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.
Malt plays a big part in this week’s beer. Three different varieties are used within Skye Red to create a deep colour and smooth nuttiness. The rich, malty backbone is balanced by Challenger and Fuggle hops, adding freshness and a short bitter finish.
This week’s beer was Skye’s first, and flagship brew. We can certainly see why it’s stood the test of time.