The Scottish branch visited the Caledonian Brewery on 4 December 2001 for a tour and had the opportunity to sample the various ales produced. During the tour, its was explained that when it was founded in 1869 the Caledonian Brewery at Fountainbridge was one of more than 40 breweries in Edinburgh, but is today one of only two breweries left, the others having closed due to mergers or competition forcing them to close. What makes the Caledonian Brewery unique is that it still uses the original direct fired coppers and is the only brewery in the UK to use this technique.
The brewery uses only natural ingredients, consisting of locally grown barley, hops yeast and water. The barley is first "malted" by "kilning" and this is down by a commercial maltster to specifications provided by the brewery. Malting used to be carried out at the brewery until the 1998 fire. Next the malted barley is "cracked" in the mill before being fed to the "masher" and mixed with hot water, called the "liquor". This mixture of liquor and "grist" is then mixed in the "infusion tun" until it resembles porridge, this being called the "mash" which is allowed to infuse allowing the natural enzymes in the malt to turn the starch into sugars. The infused liquid is called "wort" and this is run off into the direct fired brewing coppers where the liquid is boiled, during which the hops are added.
The members were able to see the coppers where it was explained that these are now gas fired instead of coal fired as they had been originally. After boiling, the wort is cooled and pumped into large fermenting vessels where yeast is added, where it feeds on the sugars and turns them into carbon dioxide and alcohol. During this process the temperature must be carefully controlled. Once the beer has fermented is "conditioned" before being transferred to casks for delivery.
After the tour, members took the opportunity for unlimited ale sampling in what was a most enjoyable evening. The Scottish Branch would like to record its thanks to the staff at the Caledonian Brewery for their hospitality.
Report by John Fender.
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