Desert Island Beers – Colin Stronge, Scotland
Meet Sir Colin of Stronge, Head Brewer/Production Manager at Black Isle Brewery, Munlochy, Ross-shire, Scotland. Colin who grew up in Monaghan, Ireland joined The Black Isle Brewery in 2011 having previously served nine years at Marble Brewery in Manchester and a couple of years with the Liverpool Brewing Company.
Colin moved to England in 1998 from Ireland to study Architecture at Liverpool John Moore’s University but didn’t enjoy the course and left. He took a job at The Brewery pub in Liverpool and when the brewer of the attached brewery quit, he was asked to take the job on. Colin says he knew nothing about brewing at the time and mostly drank shit lager but was keen to find a career and to learn a new skill. After only a week in the brew house he knew that’s where he wanted to be: he reckons to have worked hard (if the beer wasn’t fantastic) but the company decided to sell up and Colin moved to Manchester.
In Manchester he started another university course, (Journalism and Sociology) and took some work on at the Marble Arch pub to earn some pennies. While there he talked to the brewers and they keenly offered him time helping out around the brewery and then found they couldn’t get rid of him. When he finished his degree he got a call saying that the second brewer had given his notice and did he want the job. He did and the rest as they say, is history.
Black Isle began life in 1998 in an old cattle shed on 150 acres of farmland in the Scottish Highlands, just across the water from Inverness. The brewery upgraded from a 5 BBL kit that was brewing around eleven times a week to a 30 BBL kit just over two years ago. Colin meanwhile lives in the middle of nowhere outside Inverness.
Hi Colin; great to have you on our Desert Island; which 5 beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded here and why?
Brasserie d’Orval – Orval – ( Villers d’Orval, Belgium – 6.2%)
“If I was pushed into a corner and forced to pick my favourite beer it would be this world classic. I first fell in love with it on a rainy afternoon in Manchester when we were sitting in Cask on Liverpool Rd. I’d had it before but that was the first time I’d had one that had been aged and the difference in the beer, the slightly sour tinge, the richness of the flavours and the complexity of it just smacked me in the face. It would be the perfect beer for the long lonely days on the island, as due to the complex mix of yeasts in the bottle that would mean it would keep changing, growing, maturing and each bottle would be slightly different meaning I would never get bored!”
Mikkeller – Brewed at De Proefbrouwerij – Mikkeller Black Buffalo – (Copenhagen, Denmark – 19.3%)
“This is a bit of a monster; so one to help me sleep on long nights by the campfire. Weighing in at a hefty 19.3% it’s stronger than most wines but the flavours are simply unbelievable. Pistachio nuts, vanilla, dark chocolate, coffee are all present and the mouth feel is just spectacular. It’s nicely sweet and thick without ever becoming cloying. I’m not sure it would be everyone’s cup of tea but it is the type of beer that just grabs all of your senses (after a bottle it talks to you!) and just massages them into perfect peace.”
Brouwerij Het Anker – Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw/Blue – (Mechelen, Belgium – 11% - Varies)
“This was one of the first beers that really cemented my love of brewing. It has a varying alcohol content, but to my mind was best in 2003 when it was 10%. It tastes great fresh but, again, to my mind is best with around 3-4 years aging which diminishes the sugar content and leaves it with a slightly longer, dryer finish. It is so deep and complex it is almost hard to describe the flavours as one tussles with another for supremacy. Liquorice, figs, raisins, spicey hops, pepper and well hidden alcohol strength, all make an appearance but it is the rich, deep finish of dried fruits that will keep you warm at night. It is big and luscious in the mouth and the feeling of drinking it is as close to pure bliss as I can imagine. I want one now just talking about it!”
