Black Isle Brewery, Red Kite
Black Isle Brewery is tucked away amongst a huddle of cow sheds and barns, which themselves are set in 130 acres of farmland in the Scottish Highlands, a few miles outside Inverness.
“We are a link between the traditions of our surroundings and the future of our industry” says David Gladwin, the chap who converted one of those cow sheds in to a small brewery back in 1998. "We started off brewing in a bucket in a shed, and basically the bucket has just got bigger" he explains a bit too modestly.
Lots of brewers talk about the importance of good quality, natural and fresh ingredients. Few take matters in to their own hands by growing their own barley and sinking their own 300ft borehole for water.
The Black Isle is famous for the quality of its malting barley and it was here on our farm, at Allangrange (translated from the Gaelic as "a fertile field of corn"), that Sir Roderick Mackenzie recorded, in the Statistical Account of 1790, that the land was first cultivated for growing barley because it was found to be of "superior quality for the brewer and distiller."
The farm even has its own brewery house cow, called Molly, who eats the malt from the brewery mash tun in return for 20 pints of milk every day.
Whilst beers like Yellowhammer (the first beer BeerBods ever featured) and their mighty fine Black Isle Porter are earning themselves a solid reputation down South, there aren’t many places North of Inverness for the brewery to ship to. Unless you pop over the North sea that is. The fine folk of Norway, Sweden and Finland have embraced not just the quality of these beers, but also the way in which they have been made. In 2008 the brewery took things to the next level by starting construction on a new barrel plant to meet growing demand, which continues to this day.
Red Kite is unsurprisingly one of the beers the Scandinavians want quite a lot of. "As the name suggests, this beer lifts the spirits by infusing classic British hops with a malty backbone to create a medium bodied thirst quencher. It's the perfect year-round beer. Refreshing in summer and satisfying in winter" David explains, this time less modestly. And who can blame him. We love a good amber ale at BeerBods HQ and this one is just the ticket. Pouring a beautiful rusty red it's brewed using Maris Otter pale and crystal malts with Challenger hops for bittering and a late addition of Styrian Goldings. Hearty and warming with deep nutty malt character and heather honey sweetness, but then a great balance of cutting citrus and juicy orange flavours keeping this beer light enough to enjoy cold on warmer months.
It’s hard not to believe that the quality of the beer Black Isle has a lot to do with its incredible setting. It would be nice to think we can keep more of that beer coming South.