The explosion in the number of breweries and beers has been a welcome miracle for drinkers. Never in my lifetime has there been anything like so much choice.
The challenge for brewers is battling it out for distribution. Even when you are close to your market it has become increasingly tough to achieve any sort of cut-through and gain listings with retailers and bars/pubs.
BrewDog has done a tremendous job marketing its wares around the globe from a place in the middle of nowhere in the north of Scotland where there are very few obvious channels to market on its doorstep. The challenge for other brewers in the area is an equally tough one.
It was therefore great to see a batch of these brewers showcasing their goods in central London at Startisans market – that is dedicated to providing a marketplace for interesting independent food and drink producers.
This Highland Craft Beer & Cider Festival (a promotion by the Highlands & Islands Enterprises as part of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink in 2015) involved six brewers bringing their beers along to Startisans for the day.
It proved to be a great insight into what makes Scottish beers tick.
At the heart of a good number of these beers was a malty backdrop with a pronounced sweetness hinting at a style that I have a slight soft spot for – Scotch Ale.
But beyond this, there was a broad portfolio of styles on display. Pick of the bunch was the Wheat beer from Wooha brewery. Not sure about the name but its take on a German Weizen with the addition of some citrus hop delivered a chunky refresher of a beer.
Loch Ness brewery’s HoppyNESS packed a punch of American hops into its 5% to give a mouthful of flavour. But it was the stouts where these brewers excelled. Spey Stout from Spey Valley Brewery, Black Gold from Cairngorm Brewery Company, and Stout Keith from Keith Brewery all stood out with their finessed malt characteristics and a few other things coming through – including the peatiness that the region is renowned for in that other drink that they produce rather well.