Our Beer Man’s VerdictIt is hard to believe it is only a year since Top Out Brewing formally launched.
Although they are just one of a burgeoning number of new young Scottish – and Edinburgh – brewers, they already feel like they have been around a lot longer.
It may be the lovely classic OS survey branding on their bottles and pump clips or it may be the consistent core range of beers, but Top Out seem to be well on their way to becoming an established name.Co-founders Michael Hopert and Moo Birch are now fully settled into their premises in Loanhead, near to larger neighbours Stewart’s. And it’s from here that the two of them undertake every aspect of the operation – not just the hands-on alchemy of brewing, but all the mundane bureaucracy familiar to anyone running a business.
It must have been a daunting challenge for these young homebrewers, but they don’t give any sign of being overawed.
Their core beers – pale ale, smoked porter, Belgian style abbey ale and wheat beer – are great and always a reassuring and welcome presence for beer lovers.And there is now a new member of the core Top Out family – and it’s a cracker.
The Cone is a US-influenced IPA – big on flavourful citrus North American hops underpinned by Scottish malt. As the name perhaps suggests, it’s resinous pine on the nose but with classic bitter grapefruit and marmalade flavours. It’s deliciously – and dangerously – drinkable at 6.8 ABV.
Scotland has a few great IPAs – including Brewdog’s Punk IPA (on its day), Cromarty’s AKA IPA, Highland’s Duke and William’s Joker – but for my money, this is the best Scottish IPA since Tempest’s Brave New World.
“You’re not alone in thinking that,” Michael said, “it’s had a really strong reaction. As with any of our beers, one of our principles is that we want them to be balanced – all the flavours should come together and work together rather than just one or two elements dominating.”
The North American hops Simcoe, Amarillo and Palisade are used in the boil to add bitterness, and then added again near the end of the process to add aroma. It’s works beautifully – bitter and biting without resorting to a palate-numbing hop assault.
It has joined the core range, which is now established and likely to be settled for a while.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean Top Out are resting on their laurels – that core range will be regularly supplemented by occasional and experimental brews.
Michael and Moo are busy foraging Lothian hedgerows for their next creation, which will be an elderflower ale. It promises to be light, floral and refreshing just in time for what will hopefully be a warm Scottish Summer.
“We’re pushing the boat out a bit further,” Michael laughs, “some will be seasonal or a bit more off-the-wall.”
Keep an eye out for Top Out’s OS survey map labels in good independent off-sales. The Cone retails at around £3.49 for a 50cl bottle.