As we write this blog, Bob and I are sharing the last bottle of beer we brought home from our last little road trip. It's an oatmeal stout called the Hibernator -- a dark and chewy meal of a beer and it's perfect for this quiet, rainy day.
While we were in the West Highlands last week we went to the Tallisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye. The kids weren't excited abut it. So we were suprised when Ella said, "What I want to do is go to a place that makes beer!" (Bob swears he didn't coach her). The next morning we found a brochure at our B&B for the organic Black Isle Brewery, just a few minutes away. (Bob swears he didn't plant it there). Well, Eleanor - anything for you -- this is what homeschooling is all about!
We pulled up a little late in the day to a small barn-ish building at the end of a dirt road about fifteen minutes out of Inverness. The sliding doors were open, and we called in to see if anyone was there. Out walked a kid, wiping his hands on a towel.
"I can show you round. The brewing's done for the day." He said. " I've been at it since four this morning, and you've just missed the boys bottling in the back, but come on in!"
Andrew is 24. He is the head brewer at the small organic, Black Isle Brewery.
Andrew found his calling early! He loves it, he's passionate about it (in a quiet, Scottish kind of way), and happily, he's really good at it.
He took us around the small brewery and explained the brewing process to us. The first thing he showed the kids was the organic hops and barley. He says he's always looking for organic hops, but, "Barley I can get all day long. The farmer down the road grows it for us," he said, pointing to the fields surrounding us.
Black Isle brews several different kinds of beer: a variety ales, a blonde, porter, wheat, bitter, and seasonal beers as well -- all are made from organic ingredients. Everything is done by hand. They label the beer with a hand-cranked labeler. Andrew's first job there as a teenager was putting bottle caps on beers, one at a time, with a capper mounted to the table. Now he's tied to the place, and doesn't seem to mind. He brews six days a week, from four in the morning on, and he usually shuts down at six at night. Does he take holidays, we ask?
In the shop we talk more. Black Isle is doing well. They regularly sell everything they can make, and have requests for more. The owner, David Gladwin, has just started construction on a bigger brewery down the road. It'll have a much larger capacity than this one we're told. We talked with Andrew a bit about the risk of an expensive expansion, and whether Black Isle might be exporting any time soon.
"I don't worry about the selling. I just brew it. That's my bit."