If you’ve ever spent any time in or around Lossiemouth or the Moray Firth coastline you will appreciate that the term “windswept” is a kind, verging on romantic, way of putting it. Accustomed to being battered by storms one moment then sunny and still the next, it is the place for people who like to experience the great part of the great outdoors. Apt then that the Windswept Brewing Co. was founded by outdoor enthusiasts.
Like many modern breweries, Windswept was born out of experiments in home-brewing where friends Al Read and Nigel Tiddy were keen to reflect the dramatic local landscape and capture the spirit of adventure that entices many to the area. Only in beer form.
After months of meticulous research and the sort of attention to detail that you would expect from two former RAF pilots, Al and Nigel launched Windswept Brewing Co. in 2012
"We name all our dark beers after dark stories, local stories," says Nigel Tiddy, co-founder of Lossiemouth's Windswept Brewing Co and creator of this week's beer, Wolf.
The wolf in question was The Wolf of Badenoch, brother to a 14th-century Scottish king whose other brother was the bishop of nearby Elgin cathedral. "Wolf was a particular sort of character, not a very nice guy really," Nigel explains. "He burnt down villages if they didn't pay their taxes."
He had several mistresses and a very Catholic wife who eventually got fed up and left him. The Wolf decided to divorce her, which of course didn't go down well with the pope. In 1390 word of his resulting excommunication arrived in a letter sent via his brother the bishop in Elgin. By way of reply, the Wolf raised his armies, marched on Elgin and burned the cathedral down.
Perhaps that's why Nigel says this week's beer is best enjoyed by a roaring fire? Dark indeed.
The beer itself is a 6% dark and strong Scottish ale, full of espresso coffee and chocolate flavours. "To me, it has a bonfire-toffee bitterness to the finish. There's a little bit of sweetness in there but it's got a nice bit of burnt toffee to it," says Nigel. It is unfined, which makes it suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and bottle conditioned. (So be careful opening it if you've stored it somewhere warm!)
Wolf has been around for a while. Nigel tells how it came about: "I brewed this before we started the brewery when I was still playing around with beer in the garage. It was planned to be a Theakstons Old Peculier but I didn't quite have the right ingredients. So I shuffled it all around a bit and actually changed the hops a little bit and Wolf was the result. We've not changed the recipe since. It's a bit stronger than Theakstons Old Peculier and not quite so bitter, it's a bit sweeter."
"It's been a nice regular little award winner for us over the last three or four years, and it was one of our first beers to win an award back in 2013. It's very popular. We've even had a few people replacing their Guinness lines with Wolf, which is always satisfying."