Absolute Escapes July 2 2018

Scotland may be famous for its whisky, and rightly so, but it is now positioning itself as a frontrunner in producing distinctive craft beer.

Brewing beer is not a new concept for the Scots. The relationship between Scots and beer dates back over 5,000 years, and the residents of the famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae in Orkney were said to be partial to ale made of barley! Our beer-producing ancestors had 280 breweries in 1850, but this number had dwindled to a mere 11 in 1970. The good news is that breweries are on the rise again, in fact – Scotland has just reached the highest number in a generation, so cheers to that!

Here are our favourite beers to sample on the Scottish craft beer trail …

Fyne Ales, Argyll

Fyne Ales prides itself on producing “an outstanding range of modern British beers made in a spectacular location” and so they should, winning copious awards since their inception, and just last year being named ‘beer destination of the year’ 2017. Based in Achadunan in Argyll, the Fyne Ales Brewery is surrounded by stunning Scottish landscape, which isn’t just breathtaking to look at, it is also incorporated into their brewing process – they use rain collected from a burn behind the brewery as their main water supply, soon to be turned into great beer.

They offer an in depth brewery tour which starts off with a half pint of beer – a great way to start a tour – followed by a detailed explanation of the brewing process. Light and golden ale to dark, deep ruby red stout, Fyne Ales produces it all, with a range of beers to accommodate all tastes. Great beers in a great location – what more could you want?


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Black Isle Brewery, Inverness

Based near the capital of the Scottish Highlands (and my hometown!) is the Black Isle Brewery. It is the UK’s premier organic brewery making great craft beer from organic malt and hops grown on farms without chemicals. Cheers to organic, chemical-free products!

Started by an unemployed beer lover – David Gladwin – Black Isle Brewery was founded on a love of beer and a mission to bring world-class beer grown on organic farms to a beer loving public, and he has achieved that, and more!

Black Isle offers great tours of the brewery in which you can chat to everyone involved in the beer-making process, from the brewers to the bottlers, cask and keggers. Most importantly, taste the Highland home-grown beers.

BrewDog, Ellon

BrewDog, established in 2007, is often described as the pioneer of great Scottish craft beer. In its infancy, BrewDog only had two employees, three if you count their beloved dog (which they do!), and by 2012 they had 750 employees, well, 751.

Not only was their brewery booming but they were brewing up a storm on the UK bar scene, running 46 bars across the country!

The BrewDog HQ, based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, offers ‘The DogWalk’ – a tour in which you explore the original brewhouse and also its new expansion, as well as a 90 minute interactive experience including four tasting opportunities.

Edinburgh Beer Factory, Edinburgh

Inspired by Edinburgh’s position as the brewing capital of Britain in the 19th century, Edinburgh Beer Factory have set out on a mission to restore it back to its rightful position as a world-class centre of brewing.

Founded in 2015, the family-run brewery was inspired by Eduardo Paolozzi. Born in Edinburgh to Italian parents, Paolozzi was one of the founding fathers of Pop Art and was known for “combining contrasting ideas and ordinary objects to create something special – the sublime in the everyday”. The Edinburgh Beer Factory has built upon this inspiration, creating something a little different, but a thing of beauty nonetheless.

Winner of three awards at the World Beer Awards, the Edinburgh Beer Factory offers brewery tours so that everyone can come and experience the inventiveness and uniqueness of their beers.


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Innis & Gunn, Edinburgh

Innis & Gunn, also based in Edinburgh, produces one of Scotland’s top exported beers, and is now the most popular British bottled beer in Canada. A beer discovered ‘by accident’ when founder and Master Brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp was asked to “create a beer to mature in bourbon barrels which would impart a sweet, malty flavour. This beer would then be thrown out, and the barrels would go on to age spirits”. But Dougal thought that the beer might be improving while in the barrel and he was right. A happy accident if ever I saw one!

Unfortunately, Innis & Gunn don’t host brewery tours just yet, but not to worry as they have four bars – Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews – in which their award-winning beers are paired up with tasty treats.

Moulin Brewery, Pitlochry

A smaller and lesser-known brewery, Moulin Brewery is nestled at the foot of Ben Vrackie close to the small highland town of Pitlochry. First opened in 1995, Moulin was one of Scotland’s first microbreweries and is therefore rich in Scottish history. Its opening coordinated with the pub’s 300th anniversary – what a way to celebrate.

Moulin offers free brewery tours and, more importantly, tastings are available in the Moulin Inn. Here you can try out their four distinct ales, one of which is called Braveheart – which critics rate much more favourably than the film!


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Stewart Brewery, Loanhead, near Edinburgh

Founded in 2004 by Steve and Jo Stewart. Stewart Brewery is Edinburgh’s local, independent brewery. They combine new and innovative methods while still encompassing Scotland’s rich brewing history, leading to Stewart Brewery winning several awards at the 2017 Scottish Beer Awards.

They welcome ‘self-proclaimed beer geeks to eager beer novices’ to their custom-built brewery. Here you can take an in-depth tour of the brewery, brew your own beer and – if you want to just get straight down to business – take the direct route to their Tap Rooms to try their famous craft beer.

And if by chance there is a sunny day in Scotland – you can enjoy your beer outside in their beer garden!

Arran Brewery, Isle of Arran

Nestling in between the mountains on the stunning Isle of Arran – the Arran Brewery sits in a most dramatic location. Here, they combine traditional brewing methods using the island’s unique water source and first-class ingredients to create quality craft beer.

The Brewery offers tours where you can watch the brewers in action and learn all there is to know about their brewing process. The tour finishes off with a tutored tasting session.

The Isle of Arran is not only home to a great brewery but it has much to offer those seeking adventure, such as sea kayaking, paragliding, climbing, and Goatfell – the island’s highest mountain.


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Cairngorm Brewery, Aviemore

Established in 2001, the award-winning Cairngorm Brewery is situated in Aviemore, the gateway to the Highlands. The brewery uses crystal clear mountain water to create traditional Scottish recipes.

The award-winning brewery offers tours and tastings of their beers including their Black Gold, WildCat and Stag! – Scottish through and through!

There is an abundance of things to do in and around the adventure hot spot of Aviemore; great walks and hikes, Landmark Forest Adventure Park, Cairngorm Mountain railway, or zip lining.


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Williams Bros Brewing Co, Alloa

Located in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, this “brotherhood of brewers” have blended Scottish tradition with modern themes to create an outstanding mix of historical and contemporary recipes now sold worldwide.

A great story of tradition and determination created their now famous ‘Froach’ Heather Ale, when one day in 1988 a woman entered the family owned business in the ‘GlenBrew’ homebrew shop with the aim to recreate a recipe that had been handed down to her. Following some experimentation with blends, the recipe was soon perfected, and the first batch quickly sold out.

In 2004, the company became Williams Bros Brewing Co. and have since added over 25 new innovative brews, while still keeping the traditional recipes very much at the forefront. Williams Bros don’t currently offer brewery tours, but their fine beers are available in many pubs around Scotland and online to enjoy all across the world.

So whether you’re after a pale ale or a dark lager, Scotland has it covered for a beer to quench your thirst.

Fern Urquhart

P.S. How about combining Scotland’s craft beer with incredible history, fabulous food, and some of the finest scenery on the planet? Absolute Escapes offer award-winning self-drive holidays in Scotland. Please send us an enquiry if we can help you plan an unforgettable trip to our country.

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