Rethinking beer in Scotland

Having spent a career working in senior roles at various large brewers the founder of Edinburgh Beer Factory (EBF) decided to do things a little differently when setting up his own operation.

Sitting on the edge of Edinburgh on an industrial estate EBF is the creation of John Dunsmore – who formerly ran Scottish & Newcastle as well as holding other senior roles including CEO of C&C Group – and it is straight out of the craft beer mould.

What gives it some differentiation though is its initial focus on lager. The objective of the company has been to rethink lager – away from its bad reputation and male focus. Dunsmore also wanted to rethink the stereotypes of Scotland and to highlight that it is a world leader in brewing and distilling.

Ellis Johnson of EBF says: “He wanted to remake lager and restyle it. To do it differently than Foster’s, Kronenbourg and Tennent’s.” Part of this thinking has involved leaning heavily on the godfather of Pop Art the Leith born Eduardo Paolozzi whose imagery runs across all EBF’s beers.

The brewery was founded on Paolozzi Hells lager (ABV 5.2%), which is a Munich-style lager that is hopped with Saaz and Hallertau. It accounts for a hefty 95% of the brewery’s output, which has built up to 5,000hl since production started in 2015. The kit was shipped in from Turin in Italy with the brewhouse consisting of a dual mash tun/kettle, whirlpool, and sparging vessel.

These feed into six fermenting vessels that each contains 150hl. In addition there is a batch of conditioning tanks that ensure the lager has around six weeks in tank. At the moment Johnson says EBF is at maximum capacity but there is plenty of room to bring in some additional vessels and conditioning tanks.

As well as branching out into an unfiltered version of Paolozzi, which has reduced the bitterness and added the requisite luscious mouth-feel, EBF has also recently launched its Bunk! range. The name comes from the Paolozzi lecture in 1952 at the ICA in London when he first introduced his pop art creations and called it BUNK!

Johnson says the idea has been to release an experimental series of under-appreciated beer styles. First up was Edinburgh Brown (6%), which is an American brown ale-style brew with Cascade hops, and Smoky Wheat (5%) that has the heft and banana notes of a traditional German wheat beer but with a decent whiff of smoke coursing through it.

These have more recently been joined by Cherry Saison (6.5%) that has the undercurrent of Belgian yeast that is complemented with the addition of fresh cherries into the mix that sit comfortably in the background.

Such brews are initially created on a pilot plant that can limit production runs to as little as 500l and the most recent brew to come from this kit was being tested at the brewery’s Tap Room on my visit – Mediterranean Pale Ale (7.4%), which has been aged in Chardonnay casks.

These beers are all available in bottle (being bottled on-site with EBF’s own line) while Paolozzi is also available in 330ml cans.

During my visit on a Saturday afternoon the tours of the brewery and tastings in the Tap Room are clearly proving very popular and EBF has found itself on the tourist attraction trail – especially among the passengers of cruise ships mooring up in nearby Leith. Paolozzi would no doubt approve.

Glynn Davis, editor, Beer Insider