We're catching up with Windswept’s Nigel Tiddy
Saturday 15 January 2022
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The fighter jets cracking the sky overhead, running exercises from RAF Lossiemouth, are a familiar sound to Windswept’s Nigel Tiddy, and not just because he chose to build his brewery under their flightpath. They are also a reminder of how he fell in love with craft beer, travelling their world with the RAF, from Belgium to the US, absorbing their beer cultures as he went.
A longstanding and adventurous homebrewer, Nigel would try to recreate his favourite global discoveries on a simple garage kit, much to the acclaim of his friends. Partly out of frustration at the lack of breweries in his part of Morayshire, and partly because he was looking for a fresh challenge, he finally made the decision to go professional, and did his first commercial brew as Windswept in November 2012. While its growth hasn’t been as stratospheric as some of its big city peers, Windswept has put down deep roots and is genuinely beloved by its dedicated local audience.
“We've worked really hard to be the go-to beer in the local area; we want we want to be known and loved around here, and I think we are. What we’re seeing now is that transposing itself into the UK and further afield, as we gradually, organically widen our distribution.
“The past couple of years have actually been quite good for us in some respects – everyone is very interested in regional beer now, so lots of places that have been humming and hawing about taking our beer have become customers, because tourists are asking what’s local. We’ve always believed that once people try they beer they’ll love it, so that’s been a great way to attract new customers.”
In terms of the beers themselves, Alastair’s influences are very eclectic, but bold flavours and a classic sensibility (and, arguably, higher-than-average ABVs) are definitely traits that run though all of Windswept’s line-up.
“I spent a lot of time in Belgium with the RAF, and have a huge respect for Belgian brewing,” he says. “There’s such an amazing range of different styles, I love Trappist brewing, and we’re definitely devotees of bottle conditioning, which is quite unusual in the UK. Also being in the States with the RAF, the craft brewing industry was really exploding while I was there; it was an exciting time and we got the opportunity to try all sorts, which was great.”
Challenged to pick a single brewery which provided the greatest influence, Alastair quickly settles on Sierra Nevada.
“They have a love the outdoors, a commitment to sustainability, and they’ve always kept control of their whole process. The idea at Windswept has always been to produce the beer from start to finish in-house, knowing that it's all our expertise that's made it right or wrong. It means twe can learn from the mistakes we make, and hopefully improve and grow our knowledge and ability,” says Nigel.
This constant striving to be better, even after a decade, is something Alastair returns to several times, and is clearly something that drives Windswept. He tells me about his decision to brew a fruited kettle sour, and how nervous he was about taking on an entirely new technique. He brewed batch after batch an a small pilot kit, tweaking his recipe and getting a feel for how the process worked in practice. Only when he was completely happy did Alastair move brewing onto the production kit.
That first brew, Summit Sour, won best fruited sour at last year’s Scottish Beer Awards.
“We've always said, if we don't like it, we're not going to sell it. We're not going to brew a beer that we don't want to drink. And that’s as much about consistency as it is about the principle. When you're testing a beer, you need to be able to say it’s true to style, it agrees with the last batch, particularly when you’re brewing on a small scale. It’s so much easier to do that with a beer you love, a beer you want and expect to enjoy.”
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