Buxton Brewery – Axe Edge – (Buxton – 6.8%)
“Despite my commitment to more malt-led-beers in my previous choices I actually consider myself more of a hop-head and love big, punchy IPA’s and of late few have been bigger or punchier than this beauty from the Peaks. It positively reeks of mango and passion fruit and the aroma is amazingly complex. But the beer brings more. Mouth puckering bitterness, enormous tropical fruit and resinous hops dominate, but this is no one dimensional hop-bomb. It has a big powerful malt body that fills the mouth. It is just about the perfect beer for a sunny evening alone in my humble opinion.”
3 Fontainen – 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek – (Beersel, Belgium - 6%)
“I think I’ve covered most of the days drinking requirements, but what to have in the late morning to early afternoon sun? I wanted to pick something sour, striking, rich, powerful and truly individual and I could think of nothing but this delight. Made exclusively with the ever rarer Schaerbeekse cherries from that part of the Lambic producing Payottenland which were originally used to flavour all Krieks. I think that this is now the only Kriek that uses them and certainly the only one to use them exclusively! They bring a distinctive tartness to an already sharp beer. It pours a deep cherry red with a thin pink head and the taste is delightful and life affirming and perfect for a hot day. The sharpness lets you know you are alive whilst the fruit will help keep you that way.”
“My favourite of these would have to be the Orval. It’s individuality, it’s ability to change, it’s matching with fish dishes (which I guess will form the main part of my diet), and it’s ability to keep you guessing would make it the right beer for any occasion on my own little island.”
You can also take one meal to go with your beers, what would it be and why? Is it a ‘last supper’ or a perfect pairing for one of the beers?
“If we assume that I will be eating a lot of fish then my special meal should be something I’m not going to get a lot of and one of my favourite foods. Therefore it must be rump steak. Presented with dauphinoise potatoes, a bacon, mushroom, and red wine sauce with runner beans, it would be a match in flavour and depth for the Van de Keizer and the Black; match the complexity of the Orval, trade punches with the Axe Edge and have it’s fatty richness cut by the Schaerbeekse. I could die a happy man on any of those combinations.”
You have a CD/MP3/long player but you can only take one album. Choose wisely!
“Tough choice but I guess it would be Songs for the Deaf from Queens of the Stone Age. I bought that album the day it came out and still listen to it lots today. It’s not my favourite album, it’s not even my favourite album of theirs; Rated R and their self titled debut maybe have better tunes but I don’t feel either is as complete a work as this. Also the song Hanging Tree is perfect for a sunny and balmy afternoon.”
The Beer Book
“You might be waiting a long time on your lonesome on the desert island, so we will automatically allow you a few books to keep your mind busy. You can pick between two beer books and two tomes:
‘The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food’ by Garrett Oliver, or;
Beer by Michael Jackson; plus;
The Bible, or;
another appropriate religious or philosophical work
“1. I would take The Oxford Companion to Beer. It’s a big old encyclopedic tome which references many different things, styles, techniques, hops, growing ingredients, beers, brewers, all kinds of everything that would keep me amused, informed and beer hungry
2. Gary Larson’s The Far Side Galleries has been a long term favourite and as close to the meaning of life as we really need to go!”
The non-beery, non-philosophical book; you can also take a something a little less taxing on the brain, what would that be?
“My favorite non-beery book is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. It is one that I have gone back to several times and happily return to from time to time. The themes of rebelling against authority and standing up for yourself are ones we can all associate with.”
The Luxury Item
What Luxury Item would help make your stay on the island bearable?
“A mountain bike. I wanted to buy a Specialized Rockhopper when I moved to Scotland but it never quite happened but the island might just have a few hidden single tracks and drop offs that would help pass the time.”
Have you tried Colin’s favourite beers? Let us know and many thanks to him for taking part and being our castaway for the week.
This article was simultaneously posted at Real Ale Reviews on 17th December 2012 as part of a collaboration on ‘Desert Island Beers’.
Tags: 3 Fontainen - 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek, Brasserie d'Orval - Orval, Brouwerij Het Anker - Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw/Blue, Buxton Brewery - Axe Edge, Colin Stronge, Desert Island Beers, Mikkeller - Brewed at De Proefbrouwerij - Mikkeller Black Buffalo