Scotland's best real ale breweries

Looking for a great pint of real ale this weekend? We've picked out some of Scotland's best real ale breweries for you to check out

Published 7th Sep 2015
Updated 16 th Sep 2015

With all the furore currently surrounding craft beer, many people will have overlooked the cask ales that kick started the demand for good beer in the first place.

Since the formation of CAMRA in the early 70s and the campaign to move the beer market away from cheaply-made, mass-produced, low flavour beers, the real ale movement has continued to grow in popularity.

This popularity has also seen its younger, hipper offspring - craft beer - gain a huge following both here and across the pond.

We feel it's only right to salute those brilliant Scottish breweries who were leading this fight for good beer before the words 'craft beer' were even uttered by a small group of hipsters in a darkened dive bar somewhere on the west coast of America.

Here is our pick of some of the best Scottish real ale breweries around, as well as a few pointers as to why you should check them out:

Kelburn Brewery - Glasgow

Director Derek Moore. Picture: Kelburn

Director Derek Moore. Picture: Kelburn

A small family run brewery on the outskirts of Glasgow - Barrhead to be exact - Kelburn brewery have been making waves in the Scottish real ale scene since their beginnings in 2001.

Run by Derek Moore (who was originally part of the team at Houston brewery), his son Ross, daughter Karen and head brewer Andy, the brewery has grown from strength to strength and produced some award winning beers.

Our core range picks: 

Goldihops - A golden, hoppy ale - abv: 3.8%

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Dark Moor - A beautifully balanced dark fruity ale - abv: 4.5%

Red Smiddy - A smooth ale with a reddish hue and a citrus, fruity aftertaste - abv: 4.1%

Our Star Pick: Jaguar - A golden, full bodied ale with undertones of grapefruit and a long lasting citrus, hoppy aftertaste. As refreshing and enjoyable as they come - abv: 4.5%

Alechemy Brewery - West Lothian

Picture: Alechemy

Picture: Alechemy

Beginning life as head brewer and founder James' home brewing experiments, Alechemy has grown into one of the most exciting real ale breweries around, with James taking his inspiration from traditional British recipes as well as Belgian and American styles.

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With close ties to their base of operations, the brewery has named many of its beers after many of West Lothian landmarks including the Five Sisters and the Cairnapple.

Our core range picks: 

Ritual Pale Ale - Alechemy's flagship beer, an IPA with a medium malt backbone - abv: 4.1 %

Ten Storey Malt Bomb - A modern take on a Scottish 80/- made with ten varieties of malt. - abv: 4.5%

Five Sisters Red IPA - A deep amber colour, this red IPA is solely hopped with Chinook - abv: 4.3%

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Our Star Pick: Bad Day at the Office - A definite favourite of ours, this wonderful little citrus hop monster is perfect way to end a 'bad day at the office' - abv: 4.5%

Highland Brewing Co. \Swannay Brewery - Orkney

Swannay Brewery. Picture: HBC

Swannay Brewery. Picture: HBC

When Rob Hill left Orkney Brewery he had a plan to create a new brewery on the island that would give him greater freedom to brew the way he wanted. He did just that in 2005, taking over an old farmstead in Swannay to create the Highland Brewing Company.

It didn't take long for the new brewery to get noticed and since then they have won a swathe of awards (including two CAMRA Champion beer of Scotland awards) and can now be found in bars up and down the length of the country.

Our core range picks: 

Orkney Best - Wonderfully refreshing hoppy ale - abv:  3.6%

Island Hopping - Extra pale in colour and full of hops from New Zealand and America that give the beer a very fruity aroma and taste - abv: 3.9%

Dark Munro - A cracking twist on a traditional Scottish mild - abv: 4%

Our Star Pick: Orkney Blast - Fruity, hoppy, hints of caramel and toffee; this is what a big hitting ale should be. Strong but infinitely drinkable - abv: 6%

Loch Lomond Brewery - Loch Lomond

Silkie Stout. Picture: Loch Lomond Brewery

Silkie Stout. Picture: Loch Lomond Brewery

Opened in 2011 by Fiona and Euan MacEachern, Loch Lomond brewery has grown from strength to strength with the husband and wife team using their vast home brewing experience to to build their commercial brewery.

Based in Alexandria, the brewery has continued to release excellent ale after excellent ale and has begun to get the recognition it deserves.

