Over the last 10 days, I was cast away on a fairly remote island in Scotland called Mull. It’s not the most difficult place to find—a car ride and ferry boat will get you there—but it seemed a world away from my normal day-to-day life. I fished, hiked, enjoyed the company of old friends, found peace in a long stretch without Internet or television and, surprisingly, even hunted down some great beers to drink.
Granted, the majority of beers I thoroughly enjoyed came from a bottle shop in Bristol, England, which I boxed up and carried along for the journey. These were paced carefully over the course of the trip to be enjoyed between the impressive amounts of McEwan’s Export our group managed to drink. Not to discount McEwan’s Export. It proved a reliable companion for all activities at all times of day.
But what surprised me most about the supplementary beers were their intense and familiar flavor profiles, especially in the way of hops. An American hophead could do some seriously satisfying drinking in the U.K. these days. The Kernel Pale Ale Galaxy (from London) delivered perfect apricot, tangerine and orange notes. The Somerset, England-based Wild Beer Co. was another pleasant surprise: Its Fresh (a Southern Hemisphere hoppy ale) and Epic Saison (which packed lemon, pepper, fennel and hay into one swallow) were vivid and delicious. But, my favorite beers of the week came from Hardknott Brewery in Cumbria, England. Its Continuum was a refreshingly bright English bitter—I wish I had bought a case—and its Azimuth IPA packed intense notes of grapefruit, berries and ginger.
There were plenty of other beery moments that involved bottles or pints purchased on the island—like a pour of Isle of Mull Galleon Gold alongside a local venison burger in Tobermory—but my favorite came after an intense 13-mile hike over neighboring islands Ulva and Gometra. Exhausted from the long trek, rough terrain and quick pace, we stopped at a coffee shop (the only coffee shop on Ulva, I think) before taking the two-minute ferry ride back to Mull. Sitting outside on the picnic benches, I rehydrated with a refreshingly subtle, 3.9%-ABV Colonsay IPA. It was the perfect beer for the perfect moment, and its story was even better. From the label:
“Colonsay is the smallest island in the world with its own brewery. Ten percent of the island’s working population, Chris and Bob, are employed here.”
From buzzed-about self-imported English beers to discovered gems from small corners of the world, the Isle of Mull was, among many things, an unexpectedly delicious exploration of new beers.