My dad first introduced me to Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout years ago, and since then I’ve been hooked on imperials. It was my favourite beer for a long time and drinking it tonight is bringing back such fond memories. It’s a truly sensational beer packed with so many different flavours, all balanced beautifully. Bitter chocolate and coffee, dark berries, treacle, vanilla and almost a hint of smoke or spice.
Four Heriot-Watt masters students will be launching Natural Selection Brewing’s most recent creation, Common Ancestor, at OX184 on Cowgate, Edinburgh, on Thursday 29 June. The launch night will feature guest speaker Roger Protz. This collaborative project, now in its seventh year, is between selected MSc Brewing and Distilling students at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling and Stewart Brewing. These students are tasked with the challenge to trial beer recipes, brand their own product, brew 5000 litres of their chosen creation and sell it across the UK. The name, Natural Selection Brewing, stems from the project’s evolutionary developments which take place each academic year, with the new students adding their own creativity and innovative ideas to drive the project in a different direction.
This year’s beer, called Common Ancestor, is a 5.2% ABV California Common. The style originates from California in the 19th Century, where lager strains of yeast were fermented at higher than normal temperatures due to a lack of viable temperature control options.
Patrick Smith, Project Marketer, describes the beer as “an effervescent ale/lager hybrid, with caramel, citrus and pine notes, thanks to a liberal dosing of Dr. Rudi and Chinook hops. A slight hint of juniper complements this nicely. Our beer has evolved from the traditional California Common style to be fit for modern day consumption”.
Mark Ritchie, Head Brewer for the project, said “A California Common, being relatively unexplored by the craft beer scene, gave us a lot of scope to play around with and add our own twists. It’s a slightly unusual, but still very drinkable style”.
“We wanted to show that lagers can be exciting” adds Philip Sisson, Project Coordinator, “We’ve used a lot of citrusy hops during the end of the boil and fermentation to maximize flavour and aroma. The small addition of juniper also brings an extra dimension to the beer. It should be readily enjoyable by both craft beer enthusiasts, as well as traditional cask drinkers”.
The style works well in both cask and keg format and will be distributed across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle and London in both these formats, as well as bottles.
The beer’s launch night at Cowgate’s OX184 is open to the public to allow people the very first taste of Common Ancestor. Two types of ticket are available for purchase at the Stewart Brewing website. A £12.50 ticket includes a talk with guest speaker and beer journalist, Roger Protz, as well as an intimate evolution tasting of how this year’s beer has developed (doors 6.00pm for 6.30pm talk). Alternatively, a £7.50 ticket provides admission at 7.30pm. Both tickets include one pint of Common Ancestor, a commemorative glass and bar snacks. Keg, cask and bottle formats will be available, as well as access to Natural Selection Brewing’s limited edition sherry barrel-aged Belgian Quadrupel, Aged Ancestor. There will be a raffle in aid of Marie Curie on the night, with various beer-related prizes, including an evolution gift box of each of this year’s trial brews.
Right, let’s not beat around the bush here. I love an innuendo as much as the next person, so I’m not going to write this article and ignore the flower in the room. Yep, a growler also means something very different in Scotland. In writing this, I’ve tried to minimise the innuendos as much as possible but there’s only so much you can do…
So, some of you might be reading this thinking what even is a ‘Growler’ in the beer context??? According to the Oxford English Dictionary website the word ‘Growler’ can mean four possible things:
A person or thing that growls.
A small iceberg.
Historical: A four-wheeled hansom cab.
US informal: A pail or other container used for carrying drink, especially draught beer.
Unsurprisingly, a Growler in beer terms refers to no. 4. However, Grunting Growler don’t use pails to serve their beers in, they have specially designed airtight glass containers all nicely branded up and they look pretty great. You can get either 1L or 2L depending how thirsty you are.
I first met Jehad Hatu, the man behind GG a couple of years ago when he was a pop up in Peckham’s (and I think some other places), so it’s amazing to see that he’ll soon be celebrating his first birthday at the current location on Old Dumbarton Road, Glasgow. Jehad is incredibly passionate about beer and his enthusiasm shines through as soon as you walk in the door. He’s always happy to talk about the beers he has in, recommending things based on your preferences.
In his shop on Old Dumbarton Road he has 4 taps on the go serving a variety of rotating beers to take away as well as a packed beer fridge that’s ever changing.
