The Woolpack

Beer

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The Woolpack Inn, Tillicoultry

For over a century Clackmannanshire was the epicentre of brewing in Scotland. After a short lull when the big brewing companies withdrew from Alloa (the largest settlement in the district) the tradition was resurrected when Williams Bros and Harviestoun started producing quality real ales and excellent craft beer within the borders of the ‘Wee County’. Despite this brewing legacy getting a quality pint in the area is quite problematic, a great many pubs have closed in the past couple of decades and many of those that remain are dank, dismal watering holes issuing Tennents, Guinness and McEwan’s Export to cliques of unwelcoming regulars.

There are a few beacons of light in the beery void however, all located in a string of villages at the north of the county known as ‘The Hillfoots’. The Muckhart Inn for example sells the full range of the locally microbrewed Devon Ales, while The King’s Seat in nearby Dollar provides discerning drinkers with the aforementioned Harviestoun beers on cask and keg. However one establishment shines brighter than the rest, Tillicoultry’s Woolpack Inn.

Let’s be clear from the outset, unlike most of the bars I’ve written about this place is no pretentious, modern craft beer bar. The Woolpack is an old school village pub, it’s Real Ale not craft beer (as it’s CAMRA awards testify to) and this is all part of the charm.

Most of the action takes place in the bar, just into the right from the front door. It is snug and homely with a low wooden beamed ceiling, little dark wooden chairs & tables and a log fire. The archetypal country pub. While the place serves the standard popular fare it also has four cask pumps and a great treat for any whisky fanatics.

On to the beer first and the selection of cask ales is varied and diverse. The pump clips that decorate the bar and the ceiling beams show a rich history of guest ales from Inveralmond, Williams Bros, Harviestoun, Orkney, Kelburn, Deeside and Fyne Ales to name but a few. Okay so there will usually be a tap used up to pour the dreaded Deuchars IPA, Landlord or some tame Belhaven effort but it is a selection far superior to most establishments of its type. Furthermore, despite the unpredictable nature of cask beer every pint I have had (and I’ve had a good few over the years) has been virtually perfect, showing that plenty of love & care goes into managing the cellar and cleaning the lines as well as a quick turnover of beers. In the last couple of visits I’ve enjoyed a cracking pint of Lia Fail and an excellent Tantallon Sunrise IPA from Herok & Howell’s.

The Wooly (as locals refer to it) also boasts an impressive array of malts but the star attraction is its ‘Angels Share Living Cask’. Behind the bar, proudly displayed right in the centre is a small sherry cask which has been filled with with a mixture of single malt whiskies to create something that tastes unique. As the level in the barrel drops more whiskies are added and the flavours continue to change and develop again. Above the bar on chalkboards punters can see which whiskies have been added and when, as well as some tasting notes. While purists might raise an eyebrow at this as a malt fan I can tell you that the results are pretty tasty and the mix has been put together by someone who really knows what they are doing. The whisky is available to buy by the nip or in takeaway quarter bottles, a perfect and unusual gift for whisky lovers. While I don’t know if this practice is unique its something I have never encountered before.

Add to the quality beer and whisky a friendly welcoming atmosphere, regular live music (no CDs or jukebox here) and good bar meals from the newly reopened kitchen, make this place the number one stop for any visitor to or resident of the Wee County who wants a good night in a great pub.

www.thewoolpackinn.net/

www.alloaadvertiser.com/news/tillicoultry-devonside-coalsnaughton/articles/2014/01/09/484269-tillicoultry-inns-chef-has-idea-of-constantlychanging-whisky/

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St Andrews Brewing Co Bar

Beer

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I have had a lifelong connection with the ancient cathedral city of St Andrews. As a child my family often went to ‘The Home of Golf’ for days out or caravan holidays at the height of the rainy, windswept Scottish summer. Later in my student days my best mate studied at its famous university and I travelled through fortnightly for cheap and crazy nights out in their union. Now I have a great reason to continue that connection, St Andrews has its first dedicated craft beer bar…

Located just inside the old Westport gate on the city’s South Street the St Andrews Brewing Co (Stabco) Bar, belonging to the brewery of the same name is a long, narrow yet spacious pub. At ground level there is plenty of seating around an array of small tables and converted barrels as well as a long bar topped with a naturally shaped, light wooden surface. Lots of effort has gone into making the place look homely (including a log burning fire) as well as smart and modern. Upstairs caters for larger groups with long German bier keller style tables and benches, an ideal place for student societies to have nights out.

So while the bar is both beautiful and practical it is still far from the best thing about the place. Listed below are three key strengths that make this place a top class craft beer venue.

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1. The Food

Whoever decided to have a tapas menu in the Stabco Bar needs a big pat on the back as the traditional Spanish bar food gives the perfect sustenance for standing (or sitting) drinking quality beer. There is a mix of Spanish classics along with other culinary influences in the dozen or so dishes on offer. From authentic Patatas Bravas and tasty meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce to creamy beer ‘Mac N Cheese’ (made with their own beer), paprika fries and an excellent Moroccan inspired lamb stew. Each dish arrives swiftly with generous portions and reasonable prices. Ordering is made simple by ticking off the dishes you desire on a sheet of paper and handing it over the bar, for a good lunch I’d recommend ticking off three dishes at a time, or four/five if you bring a date.

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2. The Beer

Certainly the most important element of a craft beer bar and the Stabco Bar does not disappoint. Across eight cask lines, eight keg lines and an expansive bottle list the bar boasts the availability of around 161 beers. On tap the emphasis is on British breweries like Alechemy, Alpha State, Magic Rock and The Kernel along with the occasional offering from abroad like Mikkeller and Sigtuna. There are obviously a number of St Andrews Brewing Co beers on too, the Crail Ale is a delight bursting full of juicy hops with a honeyed finish, as is the Eighty Bob a traditional malty Scots 80/- with an excellent mouthfeel. The bottle list has it all, featuring classics from Belgium and the States as well as beers from the best of the UK’s craft breweries.

Draft beer is sold in only schooners and thirds and in my opinion is pretty cheap at around £2.20 for two thirds of their own brew and £3.80-£4 for a Magic Rock or Kernel. Bottles are reasonable too, I had a top notch Weird Beard ‘Something Something Darkside’ Imperial Black IPA for a decent £11 while there are dozens of bottles around the five quid mark. (A good discount is also given for off sales.)

3. The Staff

Where this pub truly stands out is with its staff. Service is quick and polite with the team behind the bar ready and willing to advise customers on the beer for them while providing punters with generous samples to help them reach a decision. They are also highly knowledgeable about the stuff they sell and beer in general. This comes as little surprise when you discover the manager is from across the pond and has experience of the North American craft beer scene while another bartender is the president of St Andrews Uni’s Real Ale Society. All are passionate about beer and learning about the new ones that come on, however an eagle eyed drinker will see the cheat sheet pinned to the ceiling helping bartenders to link each brewery to its town of origin.

So overall its truly a great venue for craft beer, up there for me with Edinburgh’s Hanging Bat and Aberdeen’s Six Degrees North. My only minor quibble would be with the chalk boards that tell customers about the beers on tap. They can be a bit confusing in presentation and have a couple of instances of my pet hate; incorrect spelling. However that’s never enough to put anyone off the place, I really cannot say enough good things about the St Andrews Brewing Co Bar and hope to spend many an afternoon in it for years to come.

Written by Adam Lawson Stalker @AdamLawsonS

Savour

Beer

This has taken me a little longer than I’d like to admit but after my afore mentioned grumble about data loss that I don’t need to recount!

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Happily now back up and running as such I have a lot to catch up on! Starting with Savour! There will be an interview with founder Sandy Kirkpatrick and a review of three of their beers. Savour are based in Chiswick, in Grater London. As of yet they do not have their own brewery but instead “Head of everything” Sandy Kirkpatrick designs his brews on a test kit, then takes them to the Compass brewery in Oxfordshire to be scaled up. They do plan to have their own premises in the future.


I sent a long list of questions to Sandy, who gave up some of his valuable time to answer them.

What inspired you to make Belgian style beers in the UK?

Having travelled to Belgium on numerous occasions I instantly fell in love with the beer culture over there. Not just the beer styles but also the attitudes and perception of beer in Belgium was something that captured my imagination. Whilst there are plenty of breweries taking inspiration from American and English brewing I feel the Belgian styles are being unfairly overlooked.

