A newly established Isle of Harris brewer has reached the finals of the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards.

Calum Bennett is one of three finalists in the Young Talent of the Year category.

Originally from Mull, Calum moved to Harris to work full-time in the newly-founded Loomshed Hebridean Brewery.

Directed by Jamie McGowan and Rob McKinnon, Loomshed Brewery is based near Tarbert. “It's an 800 litre micro-brewery,” explained Calum. “Rob and Jamie had been talking about starting up a brewery for a good few years. At one point, Jamie mentioned to my girlfriend, Beth, that he was looking for a brewer. I have a Masters Degree in brewing and distilling and Beth put us both in contact.”

It is hoped that full production will start in June or July this year.  “We want to make good, honest, approachable beer that will appeal to everyone, only in a new and contemporary way,” revealed Calum.

The range of beers will all reflect the heritage and people of the islands. “We have named each beer after local figures,” revealed Calum.  “We have the Weaver, the Poacher, the Crofter and the Iasgair or fisherman.”  Drawings of all the iconic Hebridean figures add life to each bottle.

The brewery is based at Iomairt an Obain – the small business unit project created by North Harris Trust in 2014 on the road between Tarbert and Urgha

Providing youngsters with a viable island career is one of the team's main aims. Calum said: “Jamie is already a big employer of islanders with his Essence of Harris candle-making business. Bringing people back onto the island and reinvigorating the economy is very important to us.”

Ultimately, the goal is to expand the brewery into part of a larger food and drinks brand. “Jamie and Rob are hoping to employ other young Hebrideans,” explained Calum.

“The object would be to create a family of food and drinks businesses on Harris, with young people running each branch. We would like to add people such as butchers or bakers – we already have a candle-stick maker with Jamie's business!”

For now, though, the focus is on the micro-brewery. The team want to keep the brewery eco-friendly, making sure they use solar panels, save energy and reduce waste as much as possible.

“Considering we haven't even started full production yet and we are already being nominated for an award, it's very high praise indeed!” reflected Calum.
In his entry form, Calum was open about dealing with learning difficulties and finding an outlet for his creativity through brewing. “Food and drink gave me somewhere to work,” he revealed.

“It can be very cathartic if you have a learning problem.  I love the feeling of using raw ingredients, and it doesn't get much rawer than barley grains, and the sensation that you're doing alchemy with them to get beer!”

Calum will be competing against Ellie Louise Sinclair of the Veg Co and Jordan Russell of Aldomak. The team will find out if Calum has been successful at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards ceremony, held in Edinburgh on 23 May.  You can find out the latest news at www.loomshed.scot.