Scotland trip recap part 2: West to Skye
After a brief two days in Edinburgh, it was on to the Isle of Skye! There's a lot to recap and we have to get up at 6am tomorrow to head back to the Edinburgh airport and catch our flight back to the States, so I'll try and keep it brief, but I'm not very good at that.
Our first stop after leaving Edinburgh was the Harviestoun Brewery, maker of Old Engine Oil. They don't do formal tours so we had to settle for being shown around by head brewer Stuart Cail (I know, poor us, right?). Stuart was awesome, chatting with us at length about the state of craft beer in the U.K. (it's good), the tied-house system (it's not so good), and other random topics that came up. It was interested to hear about Harviestoun's American-like approach to brewing... they're not tied to tradition, to which anyone who's tried their Ola Dubh (a higher gravity, barrel-aged version of Old Engine Oild) can attest. I was bummed to learn that Old Engine Oil isn't available on cask, but that was pretty much the only disappointment from the tour. I suppose I was also slightly disappointed that they didn't have a tasting room as all that talking beer made me thirsty, but a local pub helped me remedy that right away. We enjoyed a delicious lunch (including our first sampling of tomato and orange soup... quite tasty!) and a pint of Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted, and then we were off again.
Our next stop was the Doune Castle, better known as the Castle Anthrax in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After that we went through some gorgeous scenery around Glen Coe and some crazy single-track roads to end up just north of the Highland town of Strontian. There we enjoyed an unexpectedly incredible dinner (the place was tiny and empty and had hand-written menus) featuring smoked mackerel and salmon cakes, chicken wellington and two local beers I forgot to write down.
After spending the night near Stontian, we found ourselves on the Isle of Skye the next afternoon after a 25-minute ferry ride. Skye would turn out to be incredible. The island is full of mountains and lochs and sheep (lots of sheep!) and cliffs and cool little islands that lie further off the coast. And the best part of all was it was sunny the whole time! From what we hear, it's never sunny in Skye, but it was for us. Check it out:
Anyway, for purposes of this blog, there are three things to discuss: the Cuillin Brewery, the Isle of Skye Brewery, and the Talisker Distillery. I'll actually devote a separate post to Talisker, so for now I'll talk about Cuillin and Isle of Skye.
We actually didn't know about Cuillin. We were on our way to Talisker when we saw a sign that read "brewery" so I slammed on the brakes and turned in. The brewery was tiny (looked to be about the size of Flossmoor Station's brewery) and there didn't appear to be any visitor's center devoted to it (it was part of a complex with a hotel and restaurant/pub) so I stopped a guy who was carrying a bucket of paint out of the brewery and asked if they give tours. His response? "Nah, it's just a microbrewery." Leah and I both found that hilarious. Anyway, we stopped by the pub next door where I enjoyed a pint of their (unfortunately named by American standards) Blackface ale. Much like Orkney Dark Island, this one really impressed me with its touch of smoke up front. A very tasty ale if I do say so myself.
The next day we headed over to Isle of Skye Brewery, where they unfortunately didn't offer tours on weekends. They had a nice gift shop where I picked up a cool snifter and I did a little poking around behind the back of the brewery where kegs were everywhere. I tried a few of their ales during the course of their trip and while each was solid, none particularly blew me away. The did have a nice gift shop though...
As for the Talisker tour, well, that will get its own post. For now, it's time for bed.
Jump to Scotland trip recap part 3 here.