The culture and attitudes towards beer in Belgium is something we want to incorporate into the UK with Savour. I believe there needs to be a fundamental reposition of beer in British society and that beer deserves a lot more respect than it is given.

Beer shouldn’t be treated as wines poor or annoying little brother rather it should be treated with the reverence that it deserves. Both the beer styles and culture of beer in Belgium provide the inspiration and form the foundations of what we do at Savour in giving beer the respect it deserves.


How and when was the brewery started?

I started the company in April 2013 using savings and with help from friends and family. Starting out with such a small amount of capital it was obvious I was going to have to be resourceful. I simply didn’t have the money to buy even a modest brewing kit and rent premises in London so decided to utilise any spare capacity in the system and brew on other people’s kit. So far it has worked well but it has always been my intention to have our own brewery and that is something we are working towards.


Do you plan to focus solely on Belgian style beers?

For the time being, yes. I don’t want to be become a brewery that brews numerous variations of every beer style under the sun. I think it’s very important to have a sense of focus and follow your passion rather than be dictated by market trends. In that light don’t expect to see an IPA, Pale Ale or Stout from Savour any time in the near future!


Which breweries have influenced your work?

I am a massive fan of de Ranke and Malheur who are some of the unsung heroes of Belgian brewing. All of their beers are beautiful and what they lack in quantity they most certainly make up for in quality. I am also a huge fan of Dubussion and Verhaeghe beers. The first time I tried Duchesse de Bourgogne in a café in Gent, it blew me away. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before!


Where are your beers distributed to?

The majority of our beers are distributed within the M25 and we do all the distribution ourselves. We have tended to shy away from working with wholesalers so as to maintain control over where our beers are enjoyed and build relationships with the customers we supply. We have had interest from wholesalers including one in Scotland so our beers could be finding their way up North soon!


Are there any brewers you’d like to work with?

I would love to work with Nino Bacelle from De Ranke. I was lucky enough to visit the brewery in September and having started in the same way as we have it was amazing to see what he and Guido Devos have created. All of their beers are superb and hugely interesting in their own right. I’d also like to collaborate with Urbain Couteau of De Struise as I have huge admiration for De Struise beers, in particular Pannepot.


What can we expect from Savour in the future?

We have numerous plans in the pipeline including a big release around July next year. It’s a beer that I’ve always want to produce and one that I think will encapsulate everything that Savour stands for. All of our beers are currently in bottle and so we might look towards draught as well whilst trying to maintain consistent quality. Whatever happens I’m sure it’ll require a monumental amount of hard work and effort but great fun as well.


What are your favourite beers?

Like so many others, Rochefort 10 is the beer that I hold closest to my heart. Having first tasted it in a small café in Bruges, it was the beer that changed my perception of beer and brewing forever. Vichtenaar from Verhaeghe and Pannepot from De Struise are both amazing and unique beers as well.


Now on to the review. The beers I tried were Progress, Finesse and Opulence.

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The first beer I tried was Progress a Belgian golden ale weighing in at 6.5%.

The beer pours a golden yellow colour with a foamy white head.

On the nose there is a hit of Belgian hops and some caramel sweetness from the malt. There are notes of citrus and white fruit. Followed by hints of almost champaign yeast.

On tasting there is a herbal bitterness with a great malt balance, there are hints or citrus peel and some floral notes followed by bitter citrus down the back of the tongue.

Dry finish with good lacing!

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Next was the saison Finesse which is 5% ABV.

The beer pours a golden amber colour with a loose foamy white head.

The nose is sweet orange note with hits of herb and spice. This is followed by lemongrass and champagne aromas.

On tasting there are sweet and dry notes some citrus on the finish.

There is a hugely dry and slightly citrus finish.

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Finally I tried Opulence a Belgian double in style at 7% ABV.

Ruby almost dark cherry red in colour with an off white thin head.

The nose has tart raspberries, cloud berry, lots of sugar and light herbal notes on the nose.

Hits of Belgian yeast fruitiness, followed by notes of tart berry, peach, rose water and treacle.

Quite dry slightly bitter.

Savour beers are widely available throughout Scotland and online.

If you have any more questions the details for Savour follow.

Connect:

www.facebook.com/savourbeer

@savourbeer

www.youtube.com/savourbeer

  Cheers!

