Our ones to watch this month are Fierce Beer from Aberdeen, a small batch brewery punching well above their weight. The guys took a minute out of their busy schedule to have a quick chat, and when I say busy they told me the three member of staff had hand bottled 80,000 of their beers in the past 6 months… We asked them first about their amazing bottle art…
FB: We really wanted some branding that stood out. We worked hard with our marketing friends at Hampton Associates in Aberdeen, and just couldn’t settle for something dull and mainstream – so Erik at Hampton said – there’s an idea I have that you are going to hate but….. and the rest is history.
B52: I’m sure you guys get this all the time, but it’s difficult to think about the Aberdeen beer scene without mentioning Brewdog – how do you as a small start up brewery compete with such a big presence?
FB: We love Brewdog. When I was a homebrewer, they used to put my kegs in draft at their Aberdeen bars. They have been so supportive in terms of guidance, support, and we even occasionally buy some ingredients from them when we run out. I have nothing but admiration for everything that Brewdog have done to push forward the craft beer scene in the UK, and we have undoubtedly benefitted from having them close not only geographically, but as friends too.
B52: You brew things in your beer that most people simply wouldn’t stick together (coffee and vanilla to a pale ale!) do you take that approach with every beer you make to do something quite out there and unusual?
FB: We don’t go out specifically to make something weird, but it does sometimes just happen. When we are looking for a new recipe, we start with a base beer that we know is going to be good – then take a look at what flavour combinations work in the world of gastronomy. We are massive foodies, and draw on that knowledge to see what may work well. The main thing really is trying to balance packing in lots of flavour while still remembering that it is first of all a beer. Drinkers must taste what you say the beer is supposed to be though, or you have not done a good job.
B52: You place a huge emphasis on using local ingredients wherever possible. Do you think it’s an important part of being a craft brewery that you have this emphasis?
FB: In general terms, probably not. I know of many a ‘craft brewery’ that claim to be local, but have beer contract brewed hundreds of miles away. This however is absolutely not how we operate. We brew, bottle, label and ship in-house from our small brewery. We absolutely do try to buy locally – our raspberries come from Castleton Farm near Laurencekirk. Our coffees are roasted and ground in Aberdeen. We use local small contractors where possible. So yes, for us is all about quality, luxury and provenance. Scotland produces the best produce and goods in the world. We want to be part of that.
B52: Out of your wide collection of Fierce beers, which is the one you’re most proud of?
FB: As brewers, we are most proud of Peanut Riot. It was initially made as a quirky one-off, but really has worked out well and is one of our top sellers. It is such a difficult beer to get right, as the flavour from Peanuts comes from Peanut Oil. In brewing, any oils in beer immediately kills head retention – leaving a slick on top of the beer and an oily mouthfeel. We have worked really hard on a process of getting the oils infused in the beer for flavour, but removed as much as possible prior to packaging. It seems to work pretty well. We us pre-roasted natural peanut nibs for flavour. We are always asked if we use artificial flavourings – but no way would we resort to that.
B52: What does the future hold for Fierce Beer?
FB: We are very ambitious, and are constantly being reminded that we are really only 6 months old. Progress to date has been great. In the coming few months we will have our online shop up and running, will have doubled our brewing capacity with more shiny vessels, and will start brewing sour beers to complete the style range. We already export 25% of what we make to European customers, and are looking to expand that into Asia, and Africa. This will mean re-doubling in size and more automation in the packaging lines. We believe that even though there are difficult times ahead in terms of the continual lowering of ‘craft beer’ price levels – quality will shine though. So again our values of quality, luxury and provenance are key.