Innerleithen brewery’s latest beer offers taste of history

It’s often said that they don’t make them like they used to, referring to any manner of products considered to be inferior to those available in years gone by.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 5:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 5:37 pm
Catherine Maxwell Stuart with head brewer Frank Smith at Traquair House.

That’s a cliche that’s wrong as often as it’s right, however, and it’s certainly well wide of the mark as far as Innerleithen’s Traquair House Brewery goes.

Since being revived in 1965 by the late Peter Maxwell Stuart, the 20th laird of Traquair, the brewery has been doing its utmost to make beers as much like they used to make them prior to the 300-year-old brewhouse ceasing production in the 19th century as possible, and that’s a tradition being kept up by its newest brew.

Weighing in at 8.5% alcohol by volume, it’s the first in a series of vintage ales based on historic figures associated with the stately home, the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, over the past nine centuries.

Based on recipes used for some of the original ales brewed at Traquair House from the early 18th century onwards, they will differ slightly from year to year but will all be in the traditional wee heavy style and be fermented in oak by head brewer Frank Smith before bottling.

They come with a shelf life of 10 years, allowing buyers to let them mature further in their bottles before drinking.

This year’s limited-edition run of 5,000 bottles will feature labels depicting William Nithsdale and his wife Winifred, the former being best know for being rescued from the Tower of London by the latter after being captured in the Jacobite Uprising of 1715.

Current brewery owner Catherine Maxwell Stuart, the 21st laird, is particularly fond of her new beer as it reminds her of the first ones produced by her father after he revived the brewery over 50 years ago.

“This dark ruby ale resembles the first ales brewed in the 1960s,” she said.

“Tasting notes are of dark fruits, liquorice, caramel and vanilla with a lingering warm and alcoholic aftertaste.

“It pairs well with beef, venison and strong cheese.

“There are various recipes that we hold in the house for traditional Scottish ales and we base what we brew on them but with ingredients for the 21st century.”

She added: “I love it. I was brought up on the stuff.”

Priced at £4.50, the new vintage ale is available at Traquair House, along with others beers including Bear Ale, House Ale, Spring Ale and 160-shilling Ale, all fermented in unlined oak tuns.

Other stockists of the 250,000 or so bottles of beer the brewery produces annually include Villeneuve Wines and Osso in Peebles, the Traquair Arms Hotel in Innerleithen, the Horseshoe Inn at Eddleston, Abbey Wines at Melrose and the Teviot Smokery near Kelso.

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