Top Out Brewery

Last summer I was working the Edinburgh Foodies Festival and came across the stand of a brewery that was unfamiliar to me. The branding was eye-catching (has to be these days) so I inquired of the squire whether I could sample his wares. He most cordially agreed. Had he not, this story would have been much shorter.  

The brews were the work of Top Out Brewery which sits nestled between Bilston and Loanhead just south of Edinburgh and east of the mighty Pentland Hills Regional Park. I liked what I tasted (barring an elderflower ale that had gone astray in fermentation) and some months later I received a box of their beers in bottle to try in earnest.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.06.05Rather appropriately I started off with Schmankerl Bavarian Wheat. Schmankerl is a Bavarian term that essential means a ‘treat’ but further can refer to an appetizer or amuse bouche. Something to get the palate juiced up for the main event. Sure was inviting to the eye, all hazy summer golden with lively long lasting tadpole foam head.

Aromas of sour yellow plums, proving sourdough bread and characteristic clove studded banana with just a glimmer of white pepper. Balanced at 4.9%, beginning clean and sharp then moving to lactic rounding dry banana skin and celebrating the 70’s with piña colada on the denouement. Tasty.

Next was Staple Pale Ale (4%) which I had really enjoyed on cask at the fair. Sadly it came over a bit starchy in bottle. Very herbaceous, pithy dry and wasn’t the thirst quenching beauty I recalled. Some variation perhaps?Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.05.57

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.05.32They surely had the shit together when they brewed this batch of their Smoked Porter because it poured out glorious and lively with an ashen pancake batter head. The neb (nose) was very impressive with aromas of cocoa, smoked mackerel, mure (blackberry) liqueur, melted milk chocolate, chocolate covered blueberries and blood pudding.

That confection theme continued on the palate with dry dark cocoa, dried Highland blackberries and subtly smoked venison. It had a fresh lactic character, the feel was clean, lean and muscular with a dry espresso finish. Top notch. 

Last but not least was the Cone IPA which enchanted from the off with its pillowy-billowy meringue head. Greeting my sniffer as I raised the glass was a fine pine forest, that had some folks camping in it. Their dinner consisted of grilled pineapple, lemon meringue pie, and raw scallop. An eclectic bunch indeed.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.05.42Not overly boozy at 6.8% but my first sip was like a sap edged razor bite. Sharply astringent followed sticky resinous. Thankfully by the 4-5th sup it was softening, showing very dry pineapple, white grapefruit pith and seed. There was some bracing lemon zest and earthy wet tobacco. Deeper still I found passion fruit. The finale? Dry and complex, like some foreign film. Serious like. You get me?

Thanks so much to Top Out for providing the beers. They are one to keep an eye on.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Here are reviews from two esteemed colleagues The Beer Cast and Beers I’ve Known

Scottish Brews

Scotland has some excellent breweries and here’s what I thought of bottles from Tryst Brewing, Williams Bros Brewing and Colonsay Brewery.

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Tryst Carronade IPA 4.2% AVB

I know little about Tryst Brewing except they are based in Falkirk and need to streamline their website. Carronade IPA uses Washington State hops and gets its name from the canons (or “smashers” in the parlance of Nelson’s navy) that were cast in their thousands by Carron Iron in Falkirk back in the day. It’s hazy corn cob yellow in the glass with a nose of honey, preserved lemon and dried orange. It drinks rich, lovely and mouth coating. Notes of fresh orange, slightly floral with lively yeasts. Flavourfull and very drinkable means I certainly will be trying to get to know Tryst better. Score 7.5/10

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Williams Bros “Grozet” Summer Ale 5% ABV

I must admit to already being a fan of WB, but their Grozet is a bit of an unusual beast; brewed with wheat and cold stored with gooseberries. To the eye it’s iced tea with a thick foathy head and the aromas are just humming off it: green melon, pink grapefruit, fresh cut grass, wet warm wood sauna… oh god I’m salivating already. Quick to my lips! Oh it’s super fresh pink grapefruit, key lime pie with smooth peach texture and flavour. But there’s more on the finish: fragrant elderflower and peppery rocket. Loved this vibrant characterful Grozet, it’s utterly gluggable and sings “sunny summer festival” at the top of it’s Alloa-ite lungs. Score 8.75/10

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Colonsay 80/- Ale 4.2% ABV

The Colonsay Brewery based on an island of the same name in the Outer Hebrides (off the west coast of Scotland) claims to be the smallest island with it’s own brewery in the world. Their 80/- “Scottish” Ale gets its name from the days when stronger beers were taxed at 80 Shilling a barrel and is dark cola in colour with a root beer foam. There’s dark syrup, dark malts, woody mushroom, fig and wet wool on the nose. Tasting it, I can discern some chestnut, weak coffee, bitter herbs and hints of dry chocolate. It’s all a bit ho hum though. Shame. Score 6/10