Fortune Favours The Fierce
The best beer discoveries are the ones that come out of nowhere; the breweries that you experience with no preconceptions or expectations...
Friday 16 June 2017
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The best beer discoveries are the ones that come out of nowhere; the breweries that you experience with no preconceptions or expectations, but which make such an immediate impression that they’re instantly added to your mental arsenal of “ah, but have you tried…” beer geek Top Trumps.
For many of us, Fierce Beer has been one of the nicest surprises of the past six months, landing deftly on the choppy waters of craft beer trends with its pairing- friendly styles and exquisitely judged use of foodie adjuncts.
Those of us lucky enough to live in Scotland may have been familiar with them for a little longer, as head brewer Dave Grant’s “homebrew plus” concoctions popped up on the boards of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow’s better pubs and bottleshops before the brewery had even officially opened early last year. South of the border, it was arguably February’s Craft Beer Rising festival, where Fierce made a huge splash with its Tropical Tart kettle sour, that introduced the brewery to a thirsty new English craft beer audience (though it was featured as our ‘one to watch’ in Ferment #6 – just saying).
Its story has been up-and-up since then, with wider distribution, a doubling of its capacity and a brand- new bottling line to keep up with demand. In part, this has been driven by interest from craft beer-savvy restaurants, who have picked up on the ease with which Fierce’s creations pair with food flavours.
“It’s tough standing out as a new brewery these days,” says Dave Grant. “You can’t really follow the tried and tested formula of creating a lager, a pale ale, an amber ale… there are plenty of established breweries doing that, and doing it really well. And we didn’t want to go down the super- hoppy route either; Brewdog are our neighbours and they’ve actually been really supportive of us, but we didn’t see the point in imitating them.”
Instead, the Fierce team chose to build on their shared love of food, seeking out flavour combinations that make our mouths water in the gastronomic world and applying the same sensibility to their beers. There’s also a keen sense of humour to Fierce’s brewing, not only in its bottle art, but also in the way it wrong-foots people’s expectations, for example by putting porter flavours into a pale ale.
“Everything we do is pretty out there in beer terms, but makes total sense if you put your foodie hat on. So, we’ll take a pale ale and add fresh fruit or fruit peel. Adding peanut and chocolate to porter makes a Snickers bar. Adding lime and habanero to a pale ale works really well too.”
The brewery’s dramatic rise has been a shock for the small Aberdeenshire team, who until a couple of weeks ago were still bottling everything by hand. “It’s been lovely, but unreal,” says Louise Grant. “Dave and I went down to London recently for some tap takeovers – because it’s such a long drive, we try to fit in as much as we can – and everyone we met kept telling us that we’re being talked about alongside Cloudwater. I mean, Cloudwater!
“At the end of last year, we were just beginning to think about other markets, now we’re exporting to Australia, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and we had a meeting with a lady who wants us to export to UAE. We haven’t even really been going out and selling to these countries, they’ve just come to us. I have to keep asking how they even heard about us!”
Aberdeen council (which understandably recognises the value of its burgeoning community of brewers) recently provided Fierce with another unit for storage across the road, which will allow another doubling of capacity in July with the possible addition of a canning line in the near future.
While much of the focus is on meeting the snowballing demand, beer development at Fierce continues apace. Although the seasonal, passion fruit - based Tropical Tart will be off the menu until September, the team is developing a mixed berry sour for the summer months. An imperial-strength (8.5%) version of its Ratebeer-crashing Café Racer porter (ECBF) is also on its way to a debut at the Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival, as well as (hopefully) a triple IPA collaboration with Sweden’s Dugges, called 999.
“We asked our distributors if they wanted us to just stick to the core range and the answer was no; people want new stuff,” continues Louise. “I’m thinking that every different month we’ll have something new. With the bottling line place, we’ll be much better able to manage our stock and meet that demand. It’s going to be a bizarre, brilliant summer I think!”
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