Today and tomorrow Ascot Racecourse will showcase over 220 real ales, cider and perries at the Autumn Meeting featuring the 6th Ascot CAMRA Beer Festival.
This year we are pleased to welcome breweries from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to feature on our regional bar. With this in mind, we decided to have a chat with Stephen Crossland from the Loch Ness Brewery in Drumnadrochit.He took the time to let us know the beer he brews and what he’s looking forward to tasting at this year’s Beer Festival.
Name: Stephen Crossland
Location: Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness
Occupation: Hotelier/Brewery dogsbody
1. Why did you decide to get into brewing?
Long story! We (my brother Allan and I) have run the Benleva Hotel in Drumnadrochit (Loch Ness) for 11 years and from Day 1 we've specialised in cask ales. Pretty soon we , with considerable help and encouragement from Angus MacRuary of the Isle of Skye Brewery, that The Loch Ness Brewery was a good idea, it just took us 10 more years to bring it to fruition!
2. How easy was it to start your own brewery?
Not easy – mainly due to the problems with acquiring finance. The Hotel is a very old building and has required a lot of investment iover the years and, with the fact that our banks appear to be incapable of lending money for investment, that's caused us a lot of problems with establishing the brewery. George Wotherspoon also appeared on the scene a couple of years ago and gave us the impetus to finally get everything in place. We also had problems with other folk trying to steal the name, but a quick Trademark registration sorted that one out!
3. Is brewing real ale a lengthy process?
Not really. A day's work will get you a brew done, but then you have to wait a couple of weeks before you can drink it.
4. What was the first ale you brewed?
A blonde beer which we ended up calling Hoppy Ness. The beer naming decision was fairly straightforward once we decided to focus on the “Ness” names, rather than Nessie herself!
5. What ale’s do you currently brew?
Dark Ness (my favourite), Light Ness, Loch Ness, Hoppy Ness, Red Ness and Wilder Ness. We've also experimented with a few specials – Mild Ness, Sleekit Ness (for Burns Night), Ness Minister (for Parliament), Nesster Piggott (for Ascot of course!), Ness Un Korma (a curry ale for reasons best known to George!) and Prince of Darkness (a 10% Imperial Stout)
6. Are there any differences between Highland & Island Ales and those brewed in England?
Not really – there's such a wide variety of styles within the Highlands and in England that it's impossible to generalise. I reckon we probably do have an advantage up here with the purity of our water though. We have plenty of it too!
7. If someone’s palate is new to ale, what would you suggest they try first?
A nice light pale ale – not too hoppy – or a nice malty ale, perhaps a good mild. Try as many as you can, you're bound to find one you love eventually.
8. Apart from your own fine ales, what is your favourite beer to drink on an autumnal evening?
Black Cuillin or Black Gold from up here, but I do love a nice bottle of a Kernel ale. Or anything from Rob Hill's Highland Brewing Company, or Fyne Ales. I do have a lot of favourites which is probably why my kilt seems to shrink each year.
9. We hear you may be wearing some tartan attire at the Beer Festival, is this true?
Come along and see for yourselves......
10. What are you looking forward to tasting at this year’s Ascot CAMRA Beer Festival?
To be honest I've been so busy with trying to organise the 11th Loch Ness Beer Festival which has just ended, and sorting out the Highland beers for Ascot I haven't even had time to look at the list! However, I was there last year and had a fantastic time, so I know there are plenty of good ones to choose from. I was particularly fond of the Ascot Ales themselves last year so will definitely be giving them a go again.
For the opportunity to taste some of the beers available from the Loch Ness Brewery and the numerous other breweries, book your tickets today to the Ascot CAMRA Beer Festival. Tickets from £13pp and can be purchased on the gate.