A brewery in Fife is creating beer from yarrow, sea salt, and even hogweed seeds, writes Peter Ranscombe.
ONE of the most exciting aspects of Scotland’s craft beer scene is its creativity.
Gone are the days of brews being made with just water, barleys, hops, and yeast.
Instead, the sheer variety of ingredients that go into today’s beers is mind-boggling, from fresh fruits through to niche grains.
In amongst all that innovation, Lucy Hine and Stephen Marshall have taken things to a whole new level.
They forage for many of their ingredients in the fields and along the shoreline of the East Neuk of Fife.
Their brews are certified as organic and they use wild yeasts in their fermentations.
That focus on traditional ingredients and methods is reflected in the ethos of their wider business, which includes making kombucha and spiced rum, and selling low-intervention wines and ciders.
Futtle recently expanded into nationwide delivery of its beer boxes.
Previously, its creations were only available from its brewery, which is housed in a Victorian stable block at Bowhouse on Balcaskie Estate near St Monans.
Finding the right balance
Their love for Belgian and German beers shines through in their choice of brews.
The Futtle Gose with Alexanders & Sea Salt is a classic German sour wheat beer.
It’s almost like a white wine on the nose, with apricot, peach, and salted almond.
On the palate, there’s a huge hit of bitterness, with its oxidised and savoury apricot and lemon flavours suggesting it would make a great food-matching beer.
In a similar vein, the Futtle Saison with Hogweed Seeds will delight Belgian beer fans.
By far the liviliest of the three beers I sampled, it offered attractive green apple, grassy, and herbal aromas.
I was really impressed with its balance – not too bitter on the finish at all – with concentrated blackcurrant and green apple flavours, alongside its distinctive grassy note.
My favourite from the trio was the Futtle Table Beer with Yarrow.
Spicy ginger-like notes on the nose, with a touch of pine too.
The yarrow flavours dominate over the hops on the palate, but it’s still refreshing and uplifting – the ideal table beer combination.
‘Organic doesn’t also need to mean greedy’
“Foraging is something we spend a lot of time doing with our family and it works well in the brewery as it means we are always thinking about the seasonality of what we’re making,” explains Hine.
“Using wild plants is always challenging, as the flavours you’re looking to capture are often less than forthcoming when it comes to the drink you pour into your glass.
“We did a very long trial period in the brewery, so it’s good to be ready to go now.
“We have an exciting plan for the year with lots of new plants and recipes going into can and keg.”
Hine praises the community of food producers and other craftspeople at Bowhouse, as well as Balcaskie Estate’s organic farming methods.
“This has been brilliant as we’ve been starting out – to have the encouragement of other people who really believe in the benefits of organic,” she adds.
“We really fiercely believe in organic farming and production as a way to fix most of the environmental problems we are facing today.
“Producing our drinks organically means much higher costs for us, but we have made the decision to absorb these costs and make less margin.
“We want to demonstrate that organic doesn’t also need to mean greedy.”
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s beer, wine and whisky reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain