What’s your Craft?
Whether you are ready or not, we want to take you for a quick tasting of our approach to procraftination! Craft beer has been one of the greatest international trends in the last couple of years and, although it has been around since the 1970’s, it just recently rippled across the globe. Spilling over from the U.S. craft beer has quickly conquered our love and taste buds. Even though Scotland might be best known for its Whiskey, the local craft beer scene is definitely worth a sip or two. Today, there are more than 100 active local breweries spread across the country. We, the Stirling University Craft Beer Society, have made it our mission to find and taste the best craft beers all over Scotland.
What is Craft Beer anyway?
We have all heard of the so-called ‘Craft Beer Movement’, but what actually differentiates craft beer from regular beer? What makes a craft brewery special? The American Brewers Association defines craft breweries as “small” (less than 6 million barrels annual production), “independent” (less than 25% industry ownership) and “traditional” (flavours derived from brewing techniques only). While this is a rather technical definition, it includes the most essential factors, although there is much more to craft beer than meets the eye.
This movement is not only about good beer, but ultimately also about fighting the increased industrialisation of this part of culture. The craft beer movement takes us back to looking at beer as a handcrafted good and facilitates the creation of diversity and choices. Small, independent breweries give the beer more personality and increase versatility, as it is up to the brewer to decide on the exact brewing techniques, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and aesthetic. Whether Stout, Lager, Ale or Pilsener, all of them are part of this rich and diverse beer culture, so there is a lot to learn and taste.
Beyond the taste
Since we cannot simply meet up for a pint every week, we participate in many other events that introduce us to Scottish craft beer culture. Ale festivals or brewery tours are a great way to learn more about our favourite hops-flavoured beverage. Therefore, we went to see what happens before beer is bottled or comes sputtering from the bar tab. The brewing process surely isn’t something one gets to see every day, and it makes you appreciate brewing for what it is – a craft. It is up to the brewers creativity and inspiration what the beer will taste and looks like in the end, which flavours and aromas will be highlighted.
At the beginning of this Semester, we visited Allanwater Brewhouse, conveniently located in Bridge of Allan. During our tour through the brewery, we were able to take a closer look at the brewing and fermenting processes. Guided by your friendly local Scotsman, we were introduced to the four basic ingredients of Beer: Hops, Malt, Yeast and Water. We took a closer look at how these ingredients are combined and processed into the drink we all know and love. In the mash vessel, malt is milled, which enables enzymes within the malt to extract contained sugar. The extracted wort is then boiled in a kettle together with the bitter hops and transferred into the cooling tank. Once cooled down enough, the brew is transferred into a fermentation vessel, where the yeast is added to turn the sugar into alcohol. Now the waiting begins. The fermentation process takes a few days, but in order to decrease the bitterness, it needs to condition for a couple of weeks. Then, it is bottled and finally ready! Needless to say, we got a little sneak taste of the finished product…
Got you interested?
Whether we are visiting the local Allanwater Brewhouse, or take a trip to the breweries in the highlands, there is always loads to experience. In previous years, the society has engaged in many beer tastings and even launched their very own hand-made craft IPA beer, Procrastination! These activities and trips are a fantastic opportunity to see the different places all over Scotland and participate in this country’s multifaceted nightlife with like-minded people.
If you feel like grabbing a pint together, embarking on the quest for your favourite craft beer or starting your very own brewery, look up the Stirling University Craft Beer Society. You can find all further information and contact details on Facebook or via the Student Union website. We’ll be happy to welcome any students into our weekly adventures and explore the Scottish craft beer scene with you to find your favourite craft!
Until then, cheers!