NAMED after the river which flows through the heart of Langholm, a new beer is quenching the thirst of real ale lovers in the town and beyond.
Esk Blonde was the first ale brewed by Stuart Campbell at the Borderlands Brewery, based in one of the former Border Fine Arts’ buildings.
The pale ale was launched on April 1 but it was no fool’s errand. It sold out that first weekend and Stuart delivered 49 cases, each containing 12 bottles, around the area.
The brewery is a two and a half barrel plant, allowing Stuart to have greater control over the quality and consistency of the beers by brewing in small batches.
He said: “We brew for taste, not volume. Each of our beers is hand-crafted from brewing to bottling, using only premium malts, the finest hops, water and yeast.”
There are three core beers, Esk Blonde, Reiver Red and Tarras IPA, with a fourth, Armstrong Ale, being developed. They are all named after local features or people.
There are also limited edition ‘brewers selection’, a small batch ‘one and done’ which will be available only once every couple of months.
Stuart’s father was a keen home brewer and he took an interest but it’s only recently that he’s come back to the craft.
He was initially self-taught but later got professional tuition as he moved towards setting up his business in the autumn of 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic intervened but Stuart and his wife, Joanne, kept their focus and signed a lease with the Stevenson Trust for the building in August last year.
Stuart said: “We set up the brewery during the pandemic and the lockdown so it was challenging but we’re self-funded so we just cracked on with it.
“We deliberately decided to not brew huge amounts. We wanted to test the market and see how we got on.
“We were completely blown away by Langholm. People have bought the beer and it’s been great.”
Stuart said: “We got some cases to Surrey, Kinross, London and Glasgow but hope we’ll soon be better set up for a courier service.
“Requests have come in from Ohio, California and New Zealand but these may prove to be a little more difficult.”
Alan Hislop, who lives in Surrey, received a bottle from a friend and it was wrapped in a copy of the E&L Advertiser.
During the E&L’s visit Stuart was keeping an eye on the mash tun which ferments the sugars and makes wort, which is sugared water.
Once it’s been mashed in, it goes into the kettle and is boiled. The hops are added as well as the malt and grains.
The hops give the beer aroma, bitterness and flavour, while yeast turns the water into beer.
Temperatures for the fermentation vary, depending on the type of beer being made, but it’s usually 18 to 22 degrees Centigrade.
Stuart developed the recipes for his beers during lockdown. There are thousands of beer recipes but the essential ingredients are malt, barley, water and yeast.
He said: “It’s what I do with them which makes the difference. We’re committed to using the finest ingredients we can and the best hops.
“We’re having fun and want people to enjoy drinking what we make.
“Esk Blonde is a pale ale and it’s the quality of the ingredients we’re using which, I think, makes it taste as good as it does. Everything we use is natural.
He added: “We’re very conscious of our carbon footprint and our electricity is from 100 per cent renewables.
“Our spent grain goes for animal feed and the used hops are composted. Even the chemicals we use have no negative effect on the environment and are biodegradable.”
For the pale ale he uses citra hops, which give the beer a citrus flavour.
He said: “We made a decision to start slowly and, although a small brewery, we are not without ambition.
“Craft beer has steadily grown in popularity and beer drinkers are turning to locally-brewed premium products rather than mass-produced beer.
“I hope we’ll continue to grow and it would be good to think the brewery could provide future employment in Langholm.”
What is most exciting for Stuart is the planned redevelopment of the BFA building by the Stevenson Trust.
He said: “A micro-brewery is included, which is really good. It means we’ll be part of the development.
“In the future, we’re looking to host small groups of visitors who can have a hands-on experience and brew their own beer.”