Thursday, 16 February 2017

Brewed & Reviewed: Fierce Beer Co.

This time around we’re looking at a beast of a brewery from Aberdeen, Scotland – No, not them. This little outfit have been brewing for a little over 9 months now and have already achieved nationwide acclaim and began exporting their product to the likes of The Netherlands and Belgium. Their beers are available from Plymouth to the Shetland Islands and everywhere in between and in January they were honoured with Ratebeer’s ‘Best New Scottish Brewery’ award, ladies and gentlemen – Fierce.

The Back Story

What a first year it has been already with plenty of time still to go, things at Fierce have gone from strength to strength with an astronomical projection forecast from those in the know. Perhaps taking lessons from nearby neighbours and friends Brewdog, Fierce’s course for the top seems to be coming about at a fast rate of knots – and with good reason. Aberdeen’s second biggest brewery have already been invited to Brewdog’s legendary annual AGM event in April, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Stone, Wild Beer and Buxton.  Serving at AGM is Fierce’s first announcement in what looks to be an exciting year with big plans afoot, but after speaking with Dave Grant, one half of the founding duo, they are keeping their lips firmly sealed.  Plenty of collaborations are expected, a barrel-aged wee heavy with Swedish supremo’s Dugges is already announced, more festivals in the pipeline as well as potential expansions in brewing capacity and distributing to even more countries.

With a background in the gas and oil industry, Dave Grant and David McHardy fell out of love with their corporate jobs, and after both taking an intensive brewing technology course across the border in Sunderland, they decided to pack up their careers and follow their dreams, and on the 1st April 2016, that became a reality when they moved into their current premises with their first brew following shortly after on 3rd May. Capacity was already doubled as early as November 2016 – now churning out 20,000 litres of delicious beer a month and the plan is to continue this expansion. A canning line could potentially be on the horizon, pair this with their already eye catching labels and they could certainly be onto a winner. When you look at all that has been achieved so far it makes it even more staggering to know that it has all been achieved by just four people. From designing brews, brewing beer, down to bottling and labelling – a credit to the amount of time and effort that’s needed to work in this industry.

Looking at the sample of beers for this article you can see that local produce is really important to Fierce, the raspberries for Cranachan Killer are grown within 25 miles, cacao is sourced from a local master chocolatier and the coffee beans from local roasters. Their roots are immensely important to them and believe in giving back to the community where they can through charity events, supporting local artists, right down to using an Aberdeen based firm to help with design and marketing.
Experimental beers are something Fierce are not afraid to get their teeth into, with the bounty of local produce on offer as well as being self-proclaimed ‘gastronauts’ infusing a variety of different foods and drinks into the beer is something Fierce both love and thrive upon.  Their experimental side was there even as home brewers, looking to push the boundaries and produce beers that are different yet loved, always a fine balancing act. Their first homebrew was of course an IPA, which by Dave's admission himself was "not great", then came a Smoked Chipotle Porter - now Dirty Sanchez, followed by a Raspberry Pale Ale, now Cranachan Killer. One look down their list of beers  and you’ll see a vast variation of weird yet wonderful concoctions, a couple of which we will go into now

 The Taste Test

Eskimo Joe – 5.5% Cold Pressed Coffee Pale Ale

Well that certainly scared the hell out of me. I opened the bottle and had a little sniff and thought to myself “Hey up, have I picked up a porter?”. I looked back at the bottle and no it was the pale ale. I then think “Oh my god, have they labelled it wrong?”. I poured it out and again it was very dark but alas, not dark enough for a porter so I felt a sense of relief. I suppose that this will teach me to read the entire bottle first, not just the front. I read ‘Pale Ale’ and had no expectation that this would in fact be a Cold Pressed Coffee Pale Ale. The flavour is chocolatey along with added coffee beans and even vanilla and the lactose adds a pleasurable sea-side ice cream feel to the table too. There’s a nutty quality to the beer as well, together with a smooth mouth feel and some winter spices thrown in for good measure. The surprise factor for me was a good thing though, it kept me on my toes and Eskimo Joe’s cold coffee pale ale was an enjoyable ‘brew’, but as Fierce themselves advised – it’s a Marmite beer, you either love it or hate it.

