IT’S a little over a year ago since 24-year-old Craig Middleton brewed his first cask of Happy Chappy at his small brewery set in the rolling countryside of Cromarty on Scotland’s Black Isle.
And these days he is reaping the rewards of his hard work and life is good. Just like his beer, Craig is a happy chappie and why wouldn’t he be, for he is living the dream and gaining a cult following in the process.
His eye catching transatlantic style bottles are a marketing man’s dream and the beer ain’t bad too! With husband Kenny and children Ruaridh (5) and Flora (3) in tow, we visited Craig’s brewery which lies in the hills above the beautiful village of Cromarty, itself steeped in the brewery business, going back to the 1800s.
A new purpose built brewery catches your eye as you drive up, with the front made of lovely stone and once inside, you can visit the shop Craig is busy creating and through the back is the hub of the operation. The craft beer is unpasteurised and unfiltered and packed with quality ingredients sourced locally and globally.
Infact so fine and tasty are the ingredients, that the leftovers are fed to nearby cattle, with one cow literally hooked on the stuff! And the liquid waste is spread over the fields which surround the brewery, so fertile it is!
Head brewer Craig studied at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, before learning his trade in America and closer to home in the Cairngorms.
He is helped by his father Chap, who is the brewery’s engineer and mum Jenni, who looks after the accounts. And his beer is so good, it has already won awards from the real ale experts at CAMRA.
The beer is everywhere locally in shops and pubs and word of mouth has resulted in it becoming popular with enthusiasts from Edinburgh to London.
After a quick tour of the brewery and its gleaming stainless steel tanks, shipped in from Bavarian Brewery Technologies, we set about testing Happy Chappy, Brewed Awakening and Red Rocker.
All three have very different tastes, Happy Chappy is a new wave pale ale, bursting with crisp citrus hops from America and fresh tropical hops from New Zealand. I loved this as it was thirst-quenching and light (4.1%) , which means you can drink more than one bottle!
Kenny opted for The Brewed Awakening, a heavier beer made from a dark and rich blend of six varieties of malt, which act as the base for the Inverness ground coffee, which is mixed in and gives it a distinctive flavour. It’s a stout (4.7 %) which goes well with chocolate cake, one for the real beer drinker.
We both tested the Red Rocker as Craig had said it was a real hit with the trendy Edinburgh crowd. This red rye hop extravaganza has a real American influence and has a fruity flavour, with a smooth bitterness. At 5 %, it slides down nicely and leaving you wanting more!
Craig is a young man bursting with passion and enthusiasm for his beers and as his slogan says “his beer is worth believing in’’. So, go grab a taste!
The Cromarty Brewing Co., with cool named beers ,Happy Chappy, Brewed Awakening, Red Rocker, Hit the Lip and Rogue Wave, log onto www.cromartybrewing.co.uk