Highlands

After our week in York, Saul and I rented a car and drove north to Scotland for a long weekend. We wanted to head straight into the highlands, but a late winter storm kept us east. No worries. We'd explore Edinburgh first, which we did, mostly through the lens of its pubs. 

The Hanging Bat, the Guildford Arms, the Cloisters were among our favorites. All I can say is that beer lovers in Edinburgh have it good. The Scottish craft scene is exciting and these Edinburgh pubs do a great job showing it.

Our second day, the weather was good enough to drive west past Glasgow and into the highlands. Our destination? Loch Fyne. We were headed to visit Stuart at Fyne Ales. Stuart is a brewer there. He was also on the brewing course with Saul in York. The Fyne Ales beer Stuart brought to York and his description of the brewery and its setting were enough to entice us out.

We were not disappointed.

Fyne Ales is set on an old family farm, on the banks of the dramatically beautiful Loch Fyne. They brew with spring water coming off the ridge behind the brewery. We saw the water source. We saw the highland cattle who eat the spent grain. We saw the farm buildings converted into their brewery. Stuart gave us a great tour of their set up. It was all very impressive and inspiring. And the beer was exceptional.

Especially the Jarl.

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I had tried Jarl the night before at the Guildford Arms. It was so good that amid many other interesting beers to try, I had to have a second. A clean, snappy pale ale bursting with the grapefruit goodness of Citra hops, Jarl is a top notch example of real ale brewed with US hops, a current trend in UK brewing. Its a cross-continental combination that works just beautifully. For me, its the best of both worlds. The texture of cask ale with the bright citrus notes of American hops. And at 3.8%, you can enjoy a few. Many US craft drinkers would be amazed by the full-body and balance Jarl achieves with a "low" ABV and high hopping rates.  

Jarl went soooo well with the luscious Loch Fyne oysters we sampled later at The George, a wonderful hub of good food and drink where Stuart took us. A crisp, citrus, palate-cleansing sip of Jarl was a perfect companion to the sweet, tender oysters. It was a standout meal, from start to finish, followed by some standout single malt whisky. A memorable evening made possible by Stuart, our amazing host, who even drove so we could drink. We can't wait to return the favor and show Stuart the best of Central New York someday.

The next morning, Saul and I enjoyed a winter hike above Long Loch and hit one distillery on our way back to Edinburgh. It was a short trip, but we gained a real sense of the natural beauty of the Scottish highlands and the austerity of its winter. Not to mention, the quality of its fyne ale.

We will come back again sometime. Perhaps for the warmer, greener version. 

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