Make for the Borders

31 January 2017

beermats original

Photo: Tempest Brewing

There has been an explosion in craft beer manufacture in Scotland in recent years with new breweries popping up in every corner of the country. These new ventures reflect the growing trend for shopping local and give visitors to Scotland the chance to sample the unique taste of the areas they are from. The South of Scotland has been at the forefront of this brewing revolution with award winning local ales, speciality beers and craft cider available in almost every small town and village.

Tempest has been slowly building a reputation as one of the most innovative and progressive brewers in Scotland, something which was recognised last week at the Scottish Beer Awards when it was named Brewery of the Year as well as winning gold medals for its IPA, speciality beer and stout. The brewery is located in Kelso with the brewery tap being The Cobbles, right in the centre of town. It is also a restaurant of some distinction so a visit means you get the best of both worlds, award winning local food and freshly brewed local ale. Gateshaw is a 19th century country house set in the Cheviot Hills just a few miles away and a great place to explore the varied attractions of the border country.

Born in the Borders in Galashiels is unique in being Scotland’s only plough-to-pint microbrewery, creating cask ales using malting barley home-grown on owner John Henderson’s farm and water from the land’s own artesian spring. Beers include Foxy Blonde, Game Bird and Holy Cow, and the brewery also runs a unique project called Wild Harvest, which uses locally foraged ingredients to flavour a completely separate range. For the curious, self-guided walk-around tours of the brewery are available all the time for no charge. To keep food miles to a minimum, the brewery only delivers casks to pubs within a 75-mile radius so the only way to enjoy this beer at its best is by visiting the area. And where better to stay than Greenhill Lodge, it’s only a few miles away and offers peace, tranquillity and total privacy.

Peebles is the location for another unique brewery, the community-owned Freewheelin’. Established in 2011 the aim behind this venture was to reintroduce small scale brewing to the Tweed Valley with the local community as shareholders. The Bridge Inn in Peebles is a wonderfully old fashioned pub where you can find a large variety of ales as well as the complete Freewheelin’ range including Allsorts Bitter and Ruby Mild. In contrast to the new wave of micro brewers emerging in Scotland who often use experimental recipes, unconventional ingredients and over the top marketing Freewheelin’ is reassuringly old fashioned. A pint of their best is like mum’s home baking, a simple and unadulterated pleasure.  Sharing a beer with family or an old friend is truly one of life’s joys. A great venue for a celebration or a family get together would be Branxholm Park House near Hawick. One of the great advantages of having so many activities to amuse the children is that the adults are then free to get on with the serious business of catching up over a cold IPA.

It’s not all about the hops. After years of neglect, craft cider production has recently returned to the south of Scotland. Over the years most of the country’s apples had been dismissed as not commercially viable and therefore most orchards had been grubbed up, until that is the establishment of Waulk Mill Cider in 2010. The owners set about sourcing local produce and now collect from over 800 trees within Dumfries and Galloway. The finished product is therefore 100% Scottish. The cider is called Muckle Toon Rosie, after Langholm, the muckle toon. They also produce a sweet version, a perry and a selection of seasonal specials.  How about Christmas cider with rum, cranberry and cinnamon? The Tower of Hallbar is a unique place to stay, not least because it has its own orchard you can walk through. For a picnic on a hot summer’s day you could pick apples from the trees to go along with your locally made cider. How is that for low food miles?