A visit to Williams Bros
|I forgot to take a photo of the exterior so|
nicked this picture from Eric from Focus on the Beer
We are greeted by one of the Brothers, Scott Williams and get a glass of beer in the brewing hall. Now, Williams Bros is quite a big place as Scottish microbreweries go — normally you’re squeezing past fermenting tanks to get through the door. After the early years of Heather Ale saw the company brewing as far afield as Taynuilt and Strathaven, it’s now based in the former Forth Brewery in Alloa, on the Kelliebank industrial estate. On the way there I pass the massive facility of the world’s biggest glass container manufacturer O-I, and Crisp’s maltings. Ironically, neither of these plants supply the brewery: O-I doesn’t manufacture beer bottles in Alloa, and Crisp’s malt all goes for whisky.
Inside, the mash tun and copper look a little lost in a corner of a hall given over mostly to huge conditioning tanks. The mash tun is attached to an ingenious device comprising a screw within a pipe, sort of like a Steel’s masher in reverse, which (I assume) propels the draff up the pipe and out of the window into the waiting bin.
|Look at all those whisky casks!|
In one corner the new, modestly sized keg filler; next to it, three tanks full of an Auchentoshan-cask aged 12% version of Fraoch heather ale. Scott fills a jug from the tank and we all get a taste. It’s lovely, the whisky not overpowering but nicely aromatic, backed with a marvellously fresh fruitiness which slowly gives way to the familiar dry woodiness of heather. If all whisky-aged beers were done this well, I wouldn’t get the foreboding that overcomes me every time I encounter one.
|This is Scott Williams’ famous “food processor” in which aromatics|
are blitzed to a pulp before being added to beer
|Lots of lemons and ginger in there waiting to be added to a brew|
|When they say cold conditioning, they mean it. I wonder what |
they do if they ever need to open this valve?
For all the people who have been raving about Profanity Stout, fill your boots while you can: according to Scott there is currently no Simcoe, Cascade or Amarillo left in the UK, so they can’t brew any more of it. The other Williams beer in the Sainsbury’s competition, Caesar Augustus, is a blend of Ceilidh lager and Joker IPA with additional dry hops.
Then it’s back into the brewing hall where Scott fills our glasses with Williams Red straight from the conditioning tank. It’s a straightforward, quaffable beer that gets an extra bounce from being super fresh and lively. We sup jug after jug of it while Scott explains his use of the Golden Ratio to devise malt bills (working out exact recipes for all the Williams beers on the basis of this knowledge is left as an exercise for the reader).
We are sad when the time comes to leave, but wander out into the sunshine and back into the town centre, where sadly the present of Alloa brewing is as under-represented as its past.