It’s been marked on my calendar for weeks, a trip up to Inverness-shire & Ross-shire to visit two breweries and The Anderson’s extreme beer festival.

@beeryme and myself set of from Aberdeen train station on Friday just after 8am. After arriving in to Inverness just after 1030 we jumped on to a bus which took up took us the 25 minute trip in to Drumnadrochit.


Loch Ness Brewery 04/04/14

Our first port of call was the Loch Ness brewery which is located in Drumnadrochit. The brewery is around a 10 minute walk from the bus stop on Kilmore Road. As we walked in to the building we were greeted by Alan and Graeme who were running around like mad bees! While sparging (the step at the end of the mashing process where hot water is run through the grain bed to extract the wort) Alan explained that the brewery which was previously a British Legion bar is a stop gap until a new bespoke brewery is built

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We also spoke about the growth of breweries within the local area and their own brewery. Alan then spoke about growth from outside the UK with Victory and Sam Adams in the USA and a Russian company also wanting to distribute their product.

We were then shown around the brewery, I’m always surprised by how small these places are but compared  to the 2 barrel set up previously this 8 barrel set up must feel  huge!

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After being allowed to smell some of the gorgeous red ale which was fermenting in the tank we let the guys back to work!

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After this we walked down to the Benleva Hotel which was where the Loch Ness brewery started originally.  We shook the rain off and got settled next to the bar.

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The bar had three Loch Ness beers on cask, and to my delight they had the fantastic Caith Ness on along with four other guest beers.

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We were sadly unable to get a chance to talk to Steve or George as they were both snowed under with the business side of the brewery.

Just as we got settled in, it was time to head back to Inverness (this is a bar that I will be returning to)!!

After a quick stop in Inverness for a sandwich it was time to get the bus to Fortrose for The Anderson’s extreme beer festival.


The Anderson Extreme Beer Festival 04/04/14

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The bar opened it’s door just as we arrived at 1600. As we entered the bar we gazed at the list of amazing beer as can be seen below:

IN KEG:-

CROMARTY/SAND MAN HAWAIIAN LUAU (5.5%, Scotland) Collab brown ale fermented with BBQ pork and smoked, grilled pineapple (yes, meat beer!) 

TO ØL F*CK ART THIS IS ARCHITECTURE (5.0%, Denmark)  Ultra-hoppy Belgian-style farmhouse ale brewed with brettanomyces (editing is ours — we’re not very sweary)

MIKKELLER DRINK’IN THE SUN (1.4%, Denmark) American-style wheat “microbuzz” ale 

BREWDOG/EVIL TWIN HELLO MY NAME IS SONJA (8.2%, Scotland)  Collab double IPA brewed with fresh blueberries and Mosaic hops 

CROMARTY/TEMPEST CONE HEAD (7.4%, Scotland)  Lightly-spiced barley/oat/rye ale brewed with toasted pine cones and fermented with Ardennes yeast 

LEVAIN FRANKEN RYE BREAD SOUR (3.5%, England) Belgian-style farmhouse ale brewed with sourdough rye bread and fermented with wild yeast 

BROOKLYN CUVÉE DE BÔITE (8.2%, USA) Belgian-style grand cru brewed with lemon, saffron, crystalized honey, lime leaf & chile pepper 

MIKKELLER/BRODIE’S BIG MOFO STOUT (10.5%, England) Imperial stout “collab beer” brewed with liquorice & cranberries 

IN CASK:-

PILOT ICED TEA ALE (6.0%, Scotland) Pale ale infused with tea leaves and spiced with lemon grass 

SIREN 7 SEAS (6.0%, England)  Black wheat IPA seasoned with seven different ultrahops 

HIGHLAND IMPERIAL STOUT 2010 (8.0%, Scotland) Vintage imperal stout gently aged in The Anderson’s stone cellar 

MARBLE GINGER 5.1 (5.1%, England) Copper-colored ale infused with fresh ginger and spiced with clove & coriander 

IN BOTTLE:-

BREWDOG WATT DICKIE (35%, Scotland)  Ice-distilled hop-a-licious IPA — served in 25ml portions only – 

POPPYLAND CRAB APPLE SAISON (7.2%, England) Bottle-conditioned saison brewed with Norfolk barley and crab apples 

MIKKELLER MAD3 WEED BEER (3.5%, Denmark) American-style wheat beer brewed with fresh grass from Refshaleøen

DE MOLEN SPANNING & SENSATIE (9.8%, Hollland) Imperial stout brewed with cacao, chili peppers & sea salt 

HELLER AECHT SCHLENKERLA RAUCHBIER MAERZEN (5.1%, Germany)  A distinct taste of bacon from this old-school extreme beechwood-smoked lager 

(I’d do tasting notes for all of these but I’m only going to select a few to save people getting bored!)