Here’s an example of the goodies I picked up last time I was there:
From L-R: North Brewing Co – Transmission, Schofferhoffer – Grapefruit, Out of Town Brewing – IPA, Fallen – Chew Chew. Wild Beer Co. – Smoke n Barrels, Tiny Rebel – Clwb Tropicana, Beerbliotek – Hip Hops, Wild Beer Co – Breakfast of Champignons
Particular shout out goes to the IPA by Out of Town Brewery (third on the left), a new brewery based up in Cumbernauld. Jehad recommended them to me so I picked up their IPA to test the hoppy, malty, yeasty waters. I’ve been drinking a lot of super juicy West Coast style IPAs recently so this was a lovely change. It was quite cloudy but don’t let that put you off as it’s unfiltered so still has all the natural goodness left in. It has a much, deeper flavour than your West Coast style, with lots of piney, almost woody tones. I really enjoyed the complex flavours and thought it was a lovely, well balanced beer especially for being so new to the game. The brewery was founded by James Morton (of Great British Bake Off fame), Owen Sheerins and Richard O’Brien. I think we’ll see some big things coming from them over the next year.
So I mentioned earlier that Grunting Growler will be celebrating its first birthday at Old Dumbarton Road soon…well it happens to be this Saturday…April 1st! Out of Town have actually brewed a Blood Orange Fruit Smoothie IPA (so called as it’s been brewed with blood oranges and the smoothie part comes from the added lactose to give it a smooth mouthfeel) for this ceremonial occasion so the guys will be there from 4-10 for a meet the brewer. Get on down to try it and find about more about them, as well as some general fun beer chat.
The idea behind using Growlers is that it means you can take home beer from a keg to drink later. Beer from a keg is much fresher than bottled beer as a keg keeps the beer better by being fully airtight and not letting in any light. A pint of beer always tastes better than a bottle, right? So by filling the Growler, you can take home beers and they’ll taste as close as possible to a freshly poured pint. Once in the Growler, it’ll last for around 6 weeks but to get that super fresh taste, it’s best to drink it ASAP. Once opened, it’ll last for around 3 days…but…I think you can guess what I’m going to say… to get that super fresh taste, it’s best to drink it ASAP. Fresher is better. Plus the beers are too good to leave lying around for ages.
Jehad is extremely passionate about trying before buying as he wants you to enjoy the beer you take home, not just flog you a growler and be done with it. He’s been working hard recently on renovating the space himself and has made a table with seats made from used keykegs (big recycling props). He’s hoping to be able to open it up to the public for tastings as well as using it as a general bar space. I think that’ll be a fantastic addition and a great place to pop in for a wee drink whilst you stock up on beers to take home.
Big up the Growler!
♥Grunting Growler is located at 51 Old Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow, G3 8RF♥
Brewgooder was founded by Alan Mahon and Josh Littlejohn who wanted to help problems while drinking beer instead of just talking about them. They came up with the idea of selling beer and pouring all the profits into helping clean water projects around the world. It’s estimated around 650 million people (according to the Brewgooder website) don’t have access to clean water, one of the most basic human needs. As well as directly causing agonising illness and death, a lack of clean drinking water also prevents countries from developing as sourcing water becomes one of the main focuses in daily life rather than things like education. Brewgooder’s aim is to provide clean drinking water and sanitation for 1 million people over the next five years by donating its profits to charities like WaterAid, Oxfam and Mercy Corps. In order to meet these goals, Alan and Josh needed big volumes of beer to sell…and fast! Unlike most other Scottish craft brewers, Brewgooder didn’t start out in a homebrew kit in someone’s kitchen, but at the Kings of Scottish craft beer, the Brewdog palace. Brewdog make all of Brewgooders beer at a cost price so the maximum amount of money can be donated into this fantastic cause.
The pair aren’t new to creating charitable businesses, with Josh having founded Social Bite, the sandwich shop chain which employs homeless people throughout Scotland. You must have been hiding under a rock if you didn’t hear or see images of George Clooney in Scotland last year. This was to promote Social Bite’s goal to provide homeless people a meal on Christmas day (which they did – a staggering 73,000 meals!) as well as warm clothing and tents for thousands of refugees in Greece and Calais. After the roaring success of Social Bite, the pair decided they wanted to help many more lives and so created a fundraising campaign to create Brewgooder in 2016. Clean Water Lager was launched in March last year and I’m sure Brewdog are kicking themselves that they hadn’t kept the recipe for themselves!
Clean Water Lager has a very light, vaguely floral smell so I was slightly worried it would be another thirst-quenching but bland lager. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I took my first mouthful. The first thing that hit me was the coconut. Clean Water Lager is brewed with traditional Saaz lager hops as well as Sorachi Ace, which is famous for its interesting lemony/coconut taste. It works really, really well and gives an extra refreshing kick. The lager is slightly bitter with floral notes pairing very well with the coconut to give a perfect summer’s day lager. I can very much imagine myself bringing a few cans of this along to a Sunday afternoon BBQ. It pours nicely with medium head retention and is a lovely golden colour. I’m not a fan of overly fizzy lagers so this for me is perfect; a slight tongue tingle but not enough to leave you feeling gassy. Clean Water Lager is great beer with a great cause, quenching both your thirst and the thirst of thousands of others who will be helped by it.
Clean Water Lager is available in 330ml cans across Brewdog bars and Asda stores UK wide, as well as a selection of independent bars and retailers.