Butte-y Queen

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Though he did lend his voice to mighty-fine Joker at one time.

I like comebacks…most of the time. Actors, musicians, and otherwise talented people who, instead of fading into oblivion, decide to get back on stage and relive their glory days.

Take Harrison Ford…wait, bad example. He had his chance and blew it with the fourth Indiana Jones. Take…Mark Hamill. Sure. That guy hasn’t seen much live action in a good long while. And here he is at age 64 picking up his lightsaber again in Star Wars Episode VII. Sure he might not have a long run of movies, but at least he’s getting back out there.

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The Butte Brewing Company could be considered a similar venture, though it’s one that I’m sure will last longer than Mark Hamill’s return to the big screen (no offence Mark). While Butte has an excellent in Headframe Spirits, it’s still been at least 50 years since a brewery has operated in this ole’ mining town.

This establishment opened just this year prior to the summer festival season, and has started to establish itself as a butte-brewing-co-logolocal watering hole. The building itself is 3500 square feet with high ceilings, an event room and an upper floor of tables – leaving lots of room for events and mingling. My favorite part? The brand uses the same logo used by the company more than 50 years ago.

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I had the opportunity to test their wares during a recent trip South to celebrate the American turkey day with some family. Currently the brewery offers 7-8 varieties on tap. I found the Rye Ale at first to have a pleasant earthy richness, with a hint of the grain’s unusual mineral finish. I was however, disappointed that I was unable to taste the IPA, which uses an intriguing balance of Simcoe, Centennial and Citra hops with Chinook varieties for bittering the brew.

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A collection of pertinent antique beer bottles.

While the Butte Brewery first of the breweries to grace the mining town’s streets, it certainly won’t be the last. Muddy Creek Brewing recently opened. Copper Wild Brewing is also set to open up soon. Not to mention the other 50+ Breweries in the state.

You might be thinking. “50 breweries! That’s a lot to see. Is there a benefit to visiting them all?” Or maybe you’re not. I’m no mind reader. But if you were, the answer is yes.

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The Montana Brewery Passport is a worthwhile investment for MT residents who appreciate craft beer. Likewise, it’s a fun project for Canadians who like to hop across the border every so often – for skiing, shopping, or otherwise. Participants who complete their passport by visiting all the open breweries can send in their passport for the official “Montana Brewery Passport” stamp (as pictured above left) as well as a pair of 16 oz. pint glasses, while other prizes are promised to come.

References

Montana Standard http://mtstandard.com/news/local/butte-brewing-company-open-in-time-for-festival/article_0b75fd99-a370-5f11-9243-fb3dbd399e6f.html

Monana Brewery Passport http://www.montanabrewerypassport.com/faq.html

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The Best of the ‘Wurst

oktoberfest-info_logoI have recently been informed that some family members were planning to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. Without me! Naturally, I was a jealous mess for several weeks leading up to the event. However, I did manage to pursue a similar experience (or as close as I could get) without leaving the province.

Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the wedding between the Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The festivities were held on the fields in front of the city gates, while all of Munich’s citizens were invited to attend. The festival grounds which were thereafter known as the Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) or “weisn” to the locals. Somehow this morphed into an anniversary party, then a public festival and has since become a tradition to consume fermented grain.calgary-oktoberfest-new2015-v1

The website offers some helpful information on planning your visit, as well as some interesting facts and numbers about the event. This year 5.9 million guests attended this year, while the Lost and Found collected 600 passports, 580 wallets, 320 mobile phones, 220 bags and “rucksacks” (or backpacks, whatever you want to call them), 18 cameras, 230 glasses and 45 pieces of jewellery or watches, among other more unusual items.The Calgary Oktoberfest is more or less an extension of the Calgary International Beer Fest – numerous local breweries get together, brew some special casks and flaunt their delicious wares. There are however a few more costumed attendees. And live music.

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I was impressed by the food offered there. Last Best put on a delicious pot of Elk Meatballs with a double-smoked bacon tomato sauce (I might have gone back for seconds). However, I was disappointed with the lack of German food. Where were the bratwurst? The schnitzel? Naturally, the next day I concocted the German food I’d missed. Starting with the following soft pretzels.


