Daniel Rutherford (1749 – 1819) was a Scottish chemist, physician and botanist, who was famous for his discovery of nitrogen gas… as readers will know, nitrogen can be used as a replacement, or in combination with, carbon dioxide to pressurise kegs of beer. Ernest Rutherford (1871 – 1937, New Zealand-born, to a Scottish farming father and an English mother), on the other hand, did little for the beer world, but he did receive the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1908, having discovered and named the atomic nucleus, the proton, as well as both the alpha and beta particles (to mention a few of his achievements). I recall that we had a Rutherford lab at our school – perhaps named after both famous scientists – but there is no doubt that this is where I first took an interest in beer. The name Rutherford is synonymous with greatness. And so history continues…
Rutherfords Micropub, Scotland’s first micropub that opened three months ago, is the continuation of a trend that started in 2012 that mainly took advantage of two momentous changes in the UK: (1) the closures of pubs around our small island at the staggering rate of 31 per week currently; and (2) the general failure of the retail industry in the High Street, as shoppers moved out of town to large retail parks, with the consequence that 13% High Street retail outlets now stand empty. Along came http://micropubassociation.co.uk with their simple value statement: “A Micropub is a small freehouse which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks.” The inside has a designer, welcoming feel to it and the Rutherfolk don’t all stop talking when you (the stranger) walks in:
I sauntered up to the barkeeper (who happened also to be the proprietor) and we talked about his experience to date – Simon’s had some great publicity, with ITV expected the next day… indeed, a couple of weeks ago a famous Scottish rugby full-back and captain popped in with 25 friends, who consumed some 87 gins in two and a half hours – there’s nothing to say they were obliged to drink real ale! When I introduced BOTF, I told him my first name, and, shockingly, he guessed my last name – it turned out that we had been in the same class some 35 years ago at school! It took me a while (my memory is fading after a lifetime of beer) but I recalled exactly who he was. We soon got on to talking about beer… two notable ones were “Dark Horse” (a smokey, deep copper ale) by the ‘Born In The Borders’ brewery, and “Golden Plover” (a hoppy, golden ale) by ‘Allendale’ brewery. A paddle is available for those drivers among you that need to sample his full range. Then I asked him about the unusual microscope on the bar, and his collection of fine gins & whisky.
Apparently, the microscope had nothing to do with his erstwhile, chemistry-famous surname – personally, I think it’s something he should try to weave into the heritage of the establishment – but he had been so taken with the apparatus that he persuaded the last owner to part with it… it dispenses a gin, I’m led to believe. What is interesting in the Scottish alcohol world is the synergy between the beer and whisky manufacturing industry, both borrowing each other’s spent barrels to bring about great new flavours to their own beverages. I’m sure it’s all down to their harmonious chemistry… it’s strange that I don’t get a hang-over when I mix the two. On my way back to my car in the centre of Kelso, ready for my 350-mile long drive home, I briefly popped in to see Paul in Beercraft – also an establishment that has taken advantage of an empty retail outlet just five doors from Rutherfords – who plied me with a small stock of Tempest Brewery beers to sample when I got home.
Ah… homeward bound. As I leave the perfectly amazing beauty of the Scottish Borders, I am welcomed back into England…. low mist and an appropriately carved menhir on the border awaits me The chemistry has gone.