A tour of a whisky distillery may be high on the list of things to do in Scotland but have you ever considered visiting a small, independent Scottish brewery? Widely available in pubs, supermarkets, farmer's markets and at events around the country, real ales and craft beer provide their own unique taste of Scotland.
If you're visiting the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond then follow the low road to the town of Alexandria where you will find the family run Loch Lomond Brewery tucked away in an unassuming industrial estate next to the whisky distillery (not open to the public).
It is unpretentious, not in the least bit touristy and offers a completely authentic experience. In Loch Lomond there are not many attractions that are still under the radar, this is the place to visit if you're looking for an original taste of Scotland, quite literally!
I paid a visit on a unique day for the brewery when they were participating in International Women's Collaboration Brew Day. 'Brewsters' (female brewers} from around the world follow the same recipe to create a charity beer called 'Unite Pale Ale' with countries including USA, New Zealand, Australia and Canada taking part.
Established in 2011, the brewery is usually busy producing their own range of 5 permanent real ales with some seasonal specials being created throughout the year. Using water from the nearby Luss Hills to provide a unique local flavour, the names are heavily influenced by the surrounding area include Ale of Leven and West Highland Way.
This was my first visit to an independent brewery and I wasn't sure what to expect. The owner Fiona MacEachern took me on a very informative tour explaining the purpose of each room and and the creation process from the starting ingredients to the finished article. It was really interesting to find out the background and science that goes into producing an ale and I'm sure my new found knowledge will help me appreciate this hoppy brew even more.
An essential part to flavouring the ale is the use of hops. Fiona showed me around the storage room where she took out handfuls of different hops they source from around the world, rubbing them together to release the varying aromas and strengths.
After the tour I got to sample the range of ales and even tried a couple of special flavourings. I must admit that I have always opted for pale ales in the past and had it not been for Fiona's gentle persuasion I would probably not have given their Silkie Stout a go. Much to my surprise this turned out to be my favourite ale of the day and I am now a total convert!
After a friendly, enjoyable and educational visit I headed for the shop to purchase a few bottles to savour at home.
The shop is open every weekend and will also open on weekdays during the summer. If you would like a free tour then these can be arranged in advance by contacting the brewery.
A visit to Loch Lomond brewery makes for an intimate alternative to a distillery tour. You can speak to the friendly owners directly, asking questions and sampling the ales for yourself. A tour makes the perfect addition to a visit and of course you can buy the ideal thirst quenching Scottish souvenirs from the shop!
Loch Lomond Brewery is situated in Lomond Industrial Estate near to the Antartex Village and next to Loch Lomond distillery in Alexandria. It is easily reached by car and there is parking at the unit. From Balloch railway station it is a walk of approx 20 minutes. Remember to bring a map as it is in an industrial estate and the unit is not easy to find without one!
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