Our brewery is located on the northwesterly tip of Orkney’s mainland, a wind-battered area known as Swannay. Brewing in a rustic farmstead we’re in a unique location: showered in spray from the Atlantic Ocean in the winter and surrounded by fertile farmland in the summer.
Our founder Rob Hill - ever the collector - first came to Swannay Farm in 2003 looking to buy the old time clock. One year later, after being let-go from his then current head brewer job, he somehow bought the whole building complex and started to think about how to make beer at Swannay.
With no means or desire to purchase shiny new brewing plant Rob went on the hunt for something that’d been used before. He ended up with not one but three kits(!): a five brewers barrel (BBL), a 20 BBL and a 100 BBL.
Already with twenty-five years’ brewing in his boots Rob knew exactly what the first beer needed to be: Scapa Special, our flagship pale ale that still accounts for around a third of all we brew today. It wasn’t long before the five BBL kit was up to four brews a week using just three fermenting vessels. This was no mean feat considering Rob was also doing all the delivering, cask washing, sales, admin - literally all tasks involved in running the company - himself.
Around about 2010 Rob’s son Lewis returned home from university and (perhaps foolishly) started helping out at the brewery. The 20 BBL plant was soon ‘commissioned’ and production volumes continued to increase. Today a team of six comfortably brew Swannay’s range of modern classic beers four to five times a week.
Swannay’s growth has been controlled, steady and strong. We’re proud that we have fantastic local support on Orkney and still sell around a quarter of all our beer on our home island. Far from our early days as a one-man, cask beer producing brewery; Rob, Lewis, and an enthusiastic team package beers into cask, keg and bottle for shipment throughout the UK and, increasingly, worldwide.
Careful not to get carried away with growth for the sake of growth, our absolute main focus is still making the best beer we possibly can; it’s what Rob did in the early days to get the business going and it is what will ensure the brewery’s longevity.
Ultimately we’re working towards recommissioning the 100 BBL plant Rob salvaged from Guernsey whilst continually improving our beers and supporting our local community as well as drinkers near and far.