The first beer I went for attracted me because of it’s general lunacy, Cromarty Brewing’s- Hawaiian Luau (keg), which is made with smoked and grilled pineapple and PULLED PORK! Yes, pulled pork. This has resulted in a beer that was definitely a crowd splitter.

The colour is cloudy orange/brown colour with a very thin white head.

The nose has pineapple notes, dark treacle, slight smoke, Jamaican ginger cake, dark cane sugar. There are notes of dark malt and spice but apparently none are put in??

On tasting start has a slight citrus prickle but this is followed by and almost greasy note. There are hints of smoke, pineapple and fruit sugar syrup. There are nips of sweet sugar and treacle too.

This coats your mouth like a soap sweet??

Next up was  Pilot – Iced tea ale (cask).

On appearance the beer is light amber – golden colour with a white head.

The nose has smoked tea note, small amounts of citrus, red berry, lemon skin, orange pith & light sugar.

On tasting there are mild floral notes, hints of smoke, light tea hints, lemon and orange pith.

The finish is very dry.

Poppyland – Crab apple saison (bottle).

Golden colour with a thin head from the bottle.

The apple is noticeable in the aroma even at a distance!! Hints of lemon and line with notes of sherbet also. There are notes of orange and herbs also.

Theres a huge smack of bitter apple, lime leaves, sherbet, lemon, white grape & elderflower.

Very dry finish!

The food as always to accompany these fantastic beers was just as good! I indulged in a beef hough stew which was just gorgeous!

After this it was time for the return trip to Inverness where I spent the night and rested for the next day!

After a night of a sofa I awoke feeling roughly 50 years older and got ready for a return to one of my favourite breweries!


Cromarty Brewing (05/04/2013)

After the winding bus ride we arrived in Davidston (5 minutes from Cromarty).

Craig greeted us along with the guys from six°north who had joined us.

Craig took us around the brewery showing us his in progress boiler room, which he is building at the same time as making his beer!

Since my last visit in February his brewery has grown to 16 barrel but again I imagine he is no where near reaching the demand for his beer!

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As I walked around I was stunned by the fact that even after more that 2 years all of his equipment glistens, you get the impression that Craig loves what he does so much he sits awake at night polishing the tanks.

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Then came the words I’d secretly waited for all day! Would you like to try some of the Kowabunga. This is the new American style pale ale, with a huge amount of American hops which created beautiful tropical fruit nose teamed with a really refreshing pineapple and mango hit!

After the guys from six°north and Craig had a chat about something…no idea what…but surely something exciting in the future!

It was sadly time to leave!

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After a wait for the bus it was back to Fortrose for the final part of the weekend!


The Anderson 05/04/2013

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Following trying the beers on the festival list the night before, it left me free to explore the phone book sized beer list! Contemplating my choices while tucking in to a Korean style 12 ounce burger I settled on a bottle of Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops.

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This the 10.5% 2012 version, is and imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels has hints of dark chocolate, vanilla and chilli was just fantastic!

Then Jim Anderson appeared with a glass of Hair of the Dog’s Eve. An eisbock which weighed in at 12% and was bottled 18 years ago! The beer had held up well having thinned out and oxidised to the point of tasting like a very good port!

After a couple more beers and some great conversation it was sadly time to return to Aberdeen.

I can’t advocate going to enjoy the beery delights which are scattered around Inverness-shire & Ross-shire!

My thanks to @beeryme, Jim Anderson @TheAndersonUK, Craig Middleton @Cromarty Brewing & Steve, George, Alan and Graeme @lochnessbrewing along with everyone else who made this trip possible!!

Cheers!!

 

bars, Beer