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Jarl brewer to double production

By thirsty hack Ignatius Rake

Posted February 20, 2014
Jamie Delap and Malcolm Downie
Drinking to success: Fyne's managing director Jamie Delap and head brewer Malcolm Downie. © Gordon Burniston

Scotland's Fyne Ales has just kicked off a £2m ($3.3m) expansion project at its brewery in Cairndow, Argyllshire.

One of the highlights of last year's Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) for me was getting my hands on a pint of Jarl (pronounced 'Yarl'), a 3.8% golden ale which the previous month had been named by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) as its Champion Beer of Scotland at the Scottish Real Ale Festival.

Indeed, in some ways it was a shame there were so many other brews on offer at the GBBF because this particular hack would have been more than happy to have drunk nothing else.

Consequently, the Rake & Herald is pleased to learn that Fyne Ales, the farm-based Argyllshire brewery that produces this wondrous pint, has now turned the first soil on an expansion project that in its first phase, a press release notes, is expected to double the brewery's output to 180 barrels a week by 2015.

Moreover, there will still be "space available to boost production to 120 barrels per day – the equivalent of 36,000 pints – in five years' time".

In line with this, the family-run company anticipates doubling its current turnover of £1.6m per annum next year before upping it to more than £5m over the following 24 months.

Co-funded with grant support from the Highlands and Island Enterprise Scheme (HIES), a Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation (FPMC) grant from the Scottish government and a £1m loan from the Bank of Scotland, the project "is expected to create 10 construction jobs and 12 new permanent jobs at the brewery itself", adding to the 16 presently employed there.

Fyne Ales managing director Jamie Delap, "whose parents Tuggy and Jonny added a brewery to their fourth-generation family farm in 2000 in response to the lack of quality beer available locally", will lead the expansion project.

This will see a second brewery constructed inside the farm's sheep shed, itself "built by Jamie's grandfather in the early 70s and originally used as a sheep market".

Unlike some other Scottish craft brewers who, the press release states, "favour continental brewhouses manufactured and shipped from mainland Europe", Fyne Ales has "opted to stay true to [its] heritage with a British-made brewkit".

"Producing top quality Scottish beer is the real focus for us," Delap says.

"When a brewery announces it's going to be expanding and introducing new techniques there's often concern from drinkers that it will change the taste of the finished product."

"In our case, the expansion is about meeting growing demand but first and foremost is an opportunity for us to get even more flavour and consistency into our beers using kit like a hopback, which will extract brighter and fresher aromas from the hops."

"The new brewery will also allow us to mill malt on demand, which will add a new level of freshness to our beers."

"Ultimately what we're offering beer drinkers in Scotland and beyond is progressive thinking that also manages to stay true to traditional British brewing values and techniques."

"Our family have worked the farmland here at Loch Fyne for over 100 years."

"All our beers draw inspiration from the environment around us."

"This includes the infamous Argyll rain, which – within 24 hours of falling onto the hills around Loch Fyne – is the basis of our brews."

"Our livestock also get to enjoy the fruits of our labour with our sheep and Highland cattle fed on the spent malt, which forms a nutritious addition to their diet, and the spent hops go to a local market gardener to improve the quality of what they grow."

Jamie Delap
Plenty more to come: Jamie Delap in Fyne's existing brewery. © Gordon Burniston

News of the expansion has been welcomed by Tom Kitchin, the appropriately named Michelin-starred chef and proprietor of the Scran & Scallie, which stocks Fyne Ales's fine array of beers.

"One of our aims when opening our gastro pub the Scran & Scallie in Edinburgh was to find the very best local ales to offer our guests," he says.

"Family-run breweries like Fyne Ales take a really personal approach to brewing, which fits our philosophy at the pub."

"They're taking old, traditional Scottish recipes and not only bringing them back, but are reinventing and breathing new life into them."

"The beauty of sourcing beer from these local microbreweries is that they are made in much smaller quantities, which means you get consistency and quality."

"It's that attention to detail that we look for in all of our suppliers."

"Fyne Ales are a business demonstrating drive and growth in one of the most rural parts of Scotland," adds HIES head of development David Smart.

"The beer they produce is interesting and has a high degree of provenance, which serves them well globally."

"Their decision to work with a quality team of young, enthusiastic people gives us every confidence that the brand will continue to develop and grow far into the future."

Meanwhile, Alan Whyte, Bank of Scotland relationship manager, states: "A second brewery will allow Fyne Ales to capitalise on a recovering market, deliver on incremental sales' demand and expand its business offering."

"We witnessed a fantastic year for the Scottish food and drink sector in 2013 and by ensuring businesses receive the right support, we are confident we can replicate that success."

In addition to Jarl, which the brewery describes as "a hoppy blond session ale", Fyne Ales also produces up to 30 other beers each year.

These are available in a wide range of independent off-licences, pubs, bars and restaurants as well as across Scotland in Waitrose and Morrisons supermarkets.

Further afield, the brewery has also begun exporting beer to such countries as Japan, Italy and Ireland and, along with a move into kegged beers later this year, hopes to enter yet more overseas markets soon.

See also Jarl crowned best Scottish beer, posted 12/7/13.

Ignatius Rake
is a freelance journalist and geographer who has so far visited 70 countries on six continents. A published lyricist, he has fronted punk bands in both the UK and Poland, including the only band ever to be kicked off BBC Radio Cornwall. He has been known to like a pint.

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