I was in my mid-20s before I began appreciating the full range of flavours, aromas, and characters that beer can offer. The early opening of my palate’s full potential probably came from wheat beers – Germany’s Schneider Weisse and Weihenstephaner, and Lithuania’s Svyturys Baltas. Trips to see my in-laws in Slovakia have only served to deepen my appreciation of beer, as some of the World’s best Pilsners are easily to hand for little cost.
If it was Europe that initially offered a glimpse into the potential of my tastebuds, it was Scotland that helped me to take the next step. The beers produced by Williams Brothers engage my mind as well as my mouth…as many of their beers are based on historical Scottish recipes, styles and brewing processes. For example, their heather-flavoured ale, Fraoch, draws inspiration from the legendary (and actually impossible to brew) heather beer of the Picts.
Williams Brothers are only one part of the renaissance sweeping the world of Scottish beer. West Brewery, Innis & Gunn, and, of course, Brewdog, are among perhaps hundreds of Scottish brewers now leading the way in ensuring a wealth of interesting and innovative beer options for the discerning beer or ale drinker.
At 2013’s Previously…Scotland’s History Festival, one of the talks I gave was ‘How Beer Explains Scotland’. It allowed me to combine my interest in history with my interest in our true national drink. While whisky enjoys a history hundreds of years old, Scotland’s history of beer (or rather ale) can be traced back thousands of years, to Neolithic dwellings where people supped brews made with psychotropic herbal additives.
Tracing the history of ales and beers in Scotland is to trace most aspects of our development as a people. European trade, taxation, distinctions between England and Scotland, the role of women, globalisation…all of these things can be understood through our story of beer.
Do you need somebody to talk about or write about beer?
Whether the focus is on the actual taste of the beer itself or whether it’s to come at matters from a socio-historical perspective, I can help. I believe the enjoyment in beer comes from the attention and skill that has gone into brewing it and the flavours and sensations experienced when drinking it. I’m not from ‘if you drink enough of anything it does the same job’ school of beer appreciation.
My knowledge of the history of ales and beers in Scotland gives me a different perspective on matters, one which I’m also able to combine with a knowledge of Central European beer culture. Similarly as with football, I see beer as a topic that can bring people together. Did you know that we’ve been importing German beers to Scotland since medieval times? Beers and ales have played an important part of our trading history and our social history. There is no reason why beer, and its history, shouldn’t be given the same level of consideration and appreciation as wine.
If you’d like to make use of my knowledge and interest for any form of writing or speaking engagement then please contact me.