Whilst staying on the West Coast of Scotland we were within 40 minutes drive of one of Scotland's fynest breweries, winner of Champion Beer of Scotland last year with their Jarl pale ale, I am of course talking about Fyne ales. Of course I had to visit (well it would have been rude not to!), have a nose about and purchase some tasty beers for home supping.
On arrival we were greeted by a deserted car-park, but some one discerning was obviously at work as Against Me's "I Still Love You Julie" was blaring out. It turns out that everyone was hard at work brewing or building the new bar on the back of their shop, which has been temporarily re-homed in an adjacent barn. Its good to see that other local producer's wares are available to buy alongside the beers.
Head brewer Will kindly found time to chat to me and give me an impromptu tour, whilst tending to the second "brew" of the day, a caustic deep-clean done weekly. There's certainly no slacking here with 10 brews each 10bbl a week. As you would expect, the majority of these are given over to flagship beers Jarl and Avalanche, with 4 20bbl filled with the golden stuff on my visit. There was plenty of other stuff on the go though, and I was treated to the new Davaar blonde IPA. Pours a hazy amber with rich citrus fruit and resin nose. Quite a citric bitterness in the mouth with good malt bill to balance. This is one of a pair, the other being black (both reviewed here by The Beercast). Will hopes to showcase how colour can lead to false conceptions of how a beer may taste.The next pair in the series will be golden and red session strength beers. Will came up with the idea after being asked to arrange a tour for a blindness charity and hit upon comparative tastings as a great way to show off what a brewery can do.
Prior to Fyne, Will worked at Oakham, but he's been up here for 6 years now. The brewery is fairly isolated and most of the staff live on the estate. "I live in the village, so at least there's a pub!" Its pretty quiet from November until Easter, which allows for catching up on bottle stocks and experimental brews. If fermenter space allows Will wants to produce a double IPA later this year and also plans to bottle his Sublime stout in a swing-top 750ml bottle (it would have been brewed that week but there were no oats available!) All bottling is done using the krausening process, a small amount of active beer (replete with yeast) is used to give good condition in the bottle. Certainly one to watch for!
The brewery holds an annual festival of beer and music, which will be held from the 1st to 4th June this year. It sounds like a great event with a good line-up of beers planned. Thank you will for taking the time to show me around, I'd certainly hope to return in the not too distant future and try out the new bar!
So; on to the beers. I got five in total, each at a very reasonable £2.25.
Lowest ABV up first and one I am familiar with. Lime and mango nose. Pale blonde. Quite grapefruity up front, mango in behind. Brief sweet finish.
Maverick is Vanilla and chocolate yoghurt on the nose of this brown bitter. Fluffywhite head with flavours of red berries and toffee in the finish but very sweet.
Hurricane Jack is a stronger Jarl. Similar pale blonde as Jarl with dry citrus aroma. Maltier than Jarl with orangey hops, a sharper finish and gentle carbonation.
Vital Spark is a 4.4% version of Maverick Dark. Ruby with fluffy whitehead, sweet caramel, apples and rasins on the nose. Tastes of a caramel flavoured lattewith a gentle bitterness to finish.
My final beer was Holly Daze, 5% ABV and released for Christmas. Pours amber with a fluffy white head, gentle sweet nose and fruity malt flavours. Warming finish with a hint of spicy hops.
Hope to get a chance to try some of the others over the next year.