Tom Kitchin: ‘That’s the essence of these artisan beers – the best of the old with the best of the new’

Artisan beers. Picture: Marc Millar
Artisan beers. Picture: Marc Millar
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A NEW generation of successful boutique breweries is popping up all over the country, making this a hugely exciting time for the industry.

The journey from nature to plate is as relevant to the drinks we enjoy as to the food we eat so, just as I like to know exactly where all of the food that arrives in the restaurant comes from, I also want to understand the provenance of the drinks we serve, from the wines and whiskies to teas and beers.

Beer-battered fish. Picture: Marc Millar

Beer-battered fish. Picture: Marc Millar

We're seeing an increasing number of guests taking an interest in the locality and seasonality of produce, visiting farmers’ markets, local artisan producers and smaller suppliers. In a similar way, the importance of provenance is also apparent in the beer industry.

It's all about finding something different and unique to the local area, produced with genuine passion. We’ve been working hard to seek out some of the most interesting brewers and beers around and what better time to try out something a little different than next weekend’s Father's Day?

There are a lot of inspiring brewers making their mark in Scotland at the moment, such as Williams Brothers, Innis & Gunn and Stewart Brewing. Beer has been produced in Scotland for thousands of years and the Celtic tradition of using bittering herbs to flavour and preserve beer continued longer in remote parts of Scotland than it did in the rest of the UK. Edinburgh and Alloa in particular have become known for their beer exports around the world.

Across the rest of Britain, hops replaced herbs, and it did so in Scotland too by the end of the 19th century. The tradition of using herbs was revived in France in 1990 and then by the Williams Brothers here in Scotland two years later. Its Fraoch beer was one of those pioneering brews that uses heather to create a sweeter flavour, with a really spicy herbal finish. It’s a genuine reflection of Scottish history, full of character, and presented in a light amber ale.

It has also created a Kelpie Seaweed Ale which works on the same principles – taking from nature to create a wonderful, full flavour. The method dates back hundreds of years, when seaweed was used to fertilise the barley fields of the Scottish coastal alehouses, and gave incredible flavour to the beer. That’s the essence of these artisan beers – the best of the old with the best of the new.

What inspires me about these brewers is the way they are harking back to traditional methods, or taking recipes from the past and adding their own modern twist – it’s a similar approach to the one we take at the restaurant. Brewing has such an interesting and inspiring history and these brewers are celebrating those traditions and making the most of the nature around them.

We've discovered a range of really exciting beers from Williams Brothers that can be enjoyed on their own but also create genuinely exciting flavours in food. The beers are a real celebration of Scottish heritage, and the company is always creating new things, coming up with new ideas. That’s why its products work so well for us at The Kitchin. It produces a new beer every month and works with the seasons and the natural world around it.

Williams Brothers is renowned for maturing its beers for longer. Its Williams Ceilidh 90 is matured for as long as 90 days – the only beer in the UK brewed for such a length of time – which really allows the flavour to emerge and gives an incredible taste to the beer. The recipe is over 4,000 years old but the company has brought it bang up to date by giving it a modern twist.

It's the same principle as maturing a fine wine or a great whisky and you can truly taste the difference. What I love about this beer is its name – a nod to the fact that it is reminiscent of a Scottish ceilidh or get together. It's a fusion of ingredients from across the world, married together in Scotland to create a wonderful tasting variety of beer.

I’m always looking for drinks that complement the food we serve and what is interesting about the beers from the Williams Brothers brewery is the natural flavours that lend themselves so well to our ‘from nature to plate’ philosophy. I know that our diners love to hear about a new beer – where it comes from and the story behind its brewing.

James, our barman, has a lot of knowledge and passion about the drinks we serve, which he gladly shares with our guests. They are always fascinated by the story behind the production and creation. The Ceilidh lager, the Kelpie Seaweed Ale and the Midnight Sun stout all share equally as romantic tales.

Our pastry chef Mandy has created an exciting dessert of coffee soufflé served with Midnight Sun stout ice-cream from Alloa. It has been hugely popular since we added it to our menu. It works well because it’s a unique blend of malted barley, oats, roast barley and chocolate malt – all balanced with a generous helping of hops.

Food and beer matching has also witnessed a surge in popularity, and it is now seen as much more acceptable in restaurants and just as interesting as food and wine matching. Courses at cookery schools on the subject are testament to its growing popularity.

Whether you're brave enough to try cooking with beer, fancy trying some food and beer pairings or simply seeking out a fresh new beer to try, it's worth taking the time to find these Scottish gems. You will truly taste the difference and can also take great enjoyment in the fact that the beer has been lovingly created locally.

Beer Battered Fish

50ml milk

20g fresh or powdered yeast

300ml beer

450g flour

250ml milk

pinch of sugar

pinch of salt

2 fillets haddock

Method

Warm 50ml of milk and add the yeast to dissolve. In a separate bowl, whisk together the beer, flour, 250ml of milk, sugar and salt.

Add the yeast and milk mixture. If it’s a little too thick add some more flour or if it’s too thin add more milk until you get a nice batter consistency. Leave to prove or rest for one hour in a warm place.

Pre-heat the fryer to 180°C.

Dry your haddock well on kitchen paper then lightly dust your haddock fillet with flour. Dip the haddock into the batter, covering it completely.

Add the haddock to the fryer cook for three or four minutes until golden all over.

Serve with potato wedges, fresh green salad and tartare sauce.

Tartare Sauce

1 egg (at room temperature)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

salt and black pepper

125ml sunflower oil

50ml olive oil, or to taste

1 tbsp capers, diced finely

1 tbsp diced shallots

1 tbsp cornichons, diced finely

Method

First make a mayonnaise by placing the egg, mustard, vinegar, garlic and some salt and freshly ground pepper in a food processor or jug blender and blend until smooth. Add the sunflower oil, very slowly at first, then in a thin stream until the mixture thickens.

With the food processor still running, pour the olive oil in a thin stream, stopping once the mayonnaise has reached the desired consistency.

Add the chopped capers, shallots and cornichons and mix well before serving.