A few years ago, Andrea was a brewer on the run. He lived in Baños, Ecuador, where he worked at the Stray Dog brewery, almost two thousand meters up on the hillsides of Tungurahua volcano, from whose crater lava flows sometimes dangerously slips down to the city. The craft beers market is growing, regulations are still vague and for many the business is tempting. Including the corrupt police chief, who joins up with the almost divorcing wife of the Stray Dog’s owner, impounds the brewery and tries to silence everyone who worked there and could accuse him of his deeds. Andrea is among them, and he has to flee. The first brewing job he finds is in Scotland, so he jumps on the first available flight to Europe and arrives in Glasgow. There, Malcom, the owner of Fyne Ales, is waiting for him: he is tall, blonde and wearing shorts, completely immune to the cold Scottish morning. His car drives for hours along the freezing loch-side roads and through the hills of an intense green. He finally takes an almost invisible turn off the main road, completely hidden by the forest. They pass through the little village of Cairndow: ten houses, an 18th century pub, a church and a school, closed since 1988, when the number of students dropped to three. Malcolm finally shows him his new house, a cottage between the woods and the sea loch.

Andrea is thrown from the equator to a most far away part on the west coast of Scotland, in just six days. Like a stray dog.
Andrea’s intention was to stay no more than a few months. His idea was to gain experience in Scotland and then head south, to the Siren brewery, east of London. Thus it would have been, had his beat-up Mini kept not him in Scotland for another three months for repairs. After three years he is still there, in the garden of his cottage, between the loch and the hills.



Andrea drops the last batch of hops and ends his story. He decides to takes us to the Stagecoach Inn, the local pub. He is keen to explain to us the meaning of being a brewer in Scotland. Between the dark wooden beams on white-washed walls are hung all the labels of the ales brewed by Fyne Ales.  The bartender knows them all.



«Here, the brewer is respected like the town priest in Italy. Everyone knows who you are. Besides, if you are in charge of brewing, somehow you decide how Saturday goes»



Fyne Ales are sold even in Italy now, but their best customers, and those to whom they are mostly accountable, are the local consumers. Andrea’s role is completely different to that of a brewer in London: there you must follow trends and fashions, and move at incredible speed. When the taste changes, suddenly everyone goes in the same direction. Like a school of sardines.

Finding the customer base for Fyne Ales in western Scotland is different, and much easier. You just need to jump into Andrea’s wrecked Mini, head north or west, sit down, for example, at the old George Hotel in Inveraray. And ask for a pint.

In brewing and living at Loch Fyne, nature is dominant. During the long and dark winters, a bright day is greeted as a gift. When spring comes, the hills in the Highlands are covered with fragrant gorse, which is used to flavour the beer. When this yellow explosion suddenly ends so too does spring, and endless violets surround the loch and brewery. Summer is short-lived and unsettled.

Loch Fyne seems a separate little world unto itself, silent, which sometimes fills with a few, delicate noises nearby: the swishing of the waves of the sea loch, the slow mooing of the Highland cattle, the distant music from a stereo someone playing inside the brewery. Yet, Andrea does not forget where he comes from.



Something which is always present, even when what you see from the windows of your house is not a bay overlooking the Mediterranean sea, but the sunset on the high and grey tide, slowly bringing the North Sea inside Loch Fyne.


— Photo: Andrea Ladas working at Fyne Ales.



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