Tag: Beer

The birds and the bees!

Welcome to this month’s issue of Shetland Life. May is a big month here, certainly a firm favourite of mine  – everything springs to life with vigour, and here at Shetland Life we want to capture an essence of that.

This month Shetland Life are telling you all about the birds and the bees. May is a month of activity; life is bursting forth in anticipation of summer. We are celebrating Shetland’s diverse nature this month with features on some of our smallest creatures who do one of the most important jobs – pollination. And we’re celebrating the return of our very welcome summer visitors – the seabirds. With almost 1,000,000 breeding pairs, there’s a lot to shout about, and Paul Harvey is on hand to tell us more.

Elsewhere, Alex Garrick-Wright travels to Australia (or, East Burra) to the Outpost where he meets some unusual spring arrivals… We also introduce some new members to the Shetland Life team. I’ll give you a clue, they all have four legs and love an adventure! All this and more in this month’s Shetland Life, OUT NOW!

With the year galloping along, it has got us thinking about summer holiday activities here in Shetland. What are your favourite places? Where do you take your children, friends or dogs on an adventure? We would love to hear from you with any suggestions so that we can produce a helpful summer holiday ‘must do’ checklist for all the family. Send your suggestions along with a photo we can use) to sleditor@shetlandtimes.co.uk. And, whatever you’re up to, we love to hear about it, use our hashtag for the chance to be featured online or in the magazine #myshetlandlife.

Even if you’re not in Shetland, you can still keep up-to-date with all the latest. Remember you can subscribe to Shetland life online at https://shop.shetlandtimes.co.uk/pages/subscriptions#shetland-life and let us know if you have any comments or suggestions at sleditor@shetlandtimes.co.uk.

As ever, have a great month and enjoy Shetland Life –  OUT NOW!

Beer Brewing for beginners


Neil Riddell reports on the pleasure to be found in brewing your own beer with like-minded friends Kris Drever, Tim Matthew, Rory Tallack and Adam Guest.

When I was growing up the words “home brew” conjured up images of an unpleasantly acrid liquid or those amiable folkie guys who sang about trows.

But these things change. The craft beer movement has really gathered pace, with dozens of brilliant little breweries springing up all over the country in the past five years or so, and in most major cities you’ll find specialist outlets selling top-notch kits for those who want to have a go at making their own.

Last year a group of us – Rory Tallack, Kris Drever, Tim Matthew and myself – decided to give it a try, and the Amateur Fiddlers’ Association was born.

We’d all recently become dads for the first time and, while our days of late-night partying aren’t altogether finished, they’ve certainly become fewer. This was a way for everyone to get together socially at a time of the day more conducive to a lifestyle revolving around small children, to play some tunes and, eventually, sample our own wares and indulge in our shared love of beer.

After a bit of research, we invested in the necessary kit for extract brewing. The main things required were: a boiler to make the brew; a chiller to cool it down; and a large bucket in which the fermentation takes place prior to bottling. Various other implements and measuring devices were included to aid the process.

Being a scientific novice, I would direct those seeking a detailed technical explanation of said process towards a good brew-it-yourself book or one of the many how-to online videos.

On a bright, breezy Sunday afternoon in late April we gathered in Selivoe on the west side, where Tim lives with his wife Floortje and their (then one-month-old) beautiful baby daughter Tove.

Essentially, the basic method involves steeping some grains, boiling the liquid for an hour and adding different hops at different times, cooling it down and “pitching” some yeast.

Soon we had a plastic bucket full of pale brown liquid bubbling away while Shetland fiddle tunes rang out from the steam-filled porch. The brewing process resulted in a pleasing malty odour pervading the rest of the house for several hours – well, Floortje says days – afterwards.

By the afternoon’s end, the bucket was bound for a cupboard (it’s important to get the storage temperature right) to start a fortnight-long fermentation, while Tim’s beloved collie Belle lapped up the discarded malty juice with panache.

Midway through May it was back to Selivoe to prime (add sugar to) and bottle the mysterious liquid, followed by more days waiting for the finished product. Most brews are drinkable in a week or so, though carbonation can take a while to complete and the taste tends to improve over time.

No one really knew what to expect, but you can imagine our delight when – after weeks of suspense – the first batch, an American pale ale, turned out to be not just quaffable but downright delicious.

Each brew tends to yield around 22-23 litres of beer, enough for around a dozen bottles apiece costing a mere 40p per bottle.

We were so pleased with our debut brew AFAAPA (Amateur Fiddlers’ Association American Pale Ale, to give its full title) that it created a tension between the desire to drink it all down and the urge to dish out sample bottles to beer-loving pals.
AFAAPA even received an on-stage endorsement from The Unthanks when they played Mareel earlier this year.

Both Kris and Tim have extensive touring commitments with the weird and wonderful LAU, while there have been a whole bunch of baby birthday parties to attend, so beer-making get-togethers have been fairly ad-hoc this summer.

But we have managed to turn out four batches to date. Number two, Slippery Hammer, was a personal favourite – a highly refreshing German-style wheat beer.

It derived its name from the problems encountered in bottling. The capping device that came with our kit wasn’t really up to the job, so Tim improvised and created his own, vastly superior version. We’re fortunate to have one of the world’s more practical-minded people among our number.

The third brew, an amber/summer ale called Welcome Guest, was the first to feature the metaphorical fingerprints of our new fifth member – Yorkshireman and Shetland Times scribe Adam Guest, back from a short stint in Aberdeen.