Bavarian Beer PretzelsIMG_20150927_135741

1 bottle (12 ounces) pilsner or Oktoberfest-style beer

1 package (1 tbsp.) active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 tablespoons sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

4 – 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon water

Kosher Salt

  1. In a small saucepan, heat beer to 110°F. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast overtop.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3 cups flour. Pour in yeast mixture and beat until smooth.
  3. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft, sticky dough.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
  5. Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 425°. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide and shape into ten balls.
  7. Roll each into a long rope, approximately 20-24″ long. Curve ends of each rope to form a circle; twist ends once and lay over opposite side of circle, pinching ends to seal into a pretzel shape.
  8. Fill a large pot with 10 cups water. Stir in baking soda and heat to a boil.
  9. Drop pretzels, one or two at a time, into boiling water. Cook 30 seconds.
  10. Remove each pretzel with a slotted spoon and drain well on towels, removing as much moisture as possible.
  11. Place at least two inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and water. Brush egg mixture over pretzels and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  13. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to a wire rack to cool.
  14. Freeze option: Freeze cooled pretzels in resealable plastic freezer bags. To use, thaw at room temperature or, if desired, microwave each pretzel on high 20-30 seconds or until heated through. Yield: 8 pretzels.
  15. Divide and shape dough into eight balls; roll each into a 14-in. rope. Starting at one end of each rope, loosely wrap dough around itself to form a coil. Boil, top and bake as directed. Yield: 8 pretzels. To Make Pretzel Bites: Divide and shape into eight balls; roll each into a 12-in. rope. Cut each rope into 1-in. pieces. Boil and top as directed;
  16. Bake at 400° for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10 large pretzels. Serve with mustard for dipping.

References

http://www.oktoberfest.de/en/

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oktoberfest

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home. http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/soft-beer-pretzels

Honey for Nothin’

Brooks, AB is not the first place I’d think to spend a summer vacation. But every year in early August, the entire city (or at least the cool citizens) get dressed up and go to feast and joust at the Brooks Medieval Faire. Think of it as their version of the Calgary Stampede. Except set in the 1400s. But no jousting tournament is complete without a horn of mead. Enter the Fallentimber Meadery from Water Valley, AB.
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fallentimber_logo_griffintop_blackI’d never been much of a mead drinker in the past. I had always expected something made of honey to be overly sweet and cloying. After meeting up with Nathan Ryan and Cole Boyd from the meadery, I now understand that there’s a mead for every taste.

“My Dad’s been a beekeeper for almost 40 years now,” said Nathan Ryan of the family-owned and operated business. “Growing up around that, we didn’t have a ton to do with it. I was allergic to bees, so there was no way I could be involved.” With a brewing background though, the Ryan family was bound to expand their scope. “Under the Cottage Winery license we were able to open the meadery, doing small-batch production.” The doors of Fallentimber Meadery opened in 2010. Current production is about 1800 litres at a time – not a terribly small production, but still a home-grown organization.

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(Right to Left) Dry Mead, Saskatoon Mead, Traditional Mead, Spiced Mead and Sweet Mead.

I soon learned how versatile honey could be – not only can it be made into mead (which in ABV terms is more alike to a wine), or in the case of the hopped mead, more like a beer. “The Hopped Mead comes with a bit of a story, ” Nathan began. “We had been making our still mead for a while, but since we had a brewing background we decided to do a Braggot. This is a drink that’s about 50% malt and 50% honey, and kind of a grey area for legislation. When we started talking to AGLC in 2013, we had already bought a lot of brewing equipment. they were going through a review of legislation and ended up rejecting our application. This was the same review that got rid of the minimum requirements to breweries – while this was good for microbreweries, it made us the ‘exception to the rule.'”

Rather than wait and waste the equipment, Nathan and his brother decided to use the equipment and “act” as if DSC08727they were making a beer. Thus, the Hopped Mead was born. They’ve since seen the policy change to allow for the Braggot to be made, but the Hopped Mead has already become a signature product. The sweetness hits you right at the beginning, and quickly mellows into a rich, earthy hop flavour. It’s definitely worth a try for any hop-head.

Like the hopped mead, the Ginger Mead is also brewed with more of a beer-focus and a fraction of the sweetness of your “typical” ginger beer. “Drinking a pint of 14% mead is tricky in the afternoon. We wanted something you could have a pint of – the ginger mead is ultimately our ideal patio drink.” The honey flavour is subtle upon first sip, but the sharp ginger flavour is the star of the show.

