Sunday, 31 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the Ales of Arran


      the final part of our trip saw us head off from the Isle of Islay over to what may have been Kennacraig from Port Ellen. We had ages before the ferry from Claoneig so nipped to the Skipness seafood shack. Home made fish finger sarnies for me and crab meat sarnies for the others,. accompanied by bottles of Arran Blonde. A beautiful spot for a drink.

The ferry to Arran is quite small so we had no chance to et, just stepped up to the side to take in th views before arriving at Brodick. Tea that night was at the Ormisdale Hotel, which was serving 3 or 4 real alea and excellent food. I had a huge chicken curry and rice which was packed full of chicken along with numerous pints of the Arran Blonde from a choice of their ales including Gold, Ale and Ormisdale. Although, that may have been brewed by Isle of Skye or Ayr.

We finished the night in the Fiddlers where I had a bottle of Fraoch heather ale and Matty a pint of Scottish keg and a bottle of Arran.

The next day we went for a tour of the island and saw numerous sites on the coastal walk, having headed into Lamlash to look at the Holy Island. We returned after our walk and went to the Pierhead Tavern on the seafront. I think WF was getting tired by this stage - having accused us of being an hour when we walked to the Co-op, of not knowing where we had gone or for what, and then claiming the Pier Head was a pub for young people - because he couldn't hang his stock on his chair. This, as the rst of us, by far the youngest people in the pub, listened to an hour long mix of 1960's hits....

We had excellent food in here - snack size portions of the main meals and I had wonderful haggis neeps and tatties in a whisky sauce. Real ale wise there were two or three so I had pints of the Arran Blonde and an Isle of Skye one. There was also a fantastic range of bottled Scottish beers including Drygate to choose from.

We visited the amazing Machrie Moor stone circles and then headed for the Best Western Hotel at Blackwaterfoot - alas it was far too rammed to eat in but we did have Fyne Ales Usghe Dubha and Damh Ban. We finished the night at the Ormisdale Hotel once more and had more food and excellent real ales along with a selection of the Arran whiskies.

The next day it was down to Brodick to catch the ferry to Ardrossan - the bar on this ferry serves draught although the Arran was not available. On arrival we crossed to Sorn and the Sorn Inn where we had pints of Orkney Puffin Ale before heading south on the motorway and stopping at the Park end (or New Park) Tavern in Samlesbury for tea, washed down with excellent pints of Purity Mad Goose.

Overall this was a holiday with ample opportunities not only to sample beers brewed ont he islands but real ales full stop - and the range of small Scottish brewer's bottled beers is welcome and exciting. The fact that 4 of the 5 islands visited have their own breweries, all but one of which produces cask, is a brilliant situation - and long may it continue.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Jura and Colonsay

Hello again,

         the two islands named above are easily reached from Islay, and we visited both during our 5 days on the island. In terms of size comparison both are minuscule next to Islay or Bute - Colonsay has a permanent population of just 135 (according to the island's website). Its also the smallest, being just 10 miles long and 2 miles wide. Jura on the other hand is significantly bigger, although probably with a similar number of inhabitants. (188 in 2001). It does however have a distillery, whilst Colonsay has a brewery.

The trip to Jura from Port Askaig is quite short and soon we were on the long winding the end of the island. After miles of rugged coastline and moorland the first, and indeed only large place you come to is Craighouse, found on the A846, the only A road i have ever seen with grass down the middle, and passing places. Here is where the distillery is, and also the Isle of Jura Hotel.

Finding the bar is interesting as you need to walk through the back of the bar from the main entrance to reach it - I think there is another way in round the front. No real ale but an interesting range of kegs - along with the Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted they also had Drygate Gladeye IPA on at 5.5%. Despite continuous expansion and improvement in Scottish beer, am still surprised to find a really hoppy Scottish IPA - and this is it. We also got a bottle of their Red IPA to take away.

The bar was friendly and well stocked and the IPA was excellent - this was in fact one of the best bars we visited on the whole tour. That Jura is so sparsely populated, yet has such riches in terms of drinks, is worth celebrating.

Colonsay is further away from Islay and the ferry was packed on what was the hottest day of the holiday.  Arriving before the bar of the Colonsay Hotel opened - the only place to drink on the island bar the brewery,  we set off on a long tour of every road on the island, driving to Uragaig and the beautiful Kiloran beach (and meeting Walter and his dog Queenie) before returning to the hotel via the Colonsay Brewery.

I have to say I was a little disappointed by the brewery - they only had two beers from their range of three available in bottles or on keg at the hotel, and are only open 15-17.00. I do realise however that running a brewery on such a tiny island makes comparisons with  mainland breweries fairly pointless.  At the Isle of Colonay Hotel beer is expensive. Two pints of Colonsay IPA for me and Matty cost about £10.60 and the other beer, a Fyne Ales Haus lager, was £4.90 a pint if memory serves. Once again though, island life is different. And in this case, significantly more expensive.

