Crafting Beer with David MacDonald of Spey Valley Brewery

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We are starting a series of interviews with people who are interesting and exciting to talk.  They will be connect to Speyside and or whisky.  We hope you enjoy them.

In this first interview our very own Vicky speaks to David MacDonald of Spey Valley Brewery.  Our thanks to The Stuart Arms in Dufftown for hosting the interview.

How long have you been brewing for and what originally got you started?

I started in 2007 when I began my MSc in Brewing & Distilling.  I was working at Glen Grant at the time and the initial course modules were predominantly about brewing beer and that got me interested.  There wasn’t much choice in real ales in the local pubs so I didn’t drink a lot of it until I started studying it.

What made you passionate about micro brewing?

When you work for the big brands in the industry you start to sympathise with the little guys.  I love making whisky but at my level you don’t have much influence over the end product beyond staying ‘in character’ for that whisky.  I love beer too and microbrewing meant I could make something from a huge range of ingredients and where I could make a difference.  It's also nice that it doesn't take 12 years to taste your work!

What do you thing has prompted the growth in micro brewing?

Beer sales are in decline generally, but craft beer and real ale is booming.  America is leading the way in showing people that you don’t just have to drink main stream bland beer, there is more out there.  People are paying more attention to what they're eating and drinking these days and appreciate something well made locally with genuine provenance.  Ã¢â‚¬ËœLocalism’ as a reaction to globalism and its inherent problems.

Where do you see the future of micro brewing?

I see more micro distilling coming from micro brewing and that expanding.  I also see the micros getting bigger and taking larger chunks out of the big established brands in the global beer market.

What makes micro brewing better than full scale commercial brewing (i.e Fosters, Tennants or Becks)?

The diverse range of flavours and the personal touch.  You know the person who makes the beer, delivers the beer and you know someone you can talk to about the beer.

Which is your favourite expression of your beers and why?

Spey Stout on cask.  For me it is as close to stout perfection as I've tasted and I hit on the recipe very quickly when I started learning to brew.  I think it is well above average. [David is extremely modest]

What are your plans for your brewery over the next few years?

I hope to go to 10 barrel this year and will keep the small brewery as well as expanding but it will depend on how the public like what we do.  I also hope to open a bottling hall that’ll allow us to do bottle conditioned beers too.

Which of your beers would you recommend for people who haven’t tried them before and why?

Spey Stout, whether you like dark or light beer it’s really well balanced and not as burnt or astringent as some people expect a dark beer to be.

Speyside is renowned for being a great place to make whisky, what makes Speyside a great place for making beer also?

There is a genuine interest in Speyside as an area for connoisseur drinkers and anyone who has an interest in whisky should be paying attention to craft beer as well.  Having good breweries here shows the alco-tourists that Speyside isn't just a one trick pony!  From a manufacturing point of view, the engineering expertise that supports the whisky industry is really well established here and that knowledge and experience is transferable to brewing.

Have you plans for any new beers in the near future?

Yes, quite a few [David was being very coy here and wasn't going to let on any further details despite being plied with 19 beers] . I trialed Orbis Terrier this month and its been extremely well received.  I’m moving over to liquid yeast in the coming month so there will be scope to try new things as there’s a bewildering variety of yeast strains available if you’re set up to use them.

Do you have a preferred whisky at the moment and what do you like about it?

Cardhu.  Since joining Cardhu I have tried all the expressions and the Special Reserve, is for me, The pick of the lot [well he would have to say that].  But that Maltman Mortlach 14 Years Old you gave me was one of the nicest whiskies I’ve tried in years!

Spey Valley Brewery - David

As a final comment David added: Why are you giving your money to Stella when I make perfectly good beer just around the corner [and he deserves the money much more]!

The Whisky Shop Dufftown stocks a range of bottled beers from Spey Valley Brewery.  To learn more about what Spey Valley Brewery is doing take a look at their website.


After the interview (well and truly Vickyed):

Spey Valley Brewery - David 2