You’ve no doubt heard of some Scottish craft beer names like BrewDog, Innis & Gun and Harviestoun, and while the Speyside region might be most well known for whisky, let me introduce you to a small brewery located nearby called Windswept.
Windswept brewery: The history
Windswept was formed by two former RAF pilots, Al Read and Nigel Tiddy, just four years ago with the aim of creating something out of their love for brewing. The name of the brewery, as you can imagine, comes from its location in the hills on the blustery coast of Scotland in the small Whisky producing region, Speyside. It’s also a fitting place to brew considering Al and Nigel’s love of the outdoors.
Back in 2012, the company simply consisted of the pair but now has a team of 12 including three brewers: Matt, Doug and Chris.
Four years ago, work started on the brewery in October with brewing vessels arriving from Oban Ales of Fort William. By the end of Nov the first beer, a 5% APA, was brewed.
In Windswept’s own words, the ingredients are “kept simple” with quality British malted grains, hops for flavour and bitterness, fresh wet yeast (not dried) and that local Speyside water which is far more associated with whisky.
More recently, Windswept was selected as the only craft beer to be available at the Scottish Open golf tournament. The firm also won the ‘Exporter of the Year Award’ at the Scottish Beer Awards 2016.
Going forward, Windswept plans to double its annual production from 1500 to 3000 hectolitres and increase staff numbers from to 17 within the next two years.
Since 2014, the brewery has secured an investment of around £250,000 to support future growth and recently took its bottling operations in house, which has had a huge impact on its expansion potential.
Windswept brewery: Core range
Windswept’s core range consists largely of pale coloured beers starting with the very session-able Blonde and a slightly stronger APA (American Pale Ale). There are two single hop IPAs to choose from named Tornado and Typhoon – Citra or Amarillo respectively – and a Scottish take on a German beer in the Weizen.
All of these are decent beers but it was the darker ones which I particularly found to be exceptional. Wolf, named after the Wolf of Badenoch, infamous for burning down Elgin cathedral, is a Scottish dark ale which is strong and rich but also smooth, with a slight reminiscent taste of Guinness Foreign Extra. There’s also a special version called Wolf of Glen Moray which has, as you might be able to guess, been matured in the nearby distillery’s whisky casks. It’s a must try for lovers of dark beers.
All the beers are bottled on site thanks to a new plant and are bottle conditioned meaning a small amount of yeast allows for secondary fermentation after the cap is put on. This lightly carbonates the beer and gives is a cask-esque quality.
Windswept brewery: Seasonal beers
Being a relatively small brewery, Windswept doesn’t do loads of seasonal beers. Pumpkin beer haters need worry not as there’s nothing of the sort here.
The first is Aurora, a light ale made with New Zealand Motueka hops but it does get a lot more daring than this. Marooned is a 5.2% Blackberry wheat beer while Werewolf is a chili-infused dark ale. Lastly, there’s Bear which a very tempting Russian imperial stout that’s barrel aged and a whopping 10.5%
I’ve not tasted any of the seasonal range but if I come across a bottle of Bear or Marooned anywhere down south I’ll certainly give them a try.