This past July of 2018, I was fortunate enough to travel to Scotland with Benita and The Urchins for our annual summer vacation. After spending a day or two knocking around Edinburgh, we headed out on a Hairy Coo tour to the Highlands (Benita is a huge fan of the Outlander series on Starz, so a trip to the Highlands was mandatory. Or maybe she was just hoping that her Sam Heughan fandom would lead to her trading me in for a younger and studly-er model). Whilst on the way to said Highlands, the bus took us over to the Isle of Sky for a brief trip around the town and a stop at the Isle of Skye Brewing Company (sadly, we weren’t there long enough to visit the Talisker Distillery) .
The Isle of Sky Brewing Company began as the offshoot of a lament from a number of locals who felt that there was a lack of quality beer on Skye. This grousing turned into action, and 25 years later, the brewery produces a run of 12 beers (mostly ales with a lager thrown in) and has won 60 awards for their craftsmanship.
Once there, our driver took us inside and began to pour us some beer. Apparently, our driver has been there so often that the brewery just lets him conduct the tasting on his own. As he poured our first beer (the Skye Gold), he asked two very important questions:
- Are there any licensed bus drivers on the tour? This question elicited a few gasps from the tour goers. I guess some people can’t take a joke.
- He then asked our rather geographically diverse group how to say “Cheers” in their native languages.
While the answer to the first question was a resounding “No!”, the second question was answered much more graciously. From what I could gather, the breakdown from the group by country of origin was as follows (my apologies for any phonetic mispronunciations):
- Ireland & Scotland: Sláinte
- Russia: Na zdorovie
- England: Cin-cin
- Finland: Pohjanmaan kautta (bottoms up)
- New Zealand: Cheers
While at the brewery, we had the opportunity to try three beers. As luck would have it, I had a pen and paper handy, so I decided to take some notes and review each beer. Here’s what I thought of them…
Our first beer was the Skye Gold, a golden ale brewed with porridge oats. Here is what the Isle of Skye Brewing has to say about the Skye Gold…
The taste of grain has always been a vital part of the Scottish brewing tradition. The result is an ale with the flavour of gentle hops, a creamy head and just the right amount of bitterness.
And here are my impressions…
- ABV: 4.3%
- Appearance: Light golden blond ale light foam
- Aroma: A bit malty & a little hops.
- Taste: Creamy, nice flavor. To Benita, it was a little too beer-y.
Next up was the Skye Red, as the name suggests, this is a red ale and was the first beer that was brewed and uses the same formula today. Here is what the Isle of Skye Brewing has to say about the Skye Red…
Malted barley is a vital part of the Scottish brewing tradition. We use three different varieties to create the deep colour and smooth nuttiness; each grain is milled right here in our brewery, giving us complete control over flavour and freshness. Then we balance this rich brew with just the right amount of Challenger and Fuggle hops.
Here’s what I thought of it…
- ABV: 4.2%
- Appearance: Dark red with minimal lacing.
- Aroma: Malty with stone fruits & raisins.
- Taste: Fruity, like an early barley wine. Benita likes it better as it had more depth & was a little sweeter than the Gold.
For our third beer of the trip, we had a chance to sample the Skye Tarasgeir (Tarasgeir is the Gaelic name for a “Peat Iron”, the tool that’s used for cutting Peat), an ale made with peat-smoked malt. Here is what the Isle of Skye Brewing has to say about the Skye Tarasgier…
Tarasgeir is brewed using peat-smoked malt from the Ardmore Distillery, imparting a delicate smoky aroma and wonderful burnt peat flavour to this unique craft beer, which lingers well into the aftertaste.
And now for my impressions…
- ABV: 4%
- Appearance: About the same color as the Red.
- Aroma: Smells like a lightly peated beer. Not as smoky or pungent as a rauchbier.
- Taste: Like drinking a smoked sausage (me) or bacon (Benita). Very interesting. We were told you’d love it or hate it as it had a Vegemite quality. And, some people were quite put out by it. I’d say it is certainly worth a try.
Since our excursion to the Isle of Skye was probably a once in a lifetime kind of trip, I was very pleased that we took full advantage of the situation and threw in a beer tasting.
I love the Scottish countryside.
I love this Brewery’s backstory of a group of teachers grousing and then, putting talk that into action, opening a brewery.
I love the resourcefulness of the Scots; using Skye’s own yeast in all of their beers; borrowing smoked malt from Ardmore; wasting nothing.
I just wish I loved the beers a little more. While all three beers were well-crafted and certainly worth a try, nothing wowed me.
Maybe it was the relatively low ABV. Maybe it was just the style of the beers (standard ales aren’t usually earth shattering). As a last impression I would say that while I wouldn’t necessarily seek out any of their beers, I wouldn’t hesitate to order one if it was available on tap.
Oh, and here is a hairy coo…