Fyne Ales is part of a small modern highland estate which has many different facets. The estate has been part of the same family for over 100 years, changing substantially after being split up through the generations and with the focus of working activities evolving over the decades.
We are firm believers in the principles of the Slow Food movement. The ground at the head of Loch Fyne is not suitable for growing crops, but aided by prodigious amounts of rain the land produced good fodder for traditional native breeds of cattle and sheep. We started a new herd of Highland Cattle when the brewery was built, and the herd has steadily grown from the initial 4 to about 70 today. The Highlanders mature slowly, grazing on the grass on the hillside and topped up with the spent grain from the brewery. After approximately 3 years they are ready for the butcher, where they are dry hung for a minimum of 21 days before being packed and ready for sale in our Brewery Shop. If you want to keep your food miles to a minimum and buy great tasting beef, lamb or venison with as high ethical standards as it is possible to achieve, then come and try our meats.
The river beside the brewery has traditionally been a good salmon fishery but years of poor planning of fish farms, together with commercial overfishing at sea virtually drove the wild salmon in the river to extinction. For the last 10 years we have been working with the scientists of the Argyll Fisheries Trust to build on the minimal stock of wild salmon that remained and restore the river to full health. As salmon always return to the river they are born in, it is important to work with the natural stock: this means the process of rebuilding is a project that will take decades. We have our own hatchery, where each year we catch a small number of wild salmon from the river. Their eggs are stripped and we take them inside through the winter before releasing several thousand smolts back into the river each spring.
The hills above the brewery are home to several hundred red deer, of which a number are culled each year in order to keep the population healthy and at a level the ground can sustain. This is a skilled operation carried out by a qualified keeper, with the best and strongest stags and hinds left each year to form the basis of the breeding stock. Many of those that have been culled find their way into the shop as delicious venison sausage rolls, and occasionally venison for sale.
Having been lucky enough to have had the estate in the same family for over 100 years we know that managing the environment is a long term project. In 2012 we started felling stands of forestry that were planted over 40 years ago. At the same time we started preparing for the next generation with planning granted to plant a substantial area of traditional Broadleaf woodland on the hill behind the brewery. In 50 or more years’ time this will provide a great natural resource – putting food back into the river for the fish, providing shelter for deer and sheltered grazing for the farm.
If you want to come and spend some time enjoying the area, we have a holiday cottage on the estate which is placed within comfortable walking distance of both the Brewery and Loch Fyne Oysters (a business started by another part of the family). A great location for good beer, good food and a great natural environment. More details on www.argyllholidaycottages.com/
Life in the Highlands isn’t just about the natural environment of course. We are extremely fortunate to be located between Cairndow and Inveraray, two exceptionally vibrant communities, and we are always keen to play our part. If you are organising an event or raising money for charity in Argyll we are happy to help with contributions of beer for raffles etc. So please feel free to get in touch.