Brewers in the Scottish capital have been thinking ‘inside the box’ during lockdown, with a curated beer selection that demonstrates their talent, writes Peter Ranscombe.
FROM historic names like Caledonian, McEwan’s and Younger’s through to the modern wave of micro-breweries, the words “Edinburgh” and “beer” go together like a cheeky wee “hauf an’ hauf”.
Although “Auld Reekie” may not reek quite so strongly these days of the grain from beer being brewed and whisky being distilled, it’s still home to some of the most-exciting craft breweries in the UK.
That rich brewing scene has been perfectly captured during lockdown by Edinburgh Beer Box, a collaboration that brings together seven of the city’s brewers.
As well as supporting beer businesses that have been hit by the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, the boxes are also raising funds for charities through the Disasters Emergency Committee’s covid-19 appeal, with £1 being donated for each box sold.
The brain behind the operation is Ben Wallace, who I worked with back in our Scotsman days.
He’s put together 12- and 24-can mixed boxes covering Edinburgh, plus a special “EH6” box featuring the fantastic breweries in Leith.
What sets Edinburgh Beer Box apart for me is that its curated; these are top beers from top breweries and that quality shines through in the glass.
Seven of the best
Pilot Vienna Pale
A lager and pale ale hybrid, the Vienna is more amber than pale in the glass and demonstrates fantastic balance, with attractive orange and lemon on the nose, juicy lemon and grapefruit on the palate, with a biscuity backbone and a dry hoppy finish. I could just as easily have picked the hoppier Pilot India Pale Kölsch (IPK) or tangerine-tinged An Indian pale Ale (IPA).
Bellfield Brewery Craft Lager
Bellfield’s lager – like its other beers – is gluten free, but that in now way affects the taste, with lemon on the nose and more savoury lemon rind on the palate. Looks out for the brewery’s session ale too.
Campervan Leith Juice
A really lively orange session IPA with enticing jasmine, lemon and tangerine on the nose. Grapefruit joins the orange and lemon on the palate, but it’s the balance that’s most impressive, combining dry hops with a bit more body.
Stewart Brewing Radical Road
An old favourite that looks great in its smart black cans. There’s a spicy ginger and blackbean sauce note on the nose and then lots of fresh lemon and grapefruit flavours on the palate, build around a maltier core.
Crossborders Oatmeal Pale
A subtler nose, with aromas of peach sweets, leading into a really interesting texture on the palate, with dry lemon rind and a tiny touch of creaminess. Very grown-up and impressive.
Edinburgh Beer Factory Edinburgh Lager
Best known as home to the Helles-style Paolozzi lager, Edinburgh Beer Factory also makes Edinburgh Lager, which comes in the Vienna style. It treads a fantastic line between fresh hoppy flavours and more biscuity malty notes. Paolozzi still has my heart, but this is a great alternative, and closer to the body and mouth-feel of a traditional lager.
Barney’s Extra Pale
There are so many impressive beers from Barney’s at the moment, but it’s great to see Wallace picking the extra pale and the sherbet pale for the Edinburgh Beer Box roster. The pale ale is really complex, with satsuma and asparagus on the nose and then tonnes of citrus on the tongue.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s beer, wine and whisky reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.