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July Video Blog: Scotland!

I bloody love Scotland, me.  I lived there for five years while at university, getting a degree and booking bands in the students’ union in St Andrews, going to buy records and get drunk in Edinburgh, going to chill out in the stunning beauty of the Trossachs.

This month I got to reminisce about all this as we attempted to cover the brewing scene of an entire country in about twenty minutes.


Because this particular series of video blogs is all about cask ale, and from an admittedly low base, cask ale is growing in Scotland at about 30% year on year.  When I was at uni there were three types of beer, all from Tennent’s, all a bit tasteless and horrible, apart from the ones that tasted of burnt sugar and were horrible.  So bad was Scottish beer I switched from being a cask ale drinker to a standard lager drinker.  It took me ten years to recover.

It is very, very different now.  Brew Dog, who we don’t visit here (their Edinburgh bar is all keg, and the man who pays the vlog bills wants to focus on cask) is merely the most visible of Scottish brewers who are currently displaying extraordinary levels of invention and enthusiasm.

In the Guildford Arms in the centre of Edinburgh I find one of my old favourites.  Then we go to Caledonian, where Peter looks round one of the most stunning traditional breweries you will ever see.  Many in Scotland are unhappy about the takeover of Caledonian by Scottish & Newcastle, and more recently Heineken. Not without justification, there was a feeling that things would be bastardised and cheapened.  But I visited before Heineken took over, and now going back again, the unique coppers, the hop room full of whole leaf hops, the open fermenters, the range of beers, are all unchanged.  The only real difference is a massive commitment to health and safety, a more corporate head office presence through boards displaying targets for reducing accidents and so on.  The brewing process and the resulting beers are unchanged.

I have a chat with Steve Crawley, MD of Heineken, in which we discuss whether the brewery’s flagship, Deuchar’s IPA, really is ‘not as good as it used to be’.

And then we’re off to Bridge of Allan, just outside Stirling, where Peter gets a bit tipsy talking to a round table of four brilliant Scottish brewers about the state of brewing in the country: Fergus from Inveralmond, Douglas from Traditional Scottish Ales, Amy from Harviestoun, and Tuggy from Fyne Ales (who I’m currently trying to persuade to adopt me).  I review a Scottish Wit Bier, try to sum up the style of stout in under a minute, and by the end we’re struggling to do a decent outro.  It’s hardly surprising.

Next month – next week in fact – we are filming our final video blog of this series at GBBF.  If you’re there on trade day, come and say hello.  If there’s anyone you think we should be going to talk to, please shout!



student drinker

Hope you could fit in an interview with one of my local breweries in Derbyshire that isn't Thornbridge i.e RAW, Brampton or Spire. Hope to be there supporting them in 2012 GBBF. Cheers.



What a fantastic video! I watched it while supping on a Punk IPA and I will look out for some of the featured breweries next time I'm getting a few bottles in. Any chance you can get this on the TV; it is much more enjoyable and informative than 2 guys driving round the UK in a camper van. Sheep aside.



Pete, make sure you venture to the Lade Inn Ale shop just outside of Kilmahog while in the Trossachs. It's a gem of a place.


our show venue for Edinburgh Fringe is about 30 seconds from the Guildford, hurrah!

not sure that it's entirely the fault of our gobs that deuchars tastes different, seems a bit of a cop out. i think it's actually got spikier/hoppier over the last year which i'd assumed was more (cheaper? i don't know) american hops in it. obv i'll get to retest that theory over the next three weeks. i still like it, but it doesn't taste the same as it did in 2003.

I agree about it being a "gateway" cask ale though, it converted a lot of my mates!


Hey Pete,

As an American beer lover, these videos have been absolutely wonderful in regards to informing me about the state of real ale, in addition to getting me familiar with some of the lovely brewing towns and their respective breweries. I hope a new series of vlogs follows, as you and your crew really do a marvelous job. It's increased my desire to make a trip overseas and try some of these outstanding beers and take in all the British brewing scene has to offer.

– Chris


Nice to see Fyne Ales there. One of the best breweries in the UK or anywhere, in my opinion.

Pete Green

Great video, though I'm sure you'll agree you need a couple of hours to cover Scotland and all its intricacies.

A little upset to see the "beer duty" myth being further promoted as the source of the names for shilling beers. It was actually the price of a barrel. Bear in mind that if duty was 80/- a barrel, that would be >3d a pint in duty alone. Given that beer was 3d a pint TOTAL in the early 20th century, the shilling naming system couldn't be based on duty.


I've drunk hundreds of pints of Deuchars over the years and there's no doubt in my mind that it's not as bitter as it once was.

I can't prove it's changed. But Steve can prove it hasn't, by publishing the brewing logs.


What a great video.

Visited Bridge of Allan brewery a couple of weeks back. Lovely wee place and some very interesting beers.

Gary Gillman

Excellent video. I didn't follow the part though about comments on the nose of a beer putting some people off. Why would this be?



Scottish Wit, eh? Niiice. See you at GBBF! Great video; a diffcult medium to master but you've got a good team there.


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