Next up we’re planning to experiment with mashing our own grain and making a Belgian-style saison (a light, fruity ale). Other ideas include a Christmas ale and revisiting some of the earlier brews with a view to perfecting the taste. Who knows, we might even try selling it someday.

We’d all thoroughly recommend giving brewing your own a try. It’s a rewarding hobby socially, educationally and creatively, and once all is said and done you get to drink some really tasty beer for a budget price.

Better Than Socks

Fathers can be hard to buy for. All too often you’ll wrack your brains trying to think of something thoughtful yet reasonably-priced, before giving up and presenting him with some comedy socks and a mug proclaiming him ‘Best Dad in the World’. It doesn’t have to be this way.

If there’s one thing that 99 per cent of fathers would love to open on Father’s Day, it’s beer. Now, dad might be happy with a six-pack 
of red tins, but Father’s Day surely calls for something better. The world of beer is one of mind-boggling variety, and it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Well, Shetland Life is here to help. The good folks at Beervana – Shetland’s craft beer and spirit emporium – have kindly provided Shetland Life with a selection of five random beers to review, to help you elevate this Father’s Day from “Oh, socks, how… nice”, to “You are my favourite child”.

Beers Review 3 660

Brown Ale
The Kernel Brewery – 5.6%

Colour: Very dark brown, with very little head to speak of.
Smell: Not very strong. Notes of hop and malt, although nothing jumped out.
Taste: Smooth, fairly refreshing. Mildly bitter, as you might expect from a brown ale. Very nice.
Notes: Nothing out-of-the-ordinary to speak of. The mission statement for this beer seems to have been “make a brown ale that could be used as the dictionary definition of brown ales”.
Verdict: Nice. Nothing fancy going on at all, but if your 
dad doesn’t hold with these new-fangled beers and just likes things old-fashioned, then this is right up his street.

Beers Review 4 660

Pompelmocello IPA
Siren Craft Brewery – 6%

Colour: Pale and slightly cloudy, with a head that dissipates quickly.
Smell: Grapefruit, and little else.
Taste: Very tangy. The fruitiness actually masks the hops, makes it quite hard to taste the beer itself. Initially it seems quite refreshing, as if it would be best enjoyed outside on a warm summer afternoon. However, after further drinking the tartness begins to overwhelm the whole thing. By the end of the glass the citrus flavour had become too strong for this reviewer’s palette.
Notes: The label mentions that it has lactose, so this beer is not for those with a lactose-intolerance.
Verdict: If your old man really, really likes citrus fruits then he might like this on a hot day.



Beer Review 2 660

Holy Cowbell India Stout
Beavertown Brewery – 5.6%
Colour: Black as it should be, nice thick tan head.
Smell: Citrus notes, with a solid malt.
Taste: Very nice, with coffee and chocolate, 
and a slight citrus edge. Goes down slightly 
bitter but very smooth. This is very, very drinkable – not too rich, but just right. A top-notch stout.
Notes: A bit of research concludes that ‘India Stout’ is a made-up term – it’s a chocolate 
stout if anything. The can reflects the Beavertown Brewery’s approach to beer – eye-catching, interesting and colourful, definitely not of 
the old-fashioned “Old Jock’s Speckled Ptarmigan” style of bland beer that was for a 
long time ruling the waves in the UK. No controversial ingredients this time – just water, barley, hops and yeast.
Verdict: Delicious. 
If your dad likes stout, he’ll like this.

Beers Review 6 660

Duchesse de Bourgogne
Verhaeghe Victhe – 6.2%

Colour: Dark brown, light frothy head.
Smell: Fruity and malty, with a hint of prunes.
Taste: Sour. Now, some people like sour beers – lambics and so forth – that originate from Belgium. They are an extremely acquired taste, but this reviewer has never acquired it.
Notes: Despite sitting stationary for 3 days, the beer erupted on opening – it’s incredibly reactive. Massive head, too, that took ages to go down no matter how gently it was poured, making even getting to the tasting stage a trial.
Verdict: To a very small minority of dedicated beer enthusiasts this will probably come as a pleasant surprise. To the majority, however, you’ll need to know your old dad likes this style of beer before getting this one for him.

Beers Review 5 660

Hurricane Jack
Fyne Ales – 4.4%

Colour: Pale, golden. Nice frothy head.
Smell: Light scent of hops.
Taste: Hoppy, refreshing and light. ‘Grassy’ as the beer enthusiasts would call it. A very drinkable summer beer.
Notes: Nice, accessible summer’s day drink. Nothing too exciting, in a good way.
Verdict: With our other beers, there’s an element of “If your father likes “X”, he’ll like this.” With Hurricane Jack, if your father likes beer at all, he’ll like this.

Beer Buying Tips

When in doubt, look for a bottle with a monk on the label. 90% of the time the beer in a bottle with a monk on it will be good – e.g. St Mungo, Franziskaner.
  • Avoid beers with novelty names. Good beer sells itself, and breweries give beers ‘funny’ names when they know the beer won’t shift because of the taste – e.g. Helga’s Big Jugs.
Same goes for beers with buxom or underdressed girls on the label – e.g. Top Totty, Oakham Opportunist.
The more abstract the label on the bottle, the more experimental the beer inside. Expect lots of interesting hops from all over the world. If you’re not used to strong flavours, then this sort of beer might be a bit much.
If in doubt, ask the guys in Beervana for advice or a recommendation. If there’s one thing beer fans like, it’s to be asked for recommendations.

Photos: Amy Garrick-Wright