Since it's the closest brewery to us, I thought it would be rude not to pop into The Cuillin Brewery located at The Sligachan Hotel. Nestled at the foot of he Cuillin mountain range, some interesting beers are being produced.
I went along to speak to Stewart Patience, the brewer and Cameron his right hand man to check out what's going on in person.When I arrived (greeted with a coffee), they were in the process of brewing. The smells were amazing.
I asked Stewart how he got into brewing.I actually did a course in distilling and was very interested in gin. I was working for Stirling Gin and was on Skye at a food and drink festival. I met my partner Rachael while at the festival as she was on the stall for The Cuillin Brewery. Eventually the brewer who was here was retiring so they needed a new brewer and I was asked. Obviously I had never done any brewing before, so I was terrified. I really enjoy science and learning so I was constantly reading about beer production, making and the science behind everything etc. I have to say that the craft beer community is very helpful. I was able to throw loads of questions at brewers and they are more than happy to help. In my experience I've found that brewers have followed up and asked how we have gotten on with the problems we had faced.
Would you be able to talk through your range of beer?
The beers that the brewery have produced since the beginning, we continue to produce. There are four beers in our core range: Eagle Ale, Pinnacle, Blackhouse, & Old Bridge. These are traditional beers that work very well on cask and are usually available in Seumas' bar which is beside the brewery. Eagle Ale is a golden ale, Blackhouse is a mild dark style beer, Old bridge is kind of a bitter style beer and Pinnacle is a hoppy, slightly bitter amber ale.
Recently we have decided to branch out and do some different beers that are collaborations with local businesses.
We were approached by a company who asked us to produce a beer which could be made from sustainable ingredients so we approached Skye Seaweed to make a beer with this. Let's face it, Skye is surrounded by seaweed so it made sense to use what is on our doorstep. With it, we have produced a seaweed IPA. Lovely bitterness, slight saltiness, but very refreshing.
Next we approached The Skye Salt company and came up with a sea salt & rhubarb sour. The recipe has been tweaked slightly since it was first made, the rhubarb is now stewed first which gives a deeper and richer flavour. Tangy, with a slight saltiness to balance it out.
Thirdly, we love coffee and are friendly with the folks at Birch, which is a brilliant coffee shop in Portree. They have a fantastic range of coffee beans, artisan teas and home baking. We use special coffee beans given to us by Birch and we've produced a coffee milk stout.
Finally, we used a whisky cask from our friends at Raasay Distillery and created a barrel aged stout called Over The Sea to Skye. Again this was a recipe that we played with the second time around. The flavour was a lot more rounded the second time.
With regards to the brewery, what challenges do you face or have you faced?
We don't have any bottling or canning facilities on site, as there isn't much space, so this is a challenge! We have to transfer our beer with a pipe through the window into the container. We get our beer bottled in Inverness and canned in Glasgow, so we have to transport the beer first and wait for it to come back to us. We have our beer in bottle, can and cask form in our bar next door so sometimes, although we make the beer here, it isn't always there. If there was room to do on site bottling/canning there would be no problems. Well maybe not!
What are the ambitions of both yourself or the brewery?
I mean an ambition of mine, not necessarily something that will become reality, is to produce a whisky. Nothing massive scale but I love the idea of making something and playing about with it for fun to begin with. I love playing with different ingredients and that is a world with loads of flavours. As for the brewery, we still continue to make limited release beers, working with local businesses wherever possible.