Anita Scott knows all about beer and bikes; as well as being one of our dedicated bar team, she’s a an accomplished rider and this year, is taking on the POC Scottish Enduro Series.
Bikes, Black Isle Brewery beers and not-so-beautiful weather was the order of the weekend at Muckmedden’s ‘Cream O’ The Croft’ mountain bike festival in Comrie.
Now he is Instafamous!
Dogs on Tap launched in 2014 by Bethany (a graduate of William Paterson University) and Carter (a Border Collie mix). Their aim is to provide entertainment and information to the dog owning, craft beer lover.
And there are obviously lots of us as they already have over 29.1k followers!
‘Craft beer and dogs were made to be photographed together’
Check them out:
The news that Camra is canvassing its 177,000 members on which direction the pressure group should head in, now that it has achieved its original aim, is a huge sign of the times. Once upon a time, only six companies produced a massive 80 per cent of the UK’s beer – and that’s why Camra had to be set up. Achieving its aim of promoting choice for consumers and pushing the need for high-quality, traditional brewing techniques, it now needs a new reason for being.
The country has 1,500 certified breweries producing 11,000 different brands of beer.
The craft ale revolution has brought a lot of great knowledge to the table, yet there is still a massive hold on the average drinker’s palate by the national and multinational brewers. Their history, scale of production, marketing budgets and brand recognition means they are still the go-to drink for your average pub frequenter. But as the knowledge of different micro and craft brews continues to grow amongst millennials – the big brewers could benefit from learning a thing or two from the smaller breweries.
Freedom to Experiment
One thing which attracts many beer lovers to craft and micro ales is the wide range of flavours and types. The micro-brewers increasingly need to offer something unique and special in order to be taken on by drinkers.
This is something that the larger breweries don’t need to do as they can rely on effective marketing campaigns – be it lifestyle advertising or big branding exercises with glasses, posters, competitions, and the like.
Daring to head back to the drawing board and take a chance with a new line or flavour might be something to try. Possibly in the form of collaborations.
Seasonal Products As Opposed To Seasonal Advertising
Likewise, seasonal products are a very attractive aspect of micro-brewery output. Production on a small scale allows shorter runs of products and therefore less risk that the “May Day Weekend Bramble Ale” will go out of date (in terms of reference) before it is sold.
The big brewers promote their product with seasonal advertising and packaging come Christmas, summer and things like the World Cup; but the drink itself rarely changes, if ever.
Even if it’s a loss leader when doing it on such a grand scale, could this be a way the big brewers could crib from the techniques of the smaller players?
Okay, I know, it’s superficial and a bit shallow, but it’s always nice when your beer can make you smile before you’ve even tasted it because the label looks great. Even if it’s just a witty name or some creative artwork; this is something that the big, well-established breweries ignore.
Come on, show a bit of character. You might enjoy it as much as us.
Beavertown; an example of engaging and creative branding.
Now, I want to make sure we don’t have to be contacting our solicitor here, so let’s be clear; I’m not suggesting for a second that the big breweries use anything unnatural in their product.
But what they don’t do it push the angle of naturally sourced, organic, environmentally friendly processes. A lot of micro and craft drinkers love that their beer producer is interested in these things; why don’t the big boys do the same?
Friendly and Personal
I know this isn’t exclusive to the beer industry, but it’s easy for a large company to quickly become faceless and impersonal. That’s fine when you want a product or service which doesn’t rely on human interaction – we don’t want the brakes on our car to be made by somebody who’s happy to have a laugh and a joke on their packaging, for example.
But, when it comes to enjoying a drink, it would be nice to know you’re getting it from a group of like minded people in a brewery rather than some faceless logo owned by a multi-national conglomerate.
And that is partly why lots of micro-breweries develop such a cult following. They are relatable. You’re a part of something when you drink it. You’re supporting individual people’s livelihoods when you stumble across it in a pub out of town and feel obliged to sample a pint out of loyalty.
There’s no better way to instil longevity in your customer base – and who wouldn’t want that?
Valuing Taste Alongside Profit
This is probably a case of going back to your roots. The big beers we all know and love didn’t suddenly start being sold all around the world overnight. They were all micro-breweries at one point in their life.
When the investors arrive and open up a bigger market and all the benefits that come with it; often the travel, required shelf life and favoured tastes of different markets mean the taste has to change.
