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“My dad was told he had maybe five-to-ten good years left after his diagnosis” remembers Mungo, son of Jonny and Tuggy Delap, the founders of Fyne Ales.
“He and my mum had always planned to retire to the glen to do something with the land, his illness just expedited the plan – his attitude was that if he only had ten years left, why spend them working for someone else when he could spend them working for himself to build something to leave behind.”
Jonny and Tuggy moved back into the Glen Fyne farmhouse in 2000 and set to work finding a new use for the farm’s historic buildings. Their initial plan was to rent out the old dairy barn to a man looking to set up a smokehouse, but this fell through. However, a permit for food production had been approved and so starts the Fyne Ales journey. “The boys and I were in the house, having a pint in front of the fire before Sunday lunch, debating what to do with the barn, and I suggested we could open a brewery,” remembers Tuggy. “Their response was ‘we might as well humour her’, but the idea took root and that’s where it started. We spent a lot of time researching breweries down in England, and building relationships with potential customers in Scotland, talking to them about what we were planning to do – some told us we were completely mad, others just told us we were nuts, but lots of them also said they’d be willing to give our beers a go if we went ahead with it – so we did.”
“Who gets diagnosed with something like Parkinson’s and decides it’s a good time to start a new business?” Mungo’s reaction to the project echoed many others at the beginning. “But, they threw themselves into it wholehearted from day one – Jamie and I used to laugh and say that we didn’t know if it was killing dad or curing him, but it gave him a purpose, it gave him life back.”
The first commercial brew was on St Andrew’s Day 2001. Just nine months later they were awarded the Scottish regional gold award from SIBA for two of their beers and have continued to pick up gongs right, left and centre since then.
Still based on the same working farm in Achadunan at the head of Loch Fyne (from which the brewery gets its name), brewing takes place in a disused milking parlour with water drawn from a nearby burn. It’s an incredible setting for FyneFest; a wonderful beer, food and music festival which has been running since 2010.
Jonny Delap sadly passed away the same year as that first festival. Today, Jonny and Tuggy’s other son, Jamie holds the reins at the brewery which has a wonderful range of core session beers including Jarl, Maverick, Highlander and Avalanche. These are complemented by some stunning, more ground-breaking one-off brews and collaborations with some of the best names in the brewing world.
A tribute to Loch Fyne's famous fictional ship, Vital Spark is a rich dark ale that fuses two worlds; a traditional rich, dark malt base charged with new world Amarillo and Cascade hops.
Rich, dark caramel malt flavours are lifted by notes of hedgerow fruits and a short, refreshing finish.
* A massive thank you to the Fyne Ales team for their help with the write-up which includes an extract from this wonderful blog post, Remembering Jonny.