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Cole and Nathan of the Fallentimber Meadery
Centred upon a rustic quonset, the Falltentimber Meadery is becoming one of Alberta’s forefront destinations for beer and wine-lovers alike. Much like the wineries of Kelowna, the Fallentimber Meadery is a place to visit and enjoy the scenery with a beverage. “We would like more people to come visit the meadery. We’ve got the place on Google maps. I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a nice middle of nowhere.”
The Fallentimber Meadery
The Fallentimber Meadery

Want to learn more about mead? Fallentimber Meadery will be at the Calgary Oktoberfest near the end of September. The following weekend, October 3rd, will be their 5th Anniversary party at the apiary complete with live music, dinner, dancing, an informative K-Country show, and vikings. Yes, vikings. Tickets are currently on sale at their website.

Honey is a common ingredient in many sauces for meat. Mead is therefore the only logical next level ingredient.

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12 chicken thighs or wings

3/4 cup ginger mead (or ginger beer)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger (one 2″ cube)
4 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until cooked through, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine the ginger mead, brown sugar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and Worcestershire in a saucepan. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/2 cup water. Pour into saucepan and whisk rapidly until combined. Cook over medium heat until liquid begins to thicken.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish once cooked through. Pour sauce over the chicken to coat.
  6. Return chicken to oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and sticky, about 15 to 20 minutes.Serves 4 hungry knights or vikings.

It’s a Trappist!

its-a-trappistBelgium is high on my places to visit. Why? Perhaps because it is home to three of my favorite things: chocolate, waffles, and Trappist beers.

Abbey and Trappist ales may appear similar in a liquor store. While there are no rigid brewing styles they must conform to, they tend to be dark, rich, and strong with notes of fruit and spice. There are some defining differences as well – all Trappist ales are abbeys, but not all abbey beers are Trappists.

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Not a Trappist. But still good.

The term “abbey beer” refers to a beer brewed in the style of Trappist monks, but could easily be brewed by a monks, a secular brewery or some guy in his basement. An actual “Trappist” beer must be recognized by the International Trappist Association to be considered as such.

At the moment there are only 10 of the trappist monasteries that produce beer, six of which are located in Belgium. It is unlikely there will ever be more, due to the strict criteria a Trappist brewery must comply with.

  1. ivt_logo 800The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
  3. The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture.  The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
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Trappist ales. Image sourced from Belgian Beer Journal.

I say unlikely, but not impossible. After all, Spencer Trappist Ale has already defied the odds by producing the first and only certified Trappist ale in the United States.

A list of the Trappist monasteries that currently brew is as follows:

  1. The Trappist beer and the Trappist cheeses of Orval Abbey (Belgium)
  2. The Trappist beers of Achel Abbey (Belgium)
  3. The Trappist beers and Trappist cheeses of Westmalle Abbey (Belgium)
  4. The Trappist beers and Trappist cheeses of Scourmont-Lez-Chimay Abbey (Belgium)
  5. The Trappist beers of Rochefort Abbey (Belgium)
  6. The Trappist beers of Westvleteren Abbey (Belgium)
  7. The Trappist beers, Trappist cheeses, breads, cookies, chocolate, jams, and honey of Koningshoeven Abbey in Tilburg (The Netherlands)
  8. The Trappist beers and liqueurs of Stift Engelszell Abbey (Austria)
  9. The Trappist beer of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer (USA)
  10. The Trappist beer of Maria Toevlucht Abbey in Zundert (The Netherlands)
  11. The Trappist beer of Tre Fontane Abbey in Rome (Italy)
Orval Abbey http://www.orval.be/
Orval Abbey http://www.orval.be/

If you noticed the Orval, Westmalle, Scourmont-Lez-Chimay, and Koninghoeven Abbeys also produce cheese. Other Trappist monasteries exist, but may choose not to brew at all. For example, Mont des Cats in France does not produce beer, instead focusing their efforts on cheese. Likewise, Echt-Tegelen in the Netherlands produces an interesting selection of liqueurs.

The following recipe makes 4-5 crispy, fluffy Belgian waffles with a rich Belgian ale syrup. If you don’t have an abbey or a Trappist on hand, any beer will do.

