions of tangerine) with a bready yeast undercurrent.
Brewed in Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders, just up the North East coast from Berwick upon Tweed, the company is so-called because its beers have ‘aye been guid’. We can’t really comment on that as Blonde is the first we’ve tasted (from a bottle at home) but they’re worth keeping your eye on.