Scotland – Home of Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace and Nessie! Land of castles, lochs, peat bogs and spectacular ocean views. Mecca for the drinkers of Scotch whisky, and now, for the connoisseurs of organic pizza and craft beer.
Black Isle Brewery had a unique vision of a brewery business back in 1998. Long before organic food was a “thing”, David Gladwin, founder of Black Isle brewery, decided to go organic with his beer production. A noble cause, of course. Growing his own barley, buying organic hops from the EU, using the water from his own land, he began making craft beverages. But, farming isn’t a one-product venture. If you are going to grow barley, you might as well throw in some vegetables and maybe a chicken or two for feeding the workers or yourself. And then, while drinking your craft beer, after a hard day of work, you have The Thought… and, it’s brilliant!!
What is the most perfect food to eat while drinking beer? Pizza! If you are drinking organic beer, you know it has to be organic pizza. So David Gladwin decided to vertically integrate his brewery business into a brewery and pub house. And over a period of 20 years, that is what happened.
This spring I had the opportunity to visit the Scottish Highlands with two of my colleagues. The land is stunning – low clouds swirled over the tops of tall hills. The land is dotted with lochs, sheep and castles. We saw our first Highland Cow. We visited distilleries.
The region’s capital, Inverness, is home to Black Isle Brewery (check out their Untappd profile). The brewery sits on a 125 acre farm that is northeast of town on the Black Isle. The Black Isle Brewery Pizzeria is located in downtown Inverness, the soul of the city.
Down on the Beer Farm
At the brewery, a lot of organic stuff is going on. All ingredients used in the beers and food made at Black Isle are organic. They grow their own barley for making beer, raise milk from cows for making cheese and grow vegetables for toppings and salads. Not all products are sourced from their farm; they have suppliers that meet their organic standards. And, as a side product line, they raise sheep for wool that is used in their line of wool clothing products. The sheep also contribute organic matter to the compost, which fertilizes the garden.
It was interesting to see the green house in operation. I was given a tour of one of their hoop houses by a graduate student (from Brazil) who was studying organic farming methods. At this location, plants were being started for eventual transplanting to the fields. There were also some green leafy produce being grown for the restaurant.
The brewery mixes a thoroughly craft beer attitude with a Scottish palette. And that palette is delicious. At the brewery we were able to sample a few of the bottled selections. However, at their pub, there were more than 20 beers on tap.
The beers ranged from a mellow blonde pilsner to smoky porters.
I’ve been a Guinness fan for years, but Hibernator Oatmeal Stout opened my eyes. Hibernator is a rich stout with sweet chocolate flavor and roasted tones. Another standout in my mind was the Red Kite Ale, a nutty amber ale with citrus notes.
Brewery Trench Drain
Black Isle uses the Pro-Plus 100 trench drain in its brewery floor, which is a wonderful surprise for me.
As a brewery drain specialist, I’m always looking for the best option – an affordable drain capable of tackling the heat and chemicals seen in breweries.
Pro-Plus 100 has been on my radar for years now. But since it isn’t as popular in the U.S. it’s a harder sell. Brewers rightfully want a case study before buying.
Let’s look now at why the Pro Plus 100 series makes an excellent brewery drain:
- High Temperature – the system’s composition means you can pipe cleaning water directly to the channel at 160 F+ temperatures, or run it across the floor. I saw it both ways while touring the production floor.
- High Traffic – grates are heavy duty iron. No additional frames required. The original grates have lasted since the floors were poured. That iron is over a decade old!
- High Chemical – notice how the floor coating wears over time and traffic, but the Pro-Plus 100 brewery drains are a-okay. Compound is secure against corrosion. And the iron grates are still going strong, despite brewery chemical exposure.
Back at the Bar (and Rooms)
While the workers back on the farm are busy growing organic food and brewing craft beer, customers are at the pub gobbling up pizza and swilling pints of beer. With more than 20 beers on tap, there is plenty of tasting to be done.
The pizza menu is also organically unique. Consider venison salami, lamb meatballs or n’duja sausage on your pizza. Maybe goat cheese, pear and walnuts? All the pizza is wood fired on stone decks. Salads, sides and artisan cheese and charcuterie are also available.
If you are a traveler, or if you really love beer and pizza, Black Isle also rents out rooms. Above the bar in downtown Inverness, they have 14 rooms that include sink, shower and toilet. The accommodations are for the “brave hearts” out there that enjoy hostel living. I, myself, am a bit of a cream puff traveler. But, there was a time in my wandering youth that this rooming situation would have been a dream: craft beer, pizza and a place to crash. Awesome!
I’m happy to say that the Black Isle brewery drains are going as strong as the brewery itself. BIB is growing, outpacing its ability to self-produce organic grains. With a network of distributors across the globe, BIB is already pulling from other regional farms to spread a bit of the Scottish cheer around the world. They currently have distribution in across Europe, China, Japan and the United States. Expect to see them in a beer tap near you.