Our core range picks: 

West Highland Way - Light, fruity and refreshing ale - abv: 3.7%

Kessog - A dark ruby red ale packed with chocolate notes - abv:  5.2%    

Our Star Pick - Silkie Stout - A big hitting stout, think chocolate, coffee and slight hints of citrus - abv: 5%

Ayr Brewery - Ayr   

The Dr. Blacklock series. Picture: Ayr

The Dr. Blacklock series. Picture: Ayr

Set up by Anthony Valenti in 2009, Ayr Brewery began life as an annexe of the GlenPark Hotel in Ayr. Since then, and through a lot of experimentation, Anthony and the team have really found their feet and have been producing some amazing beers over the past few years.

Already finding success in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Ayr have expanded their supply to Northern England and are now doing better than ever.

Our core range picks: 

Towzie Tyke - A cracking little ale with hints of orange and caramel - abv: 4.6%

Leezie Lundie Pale Ale - A pale golden session ale with a strong fruit flavour - abv: 3.8%

Our Star Pick: Dr Blacklock Stouts - A sublime selection of stouts that come in a variety of flavours including chocolate orange, banana and peach, well worth a try! - abv: around 6%

Cromarty Brewing Company - Cromarty

AKA IPA. Picture: Cromarty

AKA IPA. Picture: Cromarty

The Middelton Family set up Cromarty Brewing in 2011 to create 'beer worth believing in'. Head Brewer Craig spent time working in America as well as back home with Cairngorm brewery in Aviemore before setting up Cromarty with his parents Jenni and Chap.

Building on a long history of brewing in the area, Cromarty brewing has grown to become one of the most exciting breweries in Scotland.

Our core range picks: 

Happy Chappy - A great little session ale, made using a combination of American and New Zealand - abv: 4.1%

Brewed Awakening - A partnership between Artysans coffee shop in Inverness and Cromarty brewery resulted in this excellent coffee infused stout great for a pick me up after a longer day. abv: 4.7%

Our Star Pick: Red Rocker - Red rye based beer fused with American Hops to create a huge fruit and hop monster. abv: 5%

Tempest Brewing company - Kelso

Picture: Tempest

Picture: Tempest

Tempest's story begins in New Zealand by way of a chance meeting in a Canadian Brewhouse, Scot Gavin gained experience home brewing in wife Annika's native New Zealand before returning to Scotland in 2007 to pursue their dreams to build their own brewery.

They halved their time between working in the Cobbles Inn and creating their brewery in an old building in Kelso. They are now a successful brewing business and their exciting beers can be found in bars across the country and have even made it onto Aldi's supermarket shelves.

Our core range picks: 

The Pale Armadillo - Easy drinking, low abv session ale with plenty of flavour - abv: 3.6%

Easy Living Pils -  A Scottish Pilsner made with Czech Saaz hops and local barley. - abv: 5%

Our Star Pick: This was a hard choice but in the end, the Brave New World won out, a superb high strength IPA with plenty of hops and a malty bite, dangerously drinkable. abv: 7%

Fyne Ales - Argyll

The outstanding Mils and Hills. Picture: Fyne Ales

The outstanding Mils and Hills. Picture: Fyne Ales

One of the most exciting breweries in Scotland right now, Fyne Ales have built a hugely loyal customer base by employing two basic tools - word of mouth and great beer.

Set up by Johnny and Tuggy Delap in 2001 on their farm in Achadunan, the brewery has won several awards and gained recognition for several of their excellent beers including the now ubiquitous Jarl.

Our core range picks: 

Jarl - Light, golden coloured with a strong citrus and hop aroma. Hugely popular and for good reason. abv: 3.8%

Avalanche - Straw coloured, hoppy ale made using Maris Otter Pale Malt and Wheat. abv: 4.5%

Our Star Pick: Ok, so it's a bit of a cheat but their collaboration with De Molen to create the stunning Mills & Hills is something to shout about.

A truly amazing Imperial stout, it comes close to perfection, though at 9% you might want to save this one as an extra special treat. abv: 9%

Fallen Brewing Co - Kippen

Fallen Brewing Co.

Picture: Fallen Brewing Co.

Fallen Brewing has been on the go since around 2007, when Paul Fallen started brewing his own beers at home. Now based out of the old Kippen railway station in Stirling, The brewery is making a name for itself on the Scottish brewing scene.

Focusing on ‘modern interpretations of classic styles’, Fallen Brewing has so far produced four ‘Original’ beers and five ‘station specials’, comprising pilsner, porter, stout and IPA.

Our core range picks: 

Blackhouse Porter - Peat smoked malt, hops and dehusked roasted malt combine to create a wonderfully complex smoky beer - abv: 5.0%

Platform C - New world IPA bursting with hops from the Pacific North West - abv: 6.3%

Our star pick: The excellently named Chew Chew is a salted caramel stout with all the flavours implied in its name and type, think caramel, fudge and chocolate - abv: 6%

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