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Alechemy Brewing, Five Sisters Red IPA

Alchemy (noun) : “the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir”

“Turning grain into gold since 2012” runs Alechemy Brewing’s brashy tagline, but if anyone is capable of this extraordinary scientific feat it is Head Brewer and Founder Dr James Davies.

James studied for a masters degree in chemistry, followed by 3 years studying for a PhD in microbiology (studying the genetics of brewery yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae). He went on to work in the pharmaceutical industry (starting as a molecular biologist and ending up in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics) for 6 years before taking voluntary redundancy.

He began brewing in 1995 whilst at university in Edinburgh but quickly upgraded from homebrew kits to full mash brewing… “essentially a small scale version of the full commercial brewing process, but just a bit more Heath Robinson” he explains.

In 2011 he decided to combine his hobby and his trade, returning to Scotland and his hometown of Mid Calder, Livingston to start up Alechemy Brewing.

His first commercial beer was the 5ive Sisters Red IPA, named after the five huge, red shale slag piles (called bings apparently) that dominate the landscape in West Lothian.

It pours a lovely deep copper, with a slight red hue and a healthy amount of head. There is a strong herby aroma provided in large part by the American Chinook hops, along with some burnt toffee and bread from the British malts. In both appearance and smell it’s certainly inviting. 

There is a lot going on in the taste, but it works. More burnt toffee, more herbs, a bit of cinnamon sweetness and spice balanced by a hint of citrus and a lingering, but not over-powering bitterness. James has proved himself the Rumpelstiltskin of the beer world with this one.

The long list of other beers that Alechemy have produced since 2012 is mightily impressive, including recent collaborations with Beavertown, Arbor, and Melissa Cole. Expansion from their 10 BBL brewery is now on the cards, so undoubtedly, getting hold of Alechemy beers will hopefully become a little bit easier over the next few years.


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