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Tarasgeir, Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye takes its name from the old Norse ‘sky-a’, meaning ‘cloud island’, a Viking reference to the often-mist-enshrouded Cuillin Hills that dominate the centre of Scotland’s second largest island.

The earliest evidence of people on Skye, however, is 3,000 years before the Vikings rocked up. The remnants of burial cairns from 3500BC, still visible today, are said to be protected by powerful ghosts. Scandinavian, English and Scottish invaders have all battled for, and left their mark on the island, over the subsequent centuries.

Despite having such a colourful history, something that hadn’t arrived at, or indeed left the island by 1992 was decent beer. One evening that year, some schoolteacher friends met in a local pub and the conversation turned to the lack of good beer on Skye.

“Someone jokingly suggested that setting up a brewery would be the only way to remedy the situation. At the time there were just six small independent breweries in Scotland – and none on Skye. Three years later, we were finally ready to brew our first ale – Red Cuillin. It was such a success, we still brew it to the same recipe today”, explains Kenny Webster, Managing Director at Isle of Skye Brewing.

Based in Uig, at the north end of the island, the brewery is surrounded by velvet moors, jagged mountains, sparkling lochs and towering sea cliffs. It’s understandable that many of their beers are inspired by the history and scenery of the island.

“All our staff are local, water is from the Fairy Glen and our malt is sourced from the Highlands which is fully traceable to local farmers”, Kenny tells us proudly.

Another thing you’ll find plenty of around these parts are peat bogs. This week’s beer, Tarasgeir, is named after the peat cutting tool that enables peat to be cut, lifted & thrown in one movement. The beer is brewed using peat-smoked malt from the Ardmore Distillery, imparting a delicate smoky aroma and wonderful subtle burnt peat flavour, which lingers well into the aftertaste.

Plans are in the works for a visitor centre and tasting room at the brewery, to welcome the invasion of tourists to the island each summer, but until you get a chance to visit, you’ll just have to enjoy the Isle of Skye’s greatest export in the comfort of your own home.

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