Fyne Ales: From the Elements

The Highland elements are what makes Fyne Ales so special, as Daniel Neilson discovered when he met MD Jamie Delap. Photograph by Dougie Cunningham (www.leadinglines.net)

"Today's rain will be tomorrow's brew water," Jamie Delap tells me while looking at the sky. He means it literally. "The water for the brewery comes from that burn," he says pointing up the hill. I've travelled to Loch Fyne in the Highlands to visit Fyne Ales. It is the most beautiful setting of any brewery I've visited.

Loch Fyne weaves its way 65 kilometres inland from the Sound of Bute coming to a head just below the brewery. We follow the River Fyne a little further into Glen Fyne and come across a handful of modest whitewashed farm buildings. Around us, mountains briefly reveal themselves in the swirling white cloud. Water, rock, cloud, sun, peat, grass: these are the elements that dominate in Glen Fyne, and these are the elements that make Fyne Ales.

Back in 2001, Delap's parents looked at brewing as a way to diversify the farm and employ more people. It was a quick success. Seven years later Jamie took the helm as managing director, building on the popularity and taking the brewery in new directions. "We really try to get a sense of place in the beer," he says. "We want to find ways to bring those elements through into the beers. Now we're moving into spontaneous brews and we're actually using the microbes in the air. There are beers we're making using foraged ingredients from the glen, beers where we're working with Scottish maltsters and there's the collaborating with friends in the area." We spend the afternoon touring the new brewery (in an old sheep shed), and visiting the original brewery (in an old dairy) where the more experimental brewing happens. The sun shines, then the rain comes again. Rain is good in that it means more beer.

Jarl is one of the most decorated beers of recent years. And alongside Jarl are dozens more beers from IPAs to a pretty special Italian grape ale and each is defined by being super clean, crisp and very drinkable. Drinkers love them, and brewers often cite Fyne Ales as an inspiration.

>Ragnorök / 7.4% An imperial strength Jarl with twice as many hops. Rich and big.

Fynebank / 4.6% A mildly peaty beer collaboration with a local distillery.

Sanda Black / 5.3% A light, malt-focussed black IPA featuring earthy English hops.