Day Shift – 5% Pale Ale
Boggy in colour and a champagne style fizzy head. The aroma is intensely hoppy with earthy goodness, straw and wet leaves. Flavour wise it’s packed full of different elements. It’s mega hopped for a start, there’s juicy citrus, a fragrant floral theme running throughout but also a sort of weed type taste and even a meaty flavour. Bitter oranges take up half of the journey from the middle right through to the end. It’s got a chunky and very spritzy mouth feel and leaves a gritty after taste. I really couldn’t call it an ‘easy drinker’ as the bottle advises, and reading the above back to myself it sounds a bit of a mess, BUT it’s a good beer, perhaps my words haven’t painted quite the picture here but certainly go out and try one for yourselves.

Café Racer – 6.5% Coffee & Vanilla Porter
Nutty coffee on the nose, jet black with a medium thick body. A rich Porter, sweet with lactose and has that feeling of class and one to indulge in. Thick with vanilla and all the roasted/toasted characteristics you’d expect to find. On the palate, we get chocolate, a twirl of liquorice and plenty of coffee. I can taste some spices in the form of cinnamon and clove – this beer reminds me of Stone’s Xocoveza, and to me that’s high praise indeed. On the exhale, it’s like tucking into your breakfast with an oaty porridge taste and then we get fairly strong bitter dark chocolate on the aftertaste. Is this just a porter version of the Eskimo Joe? Quite a few similarities between the two. Another winner in my book.

Cranachan Killer – 5.5% Fruit Beer
Ruby red in colour with a 1 to 2 finger head. Sweetness greets you to the glass with raspberry ice pop juice and fruit cider memories. An initial tangy and tart opening which then quickly turns into a very watery mouth feel. A little too sickly sweet with honey and cream thrown in, reminds me of an English Afternoon Tea with scones. It wasn’t until writing the start of this that I thought I’d look at the notes on the bottle where it tells us that Cranachan is a Scottish dessert made from raspberries, honey, toasted oats and cream. Well they’ve certainly hit the brief and I can really taste the oats on the tail end after the swallow. It’s hard to rate this one as it isn’t a style I’d ordinarily pick, this is the one I liked least out of the five beers here, but if you like a sweet beer which tastes exactly as it should taste then this is for you.

Night Shift – 6.5% Black IPA
You’d have thought I’d learnt my lesson from the Eskimo Joe but I did it again, I read ‘Fierce IPA’ on the front and made an assumption. A black IPA to me though is a very welcome treat. It poured deep black and rather thick as it oozed from its glass housing. Mega hoppy taste with some more fine bubbled, sprizy texture. Deep bitterness takes charge right from the get go with elements of fizzy vimto, roasted nuts, a little peach and some orange peeking out from behind the bitter shield. Hints of liquorice and chocolate and the hops are very grassy. Altogether a robust and deeply long and bitter black IPA. An absolute belter and we concluded with the best of the bunch in my eyes.

Thoughts for the future

Thank you to Fierce for these great beers. What I want to try from them now is a straight up IPA, I want to see how they fair in a crowded market. Dave Grant himself admitted they need an IPA and a pale and promised “These will not be bland or dull as you can imagine.  They will be packed with huge hops “– I can’t see them letting us down and I imagine them to be pretty sought after when they do finally decide to release some out into the wild.  What do I want to see more of? Whilst the designs are unique, I want to see a little more variation in the labels, more of a colour difference between each beer, something so that you can instantly realise the difference without actually having to put any effort in, also I do think they should be more specific with the exact style of each beer on the front for idiots like me – rather than just putting ‘A fierce Pale Ale’ I want to see ‘Cold Pressed Coffee Pale Ale’. The front of the bottle is the main point of sale for the product after all. If they can keep going as they are I’d also love to see them switch to canning, their branding and style of beers seem perfect for it, plus it should save them money in the long run in terms of packaging and transportation costs. These comments are intended as constructive only and purely just this writer’s opinion. Other than that, keep doing what you’re doing guys, the beer speaks for itself and you’ve certainly got some fantastic and unique brews.

Words & photography - David Dickinson (Beer Baron Lincoln)

Fierce Beer Co 

Thank you to Fierce Beer Co who kindly supplied us with the samples of beer for this article.