The annual County Show is a big deal in Orkney - many people come 'home for the shows', lots of folk visit specially for the weekend every year. The end of the show officially* marks the end of summer here in Orkney. Winter starts on Sunday. It's not just about animals and machinery though, most local businesses will have a presence at the show and in 2014 we did too.

In partnership with Thistly Cross Cider we had a reasonably sized (some said too reasonably sized) tent serving Swannay beer and Scottish cider. Credit to Luke at Thistly Cross for doing most of the legwork, it was a good setup we had. It was by no means a big money maker but the value in being at the show was seeing the people who drink our beer do it right before us and having a good chat with them when they were doing so. We felt connected to the community and proud to see our beer being enjoyed locally.

Our 2014 setup. The night before when no rain had fallen. Big tent, eh?

Our 2014 setup. The night before when no rain had fallen. Big tent, eh?

Personally I don't think our Swannay beer and the cold Scottish cider detracted much from the 'main' beer tent at the show that year but alas we weren't at the show in 2015 (the tent was pretty big, I suppose). We had the option of a pitch in 2016 but could not pull it together in time so we missed another year. Surely, with a year's notice, we'd pull it off in 2017?!

The year started well, grand plans were written, goals were set. But the day-to-day takes up hours, weeks and months and before we knew it time was again short. We bought a tent (not an insignificant spend), we arranged a bar, we asked some people to be bar tenders, and we even got a licence. But then, a few weeks out, a problem with the licence, we'd need to reapply.

A brand new tent from Denmark. Maybe we'll get it out in 2018?

A brand new tent from Denmark. Maybe we'll get it out in 2018?

The standard timeframe for applying for the licence had passed but there was a possibility we could be granted one just in time if everything lined up. Do we take the risk and apply, knowing we might not know the outcome until very close to show date, or do we concede and miss another year.

Probably due to a lack of resources as opposed to being risk averse we (I) decided not to reapply for the licence. Thus, we're once again not at County Show this year :-(

I wanted to write this blog because I feel I've let people down. We were very pleased to be given the opportunity to pour our beer at the show (thanks Anne and Inga) for the reasons above - seeing folk enjoy our beer locally and in some ways being able to thank them for their support. I know that everyone at the brewery was looking forward to working the bar and people I spoke to were looking forward to drinking at the other side of it.

There's one small consolation in that we've heard the 'main' beer tent will be serving bottles of Island Hopping and Scapa Special this year. Have a good show folks, I hope we'll make it back sometime.

*unofficially. But the nights fairly draw in after the shows...


Around 20,000 people live on Orkney and a good number of them drink Swannay beer - it's in most shops and bars so it's easy to find. There are lots of folk who want to drink Swannay beer who aren't in Orkney and if it's not in their local shop or bar where do they order it? For a year or so one of the answers has been on this website.

With a mostly fixed product range orders have been steady and consistent and we've been shipping boxes regularly from the brewery in Orkney. It's nice to know your box of beer has come straight from the place where the beer was made, bobbed its way over the Pentland Firth on the ferry and trundled down the A9 on its journey to your glass.

This charm is lost however when the box we lovingly filled with fresh bottles arrives a soggy mess or doesn't arrive at all, so we've changed things.

Since last week all website orders have been dispatched from a logistics partner based on the mainland who are able to get our beer to you much faster and safer than we were managing. Delivery can now be as quick as next day and we're confident our damage/loss rate will plummet.

To welcome in this era of better customer service we're offering two discount codes so you can see for yourself how good things are.

Until 31 July, UK orders only

CHEAPSHIP saves £4.50 on any order (effectively reducing cost of shipping to £7.50 for up to 24 bottles

FREESHIP will activate free shipping on orders over £100

The new website we're working on will integrate our new shipping set up better and will also enable us to ship boxes of beer into Europe. We hope you're excited too!


We have a shop as part of our reception/admin office at the brewery. It's first and foremost an office but the shop is busy, sometimes too busy.

Due to being slightly understaffed, and in order to offer shop customers a good service when they visit, we need to vary our opening hours for the foreseeable future. 

We're asking everyone to please check our social media before visiting the brewery to check if we're opening before starting your journey to Swannay.



Thanks for your understanding, we look forward to seeing you!


An opportunity has arisen for a professional office/shop manager to join the team here at the brewery.

This wide-ranging, full time position is office-based at Swannay, 30 minutes drive from Kirkwall. There are great prospects for the right candidate to flourish.

A passion for beer is essential.

Rate of pay commensurate with experience.

