With an average of three new breweries popping up every week, the UK’s craft beer revolution shows no signs of slowing down. The CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2015 has revealed that Britain now has 1285 breweries in operation, the largest number since the 1940s and more per head than any other country in the world. Scotland alone is home to 80 breweries, many of them creating world-class and award-winning beers.
Here, in no particular order, are 10 of our favourites – make sure you look out for them next time you’re out for a drink in Scotland. Slàinte mhath!
Williams Bros Brewing Co.
The Williams Brothers set up shop in a tiny microbrewery in Glasgow in the 80s, but have since evolved into one of Scotland’s most successful craft brewers. Now based in Alloa, their eclectic range includes historic ales using natural Scottish produce such as elderberries, Scots pine shoots and seaweed, as well as modern tipples with names such as March of the Penguins or 7 Giraffes.
Try their signature beer, Fraoch, a distinctive heather ale said to be based on a 4000-year-old recipe
Drink it with braised Scotch beef or a spicy curry
Located in Alva in Clackmannanshire, Harviestoun was founded in 1983 and has grown into a world-renowned brewery. Their signature Bitter & Twisted has been named Supreme Champion Beer of Britain and since 2007 they’ve worked in partnership with Orkney distillers Highland Park to create dark, barrel-aged beers in casks that formerly held their award-winning whiskies.
Try Ola Dubh 12, 16 or 18, stored in oak casks once used to mature Highland Park Single Malt Whisky
Drink it with Scottish mackerel on toast, or oatcakes and Anster cheese from St Andrews
Black Isle Brewery
The Black Isle near Inverness is home to the UK’s first organic brewery, making world-class beers entirely without chemicals. From the Goldeneye pale ale to the Hibernator Oatmeal Stout, their tasty tipples are popular across Scotland while their organic production helps to promote biodiversity – win-win! Take a tour of the brewery for a glimpse into their award-winning process.
Try Yellowhammer, a thirst-quenching ale with a grapefruit and toffee aroma
Drink it with fresh Scottish fish, such as lemon sole or plaice
Cromarty Brewing Co.
Over on the other side of the Black Isle is the Cromarty Brewing Co., an innovative microbrewery that has quickly gained a loyal following of fans. Their Happy Chappy New Wave Pale Ale was named Highland beer of the Year 2014 back in May, while occasional blends such as Wild Bush Gorse Flower Saison and Kowabunga are sure to hit the spot.
Try Brewed Awakening, a coffee-infused stout infused with Arabica coffee
Drink it with a rich chocolate cake – double decadence!
Fyne Ales was founded on a family farm in beautiful Argyllshire in 2001 and has quickly grown into one of Scotland’s most reputable craft breweries. Full of character and flavour, their drinks have picked up numerous awards – sample a glass or two at FyneFest, the brewery’s very own craft beer and music festival, from 12 – 14 June 2015.
Try Jarl, a light golden ale with citrus and grassy hop flavours
Drink it with smoked salmon, perhaps from the nearby Loch Fyne
Barney’s Beer is made in Summerhall, a former vet school turned arts hub, microbrewery and distillery. The eponymous ‘Barney’ (Andrew Barnett) makes his beers using traditional techniques, with no pasteurisation and a 100% natural process. Look out for the Summerhall & Barney’s Beer Festival in May and be sure to check out the centre’s very own gin, Pickering’s, too.
Try Beet Red Beer, a bottle-only beer made with beetroot for a sweet, earthy flavour
Drink it with white chocolate made by local gourmets Coco Chocolate or the Chocolate Tree
Perthshire is known for its pure spring waters, which have been a vital ingredient of Inveralmond Brewery’s beers since 1997. Inspired by Gaelic and Scots words and folklore, their award-winning beers include Ossian, a golden ale, and Pundie, a strong brown ale. Take a brewery tour to sample them alongside delicious locally-sourced food.
Try Lia Fail, a multi award-winning dark beer with a deep malty taste and a smooth texture
Drink it with meat or game, such as venison from Seriously Good Venison in Perthshire
Located in Banchory in Aberdeenshire, Deeside Brewery offer a small but highly rated range of drinks including stout, golden ale and ‘steam beer’, an effervescent type of beer hailing from California. The brewery’s flagship drink is Macbeth, a golden ale named after the Scottish king killed at the Battle of Lumphanan, just 10 miles from the brewery.
Try LAF, a Californian steam beer with clean herbal and floral flavours
Drink it with an Aberdeen Angus beef burger and fries for a tasty Scotland-USA crossover
Formerly known as Traditional Scottish Ales, this Stirlingshire brewery was relaunched as Black Wolf earlier this year with a brand new range of drinks. Their craft beers range from ruby beer to wild oat stout, while their premium collections include the smooth Valente’s Double Espresso Beer and 1488, a whisky beer created in partnership with Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire.
Try Tundra, a wheat beer dry-hopped with elderflowers to give a fresh floral taste
Drink it with a crisp salad of locally-sourced greens or a tasty summer barbeque
With bars as far afield as Gothenburg, Tokyo and São Paulo, BrewDog is a truly global affair – founders James Watt and Martin Dickie have even starred in their own TV show in the US. Known for being experimental and provocative, the company produces a wide range of bottled and canned beers, from California-style pale ales to stouts and black IPAs. Pop into their bars in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh or Glasgow to try one.
Try Punk IPA, a light golden ale with bursts of caramel
Drink it with mildblue cheese, such as Badentoy Blue from Devenick Dairy in Aberdeenshire
Look out for the above drinks, plus many more Scottish craft beers, at pubs and bars in Scotland and beyond. Visit ScotlandsPubsandBars.co.uk to find pubs with literary connections, quirky backgrounds and other interesting stories to tell all across the country.
Thinking of starting up your own microbrewery? Take a brewery tour for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the brewing process, or find out more about drinks attractions in Scotland for inspiration.
Enjoy, and please drink responsibly!