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Indie brewery profile: Black Isle Brewery

In a new series, we take a closer look at new and established independent breweries currently making waves in the Scottish beer-making scene.

Black Isle Brewery (and the brewery dog, Tusker)
Black Isle Brewery (and the brewery dog, Tusker)

Another week, another indie brewery profile. Change the record...

Ah, but this one's different. Black Isle Brewery is not only producing quality beer from a spot near the Highland village of Munlochy - it's producing organic beer.

Go on.

The brewery was created in 1995 by David Gladwin, whose background in his family's wine business stood him in good stead to diversify ever so slightly and swap grapes for hops. With the help of a grant from the Highland Development Agency and a sizable overdraft from Bank of Scotland (plus his own capital), Gladwin opened Black Isle Brewery, which was - and still is - committed to promoting non-intensive agriculture and biodiversity through pints of the good stuff. And also because, in Gladwin's own words, he loves beer.

A man after my own heart. But big words aside - what are the beers like?

Well, there are eight in the core range. Blonde, Yellowhammer, Goldeneye, Red Kite, Porter, Export Scotch Ale, Pollinator Heather Honey Beer and Hibernator Oatmeal Stout.

Sure those last two aren't celebrity baby names? Or Terminator's obscure, more upbeat siblings?

Positive. They range from the continental-style Blonde, which has a light biscuit palate and a grassy aroma, to Porter and Hibernator Oatmeal Stout, which has notes of hedgerow fruits, espresso and liquorice.

Black Isle Brewery also does small batch releases throughout the year. The latest is Pluscarden Abbey Blonde brewed in association with the Benedictine monks from Pluscarden Abbey in Morayshire. It contains banana and vanilla nose notes and is - the brewery claims - the only one of its kind in Scotland. 

Beer meets Buckfast. The world is complete. And they're all organic, you say?

Absolutely.  Black Isle Brewery is set among 120 acres of organic farmland, and engages completely with its environment. It grows its own barley for the beers, and uses its own water, which is taken from the farm's own source deep below the brewery itself. David Gladwin says: "Some people ask why 'organic?' They say we need intensive agriculture to feed the world. Yet I read that three out of four men are overweight, and research tells us that 30% of the weekly shop is thrown away. You wouldn't throw away 30% of your pint, so why food? Eat less, eat better. Save the planet - drink organic!"

Catchy! But why is there a picture of a cow in the gallery?

That's Molly. Molly's the Black Isle Brewery's house cow. She's fed with the spent grains from the brewing process, ensuring nothing is wasted and that she's able to carry on providing her daily 20 pints of creamy milk. The Black Isle brewers take it in their crack-of-dawn coffees.

Enough on the m-word. Talk of non-alcoholic beverages makes me feel funny...

In that case, let's move on to awards. Black Isle Brewery has achieved recognition from the Organic Food Awards, won a SIBA Champion Beer of Scotland prize, and also one from the Southampton beer festival in 2009. As if that wasn't enough, the brewery also hosts what must be the most gloriously-titled beer festival in the land - JOCKTOBERFEST. 

So good it merits capital letters, eh?

Sorry. Couldn't hold it in. Jocktoberfest (better?) will celebrate its fourth anniversary in September with a weekend of beers, bands and bratwurst, plus camping on the farm and some special bottlings to mark the occasion. This year, Black Isle has gone with a Wild West theme held in the most beautiful of locations. You don't want to miss it.

Black Isle Brewery, Black Isle, IV8 8NZ @BlackIsleBeer

Additional Images: 

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