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Growing Interest in Shetland Craft Beers

by Alastair Hamilton -

With two craft breweries and now the opening of a specialist beer shop, the brews produced in Shetland are becoming popular locally and nationally.

Shetland’s first brewery – the most northerly in Britain – opened in Unst in 1997. Valhalla's first beer was Auld Rock, which is what expatriate Shetlanders call their islands, and the range has steadily expanded since then. White Wife is named after a local apparition who accompanies drivers on a lonely stretch of road in Unst. Simmer Dim celebrates Shetland’s summer twilight when the sky is never dark. There’s a stout – Sjolmet – and the other ales on offer are Old Scatness and Island Bere. Sonny Priest, who founded the brewery, developed the last of these using an ancient grain, bere. Beer from Unst is widely available in Shetland and can be found in some specialist shops elsewhere.

The Lerwick Brewery opened much more recently, in 2013, but has made a remarkable impact, winning a Great Taste award and a commendation in the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards. Its best known beers are probably 60 North, a craft lager, and Skipper’s Ticket, an ale. However, there’s also an oatmeal stout, Tushkar (the name of the tool used for cutting peats) and – just launched – an IPA. The IPA is the first Lerwick cask brew but the firm’s Isla Mercer says that they have “lots more recipes in development for future releases” and she reports a lot of interest from bars and pubs. Again, the beers are widely available in Shetland and can also be found elsewhere.

With all this interest in beer, it was probably only a matter of time before someone opened a specialist beer shop in Shetland and, sure enough, Stuart Fox has stepped up to the mark. His new venture, Beervana, has obtained its licence and will open later this summer. It will, of course, offer all the Shetland beers, but Stuart intends to sell high quality beers from all around the world. He’ll also sell some carefully-chosen whiskies and hopes to offer tasting sessions, too.

Beer isn’t the only kind of alcohol produced in Shetland. Shetland Reel Gin, launched last year, is distilled in Unst and, if the distillery’s plans come to fruition, it will be joined before long by what will become the UK’s most northerly whisky.

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