2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink – a 12-month EventScotland and VisitScotland sponsored celebration of the country’s natural larder and Scottish producers of quality cuisine and beverages. To get your year-long eating and drinking odyssey off to a suitable start, here’s a round-up of five of the best craft beer brands made in Scotland and a recommendation as to where in Edinburgh you can sample each boutique brew fresh from the fridge or tap.
Now a centre for independent arts, science and creativity, before that a veterinary college, Summerhall near the south east corner of the Edinburgh Meadows was a brewery in the 1800s – and now it houses a brewery again in the form of Barney’s. Using traditional, 100% natural brewing techniques, this characterful little company makes a smart suite of mid-strength colourfully branded brews including their signature Good Ordinary Pale Ale and occasional batches such as Eteaket Lapsang Porter (not to mention the odd collaboration with local rock icons).
Find Barney’s beers at The Royal Dick @ Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1QH.
Having successfully put the Clackmannanshire town of Alloa – Scotland’s former ‘beer capital’ in the 18th and 19th centuries due to its density of breweries – back on the map over the last decade, Williams Bros have been nothing short of a revelation on the Scottish craft brewing scene. Originally founded in Glasgow as a homebrew shop making ancient ‘Fraoch’ Heather Ale, the family-run company went for broke in 2004 after taking over the old Forth Brewery in Alloa. Since then their beers have found their way into most of the best bars, pubs and restaurants in Scotland, and even major supermarkets. Their range grows all the time – almost 30 recipes and counting – but you can’t go far wrong with staples such as Joker IPA and Cock O' The Walk red ale.
Find Williams Brothers beers at Holyrood 9A, 9a Holyrood Road, EH8 8AE.
A marriage of mutual convenience between Williams Bros and Tennents, Drygate is situated partly in a 1930s-era former box factory beside the Tennents brewery in the East End of Glasgow. A so-called ‘experiential’ micro-brewery (you can watch the brewers at work through a glass partition from the comfort of the brewery bar-restaurant), it unites all the quality and class Williams has come to be recognised for with the rich resources a big brand partner can bring to the table. As well as experimental, small-batch brews such as, say, the 7.1 percent Ryebock Classics malted rye-heavy German bock lager, Drygate’s ‘core’ offerings include Bearface Lager, the unusual Outaspace Apple Ale, and the gorgeous Gladeye IPA, each with funky labelling designed by Glasgow School of Art students.
Find Drygate beers at The Vintage, 60 Henderson Street, Leith, EH6 6DE.
Built in 2011, the first casks of rolled out of small family-run company Cromarty’s custom-built brewery on a panoramic vista overlooking the Cromarty Firth north of Inverness just in time for Christmas that year. They’ve barely stopped rolling since, with demand ever-growing for a range of brews which, now three years on, has grown to nearly 30 varieties, some core (New Wave Pale Ale, Coffee Infused Stout) and some rare (Eisbocked Chilly Chappy, kiwi fruit infused KiWheat).
Find Cromarty beers at The Hanging Bat, 133 Lothian Road, EH3 9AB.
Staking a claim as ‘Edinburgh’s local, independent brewery’, Stewart – founded by husband and wife team Steve and Jo Stewart – has certainly been on the scene longer than many, with its origins going back to 2004. Within a few short years they were already brewing to capacity, and so moved to a custom-built facility at Loanhead in 2013, where they produce five regular cask ales – including Edinburgh Gold continental bier, Holyrood pale ale and Embra amber ale, mulit-award winners among them – along with a range of monthly specials and a fast expanding range of bottled beers.
Find Stewart beers at Cloisters, 26 Brougham Street, EH3 9JH.