Braw beers brewed with passion and attention to quality.
An easy one first – how, when, and why was Cross Borders Brewing Co. founded?
Cross Borders Brewing Company was founded in 2016 by childhood friends of almost 30 years Gary Munckton and Jonny Wilson. The aim was simple – to be the best wee brewery in Scotland. Gary takes care of the day to day operational side of the brewery and Jonny takes care of making Braw liquid.
What was the first beer you ever brewed?
The first brews were two beers that have evolved over the years: Pale and IPA. Pale was a 3.8% sessionable light pale ale originally destined all for cask and IPA was a 4.5% English bitter style India Pale Ale which was piney and resinous more than juicy and fruity like IPAs we know today. It was a quaffable low strength version of what we now know as West Coast IPAs.
Pale evolved into what we now refer to as Hop Series Pale where we take the excellent base beer and experiment with different dry hop varieties to create a unique experience for every glass poured. IPA grew up to become India Pale Ale which is our 6% classic American style IPA featuring brewery favourite hops Simcoe, Mosaic and Amarillo.
Then, in Winter 2016, the need for darker beers arose so Heavy and Porter were introduced. Heavy is still brewed today exactly as it was four years ago, as it’s a beer we’re all very passionate about. We’re all big fans of malty red beers.
Heavy is an 80/- brewed with speciality malts to showcase how wonderful and moreish an amber coloured beer with low hop rates can be. Porter does exactly what it says on the tin and is a 4.2% dark beer brewed with chocolate malt, dark Munich and oats, and hopped using Bramling Cross.
We have evolved our dark beer offering over the years to offer alternatives such as our Stout, Wee Raspberry Stout and our one-off Baltic Porter.
How have things changed and evolved at the brewery over the past four years?
In four years since its inception, the business has blossomed in ways we could hardly have thought possible. Highlights have included; launching our visitor experience and taproom on our brewery site in January 2018, welcoming our first employee Craig into the fold in May 2018, exporting the first of 24,000 bottles of Porter to Systembolaget in Sweden in September 2018, welcoming our second employee Gordon in April 2019 as Brewery Production Manager, opening our own pub in July 2019 in Portobello, gaining our first supermarket listing with Morrisons in November 2019, and winning a host of industry accolades along the way. These include being named as Ratebeer’s Best New Brewery in Scotland in 2018, gaining multiple gold and silver awards for our beers at the SIBA Scottish Regional Awards in 2018 and 2020 and being named Scottish Micro Business of the year by the Federation of Small Businesses in 2018.
How would you describe Cross Borders’ approach or philosophy to brewing? What do you set out to achieve with each brew?
Each brew is produced with passion and attention to quality. All our beers are designed to be quaffable and moreish and leave you wanting more. We originally tagged ourselves as being ‘traditional with a modern twist’ but have moved more towards the fully modern side with the exception of a few brews.
We mostly brew pale beers but have found ourselves brewing more New England Pales and IPAs in recent years and also starting to pay attention to sour beer. We set out to create a loyalty where we hope people get behind what we’re brewing and are excited to see what we’ll be producing next whilst also enjoying a Braw and Wee Braw time and time again.
We’re delighted to be featuring Braw, Wee Braw, IPA, and Pils in our Beers of the Month – what can you tell us about these beers?
Braw was the first of the new modern hop forward beers created by the brewery. The intention was to create a pale beer over 5% but with a tropical twist. Its recipe has changed slightly since it was brewed in 2017 but only to provide more and more fruit aroma and flavour. You can expect pineapple and apricot flavour provided by the use of Rakau hops from New Zealand and Mosaic and Ekuanot from the U.S. Together these hops provide a real fruit bowl sensation and each drink will pick up different unique flavours. Braw has a very simple pale malt backbone which brings out the best in the hop varieties used and helps provide a light bitter finish.
Wee Braw is the sibling to Braw introduced in early 2018. A classic laid-back session IPA with Mosaic doing all the work. You can expect grapefruit, tangerine, and mango flavours with a nice dry finish you’d expect from a session IPA. Truly a beer you can grab out the fridge and drink all day.
India Pale Ale is our 6% classic American IPA. It uses a generous amount of oats in its grist to help provide a full mouthfeel and accentuate the flavours of the combination of hops used. Mosaic, Simcoe, and Amarillo are the main dry hops used for this beer. It’s classic in that it’s piney, resinous and grassy but has lots of stone fruit and citrus flavour. It’s not as clear as West Coast IPAs and it’s not as opaque as New England IPAs. It sits comfortably in the middle providing the best of both worlds.
Pilsner is a beer we’re still very excited about. Previously we’d never attempted to make any form of lager as it needs a lot more conditioning time than ales do given the bottom fermenting yeasts used. Luckily at the beginning of lockdown in 2020 we had a bit more time on our hands and were able to produce a cracking example of the world’s most popular beer style. Our Pilsner is unfiltered and unfined leaving lots of flavour behind from the premium London Lager Malt provided by Bairds’ Malt and the classic European noble hop varieties Saaz and Tettnang. It has a recognisably classic malt characteristic as well as a clean finish which we truly believe is perfect for drinking again and again.
And for those who may not know, what does “braw” mean?
Braw is the Scots word for excellent. It means very good. We truly believe this word is fitting of the beers we produce. It’s also something we all frequently say as a team so naturally when it came to name our first beer not named after its style, Braw just felt right. We hope every time someone drinks our beer, they agree it’s Braw and can tell their friends so.
Finally, is there anything else you’d want to tell the Flavourly community about Cross Borders – especially if trying your beers for the first time?
We sincerely hope you enjoy our beer selection. We’re a relatively small brewery but we are constantly getting excited about new beer styles and engaging with new customers. You can find out more about the brewery on our active social media channels which include:
And you can find out more about us from www.crossborders.beer
Interview by Kevin O’Donnell