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Bacon Belgian Beer Waffles

4 eggs, separatedIMG_20150908_125029

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup dark Trappist ale or stout

1/4 cup milk

5 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

6 strips maple bacon, cooked crispy and chopped

Maple Caramel Ale Syrup to serve (see below)

  1. Pre-heat waffle iron according to manufacturers instructions.
  2. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in one medium bowl and the yolks in another. Do not get any yolk in the whites, or all is lost.
  3. Add the sugar, beer, milk, melted butter and vanilla to the yolks. Whisk gently until combined.
  4. Add the salt to the whites and whip vigorously with a hand-mixer or stand-mixer until stiff peaks form. Or do it by hand, if your biceps are up to it. This should take about 4 minutes.
  5. In the large bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Add chopped bacon to the bowl and stir to combine.
  6. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Slowly add the yolk mixture and stir until just combined.
  7. Gently fold the whites into the batter, making sure not to crush .
  8. Pre-heat a waffle maker, cook waffles according to manufactures specifications.
  9. Serve with Guinness Caramel Syrup.

Serves four somewhat-hungry humans.

Maple Caramel Ale SyrupIMG_0324

3/4 cup Guinness

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup maple syrup

  1. Combine all three ingredients in a small saucepan.
  2. Stir over high heat for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Once mixture begins to foam, reduce to medium-low heat.
  4. Simmer until syrup is 50% of its original volume. Keep a watchful eye on the pot while this occurs – the syrup (if overcooked) will harden upon cooling.
  5. Serve over waffles or pancakes.

Makes 1 cup of syrup

Note: If you do overcook the syrup (and it hardens when cooled), it’s not the end of the world. Re-heat the caramel prior to pouring over pancakes. Let the syrup-coated pancakes cool a minute or two before eating.

References

  1. http://www.trappist.be/en/pages/trappist-beers
  2. Recipe adapted from The Beeroness. http://thebeeroness.com/2015/03/04/maple-bacon-beer-waffles/
  3. Image sourced from http://bensbeerblog.com/2012/12/12/beer-and-star-wars-a-pairing-guide/its-a-trappist/

A Dram Come True

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Image from The Whiskey Exchange

Whisky* fascinates me – it’s produced by many cultures across the world. There’s bourbon in the Southern United States, Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky* and of course scotch. While some might argue the differences are largely geographic, there are some distinct differences in ingredients and distilling procedures. This phenomenon is especially true in the context of Scotch whisky – even within a region, the flavours often differ so much that they can hardly be considered the same thing.

Take the Singleton of Glen Ord, on the edge of the region known as the “Black Isle”. The packaging might look familiar to Canadian scotch-drinkers – the label is almost identical to the Singleton of Dufftown, save the change in name. This one is exported solely to Asia, and is a smooth and balanced single malt. I was however quite disappointed to learn that Glen Ord did not peat their malt, though they have in the past. “Peated” means the malted barley has been dried over a peat fire, adding a distinctive smoky flavour to the resulting whisky that endures all stages of distillation and maturation. This however, makes the resulting product strikingly different from other varieties.

DSC07657Glen Ord matures half of the whisky is aged in bourbon casks, the other half in sherry casks. The two are blended at the end. It should be noted that the volume of whisky will decrease during ageing by about 2% per year, but can be higher in warmer, drier continents. This fraction of alcohol which evaporates from the casks during maturation is known as the “Angel’s Share”. Scotch must be aged a minimum of three years in the barrel, though most producers choose to age longer.

My only complaint with modern distillery tours is the lack of interaction. Yes you have a knowledgeable tour guide and have the opportunity to taste the wares, but you can’t get very close to the equipment in any stage past the mash. Neither are you allowed to take pictures due to the high concentration of volatiles in the air. This is consistent with most other operational distilleries.

The distinctive pagoda roof of a distillery seen at Dallas Dhu, designed to vent the heat of the stills.
The distinctive pagoda roof seen at the Dallas Dhu distillery, designed to vent the heat of the stills.

Not so at Dallas Dhu, a historical distillery dating back to the Victorian era located South-east of Forres in the Speyside region. This one we stumbled upon by accident while we were searching for Randolph’s Leap. Not only were we able to get up nice and close to the equipment, we were able to document our findings in photographs. Another stark contrast between the two distilleries is the difference in technologies used. While Dallas Dhu installed various mannequins around the premises to illustrate how tasks were done by hand, these procedures are automated in most distilleries today.

The Dallas Dhu was operational between 1899 and 1983, and is named for the Gaelic words for “Black Water Valley”. Currently, the property is owned by Scotland’s Historic Buildings and Monument Directorate. Historic Scotland has operated the property since its establishment in 1992. Here we were able to climb up into the two-storey tower where malt was stored, peer into the mash tun where sugars were fermented, and stand next to the pear-shaped wash still where the beer-like concoction was once transformed into a fiery spirit.

