After many conversations with Tempest Brewing Co, and their astounding beers taking all three of the top spots for our beer section at the Drinkmonger Christmas Fair, we made good on our promise to head over and visit the brewery. We’ve said before that words like ‘craft’ can be hard to define, but the guys at Tempest are working on something that is more akin to ‘art’ (far more than what covers their walls).
From their meeting in a brewpub in British Columbia in the late 90s, Gavin and Annika decided that they wanted to create beers that could match the quality of Gavin’s culinary creations as a chef. A round the world tour for the pair took them through a self-taught course on brewing in their garage in New Zealand and a three year stint creating a highly reputable gastropub in Scotland with brewing as a hobby on the side. Their dream of Tempest Brewing Co was finally realised with an 800L kit built in Kelso’s old dairy, and a crew of just three, in April 2010.
The reputation of Tempest exploded with the driving force being Gavin’s flavour expertise, interesting hops and local produce making for some magnificent beers. They rapidly had to expand to a 16HL operation, and then a full relocation in February 2015 saw them carting three of the original mash tuns over to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders to set up a 30HL brewery, with full bottling capability and 10 pairs of hands to keep up with the demands of the public and the dedication to the quality of their beers.
We joined them just before Christmas for a look into what has given them such great success in only 5 years, and were treated to an excellent tour and a few tasters of what 2016 brings.
Throughout the tour it is clear that, even with recent expansions, the determination to keep to their high quality standards is what drives the production methods.
Locally sourced Simpson’s Golden Promise malt forms the base of everything they produce, sometimes being the only type of malt used in a beer. They accept the low yield of this malt for the high quality of the fermentable sugars it provides. The barley is even milled on-site (a rarity for a brewery of this size) to ensure the freshest possible ingredients.
Also key to their style is the insistence on using live yeast (rather than dehydrated yeasts), and they will reuse the same cultivation through several generations to aid consistency and efficiency.
Like many small breweries, consistency can be a challenge for Tempest. Although the brewers have such intimate control over their batches, they don’t have the space to build up and combine batches to create a more stable flavour profile from one bottling to another. This adds another intrigue for us, because every batch has the chance to hold new and interesting flavours, to bring an extra level of depth. While the small yeast mutations or variable sugar yields that cause these changes can be a problem for the purists, they have also been known to inspire the guys at Tempest to recreate and enhance these extra flavours, turning them into rather special limited edition beers.
Being the cordial hosts that they are, the Tempest guys made sure we had topped up glasses at every opportunity, making sure that we got the freshest of tasters straight out of the fermenters!
A pleasant reminder of their IPA style came with The Pale Armadillo; the ‘school night’ version of Brave New World, halving the ABV and taking some of the resinous pine flavours, to replace them with big citrus blasts and a tangy hop profile.
Double Shuck brought in darker pleasures as the Imperial Stout rained praise on Tempest’s experimental side. Using 200 Lindisfarne Oysters (and shells) in this beer, that slight touch of sea spray flavour, silky texture and mineral finish blending with just a hint of spice mix make for a truly gorgeous and unique experience.
Red Eye Flight returned us to our senses with its coffee over chocolate Porter richness. Local coffee maestros SteamPunk helped add that fresh ground dark coffee nose over smooth chocolate and a surprisingly bright acidity to enhance the depth of those layers.
A brand new addition to Tempest and an excellent example of that culinary influence; Saison Cider was our last indulgence. Just before it was bottled we were exposed to the collaborative efforts with Thistly Cross and their sweet cider as it combined into this triple fermented Saison, with added blackcurrants. A tart farmhouse explosion of Saison style overlaid with rich fruity blackcurrant notes and a bittersweet battle between the apple cider and the slightly sour natured beer.
We were enthralled to experience Tempest’s exceptional core beers, as well as some of their experimental wonders.
With more still to come, including a 1-year barrel aged version of our Christmas Fair Beers winner, Saison du Pommes, an eye for a possible further expansion and the introduction of public tours of the brewery, we will be watching Tempest with high hopes for 2016.