Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Quite a bit going on this weekend in town.
  • The cult pub the Halt Bar is having some sort of beer festival, though what exactly is involved I have no idea
  • Today (Thursday) the Pot Still is celebrating one year of management by the Murphy family by (among other things) having four different cask porters on tap.
  • Maclay’s pubs have a “Scottish Craft Beer Festival”, which they appear to interpret as selling lousy Caledonian seasonal beers
  • More promising is the launch of a new beer from Fyne Ales at the State Bar on Friday
  • Pint glass thieves can look forward to Tennent’s new limited edition glass in selected bars on Friday
  • Friday through Saturday the Granary on the south side is having a pub festival with a difference. There will be a temporary stillage set up in the pub. I was dubious about this idea at first, but having seen it at the Drum & Monkey (another Nicholson’s pub) a couple of weeks ago, I have to say it’s marketing genius. The stillage becomes a real talking point among customers and you feel like you’re in Dickens as the barperson disappears to pour you a pint from the cask. Can’t imagine the staff are too keen on it though, as it must involve a lot of walking to and fro.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Köstritzer Englisches Doppelbier

What about this then:

“Since the popular Köstritz English double beer has sold so well, I hereby make known that I have once again received a respectable quantity of best March brew (which is even higher in quality than the October beer), and [this] can be had in large and small containers and also in bottles. ” 

This ad from Johann Heinrich Meyer in the Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten of 12 May 1802 appears to be evidence that English-style beer was being traded, and possibly brewed, in Köstritz. I wonder what it was like?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Old Worthy

A while ago the new Old Worthy Brewing Co sent me a bottle of their (as yet) single product Old Worthy, described as a “Scottish Pale Ale.”

The beer is being contract brewed at the Isle of Skye brewery. I am told that the Isle of Skye plant is definitely staying open after the planned merger with Arran Brewery, so the beer’s production does not look to be in any danger.

I opened it with a few friends when we were sitting around tasting beers one night.

Subtle smoke, barbecue aroma, creamy and chewy with slight touches of butter, grass and manure. I rather liked it but nobody else in the group did.

Not chasing any of the current fashionable trends in beer and all the better for that.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Edinburgh beers in Glasgow pubs, 1916

A while back, as the crude timestamp shows, I took some pictures of a brewery sales ledger in the Scottish Brewing Archive. Lorimer & Clark (today’s Caledonian Brewery), despite being an Edinburgh operation, but in common with other Scottish brewers, had quite a bit of trade in the West of Scotland.

 Ron has been wondering about the standard draught beer in Scotland during the First World War. This document gives a clue. We’re in 1916 and the brewery is delivering beer to Glasgow pubs. And although I shouldn’t generalise from one document, I’m tempted to do that precisely because it is so unambiguous. From this, it doesn’t look like the commonly drunk beer was Mild as it was in England.

I was mainly interested in this because I like to see whether any of the pubs mentioned still exists (as far as I can see, none do in this case, sadly), and the handwriting is nice.

But it gets more useful on later pages where they start to note how much duty was payable on the amount of beer delivered to each pub.

Now I confess I have no idea why the brewery would record this information in a delivery ledger. Perhaps as some sort of cross-check to compare the total notional duty on beer delivered with what they actually paid on the beer they brewed.

Be that as it may, they did record it, and that enables us to calculate the gravity of the beer. We know the quantity delivered and the amount of duty, and we know the rate of beer duty at the time – 24 shillings per standard barrel.

Certainly this brewery’s big sellers were XP and XXP, which going by their names were probably Pale Ales. They don’t just appear more often, the quantities are bigger. Stupendous amounts by today’s standards. Who can imagine a pub today taking nine hogsheads as the Public House Trust in Stevenson did?

Lorimer & Clark beers in 1916
Beer QualityDuty per barrelCalculated OG
XXXX 75/–25/–1.057
IP 42/–14/–1.032
TB 42/–14/31.032

Source: Daybook LC 9/5/9 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Alloa beer festival

Since I’ve been writing this blog the rhythm of Scottish beer festivals has kind of etched itself into my mind. The season starts in spring with Larbert, carries on with Paisley, SRAF in Edinburgh, Fyne Ales festival at the brewery, and then Alloa is the last before winter. There are some others, Helensburgh, Stonehaven, Troon, Black Isle’s jamboree and Bo’ness, but they are a bit further afield and I don’t make a point of going to them every year.

Alloa itself, as I’ve previously found, is pretty poor for beer but the area round about is relatively well served with breweries. As a result Alloa beer festival has some of Scotland’s best known breweries on its doorstep: Harviestoun, Tryst, Williams Bros, TSA and some rarely seen except in their own pubs: Devon, Tin Pot. I think Alloa is my favourite CAMRA festival now. Last year I was skint and couldn’t afford to go as a punter, so I volunteered to work on the door and behind the bar and had a great time. So much so I did it again this year.

What I like about this festival is that it’s so late in the year, the overnight temperature in the hall has dropped, so there are no problems with keeping the beer cool. As a result the beer is generally in fantastic nick. I was pouring ridiculously lively pints from gravity casks, giggling to myself as I thought about the idiots who occasionally try to tell me that gravity beer is always flat. Lovely fresh beer.

The first three pints I sold were from new-wave brewers Cromarty and Alechemy. Who says CAMRA only like dull bland beer? Both breweries had supplied intense pale ales with a heavy dry-hop character. Alechemy had their Cairnpapple served two different ways: one cask dry-hopped with Citra and the other with Galaxy. Both were stunning, the Galaxy version redolent of tropical fruit, the other dry and citrussy. Cromarty’s Hit The Lip was on the dank side, Rogue Wave similar, just stronger. Sadly the solitary cask from Fallen was stowed away and didn’t make it onto the bar.

Fyne Ales, Harviestoun and Tryst were all well represented with beers that were less perfumey and aromatic, but more bitter and satisfying. It’s a far cry from a couple of years ago when I complained about Scottish brewers making hopless bilge in the mistaken belief that it’s traditional. Or perhaps I’ve just learned to avoid those beers.