Welcome to the Fyne Ales blog—here you’ll find the latest insight into what’s going on with the Fyne Ales team in the brewery, on the farm or on the road.

Old Favourites & New Looks – Fyne Ales’ 2018

Welcome to the Fyne Ales year-end blog, in which we’ll take a look back at 2018 – a pretty big year for our brewery.

It makes sense to start with the beer and the most important of our beers – Jarl – a beer that is showing no signs of slowing down in its ninth year. We once again brewed more than a million pints of our flagship session blonde in 2018, our flagship beer continues to grow in reputation and sales year-on-year and we’re obviously delighted that it continues to be respected and revered in such a competitive market.

A combination of investment in new brewing equipment in spring, Jarl’s continued popularity and the recognised quality of our six year-round cask beers helped our cask beer sales grow again in 2018. In our review of 2017 we wrote:

“We’re quite proud that we’ve continued to grow our cask beer sales – in a time when too many people are saying that the cask beer market is in crisis, we’ve managed to push forward on our quality standards and grow our sales around the UK and overseas in a way that is sustainable now and for the long term. For us, cask beer is a key part of being a British craft brewery – it’s a big part of the UK’s contribution to the story of brewing.”

And it’s more of the same this year – despite the decline in overall UK cask beer sales in 2018, we sold more cask in 2018 than any year in our history, with both our year-round and small-batch specials showing healthy year-on-year growth.

It was also pleasing to to see other high-profile breweries, especially those who have previously written-off the format as unsustainable or undesirable, recognising the importance of the format as part of our brewing heritage and embracing a model of cask beer production and sales that can help drive the market forward in 2019.

On the keg side, the addition of Easy Trail and the final Workbench recipe as year-round beers alongside Jarl and North West gave us a strong range of go-to keg beers for any beer drinker – Easy Trail, introduced as a session-strength variant of Workbench in early summer, took us a little by surprise with how warmly it was embraced by drinkers, quickly cementing itself as a go-to beer in our line-up. It was the perfect beer to pair with Workbench as our first canned beers which we launched at the end of the year – both are tasting amazing in can and I’m especially enjoying the ease with which the empties can be recycled compared to bottles.

With our core cask and keg beers offering a strong foundation, we had plenty of room for experimentation and creating small batch specials and one-offs in 2018. We brewed 41 different special beers last year (and not a single brut IPA among them); highlights included the Everyone Loves single-hop cask series, the three new Sour Friends beers which took our kettle-souring programme to the next level and of course, a host of exciting brews created in collaboration with our friends from around the UK and beyond.

We took part in 16 collab brews under the Fyne Ales and Origins Brewing banners in 2018 – they continue to be a source of inspiration, knowledge and fun; working with the some of the UK’s best young breweries (DEYA, Ridgeside), old friends (Magic Rock), some breweries close to home (Dead End Brew Machine, 71 Brewing) and some much further afield (Cigar City, Lambrate, CR/AK, Rocket). As part of the Origins Brewing project, we hosted the talented brewers from Little Earth Project and Duration and visited Sheffield and Norway for our first ‘away’ Origins collabs with Abbeydale’s Funk Dungeon and Kinn. Thanks to all the breweries who visited us or who hosted us for a collab in 2018 – we made some pretty great beer together!

Which leads us on Origins Brewing – with the project celebrating its first birthday in December, we’re incredibly proud of what the project has achieved thus far. We’ve been taking it steady – launching two collections, each consisting of three beers, in 2018, but each of the beers has been a showcase for the spirit of Origins Brewing, offering a sense of our unique provenance in every bottle.

A particular highlight was working with Edinburgh Food Studio to produce an ambitious saison which we then launched with an equally ambitious sold-out, ten-course, beer-paired brunch at their restaurant – amazing food, people and beer, what more could you ask for? These kind of events – inviting people to experience and think about our beers in new ways by pairing them with bold, flavourful food are something we’d love to do more of – let us know if there’s an open-minded restaurant who you think we should be talking to about Origins Brewing.

We’re excited about what’s in store for the project’s second year, with the aforementioned LEP and Duration collabs maturing in oak, the Spring 2019 collection fast-approaching and the release of (what we think will be) Scotland’s first gueuze-style blend of 1-3 year spontaneously fermented beers on the horizon. Yeah, that one’s going to be fun.

