Micro-breweries thrive in Angus
Two Angus ale-makers are giving a whole new meaning to the term 'homebrew'
'I don't watch a lot of telly, put it that way,' says Colin McIlraith, who spends much of his spare time in his garden shed instead. That might not seem an unusual way to while away an hour or two, but not many sheds can boast their own micro-brewery. At just 8 foot by 9 foot, Kirrie Ales lays considerable claim to the title of Scotlands smallest commercial brewer.
A full-time job means that McIlraith is only able to brew for 6 days a month, with each batch producing between 100 and 150 litres. 'As much as I can make, people are ready to take it off my hands,' he says, with the beers, including Thrums Best Bitter and Hop to Trot supplied to a select number of Angus establishments such as the Drovers Inn, the Glen Isla Hotel and Kirremuirs Roods Bar, as well as appearing at local farmers markets.
Initially borne out of a pub conversation, the idea rolled around for a couple of years until the opportunity to attend a course with Sunderland's Brewlab arose. Inspired, McIlraith officially started work on the project in 2012, but it took two more years of hard toil and the odd sore head before commercial production began in July 2014. 'We had a fair few riotous parties along the way, trying out various recipes on friends and neighbours,' he remembers.
Originally offering bottle-conditioned ales, demand soon dictated a move into casks, too, and already an expansion is planned for the spring of 2015. While he's willing to lose the smallest brewery tag, McIlraith is adamant the brewery will remain rooted in Kirriemuir. 'The water here is perfect, and I wouldn't want to lose such a crucial element to the ales.'
Less than 20 miles away, in Kellas, on the outskirts of Dundee, Jim Hughan and Ross Niven have also enjoyed the taste of success with a similar small-scale venture, located in an outbuilding on the side of Hughans cottage. In contrast to McIlraith, MòR Brewing began supplying local pubs with cask rather than bottled ale when they started brewing in 2012. Since then though they've branched out into the bottle market too, thanks in part to two pairings with Aldi as part of the discount retailers Scottish Beer Festival selections, and a distribution deal with Spar to stock their ales, including MR Please! And MR Tea Vicar? in around 20 stores across Scotland.