Inveralmond Brewery shows all the signs of a genuinely stand-alone venture - it even produces a beer called Independence, for Pete's sake. But what's the story behind the glory? The Indie Breweries finds out...
1997 wasn't the best year globally. Mother Teresa died. Tony Blair was elected. But a light shone down this tunnel of gloom in the form of a new brewery opening - the most radiant Inveralmond.
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Go and write a poem about it, why don't you. Verbose introductions aside, Inveralmond is undeniably a pretty cool brewery.
Even the name is nice. I'm getting visions of old-fashioned mash tuns next to a river containing a family of otters who enjoy combing each others' backs with dried reeds.
You're not far wrong. Inveralmond Brewery, with its custom-built brewhouse, is located very near - yes, you guessed it - the River Almond, in (kind of) rural Perthshire.
Well, the brewery is on the outskirts of industrial estate. But one that's just a stone's throw from properly beautiful Scottish countryside, the kind you'd seen on vintage travel posters from 1984 alongside a twee phrase written in nostalgic typeface. And when we say a stone's throw, of course we mean about two clicks along on Google Maps. It is 2014, after all.
Sounds a bit creepy next to the woods. Like the Blair (Atholl) Witch Project?
Au contraire. Inveralmond Brewery maximises on its rural location by interacting with its environment, rather than working against it. For example, the brewery uses world-renowned Perthshire water in its malts which means there's no impurities or minerals to extract. Last year the brewery also had solar panels fitted on to its roofs so that the hours of Scottish sunlight (you know, all four of them a year) could be channelled into energy. And as far as we know (we've done a comprehensive search of the area with Street View), there are no ruins in the nearby woods containing weird bundles of sticks and cloth.
Solar panels and a custom-built brewhouse - sounds expensive. Who's picking up the bill?
The brewery was founded by present owner, MD and big cheese Fergus Clark. Prior to Inveralmond, Clark had worked for larger breweries for ten years and studied brewing at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt Uni. Clark funded the brewery with his own capital, and now, 18 years later, it employs 19 staff throughout distribution, production, and commercial activity. One of those 19 is Ken.
I've heard that Ken's beer career didn't start off too well...
Head brewer Ken made his first home-brew when he was 16 in his airing cupboard, to disastrous effect. Undeterred, he went to university to study biochemistry which would inform his later career in brewing. Aside from beer, Ken's an Atholl Highlander (otherwise known as the Duke of Atholl's private army), bakes a mean loaf of soda bread and speaks five languages. As you do.
The Perthshire polyglot, eh. It looks like the brewery in general is a fan of lovely words, judging by its beer names.
Absolutely. First up is the Thrappledouser. Thrapple, we understand, is the Scots word for throat, which hints at the thirst quenching qualities of this copper-coloured ale. Then there's Lia Fail, which sounds like a YouTube phenomenon but is actually Gaelic for Stone of Destiny. Other additions to the portfolio are Sunburst (the only Czech-style pilsner brewed in Scotland) and Santa's Swallie - a festive brew with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. The Swallie is brewed from Fuggles - no, not a new dog breed, but a kind of hop. Another seasonal brew is the Inkie Pinkie which is available during the summer months and tastes light and fruity.
And as well as sounding good, they must taste good, too. Which awards have they won, again?
Inveralmond's signature golden ale, Ossian, has scooped Champion Beer of Scotland and Champion Golden Ale of Scotland, while Lia Fail also won gold at the SIBA craft beer competitions in craft keg and bottle, and was runner up in the Champion Beer of Britain competition in 2007. Later this year, new additions to Inveralmond's The Inspiration Series will arrive as the business continues to expand its output. The range is a fusion of Scottish and world beer styles, but will it contain more award-winners? Most likely. There's a world of hop-ortunities for Inveralmond Brewery (sorry...).
Inveralmond Brewery, 22 Inveralmond Place, Perth, PH1 3TS @InveralmondBeer