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Big ole’ bags of malted barley.

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We finished the tour sipping a scotch and watching a cheesy video listening to the ghost of Roderick Dhu impart his wisdom like a whisky-bottle genie. What were we drinking if the distillery hasn’t been operational for over 30 years, you might ask? Not the vintage Dallas Dhu – a bottle of the 1982 vintage will cost you a minimum of 200 pounds (which, realistically, isn’t terrible in the world of scotch). This one was the Roderick Dhu blended whisky, which incorporates a small amount (a teaspoon, perhaps?) of the original Dallas Dhu to create a pale, easy-drinking yet gently peated whisky palatable to most. While not my favorite dram of the itinerary, it was a unique addition to our whisky-tasting experience.

*Notice how I spelled this word without an “e”? Both spellings of the word itself has celtic origins, but the word “whisky” is used in Scotland and Canada. “Whiskey” refers to a similar libation in other locations such as Ireland and the United States.

References:

  1. Historic Scotland, Dallas Dhu Distillery. http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_085
  2. Whisky.com, Dallas Dhu. http://www.whisky.com/whisky-database/distilleries/details/fdb/Distilleries/Details//dallas-dhu.html

Speyside Craft Brewery

For readers less-familiar with my recent activities, I haSpeysign1ve recently spent two weeks travelling through Scotland. Today I’d like to tell you about one of our greatest accidents of the excursion. After all, you can’t have an adventure without a mishap or two.

Speyside is one of, if not my absolute, favorite regions of Scotland. Not only do you have the highest concentration of Scotch distilleries, but each town you visit has its own character and charm.

My partner-in-crime and I had planned to visit the Highland Games at Gordon Castle in Fochabers on our last day in the highlands. Not only did we (and by we, I mean he) have to drive through 20 roundabouts on the left-hand side of the road, but we were sidetracked along the way.

I’m very easily distracted. Especially by beer. “Look! A brewery!” I exclaim as we pass through the town of Forres, begging my chauffeur to go investigate.

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Image courtesy Speyside Craft Brewery.
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Image courtesy Speyside Craft Brewery.

A man stood outside the door on his phone, his yellow pants matching the door and the trim of the building.We slowly drive up to the door and notice the “closed sign”. As we start to drive away, the man in the yellow pants waves at us to stay. We roll down our window to hear him say, “Hey, do you guys want to come have a look around?” He hangs up his phone and unlocks the door.

The man later introduced himself as Seb, and gave us an impromptu tour of the brewery. In only its second year of operation, the Speyside Craft Brewery is becoming a local gem in Scotland’s burgeoning craft beer scene. We were just a few weeks late to attend the second of their beer festivals, complete with music and food. Seb offered us a taste of their newest seasonal, and sent us on our way with some brewery swag.

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My kind of souvenirs.

The name of each lager and ale is crafted with a nod to local character and legend. Even the logo with its adorning cetaceans is reminiscent of the Moray Firth where many tourists flock to catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two. We went home with a bottle of their signature IPA – the marker of a good brewery. Named after the small county between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands that the Speyside Brewery calls home, this IPA is rich and malty, not unlike another of Scotland’s beloved beverages.

The river Findhorn.
The river Findhorn.
Just a big ole' rock.
Just a big ole’ rock.

Likewise, Speyside’s signature lager, Randolph’s Leap, is named after an iconic gorge along the river Findhorn where the rock banks are closest together. Legend has it that Thomas Randolph, the new Earl of Moray, was once chasing a local clan leader that had attempted to raid his castle in Darnaway. Alistair Cumming, supposedly leapt across the gorge to ensure the freedom . I guess “Cumming’s Leap” didn’t have the same ring to it. Nevertheless, it’s quite a romantic spot to go hiking so long as you bring enough snacks to avoid your travel companion becoming hangry.

It wasn’t until later in our journey we cracked open the IPA. We had brought it along into our hike up the Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders. However, not needing a set of keys the entire time meant there was an unexpected consequence – we didn’t have the bottle opener that was usually attached to the keychain. Luckily, there were a few craggy rocks around to use as a fulcrum.

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It’s less comfy than it looks.

Is it somewhere I’d recommend a fellow traveller to visit, or at least seek out in a pub? Absolutely. Do I wish they exported to Canada? Absolutely.

Guess we’ll just have to go back and visit. Check out the Speyside story, learn about the region, and plan your visit at their website here.