Food & Drink Survey 2014: Best Pubs and Beers, Scotland

When we looked at the results in the Best Pub and Favourite Local Brewery categories, we noticed something of a pattern. Our favourite local beer expert Richard Taylor explains how one brewery from Alloa had a hand in a host of winners

Feature by Richard Taylor | 07 Jan 2014

It's no surprise that Williams Bros have turned up near the top1 of the 'best beer' category in the survey; they are a true Scottish success story. From the aspirations of two brothers inheriting a home-brewing shop2 in the West End of Glasgow, a business has emerged that now exports to 25 different countries. 

Bruce and Scott Williams are nothing short of pioneers in the world of Scottish beer, and their story has plenty of interesting twists. Their anecdote of the day in 1988 when a benevolent crone entered their shop at midnight and, as lightning played across her face, revealed the recipe for what would become their first beer – Fraoch – has gone into Scottish brewing legend. 

After the early 'Heather Ales' days at Williams, the brothers have put down roots in Alloa, a town with a rich tradition of brewing.3 Re-launching as Williams Bros Brewing Co in 2004 they have changed gear several times, moving onto beers like Williams Gold, Red and Black, and then past those into the likes of Midnight Sun, Double Joker and Profanity Stout.

This continual re-thinking fits with their proactive attitude – from hand-picking heather shoots back in the day, to hand-fitting disco balls to pub ceilings.

There's no way laurels will be rested upon in Alloa anytime soon, either. Williams Bros recently announced a £1m humdinger of an expansion plan (increasing bottling capacity by 60%), with potential side projects into both canning and PET plastic bottles.

Their bar ventures are flourishing – Inn Deep4 is always popular with the locals of Kelvingrove, and Leith's The Vintage (which Williams Bros co-own) was one of Edinburgh’s best new bars of 2013.5 

This coming year sees one of Williams' biggest projects to date – the Alloa-based brewery are set to launch their much-anticipated Drygate collaboration with Tennent's.6 

Given past form, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the fruits of that plan land Williams on next year’s list once again.

1 You also enjoyed beers from the kings of craft beer marketing Brewdog, loveable Lothian-ers Stewart Brewing, and the rum-powered juggernaut that is Innis & Gunn. You also like Tennent’s, and we can't stop you from doing that, can we?
Glenbrew, on Dumbarton Rd. Corner of Broomhill Drive – hit the car dealerships and you’ve gone too far.
3 Harvieston and Tryst are among the other small brewers working in the area, where beer production dates back two centuries
4 Inn Deep sits on the site of the former Big Blue bar on Great Western Rd, and is one of your favourite pubs in this year’s survey.
5 The Vintage and Inn Deep were joined in the pub top 5 by Glasgow’s Squid and Whale, and the Edinburgh pair of The Hanging Bat and Roseleaf
6 Tennent’s and Williams are planning a craft brewery with its own restaurant and homebrew training facility next door to the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow. It could be up-and-running by mid-2014. It’s very exciting.


Richard Taylor is the editor of Edinburgh-based beer website and podcast, Read the full results on p36