Sunday, November 11, 2012

Island Paradise: Orkney Brewery

Once I'd gotten a grid for Captain John's house, I decided that since I was in the Harray/Dounby/West Mainland neighborhood already, I may as well knock one of my priority items off of my list: attempt to get a tour of the Orkney Brewery.

It was on.

I love Orkney Brewery's beer. I discovered it with Captain John in 2009 at The Bier Garden in Portsmouth, Virginia. The Bier Garden used to stock Dark Island and SkullSplitter. SkullSplitter is an interesting story, in that it's Orkney Brewery's highest alcohol by volume brew (except for Dark Island Reserve), and it's named after Thorfinn "Hausakljúfr" Turf-Einarsson, "Hausakljúfr" being Old Norse for "Skull Splitter" because he was fond of straight up murdering people, as various vikings were known to do. Ol' Thorfinn Hausakljúfr's exploits are featured in The Orkneyinga Saga, which I read in late 2008 as part of my continuing post-2004 obsession with Orkney.

I walked into the gift shop, and was greeted by Joyce, the manager of the brand new Visitor Center that opened in July or so. The tour included a detailed overview of the brewing equipment...

... and then a sampling and discussion of some of the ingredients and how they factor into the brewing proces.

I got my picture taken with John, one of Orkney Brewery's expert brewers! See that grin on my face? I was thrilled! I got to meet the guy who makes some of my favorite beers in the whole world!

Then, we got to see the fermentation vats where the various brews mature...

... and we got a look at the beautiful yeast that does the heavy lifting during the fermentation process.

After that, I got to try three of Orkney Brewery's offerings that I'd never tried before...

... and ate a delicious lunch in the Tasting Hall. See the school desk setup? That's because the Orkney Brewery is housed in a converted primary school, complete with memorabilia from the school and the surrounding area. It's a gorgeous facility, with wonderful meals, and most importantly, some of the best beer in the world. As a matter of fact, Dark Island Reserve won the 2011 World Beer Award for best "strong dark, dark ale".

My visit to the Orkney Brewery was a dream come true, and a great way to start off my epic return to Orkney.

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