The Early Days Of Wooha

In April 2015 a new line of craft beers was unveiled at Nairn’s Bandstand Beer and Music Festival. Their label depicted a rather cunning-looking highland cow and bore the name Wooha, suggesting this particular brand meant business. It did. Those lucky enough were met by a dark, rich, smoky porter on one hand – with hints of coffee and chocolate, mmm – and a light but satisfying lager on the other. We imagine it was pleasurable to discover these beers were also produced on their very doorstep. The Wooha Brewing Company is based at Balmakeith Business Park on the outskirts of Nairn.

What they may not have remembered – it was a beer and music festival after all – is how these extraordinary beers were created. Wooha’s website says their product is 100% natural and this really seems to be the case. Their custom-built bottling line, known humorously as “the rattler”, allows the yeast to naturally fizz Wooha’s beer after fermentation. No carbon dioxide here. No filtration, chemicals or additives of any kind. At a time when people are growing more concerned with what they put into their bodies it will please many to know the company has been certified by The Vegan Society. For those simply looking for a great tasting beer however just ask Colin Campbell from the British Guild of Beer Writers. In September 2015 he named Wooha’s porter his Beer of the Week, calling it “exceptionally smooth, slightly waxy, and well rounded”.

That says a lot about the porter as by then they had created two new craft beers. The North Hop Festival, which reached Inverness’ Eden Court Theatre in August 2015, was where the company introduced their wheat and IPA. The former has a delicate malt flavour topped off with bursts of orange and pink grapefruit. Very moreish. The latter also has a citrusy twist but with added spice and a more balanced malt flavour. We can see why they advertise themselves as “putting modern twists on traditional brews”. This merging of the old and the new is central to Wooha’s approach, and a quick search on the internet shows that the response of beer lovers has been intriguingly varied. Some have taken to their earthy brews like a horse to water while others seem unconvinced. With a response like that you know you’re doing something interesting – something unique which may take a while to fit in.

Still, in the relatively short time since the company was established in 2014 Wooha has received a lot of attention. Various newspapers have published articles on them and they are currently being helped by the Craft Beer Clan, an initiative set up to promote craft beers throughout the world. They also recently returned from a trip to France to attend Montbeliard’s Christmas Market. Every December the town chooses a country to honour and in 2015 it was Scotland. Demand for Wooha turned out to be so high that the company had to order over another shipment. This too ran out before the event was over and by the end of it they sold 6,000 bottles. We haven’t even mentioned the fact that Wooha had already been exported to Spain, Switzerland and the USA. A good year then. A very good year.

Who made it all possible though?

The people in question are from three different countries – Scotland, Germany and America. They are all women and are led by Heather McDonald, a scientist with a Master’s Degree in Finance and Investment Management. Considering this it’s easy to see why Wooha are succeeding both as a brewer and as a business. The seemingly disparate fields of finance, biology and beer have joined forces to create a unique and sustainable enterprise. Heather herself has said that “brewing made sense – I could use my knowledge of science and business to make a product I was really passionate about”. Though a number of journalists have chosen to highlight the team’s gender above all else it is the quality of their work which Heather would clearly like us to focus on. Wooha’s website makes no mention of their sex. What it does have is a fun interactive guide to their brewing process. We recommend checking it out.

So it’s 2016 now. Wooha is barely two years old and with an appearance at the BBC’s Good Food Show coming up in Harrogate the company’s future is looking very bright. They recently installed a new 20-barrel fermentation vessel and are looking to extend their workforce. What interests us the most of course is the announcement of their fifth beer, the Wee Heavy. It won’t be available until 2017 but even that has a silver lining: they pushed back its release because of increased trade with Spain.

Where they go from there is anyone’s guess but we’ll be watching their progress with great interest. To Wooha!

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