Given my disinclination to drink Deuchars IPA and my feeling that this isn't quite the beer it used to be, I had mixed feelings about visiting Caledonian Brewery, which I did on Friday night. I had been round it some years ago and in those days Deuchars was the beer a lot of people raved about. Would it be better in its own brewery?
The tour was good. Not too long and not too short. John, our guide, mentioned up front the plague of fires that has littered the brewery's history, which is an interesting one, beginning with the initial owner being burned to death at the theatre and ending with a disastrous fire in the early 1980s which all but destroyed the brewery, mercifully being stopped before it wiped out the brewing kit, but wrecking nearly everything else. The only fire now that is welcome in the brewery is the flame that heats the directly fired coppers. The brewery is splendidly old fashioned, with the beer being fermented in traditional open squares of 50 barrel capacity. Full flower hops are used and the brewing seemed to me, to be done in an entirely traditional manner. No party gyle, no high gravity brewing and quality ingredients, including top quality Scottish malt.
In the hospitality suite we were offered Deuchars, XPA and Caley 80/-. The Deuchars was actually very good, though it still has that kind of dull undertone of toffee which sits ill with it. The very pale XPA was disappointingly bland, though it did have some spicy hops at the end. Perhaps best of all was the very traditional 80/- with its biscuity malt, a good dash of crystal to lift it and a a toffee and malt finish. I think the directly fired copper produces a little caramelisation which sits well with a darker beer, but maybe not so well with a paler one.
The hospitality was generous and lasting. We were in the sample room for two hours plus and the Scotch pies, a new thing to most of our party, went down well. It was a good night in a brewery where they are certainly proud and committed. They didn't mention Heineken once!
The second photo is of the Steel's Masher in Caledonian's brewery. For Ron Pattinson as he likes this kind of thing and I am sad enough to like it too!
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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