But it’s probably tricky for the big brewers to place taste alongside profit in importance when you have directors and investors, who are business owners first and beer drinkers second, calling the shots.
All of this isn’t to say that the big breweries need a major reform – far from it. They are clearly doing most things right in order to be where they are today. And hats off to them. This is just a few of the things that we think they could learn from the amazing micro-brewers, who do just as a fantastic job.
This blog was written by Don Valley Engineering who manufacture and supply malting equipment and systems.
In my interview, I asked if I could brew a seasonal and after much negotiation I was challenged with brewing a big bold IPA in the American style. I started a recipe formulation and calculation process, incidentally trying out some really good beer from British and American breweries, tracing the recipes and writing what I liked and didn’t like about each.
I took a very successful recipe I had formulated for my previous brewery, which was more of an English IPA, 6% and all cask, and I played with that. I changed pretty much everything but kept the malt backbone of that recipe.
Once I came up with a prototype recipe, I did some experiments dry hopping 5 litres of Blonde to see if my combinations of flavours worked. The next challenge was sourcing the ingredients.
I was adamant at first to use dextrose to dry the beer out, like Pliny the Elder, and give it a cleaner flavour but I couldn’t source it organically. I also came to feel that it went against my German trained roots to add essentially refined sugars to a beer and it wasn’t quite fitting with the Back Isle ideology, so back to the drawing board…
In the end, I decided to use a long mash at low temperature to encourage higher fermentability and therefore that flavour I was searching for.
Malts used in making Migrator:
- Extra pale
- Low colour crystal
With hops I wanted to emulate the gung-ho hopping regimes of the American breweries but those hopping rates with organic hops, which are hard to come by, were near impossible. Also, in the Black Isle we don’t want to just waste such a beautiful ingredient by chucking heaps and heaps in. So together with my team and lots of textbook reading and consulting and seeing what other breweries were doing we looked at ways of creating that same hop flavour and hit with less hops, added in a much more efficient manner.
We finally decided on:
And a hint of Nelson Sauvin and Citra in the dry hop.
Next on the list was water, our water is very good for the beers we brew so it just need slight tweaking with salts to make the hop flavours sing.
As for the last but most important ingredient, yeast, we decided to try something new. At Black Isle we have our own special culture, a house strain, which gives Blonde its lovely estery notes and Red Kite its rich malt backbone, but for a hoppy IPA we decided to go with a classic west coast American yeast famous for its clean flavours and ability to showcase hops.
All in all, the recipe formulation took about 2-3 months and involved endless chats/tastings about what we were aiming to create. On the brew-day the team was really excited to brew something new so we all started at 6am. It went beautifully with everything going to plan, which is a first in new recipes for me…
Once she was put to bed we tested every day to assess the fermentation and flavour formation. The beer had come out good but didn’t have the quite the right blend of hops flavours I was looking for. We were going to dry hop but a series of quick recalculations was needed to work out how to put it back into balance which meant all those little experiments with blonde helped immensely. We gave it a full month to cold mature, to mellow out all these flavours. Now it’s in keg and bottle it’s really a beer I can say I’m proud of (though I’m not saying I won’t tweak around a little if I get to brew it again… I am a brewer after all).
The finished product is a bold hitting cacophony of sweet grapefruit lychee flavour with a strong piney undertone and a pinch of tropical fruit with enough malt to hold those flavours in balance. 7.9% so it’s a good 1/3rd of a pint job.
Name wise, this is literally the hardest part of brewing. Many suggestions were aired, with Bullfinch to tie in with Goldfinch looking likely but I felt that we should link it with our other special strong beer, Hibernator. To showcase the links with our amazing Scottish malts, organic hops from New Zealand and the Yakima Valley, Washington, we finally decided on the name Migrator.
I have this image in my head of the artwork being a silhouette of the farm with a ‘v’ of geese flying overhead, which when we brewed it was all the sky was full of! But I have no idea what they are actually going to do yet. I have worked for a few breweries now and made a good proportion of the core recipes for their brands but I can honestly say that this is the one I’m happiest with. Hopefully the sales team knock it out the park so I can brew it again!
Soon to be available in the brewery shop and online. We will also have it on draft when we open our brewery bar in June!
Head Brewer at Black Isle Brewing Co Ltd
The grass is ris
I wonder where them birdies is.
The little birds is on the wing
Ain’t that absurd
The little wings is on the bird!
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