When CAMRA – The Campaign for Real Ale – was founded in 1971 it was a movement whose purpose was as much political as it was gustatory: CAMRA’s founders wanted to fight against the disappearance of ‘real’ beers from quality local breweries, which were being relentlessly swallowed up by giant, often global, brewing businesses.
A very similar parallel can be drawn with food and the formation of Slow Food, an organisation that on one hand celebrates food quality and diversity, whilst on the other campaigns against the globalising forces that they see as destructive.
We may not be members of CAMRA, Slow Food or any other official group, but there are plenty of us who share this passion for sustainable, authentic local produce that, crucially, also tastes great. Whilst the dominance of giant industrial concerns marches onward, we should be heartened that there are also more and more artisan producers selling to passionate small retailers, and finding plenty of customers like you and me who are looking for local, seasonal and high quality produce.
Many of our regional breweries have been swallowed up to become part of anonymous corporations, often with consolidation of brewing into huge central facilities at the expense of historic local breweries. But in the past decade or so there has been a phenomenal rise in small-scale, local beer production too – craft breweries, often run by just a handful of obsessive individuals. Not too far up the East coast from Crail, the Fraserburgh-based BrewDog released its first beer only in 2007, yet today it can claim to be Scotland’s largest independent brewery with sales of 120,000 bottles per month for export across the world.
But locally, beer lovers from Fife have lots to celebrate too with a thriving craft brewing scene. Indeed, whilst visiting the Crail Food Festival this June, do not miss the chance to try a bottle of Crail Ale. Brewed initially for last year’s Festival by the St Andrews Brewing Company, the hoppy Pale Ale (4.5% ABV) beer became an instant hit, so much so that it has now become a mainstream product for the brewery with wider distribution. This year, beerophiles can try a Crail Special and Neuk Special, being brewed for the Food Festival as a 7.0% ABV India Pale Ale and a 6.6% ABV Dark Ale.
Eden Brewery is another local outfit based in St Andrews that will be in evidence during the festival. It has seen huge critical acclaim since launching its first beers in 2012. A range of bottlings runs the gamut from Blonde Ale to Porter, and their whisky cask-finished special brews using selected casks from the Eradour distillery caused a real stir amongst beer aficionados.
These small, passionate companies are local representatives of a brewing revolution that is happening across the country, but beer doesn’t have it all its own way. Having overcome a number of funding issues, the 18th century East Newhall Farm steading on Cambo Estate, just a few miles outside of Crail, is on course to become home to the brand new Kingsbarns Distillery thanks to backing from the Scottish Government and the Wemyss Family, owners of Wemyss Malts. Distilling is set to begin in 2014.
And whilst it might take a few more years of global warming before Fife can establish its own Grand Cru vineyards, local businessman Peter Wood has recently opened The St Andrews Wine Company, bringing a superb selection of world wines (and more local beers and whiskies) to the area. Both are set to become essential components of the East Fife food and drink lovers’ trail.
A few to try:
St Andrews Brewing Co., Crail Special
The Crail Ale was a smash hit when brewed for the Crail Food Festival, but be quick to grab a bottle of this limited edition, double-hopped version that weighs in with a hefty 7% alcohol by volume. An array of zesty and bittersweet hop aromas and flavours lead to a tantalising, dry finish. 7% ABV.
St Andrews Brewing Co., Oatmeal Stout
Brewed with roasted malts and fresh Scottish oatmeal, this mahogany-coloured beer pours with a thick tan head and offers inviting aromas of coffee, toasted grains and a touch of chocolate. In the mouth it has a pleasing hoppy tang and freshness, into a long bittersweet finish. 4.5% ABV.
Eden brewery, Clock Brew Traditional Scottish Ale
Pouring almost as dark as the oatmeal Stout, but with a ruby/tawny hue and thinner off-white head, there’s a red fruit note here as well as toffee and a hint of marmalade. In the mouth it has a fine hop intensity, a twist of chicory smoothed by mellower malt, and fresh in the finish. 4.3% ABV.
Eden brewery, St Andrews Blonde
A hoppy, light golden beer with a fluffy off-white head, there is just a huge blast of citrus and summer flowers on the nose, the impression of oily hops carrying through in the mouth, with bags of tangy flavour and a long. juicy lemon and lime peel bite in the finish. Very satisfying. 3.8% ABV.
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This article was written for Crail Food Festival by Tom Cannavan who can be found talking all things wine, beer and whisky at: http://www.wine-pages.com http://www.thewinegang.com http://www.beer-pages.com http://www.whisky-pages.com