Overall both islands were unique - Jura is rugged and barren in places, Colonsay is a haven for wildlife, and Jura had an excellent hotel. Both islands are very much well worth a visit.


Wee Beefy

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Islay

Hello again,

          this post continues the details of our trip round Bute, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Arran. All very different islands with their own character, and crucially, pubs, bars and beers.

On our way from Bute we sailed from Rubodach to Colintraive and then headed for Glendaruel. We had hoped to nip in the Glendaruel Hotel, not neccessarily for real ale, but just a drink - alas this seems to have closed down sometime ago, now a weed surrounded relic of more prosperous times. Whilst in the village we stopped to look at the carved stones and then headed for Otter Ferry and the Oystercatcher pub and restaurant. The GBG said it was open Friday and Saturday only but this was a Monday. Luckily it opens all day on a Monday - thank God we tried it.

Two real ales on the bar, one Scottish craft keg and an astonishing range of Scottish brewed ales in bottle, along with an extensive whisky list, was what we found. Two real ales, Fyne Ales Lismore Red IPA at 5.5%  and their Cloudburst at slightly less, with the excellent Sanda Blonde IPA on keg. All three were tried and the Lismore and Sanda were both excellent. We also ate - WF had a house cured Gravalax, Matty had local oysters, Tash soup and myself calamari. WF bought a box of bottles to take home as well - all in all this was a fantastic first stop on the Cowal peninsula.

We headed next for Kames and the Kames Hotel. This sells two real ales and we had Jarl once again, on excellent form. We then sailed from Portavadie to Tarbert and stopped in the Harbourside Inn for a half of Jarl each. Tarbet is quite a large place so we stocked up on food before heading to Kennacraig to get the ferry to Port Askaing on Islay.

Although Islay like Bute and Arran has its own brewery, Islay is very different to Bute. Its harder to get to, less well populated, and perhaps as a result is mre expensive. It also has nowhere near as many pubs., and less of those sell real ale. On our first night we stayed in Bowmore and we went to the Harbour Inn for a drink. Two pints of West Lager (at least its craft...?) a whisky for Wee Fatha and a large sauvignon blanc for Tash came to over £22.00. Luckily, despite not selling real ale, the guy running the bar was able to advise where we might get some, and was also a good person to chat to about the Island. The bar shuts at 22.45 so me and Matty had raced round the corner to find WF and Tash and get them in, and even with the door locked we were only able to order one more drink - these were both whiskies for us all to try.

The next day we went to Jura - more of that in the next blog, and then on a tour of the distilleries. Not actually visiting them, rather to photograph them in the bright sunshine. That night we went to the best place to drink real ale on Islay, the Port Charlotte Hotel. We managed to get a table despite not having booked and all tried, except Tash, pints of the Islay Ales Finlaggan. This was a disappointing beer - tasting slightly but not nicely of whisky, it was a tired ale with an unusual aftertaste which sadly  none of us really liked. Luckily they also sold Fyne Ales Jarl so Matty and then I had a pint of that to accompany our wonderful meals - mine was seared Islay scllops for starters and a main of lamb shank in a drambuie sauce, sharing a cheeseboard for afters. The Port Charlotte is not cheap but you get what you pay for - the food quality is amazing. The real ale, for info, is £4.10 a pint.

The next day we went to Colonsay details of which will follow in the next post, then when we got back to Islay we went for a drive to some more distillerys includng Lagavulin and Ardbeg, before heading to Kildonan cross and then to Port Ellen, where we went ion the Ardview Inn on the seafront. The pub does not sell real ale but did serve bottles of whisky from all the Islay distilleries, so we had Kilchoman and Caol Ila whilst sat in the front bar.

We drove back from here to Bowmore and this time we did go in the Lochside Hotel, formerly Duffy's, and they did sell real ale. A favourite in bottles on the last few ferries the Islay Ardnave Extra at 5.5% was on sale. It was lovely - but it should have been at an eye watering £4.95 a pint. The Lochside still carries a wide range of whiskies - there is a whisky book - and many sell at over £500.00 a shot. The real ale is expensive, but it went down well, and they serve til midnight.  

Our final full day on Islay involved another lengthy drive and a coffee in Ballygrant past Bridgend. We visited Finlaggan in the rain (still worth it) and then headed to Kilchoman distillery for a tour, a taste and for WF to buy me a bottle of the 100% Islay limited Edition whisky. An expensive but incredibly enjoyable present! We then headed down what seemed like a road to nowhere - we found it - and then returned to the Port Charlotte Hotel for more Jarl, plus cans of BrewDog and excellent food. The Port Charlotte was definitely the best pub or bar we tried on Islay.

