We don’t normally write up beers that are new to the DC market, let alone imported beers, but Epochal Barrel Fermented Ales out of Glasgow, Scotland sounded too interesting to ignore. When thinking of Brettanomyces, you might picture Belgium’s Orval, or Boulevard’s late Saison Brett, or even Atlas’ 202, a brett lager. But no, we’re talking about Scotland, beer history, and pale ales.
“Our beer draws inspiration from the little known but rich tradition of Scottish funk. Sort of a bringing together of Scottish tradition, modern brewing technique, and my own tastes,” writes Epochal founder Gareth Young. “Style-wise, heavily-hopped, bitter, Brettanomyces-fermented table beers were a big Scottish thing in the 19th Century.”
“Most of the early US pale ale breweries were started by Scottish immigrants so those pale ales had quite a big influence on the development of US brewing,” notes Young. One such Scotsman, Andrew Wales, was Alexandria, Virginia’s first brewer, though we don’t know if he made beers in this style. Wales emigrated from Edinburgh, not Glasgow, but Edinburgh’s William Younger brewery later became the largest producer of Scottish-style pale ales, known for being “bone dry, very pale, bitter, funky.”
Epochal’s beers are very much in that tradition. “Everything is open fermented with house Saccharomyces then oak fermented with house Brettanomyces, then blended and refermented naturally in bottles and kegs. We tend to focus on Scottish barley and European hops, especially UK hops, with other varieties used more occasionally, as a subtle accent. We only use whole flower hops as well,” writes Young, who highlights two beers in this category. Squarer of Circles and Angle Trisector are brewed with Scotch Common, “a very old, Scottish landrace barley. Squarer of Circles is 3.6% and hopped with Brambling Cross and UK Cascade. Angle Trisector is 4.5% and hopped with a little known but very cool variety called Ernest; bred in Kent in 1920, but with insanely modern fruit aromas.”
Eight beers in total should arrive Stateside, including two porters “drawing on 19th Century Glasgow recipes. The local style was dry, bitter, refreshing, and heavy on the amber malt,” says Young. Many beer drinkers associate Scottish beer with higher-gravity offerings, and Epochal has us covered there, too. The Primum Mobile, a “Glasgow Stout Porter,” is 8.8% alcohol by volume and The Golden Net (12%) is a strong ale hopped with East Kent Goldings and fermented in Sauternes casks. More into new school hops? There are two Scottish pale ales hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka.
Winter Dog Cellars, no stranger to funk, is distributing Epochal in the District and Virginia, and we know that Glover Park’s Hop, Cask, and Barrel has the beers available for pre-order. “As soon as I saw they were importing these Scottish ales which looked right up my alley I emailed them and Winter Dog immediately. Of course I haven’t had anything from Epochal before but they’re doing my favorite styles and methods of brewing,” writes Jared Praeger, the general manager of the store. “I believe the beers of Epochal to be one of the few new projects to get truly excited about. The brand and its brewing philosophy really hit home with me on a personal level, because they appear to be me in brewery form. I’m a young, modern guy in the beer industry who has grown to love and appreciate beer more when its history and traditions can be traced back beyond my lifetime. Epochal may be the new kid on the block, but they’re committed to showing the world what their local terroir and brewing history is all about. Centuries-old historic recipes, no additives, the beer nerd’s beer.”
Can’t get to Glover Park? The store delivers, too, and maybe some other proprietors read this article and make Epochal bottles available as well.