It was on a fragrant, clear Thursday evening that Natural Selection Brewing launched their new “Common Ancestor” beer at ox184 in Edinburgh’s Cowgate.

All your faithful correspondent knew going in to the event was that the beer was made as part of a collaboration between MSc students of Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University and Stewart Brewing (Steve Stewart himself being a brewing graduate of the university). This marks seventh year the Natural Selection / Stewart’s partnership has been running, with this year’s team being led by Patrick, Luis, Phillip and Mark.

DRINK, SURVIVE, EVOLVE. So read the T-shirts of the fledgling brewers behind Common Ancestor, who were on hand to let us taste their prized concoction as well as several other test brews. We sampled an interesting and varied selection, cryptically labelled in some mystic brewer’s code impenetrable to the layman. Beer “MB1” was followed by “MB2”, then “MB’s 3-6” – truly the language of evolution!

Brewed during a twelve week stint at Stewarts’ microbrewing facility, these test batches mainly explored variations on a rosemary theme – some added lemon or juniper, for instance, while others opted for New Zealand hops. Soon enough, we found ourselves thoroughly immersed in this strange new language – so immersed, in fact, that your correspondent’s plus one almost abandoned a treasured Tilley hat!

Sufficiently warmed up, tastebuds nicely toned, it was time to check out the main act. Based on the Californian Common style of beers from the late 1800s, the Common Ancestor is a 5.2% ABV hybrid of ale and lager that contains Dr Rudi and Chinook hops along with a dash of juniper.

It came across as a good Scottish Ale, reminiscent in taste and appearance to The Red MacGregor. Perhaps a little lacking in body for this correspondent’s tastes, it was nevertheless a pleasing and welcome experience. The future of Scottish brewing would appear to be in good hands.

Also worthy of comment was the Quadruple Aged Ancestor beer, a limited edition 8.9% ABV  matured in sherry casks. Savoury!

As for the evening itself, the £7.50 ticket price included the beer tasting session, a commemorative pint glass (with an initial filling of Common Ancestor) and a selection of bar snacks from ox’s kitchen, all of which was capped off splendidly with a well-stocked raffle that raised over £500 for Marie Curie. Here’s to launch number 8 in 2018!

For those of you wishing to quaff the Common Ancestor for yourself, a list of stockists can be found here. You better be quick though; at the time of writing 85% of the production has already been sold.