Scotland's Best Brews
Scotland is globally renowned for its whisky; we export millions of pounds worth every year and the distilleries and festivals draw thousands of visitors. In parallel to the growth of the whisky industry there has been a resurgence in the craft of brewing and now dozens of small batch beers and ales are being produced all over the country. An integral part of any holiday is the sampling of the local produce, so here are a few ideas for some holiday ales and the best places to sample them.
The Cromarty Brewery on the Black Isle specialises in un-filtered, un-pasteurised ales flavoured with local ingredients for a unique flavour. In addition to their classic brews available in local bars such as The Royal Hotel in Cromarty they bottle specialty beers featuring locally grown raspberries and foraged pine cones. Sandpiper House is easy walking distance so go on, indulge.
The Isle of Skye is blessed with two quality breweries. Based in Sligachan, the waters for making Cuillin ales are drawn from the river whose source is just above Coire a Bhasteir on the Cuillin ridge. These peaty waters give the various beers their distinctive flavour and colouring. The Isle of Skye Brewery is based in Uig and specialises in using local ingredients such as Skye blueberries for a truly distinctive finish. The best real ale pub to sample these is the Old Inn at Carbost. This Camra approved establishment has amazing views of the mountains and is only a few miles from the luxury cottage of Saltwinds. Mountains, real ale and luxury – now doesn’t that sound like the perfect day out.
The Black Isle is home to one of the UK’s premier organic breweries and is one of the few where you can take a guided tour. The tour takes you through the entire process of turning a grain of malted barley into beer and finishes with a taste of the final product. Beers, seasonal specials, local produce and brewery merchandise are available in the shop. From there it is only a five minute drive to Cotterton where you can unload your boot and relax with a brew and a barbecue in the massive garden. For a change of pace then visit in September for Jocktoberfest when the Brewery transforms for its annual festival of food, beer and music. It’s usually a sell out so be sure to book early.
The Camra award winning Cobbles Inn right in the centre of Kelso in the borders is one pub it’s definitely worth travelling to get to. This is the Brewery tap for the nearby Tempest Brewing Co and they have a wide range of the finest locally produced traditional ales, stouts and porters. Gateshaw House is less than 10 miles away, so perfectly convenient to slip away for some swift lunchtime refreshment.
Aviemore has no end of outdoor attractions, but the rare occasions where weather prevents you from playing should be relished as it’s an opportunity to take advantage of some of the areas alternative attractions. The Cairngorm Brewery has recently expanded its operations and now offers tasting tours as well as merchandise and of course beer. This is great for sampling what is on offer but to truly enjoy your rainy day beer then head to the Old Bridge Inn. Close to the centre and only a short mountain bike ride from Thyme Cottage this traditional pub has a log fire and live music at weekends. More rainy days please.
Photo Credit: Cromarty Brewery