We finished our day at the An Tigh Seinnse in Portnahaven, which translates as "the Public House". Bottles of Ardnave were supped in here, although they do have a single Islay Ales handpull - when I asked, they said they sold real ale when its busier - so am guessing that means August.

So ended our trip to Islay - the next day we drove to Port Ellen via the Oa Peinsula, and caught the ferry to Kennacraig for a short journey to Claoneig and the ferry to Arran.


Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Drinking in the Sudreys - the ales of Bute


       apologies first of all for a distinct lack of posts recently - a mixture of self imposed poverty and heady discombobulation through drink, as well as the holiday I will describe in this and the following three posts, has made me unable, unwilling and otherwise disposed not to post anything since June. What follows is an island by island breakdown of the ales we drank in the places known as the Sudreys - in this case, Bute, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Arran. I realise there are other isles in the Sudreys but we visited the above only. For information, the Sudreys is an old Norse word for the Southern Scottish Islands, as opposed to the Nordreys for the North. There is a link here featuring more precise info on the Sudrejar...

We headed to Bute in rain and wind - the sun only came out on our first stop in Moffat. Here the Coachmans bar of the Buccleuch hotel no longer sells real ale only GK "craft" but the guy behind the bar did recommend two pubs that did, the first being the Star Bar which we were parked nearby. The Hotel Star is a tall, long, thin building on the main street. The bar is accessed down the side street and is also long and thin, although it goes across the building. They have two real ales on sale - the Old Speckled and the Old Golden Hen. We had two halves of each for myself, Wee Fatha, Tash and Matty. We also tried the 80 and 60 shilling Belhaven kegs.The Old Golden Hen was perhaps the best beer.

Our next stop was the National Inventory listed Old Wine Store at Shotts. The pub has had a new sign and some refurbishment since we last visited, but crucially keeps its original bar fitting with once used whisky barrels inset, and a small mirror on the other side which owing to its difficulty to find and photograph am guessing was for the staff only. No real ale here, but halves of Belhaven best for all apart from WF who had a J2o. Its good to see the pub popular and having had some work done on it, without losing its character.

Skirting Glasgow we arrived at Wemys Bay and opposite the delightful station we boarded a ferry to Rothesay. Going across the weather looked ominous but we arrived on Bute in glorious sunshine and temperatures around 20 degrees. We stayed at the Commodore, an excellent seafront B and B and quickly headed out to find food - we did, at a real ale pub in the GBG.

The Black Bull is a small multi-roomed pub overlooking the harbour near one of Zavaroni's cafes. They had three beers on, Belhaven Golden Bay, Inveralmond Lia Fail and Straad Ass, a 4.2% amber/blonde from Bute Brew Co. This was a fine pint on excellent form so we didn't try the other ales on offer, we just drank the Bute all night. We also ate here - and myself and Matty had perhaps the finest home made steak and ale pie ever. An absolutely stunning flavour, and washed down with the excellent Bute real ale.

Before returning to the B and B we visited the Scottish regional inventory listed Golfers bar - sporting a Bute Brew Co sign outside and a single hand pump. selling the same beer as the Black Bull. Myself and Matty had at least two pints each in here with WF on a half and Tash on wine - she has developed a bit or a reaction to beer (and cider) of late so was reluctant to have more than a try. The Golfers was heaving busy and we sat in the separate snug at the end with access to the bar. The pub has an excellent ceiling and intact long single piece bar back, as well as this screened off room, meriting its inclusion on the inventory.

The next day we visited Rothesay castle whilst WF went to the Esplanade - which also sells real ale, but only Bombardier alas. From here we drove through Port Bannatyne and out to Loch Ettrick, then wound our way down the island to St Blaines church. Despite persisting it down with rain we enjoyed the walk up the hill and looking around, before we headed to the Kingarth Hotel and Smiddy bar.

This roadside hotel does good food and two real ales as well as a good range of whiskies and Scottish bottled beers. WF had a half of Arran Dark and myself and Matty a pint each of the Fyne Ales Jarl, one of the best beers in Scotland - it did not disappoint. The food looked lovely so we booked a table for four and returned to Rothesay to pick up a change of clothes, and then came back for a fantastic meal, along with more Jarl. I think they also have a third pump for cask, and we tried three whiskys as well.

Back into Rothesay we persuaded Wee Fatha to drive us to Port Bannatyne to the Bute Brew Co recommended Port Inn. Arriving at 22.15 the landlady was about to shut so we ordered two pints of the Bute brew Co Scalpsie Blonde at 3.9%. It turned out that the pub would remain open a little longer, although we had to leave by 23.30 to get back to the accommodation - we had no key to get in! Many pints were supped as well as a can of BrewDog Dead Pony Ale (I think) before we dashed off up the coast back to Rothesay. The Scalpsie was an excellent session ale.

The next day we were away from Bute on the ferry and that part of the journey, and Islay, will feature in the next blog post.


Wee Beefy