Here is a dilemma known only to those who are fortunate enough or cursed enough to travel overseas: What to do if you find yourself craving beer while in a country famous far and wide for….whiskey? No doubt when you hear “whiskey” you think of Scotland (and maybe vice versa). So, if you ask for a beer in Glasgow or Edinburgh, will you be scorned as an Ignorant Tourist? Will the ghosts of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert Burns, and Arthur Conan Doyle descend on you in outrage?
Calm yourselves, laddies and lassies. It turns out that beer has a long history in Scotland (as in five thousand years). There are today over one hundred breweries, and it turns out that the land of thistles and single malt Scotch is also, nowadays, a land of microbreweries and craft beers.
You can visit some of these breweries, such as Drygate Brewing Company in Glasgow, which features a public taproom. Drygate is a 2,650-litre brewery which also has a small studio brewery to allow independent brewers to try out their new concoctions.
In the Summer 2019 issue of Scottish Life magazine, Paul Stafford recounts his visit to Drygate and describes a few of the beers he sampled. He was quite intrigued by the very dark “mocha milk stout,” made with only one type of hop, five malts, plus vanilla and coffee. The brewery recommends pairing this one, called “Orinoco,” with, of all things, doughnuts.
Right next door to Drygate is the gigantic Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery. Brewing began at this location almost five hundred years ago, and the Tennent family brewery was founded in 1740, although they did not introduce lager until 1885. Today, Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery produces 10,500,000 pints of lager weekly. Even though lager is still more popular than craft beer, the company is starting to experiment. Stafford tried a “Scotch ale,” which tasted like just that: ale with whiskey added.
If you’re heading for Scotland, you can locate interesting breweries on the Visit Scotland website:
What better way to mingle with other beer lovers and taste something new? Here are some scheduled for this summer in Scotland, most of them one day only.
Whitecraigs Beer Festival, August 17th. Whitecraigs Rugby Club, Newton Mearns. (This is south of Glasgow.)
The Real Ale Festival, August 23 – 25, features “real ales, ciders, and lagers from Scottish microbreweries.” This is the 8th year of the festival held at the
Royal Tay Yacht Club, Dundee. However, you might want to put this on your schedule for 2020, as this year’s Saturday tickets are already sold out. https://www.albarealalefestival.org/
The Giffnock Beer Festival, August 24, 2019, in Glasgow, also features cider and gin. It’s run by the GHA rugby club, so you might meet some athletic types there.
Another rugby-sponsored beer event is the Hamilton Bulls Rugby Club’s
Beer Festival and Family Fun Day on August 10th. It’s in Hamilton, which is near Glasgow, Look for Bulls Beer Fest on Facebook.
The extensive railway system in the U.K. inspired the creation of itineraries for traveling around by train and visiting various breweries and craft beer pubs. Hard to imagine such a thing taking off in the U.S., but details are given for several routes online. While the English ones were called “Real Ale Trails,” Visit Scotland uses the term “Rail Ale Trails.” The suggested routes are posted on the website with careful details and enticing photos. Read more: https://www.visitscotland.com/blog/food-drink/rail-ale-trails-scotland/