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St Andrews Brewing Co. introduce a world first: 100% Scottish Beer

The St Andrews Brewing Company, working in conjunction with the James Hutton Institute, has created the first commercially available beer made solely from Scottish ingredients.

Published: November 24, 2016
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The exciting partnership began two years ago, with the institute successfully growing hops - an essential ingredient for beer - on a commercial scale in Scotland for the first time.

The country’s famously inclement weather would usually make growing hops exceptionally difficult meaning every beer sold in Scotland, until now, has had to use dried hops sourced from places like the south of England, the continent, the US and New Zealand, or replacement ingredients like seaweed, berries and heather to achieve the same citrus-style bitterness created by the flowers.

This will be the first time wet hops, grown in Scotland, will be used to create a commercially available beer. Picture: St Andrews Brewing Co.

This will be the first time wet hops, grown in Scotland, will be used to create a commercially available beer. Picture: Peter Byrne

The first Scottish hop crop, grown in 2015 using cherry tree polytunnels at the Institute’s Invergowrie facility near Dundee, led to a successful small-batch trial by the brewery with the creation of 400 or so bottles of beer, which were playfully dubbed Hop Scotch

However, due to the fact the pesticides used on the trial crop weren’t registered for use on hops, the beer wasn't able to be sampled by the public.

This year, the brewery and the institute worked together to ensure they could create a new beer that would be more widely available.

A portion of this year's harvest, which was produced in October, was transported straight from the Invergowrie site to St Andrews Brewing Co. to be used within two hours and ensuring they were as fresh as possible.

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The St Andrews-based brewery, which is now in its fifth year of brewing and is well-known for working with local producers to create innovative brews, added the fresh hops straight into a new brew batch of pale ale, made using Scottish grain, to produce, what is commonly called, a ‘harvest beer’ - the first of its kind to be made in Scotland.

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The brewers get to grips with the new hops. Picture: Peter Byrne

All of the ingredients used in the brew, which will come in at around 4.5% abv and filled with "fresh bold, fruity flavours", were produced less than 25 miles from the brewery itself; the barley was sourced from a farm overlooking St Andrews, the yeast bred in house at the brewery and the furthest afield ingredient being the water being sourced from the Lomond Hills in central Fife.

To further ensure the beer's 100 per cent Scottish provenance, Englishman Simon Tardivel who is the head brewer at the site, stepped aside to allow assistant brewer Colin Wiseman, who is Scottish, to craft the brew.

The first keg of 100 per cent Scottish Harvest Beer was tapped on the evening of 17th November at the St. Andrew’s Brewing Company’s pub in St. Andrews as part of their launch celebrations.

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The brewery was also delighted to announce that this will be the first time such a beer is commercially available with a limited run (of around 1,000 bottles) of the 100 per cent Scottish Harvest Beer being available to the public.

Tim Butler, co-owner of The St. Andrews Brewing Company, commented: “We were delighted to tap the first keg amongst friends, family, suppliers and customers in our pub last night.

"The beer was brewed in late October and is in perfect condition for drinking. It is delicious. I just wish we had more of it. We’re honoured to have been working with The James Hutton Institute over the last two years.

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Head brewer Simon Tardivel checks out the crop at the Hutton Institute's Invergowrie site. Picture: St Andrews Brewing Co.

“Aside from the hops, we sourced Scottish grain and are blessed with wonderful water from the Lomond Hills."

Simon Tardivel, head brewer at St Andrews Brewing Company, added: “When the hops arrived we were having a laugh in the brewery about whether I should handle these precious Scottish hops – being from Kent.

"So I let Colin our assistant brewer, and true Scotsman, handle them and manage the brew. The resulting beer has wonderful citrus aroma with hints of tangerine and soft fruits – we’re really proud of the results, and I promise I never touched them.”

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Dr Rex Brennan, leader of the soft fruit breeding group at the Hutton Institute, said that thanks to the successful trials - the idea of Professor Robbie Waugh from their Cell and Molecular Sciences group - the institute would be looking into ways to make growing hops in Scotland more accessible, he said: “We’re now actively considering further work to look into different aspects of hops, such as increased disease resistance, quality and yield.

"They are amazing plants, just the vigour and the productivity is really quite splendid. Everyone is interested in local provenance now, not just the food we eat but the raw materials. If things can be grown here, it can make a valuable contribution to an emerging industry. Our role is to develop the idea and see if it is something that is going to be commercially successful."

Tim Butler believes that with the recent growth of the beer industry, hops could soon become a viable commercial crop for Scottish farmers, adding: "With the craft beer revolution well underway in Scotland, the ability to source locally- grown hops will help in the sustainability of our industry. We would encourage farmers curious about growing hops to contact The James Hutton Institute.”

• The first three pictures were taken by Peter Byrne, whose blog can be found at www.peterbyrne.co.uk, you can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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