East Meets West at Black Isle

Systems Theory was a collaboration project that came to life in December 2017, just as one of the coldest winters hit the UK. Given the time of year and the plans ahead, it was time to brew a big, bold beast of a beer. We had bold plans too for the end result; not just one beer, but three.

Given our position in Scotland, we’re close to iconic whisky regions, having used many in our previous barrel aged projects. This time, we chose Islay and Highland; with the expectation of two distinctly different outcomes.

‘Black Run’ in collaboration with Tomatin Whisky in 2012

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The Start of Systems Theory

A trip in search of great beer led Poppels Bryggeri’s brewer Daniel right to our door. After a visit to our bar in Inverness, the seed of a collaboration was sown. Not only do we share a love of great beer, we also have a common goal: a commitment to use organic ingredients.

The road to brewing Systems Theory had begun.

Sandy from our brew team shares the background to the recipe and the results from our latest barrel aged beer project.

Choosing a Style

For the beer we had in mind, a stout was going to be the best style to brew to bring out the flavours of the organic malt. To also deliver a sweet, rich flavour, we added Muscovado and Demerara sugar to the recipe, which would give it a caramelised taste, as well as boost the fermentable sugars.

Deciding On The  Yeast

We used a co-pitch of our house yeast and US-05, as our house yeast wasn’t quite enough to ferment a beer as big as this all the way. By using this method, the esters we were looking for came from our house yeast, with US-05 finishing it off and fermenting the beer to the required final gravity.

But the plan for this collaboration wasn’t just a singular beer; it was to be split three ways, with the first one making its mark as a straight-up imperial stout – Systems Theory. 

The next step in our collaboration involved another of Scotland’s best loved drinks, whisky. Bringing together both east and west coast distilleries, we aged the remaining two thirds of Systems Theory in whisky casks, leaving them for six months over winter to work their magic. As is the case with barrel aged beers, the outcome is not so simple to predict – and with one of the harshest Scottish winters we could remember, we were delighted with the results after the long wait.

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The Results

Our West Coast edition used casks from the Islay region, with an inherent peaty flavour, which came through with just the right balance. Closer to home, the East Coast edition had a more balanced effect from both the wood and the whisky.

Both East Coast and West Coast Systems Theory also made the list as finalists in the Scottish Beer Awards 2018, which will be announced later this month, on the 27th September.

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West Coast Systems Theory

Nose: Peat, with a subtle citrus note

Flavour: Creamy with lashings of peat and the hint of citrus coming through on the finish

systems-theory-poppels-collab

East Coast Systems Theory

Nose: Oak spice, vanilla, dark chocolate

Flavour: creamy, vanilla, dark chocolate, coconut with a toffee apple finish

Our first editions have flown out the door, but we’ve brewed another batch of Systems Theory and have plenty more casks here at the brewery, so watch out for the next release.

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©2018 Black Isle Brewing Company