You'll get a warm reception in the Granite City
Saturday 15 January 2022
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Anyone arriving at Aberdeen airport is met with a fairly bleak vista. Grey concrete bunkers housing once glittering oil and gas companies, now resigned to their diminishing roles in an increasingly climate conscious world, line the treeless roads that are battered by the biting wind from the North Sea. The airport itself serves a fairly local area, with frequent business flights to Scandinavia and Germany, and a smattering of holiday flights to ferry people away from the granite drudgery. Sited a stone’s throw away from the airport is a brewery that is reigniting excitement in Scottish beer and has its eyes on destinations far beyond Billund or Stavanger, and since the first wort flowed in 2016, has gone on to become one of the most celebrated Scottish breweries going.
Fierce has developed a reputation for brewing innovative and adventurous beers, without limiting themselves to a particular style of brewing, showcasing talents ranging from the clean and crisp Fierce Pilsner to Trappist yeast fermented apricot ales aged in red wine barrels. Such a diversity of styles is not easily managed by even the largest and most established of craft breweries, so to see such a mature range from a brewery that only recently celebrated its fifth birthday is nothing short of remarkable. This has been recognised by the fact that for the past three years Fierce has been the most decorated Scottish brewery at industry awards.
Fierce was founded in Dyce by Dave Grant and Dave McHardy who were working in the oil industry but remained keen home brewers who dreamed of a rather tastier black gold. The pair met by chance whilst attending the renowned BrewLab brewing School in Sunderland and, out of a desire to improve their homebrewing, the first inklings of what would become Fierce began. To be a small producer in a town so dominated by the other local brewery, BrewDog, who had an imposing presence in the city centre and a strong reputation to go with it was no small task, but one taken on with great aplomb.
In the years prior to Fierce opening Aberdeen had been quietly undergoing a gradual shift in drinking preferences. Whilst the offshore workers, fresh from the helicopter and into the first bar serving Vitamin T will always be an entrenched part of Aberdonian culture, these same people who previously wouldn’t have entertained the thought of drinking a highly hopped IPA were now also making a beeline for one of the many craft led bars in the city. Bars such as CASC, Hop and Anchor and Six Degrees North were all selling a wide selection of craft beer from around the world and those bars whose offerings were not up to scratch, such as the short-lived Bottle Cap, soon succumbed to market pressure.
With such a thirst for good beer the opening of Fierce with their refreshingly different beers made Aberdeen an obvious home, with Craig Cargill, the Fierce digital sales and marketing manager telling me that “I think as we’ve grown in reputation and gained a larger following in the local area it’s definitely given us the opportunity to introduce the locals to beer styles and influences from all over the world and showcase how amazing beer can be”.
The flagship Fierce bar opened in 2018 in their hometown, cementing Aberdeen as a beer destination worth travelling to. This was soon followed by bars in Edinburgh and Manchester, though the brewery is still lacking a taproom to showcase beers fresh from production, but in December 2021 a third Crowdfunder was launched to raise cash to move to larger premises and allow the brewery to keep up with growing demand. The increased square footage will also allow space for an onsite shop and brewery tours, as well as housing a new brewing and packaging facility.
The growth will also allow the brewery to upscale their existing lab facilities, which according to Cargill will “allow us to make sure we’re truly making the best beer that we can from the minute we start brewing it to the minute it leaves the brewery to be delivered to the customer.” This commitment to quality will come complete with increased cold storage space to ensure freshness upon dispatch with plans to be online for production by late March.
Fierce have arguably made a name for themselves with their novel, and often powerful stouts such as the 12.5% Very Big Moose and Imperial Café Race porter, aged in ex bourbon whiskey barrels and variously flavoured with vanilla, coconut and chocolate. They are not, however, a one trick pony and the brewery has paired with the New Zealand Beer Collective to showcase punchy hops such as Nelson Sauvin and Wai-iti in beers like Private Universe as well as importing the South African Devil’s Peak beer into the UK.
When asked about what else we can look forward to seeing from Fierce in 2022, Cargill said “Besides moving into the new site and getting it operational and looking at really expanding our barrel ageing programme we’ve also got several collabs already in the diary for 2022, coupled with more brews with our friends at NZBC and Devil’s Peak and of course a considerable list of our own small batch monthly specials that we’re planning to release! So, expect loads of new stuff coming out from Fierce in 2022”.
The future is looking bright at Fierce, and with investment coming in to help speed things along it is unlikely this momentum will slow down. They bring a playfulness and innovativeness to Scottish beer, and in their own words, “We’re called Fierce, so we always aim that what’s in the can is fiercely full of flavour”.
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