In with the old: opting for ancient traditions

04 September, 2008

While some emerging micros are adopting a hyper-contemporary philosophy, Scotland's Williams Brothers stands out for its modern take on ancient Scottish recipes.

Beers such as Kelpie, Fraoch and Alba incorporate ingredients that include seaweed, heather, spruce and pine into revitalised centuries-old recipes.

Owner Bruce Williams started out with a Glasgow home-brew shop and began making heather ale after having a recipe translated to him by a Gaelic-speaking islander.

He's now using the techniques he's developed in a new generation of beers such as Harvest Sun and Good Times, both winners in this year's Sainsbury's Beer Awards, making Williams the only brewer to achieve a double in the contest.

"Our philosophy has always been to use local ingredients to make historic ales, and now we're doing it with a contemporary take," he says.

With Good Times, that's involved the use of lemon juice and elderflower, the former being mixed into a hop tea, raising the pH level and making the hops more solvent to release extra flavour from them.

"The aim," says Williams, "is always to get as much hop flavour into the beer as we can."




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Talking terroir

When Bordeaux was in fashion, it seemed almost logical that we should fetishise winemakers. Here were people responsible for brilliant acts of blending, across large estates and multiple grape varieties, including superstars such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. These days, fashion has moved on and pinot noir is ascendant. As a result, the star of the winemaker has fallen and we find ourselves following a new star in the sky: terroir.

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