From the BrewerS: The Origins of Origins Brewing
by Andrea Ladas
As we get closer to the launch of the first collection of Origins Brewing beers, it’s obviously the start of something new, but it’s also the realisation of a vision that we have developed over the last four years at Fyne Ales, so I think it’s a good time to tell the story of how we arrived here today.
I arrived at Fyne Ales in Summer 2013, it was the busiest time of the year and everything was hectic - on one of my very first days at the brewery I was given a ‘Champion Beer of Scotland’ award to hold and told to pose for a press photo with the brewery team. The first few months flew by as I learnt about British beer and cask ales in the stunning scenery of the working farm around Fyne Ales, and at some point, I realised I had stumbled into farmhouse brewing, but not the type of farmhouse brewing I'd imagined.
I think the very first page of the Origins Brewing story was written later that year – in October we were given a Kilkerran whisky cask by our friends at Springbank Distillers, which we filled from the latest brew of Sublime Stout. It was Fyne Ales' very first barrel-finished beer, something that has become a key part of what we are doing with Origins Brewing.
Shortly afterwards, I brewed a very, very small batch of what is probably Fyne Ales very first (intentional) mixed fermentation beer – taking pale ale wort from one of our brews and pitching with a combination of house yeast and dregs harvested from bottles of a Lost Abbey bretted saison that we had enjoyed. I later added a couple of kilos of brambles foraged from behind the brewery and named the beer ‘Achadunan Farmhouse Ale #00’ before bottling.
It was also in 2014 that Fyne Ales’ new brewery was comissioned and part of the celebrations of the opening was hosting our friends from Brouwerij De Molen for a challenging collaboration which would become our award-winning imperial stout, Mills & Hills. It was a hard brew day for everyone involved, especially as Head Brewer Malcolm wasn't around, but the brew was a success and after, everyone was treated to dinner by brewery founder Tuggy in her house. After the meal it was time for some relaxed discussion accompanied by some good beers, including some from the from the Brewery Tap and some amazing reserve bottles brought by John from De Molen– I hesitantly brought out a bottle with a little white sticker on it, labelled ‘Achadunan Farmhouse Ale #00’.
The beer was shared amongst the team and, surprisingly, it went down very well – it was still very much a Fyne Ales beer, but it was something else as well. John went as far as to say it had a bit of Orval character to it and Fyne Ales boss Jamie said “we should brew more of this”.
Encouraged, I continued with small-scale experiments, brewing in the original Fyne Ales brewery using the old kit and using foraged ingredients and experimenting with fermentation. It was early 2015 that Fyne Ales brewed its first kettle-soured beer with the guys from Siren; experimenting with lactic acid production has been a key part of Origins Brewing ever since – it’s something we can use to add flavours, use in blending and help steer wild fermentation in the desired direction.
We continued to build our stocks of barrels throughout 2015, including a unique prosecco grappa barrel that would be used to mature some reserved Mills & Hills from the very first brew, and late in the year, we were invited to collaborate with our friends Pam and Rob, owners of the Inver Restaurant further down Loch Fyne shores. Having lived in Belgium, they are both lovers of Belgian-style beers and when discussing the collab, Rob innocently suggested we should brew a lambic – something that we weren’t sure we were ready for, but were intrigued by, nonetheless.
The majority of the collaboration brew became Beer Premiere, a beautiful spelt saison influenced by our house wild yeast after spending a winter exposed to the resident microflora of our original brewery, but some was reserved to allow to cool naturally before moving into two French wine barrels. One was pitched with a multiculture blend, while the other was allowed to ferment using only the bugs it picked up from the brewery and from the barrel. This was nearly two years ago now, maybe we should do something with those barrels soon…
2016 was the year that it became clear that Fyne Ales had potential to establish itself as a real farmhouse brewery. The success of the Farmhouse Project - a series of unconventional, complex beers (saison, gruit, stock ale, barely wine) that were tied closely to our location in Glen Fyne – and a trip to the US to visit the Craft Brewers Conference and American farmhouse breweries inspired us to make farmhouse brewing a key part of what we do. We began laying groundwork, setting up infrastructure in the original brewery, bringing in more barrels, and making more beer, before turning our attention to how to get the word out about the new project.
We knew what we wanted to do with the project – make exciting, experimental beers that showcase our roots – but we needed to find a way to bring it all together under a name and a visual identity that matched the ambition and purpose of the project. Origins Brewing brings together the idea of this being something new, and original, with unique beers brewed in the original Fyne Ales brewery, but also tips its hat to who we are and where we are.
I’m excited for you try the first four beers from Fyne Ales Origins Brewing, we’ve come a long way from ‘Achadunan Farmhouse Ale #00’, but I’m even more excited for you to try the next four beers we release, and then the four after that. This project is only going to grow and improve and get more exciting, so thank you for being here from the start and taking time to read about where Origins Brewing comes from, and how we got to where we are today.