Being further north than most in the UK, Orkney gets more of the long summer light into the evenings. For example, a typical mid-June sees the gap between dusk and dawn at less than three hours. So with more daylight, we had more time to perfect the ultimate summer beer - unfiltered lager.
Introducing OLA — Orkney LAger — the most drinkable beer we’ve produced to date.
The great thing about a long summer is that it soon turns into Oktoberfest season, and although OLA is a helles rather than a festbier, it ticks all the boxes when it comes to hefty amounts of refreshment. We like to think our friends in Bavaria would understand. And being unfiltered, OLA is also vegan-friendly (like all Swannay kegged and canned releases).
OLA is 4.2% ABV and is brewed with European hops and 100% lager malt, for that classic low bitterness and restrained bready sweetness that makes helles lagers so moreish. They are such an authentic beer style, so we are really pleased that when OLA was released (we gave it a soft launch) it was Orkney’s first lager.*
* Hardcore Swannay fans may like to know that we based the recipe on an old one of Rob’s (Scapa 1919) which although lagered at cold temperatures was fermented with ale yeast, potentially making it Orkney’s first Kölsch, but that’s another story, to be revisited…
The response to OLA has been amazing, in fact for much of the summer it rivalled our flagship Scapa Special on draught in pubs and bars across Orkney, and in some cases outsold it. To our knowledge that was the first time this has ever happened (Scapa can take it on the chin though).
It shows that our belief in making a great lager was justified. Our goal for OLA is to make it a locally-brewed alternative to the ubiquitous big red T that we see everywhere up here. We also want to introduce OLA to the rest of the mainland and further afield in the UK. There are so many great lagers around, but like the beer itself, there is always room for one more!
We are really happy with how the beer is tasting, and it is the ideal companion for the turn from summer into autumn. Working with lager yeast is a fascinating challenge for our brewing team; OLA has become only the second beer in Swannay history not to use our house yeast.
With that in mind, OLA is not a final focus but a starting point. We are looking at a range of other lagers for the future, with OLA as the baseline model. As our Bere series did so well recently (Scapa Bere, Table Bere, ESBere) we’d have to be daft no to at least consider a Bere Lager, and maybe also dark lagers or other continental variants too.
As it is, OLA is available on keg in Orkney and occasionally further afield (but more will follow) and in 440ml cans from our online store right now. Please give us your feedback, we’d love to hear what you think of it and how we can make it even better.