So that was the beer, what else did we get up to? Well, you might have noticed, but we made some subtle changes to our branding towards the end of the year, introducing a fresher, more modern look that better reflects who we are as a brewery. 2017 was all about the research, and 2018 was all about doing the work – we found an amazing partner in Glasgow’s O Street and set them a lofty goal of crafting a new brand image that honours where we’ve come from and tells our unique story, but better positions us to push forward in the competitive craft beer market.

We launched the new branding and our first cans in late November, so while it’s still feeling very fresh, we couldn’t be happier with the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve had so far. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the the new beers filling people’s fridges, seeing website traffic steadily increasing as people come to read more about who we are and to feel good vibes about what we’re doing from all around the world.

We’ve written a lot about the new branding in the past few months – our Be You! Series of blogs detailing the theory and process and behind the project are all up elsewhere on the blog (specifically here, here, here, here and here), as well as the articles introducing the new look (here and here) – if you haven’t checked them out yet and you’re keen to read more about the new look, be sure to give them a read!

We can’t talk about our year without talking about FyneFest 2018 – our biggest and best yet. The sold-out festival was a lot of work once again, but the satisfaction of seeing over 2500 people partying the night away in Glen Fyne with some of the best beers from around the UK and Europe made it worthwhile. We were once again joined by our friends from Rome’s Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa who showcase the outstanding beers being produced in Italy, and were pleased to welcome Copenhagen’s Fermentoren as our second guest bar with some exceptional Scandinavian beers on offer. We’ve always believed that there’s no better way for someone to understand why our location is so important to us than to see, hear, smell and feel it for themselves, and FyneFest is our biggest opportunity to showcase our unique location – tickets for FyneFest 2019 are now on sale (and selling well); we’d love for you to join us to experience it for yourself.

But FyneFest was only one of many events we were part of in 2019 – we hosted a mini-festival at the brewery to launch the Origins Brewing Spring 2018 Collection and travelled up and down the country for some outstanding events including Magic Rock’s Sesh Fest, Affinity’s CASK 2018, Good Beer Hunting’s Uppers & Downers, Abbeydale’s Funk Fest and Northern Monk’s Dark City – and that’s just a few of the UK events we were part of. Getting our beer out to passionate, engaged drinkers who are keen to learn more about our beers and hear more of our story, whether it’s a high-profile festival, a beer pairing dinner or an intimate meet-the-brewer session is great fun for our team, so thank you to all the breweries who invited us to join them at their events, to all the pubs, bars and restaurants who hosted us and everyone who came to say hello and sample some of our beer at any of our adventures on the road in 2018.

Over on the farm, we made great strides with the Achadunan Deer Park project – our herd now counting over two-hundred head of healthy, spent-grain-fed of red deer. Farmer Stuart’s been putting a lot of hours to get the fields organised and the handling station installed to give the herd everything they need as the deer become an increasingly important part of our farming activities. With the deer becoming a higher, more time-consuming priority on the farm, we have had to say farewell to the majority of our flock of sheep in 2018 – I know a few of the team will be sad that there won’t be any lambs in the field or barn this spring, but hopefully the return of some wee highland calves to the estate will make up for it! Our shorthorn bull, Freddie, was given a bit of competition in the summer as highland bull Seamus joined the herd. Seamus has been getting allowed to know the highland heifers in the second half of the year, meaning that we should have some full highland calves in a couple of month’s time – the first for many years.

Overall, it’s been another great year of growth for our wee brewery – this blog only touches upon some of the important things we achieved in 2018, and many of the projects we started and plans we made in 2018 won’t’ be revealed until later this year, so there’s plenty to get excited about for the year ahead.

We’ll end this with a huge thank you to everyone who’s reading this blog – anyone who chooses to buy a pint, bottle or can of our beer, who visits us up in Argyll, who engages with our stories and invests time in what we’re doing is a part of our extended community, and without you, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing today. From all of us – thank you for all your the support in 2018.

If there’s anything you want to know about what we’ve been up to, please don’t hesitate to fire us your questions via the website contact form or via social media – we’d love to hear from you!

Cheers to you, to a cracking 2018, and even better 2019 ahead!

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