Sunday, 17 March 2013

A night on the Alechemy

I was going to try to come up with some dreadful, tortured play on words based on the fact that Alechemy Brewing were having a beer launch at the Stockbridge Tap. You know, turning base metals into gold, taps are made of metal, that sort of thing. But do you know, I cannot be arsed.

I have told myself repeatedly that going to Edinburgh on a school night is not worth the effort, especially with the extortionate fares ScotRail demands and the fact you can’t even have a beer on the way home on the train any more. But I have been impressed by the beers of Livingston-based Alechemy Brewing Co. They have been brewing commercially for just about a year and the beer is properly bitter and very drinkable, so the promise of five of their beers from the cask tempted me to make the journey after all.

I appear to have unwittingly caused a bit of scandal. Last week I encountered a murky pint of Alechemy Galaxy Burst in the Pot Still in Glasgow. Assuming that it was one of these new-fangled unfined beers, and not the end of the cask, I drank it, enjoyed it and tweeted complete with photo about how good it was.

Little did I know that it actually was the end of the cask and the brewers had intended it to be crystal clear. “Look what they’re doing to our beer in Glasgow,” was the cry. Moreover, tweets about it were not supposed to get out at all, as the launch of it was not until tonight at the Stockbridge Tap.

I am told of another pub in Dunfermline which broke the embargo. They put it on and within an hour ten blokes had arrived in taxis from Edinburgh to sup it, and the cask was gone in two hours. But I’m not sure this is all that bad: for a brewery, these are good problems to have and certainly make a much better story than “A pub in Dunfermline put the beer on, nobody wanted it and it sat there for a week and went sour.”

On the recommendation of Rich BeerCast I try Fruit Salad IPA. Being Scotland, this is not made with actual fruit – that would be ridiculous – but with chewy Barratt’s Fruit Salad sweeties. It is surprisingly good, with the sweetie aroma prominent on the nose before dissolving into a long bitter finish. Although I described it as like drinking melted raspberry-flavoured plastic at the time, it’s not any weirder than some of the other beers I’ve encountered in the last couple of years, which get Um Bongo and raspberry ripple flavours from the trendy hops used.

The most popular beer seems to be the new one, Ruskie Business, an 8.5% stout. It’s rich, sweet, oily and smooth and ever so slightly hot.

I am not sure whether the lager has a real name. It is the lager that Alechemy have been brewing for Crate Brewery in London for some nine months. Crate weren’t ready to brew their own lager on site when they opened, and it appears they still aren’t, because Alechemy are still making it nine months later. This was the first keg of it ever sold on Alechemy’s home turf, and incredibly enough, the first time the brewers have even tasted it themselves in its filtered and kegged form. It is very rich, full, sticky and malty, what the Germans call “mastig”. Possibly it’s so good because there is a good wodge of diacetyl in it too; not too much, just enough to give it a nice buttery undertone like the old-school Czech lagers.

I have given up on trying to drink the whole board. I came expecting five beers to try, and found out there were seven. Too much to cram in in an hour and a half. Call me a wimp. I’ve run out of time and have to go.

For this is not the only beery event in Edinburgh tonight. There is a Meet the Brewer going on at the Hanging Bat with Wild Beer Co. I want to like their beers, but haven’t been impressed with the two I’ve tried so far. Fresh was decent but didn’t seem to have anything wild about it. Epic Saison was very far from being epic: it was one-dimensionally bitter.

On the way to the Hanging Bat I am wandering about in the streets of the New Town. Suddenly I think “This looks familiar. Isn’t this where the Oxford is?” Sure enough, looking down the very next side street there it is. I can’t pass it by. I slip in an have a half of Cairngorm Trade Winds. There is a folk session going on in the side room. It is instantly relaxing. If I had any sense, I would stay until shortly before the last train, but I am afflicted by the itch to hunt beer and must seek out the next unexperienced experience.

It’s not much further to the Hanging Bat. I am aware that I only have a little time left. The last connexion that I can get all the way home is in twenty five minutes. There are later trains to central Glasgow, but that would involve taxis or walking to get home. I am willing to accept that, if the beer is worth it. Let’s see.

Well, there is some cask Wild here – I had been led to believe they only do bottle and keg. Let’s try that, probably won’t see it again. Spellbound it’s called. It tastes of sweat. Not sexy sweat, just sweat. A little bit of mould, some balsamic vinegar, but mostly sweat.

It’s not easy to like this, and God knows I’m trying. I appreciate what they’re hoping to do with strange yeasts, and I’ve had much worse beer from brewers using ordinary yeast. But for me the results are not enjoyable. Another time I might persevere, but on this occasion the brisk walk to the railway station for the last comfortable connection home wins the competition.

1 comment:

  1. Why should unfined beer necessarily be cloudy? It's possible to have a clear pint in the glass without the use of finings.

    I can only think of one reason why they'd want unfined beer to be cloudy - so you can see it hasn't been fined. In other words, the whole concept is bullshit.

    I'll be honest: I don't like loads of yeast in my beer. It clouds the flavour. I even pour Hefeweizen carefully off the lees.