Please email jobs@swannaybrewery.com for full details.


What a view!

What a view!

World class beers

We are big fans of Fridays here at Swannay. Fridays are the best. Sometimes we get bacon rolls, usually the brewery is left all shiny and clean at hometime, every now and again Team Swannay go out for Friday beers.

And Fridays are even better when you find out the brewery has won another three medals at the International Brewing Awards.

We’re delighted to report that our Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout has claimed gold in the International Dark Beer section at the event in Burton-upon-Trent. We must be doing something right because it’s the second time in a row SWO has won gold.

Light Munro and Pale Ale took silver and bronze in their sections of the International Cask Ale competition, too.

We are especially excited about this year’s haul because it means Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout is now up for the Championship Trophy at the Guildhall in London at the end of April. From north to south we go for that one - shall we wear our kilts again?

There were more than a thousand entries at IBA 2017 and the competition is notoriously fierce and the judging very strict, so to come back to Orkney with three medals is a genuine achievement for the small team at the brewery. It makes a long, busy week in our blustery but beautiful islands worth it even more.

We reckon we might raise a sneaky wee glass to toast our success tonight. Only because it’s Friday, of course.

As always, a huge thank you to all the judges at the event, and to all the drinkers of our beer. Shall we put Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout in a bottle do you think?


22nd June 2016 was unusual for at least a couple of reasons. First because Lewis finally managed to get out of his chair and brew a beer and second because of what was to happen late that evening.

It was a double brewday (1x 20BBL batch + 1x 5BBL batch) and the day didn't start too well. Lewis's memory tells him the 5BBL brew was supposed to be mashed straight after the 20BBL one was in but when Lewis arrived at 9am (post daddy duties) there was the 5BBL kit sitting empty and clean whilst everyone enjoyed a 9am coffee (that bit might not be true). This misunderstanding might be why Butch's lasting memory of the day is Lewis being in a bad mood.

The grist that got mashed at 0935 that day consisted of extra pale malt, Carapils and some oats, this bit was fine. It was in the copper (as we call it, as opposed to kettle) that the problems started. Since we don't whirlpool/use a hopback - we pump from copper to FV through heat exchanger - loading the brew with 100% pellet hops caused serious clogging of the heat exchanger and a very slow transfer time. So slow, I remember, that it Lewis who was last at the brewery that night.

I almost forgave the hops for taking up my early evening as they smelt so damn good. Three varieties were used and they were added throughout the boil (all pellets, did I mention that?) - Columbus, Bravo & Amarillo.

Fermentation went like all of our other fermentations (we only use one yeast strain - working on that) but there are some interesting comments on the brewsheet - "BITTER AS 'F'", for example. Other verbal comments I remember about this brew include 'murky crap' and 'it's only fit for the drain'.

Despite those comments it was racked to cask and stacked inconveniently in the cold store. Who knows why but no one got round to trying the beer again until last week (short on empty casks or something). The unfined cask that we tried was murky but the hoppy flavour was beautiful!

If you don't mind all the bad rap this beer has gotten and you'd like to try some of the murky crap for yourself then there's 13x9s available as of now. Chances are we'll not brew it again.

The other thing that makes 22nd June noteworthy is actually something that lasted until the following morning. Leonard Hill, second son of Lewis Hill, arrived at 0650 on June 23rd. (Leonard should not be judged or compared with this beer)

Thanks for reading, Lewis.

Even more awards!

We're delighted to have taken home seven awards from the SIBA Scotland competition 2016 yesterday. The mixture of gold, silver and bronze titles (but mostly gold!) takes our total awards haul to 112 (unless we've missed any - we probably have) since Rob started brewing in 2005.

Brewer Butch Lynch (pictured in red) was flown down to Glasgow to attend the competition and it's a good job he did too. We'll get him a branded Swannay shirt next time (and some different shoes too, maybe).

Here's the full list of what we won!

Overall Champion Cask Beer of the Competition // Island Hopping // GOLD

Standard Milds & Brown Ales // Dark Munro // SILVER

Standard Bitters & Pale Ales // Island Hopping // GOLD

Best Bitters & Pale Ales // Scapa Special // GOLD

Premium Bitters & Pale Ales // Pale Ale // BRONZE

Strong Bitters & Pale Ales // Duke IPA // SILVER

Small Pack – Speciality Beers // Barrel Aged Orkney Porter (2014 Arran Ed) // GOLD

Thanks to judges, drinkers, readers of this blog and anyone who generally likes what Swannay Brewery does :-)