Orkney Craft Vinegar

Bere barley-based vinegar producer

It all started with a combination of two things, says co-owner Sam Britten. "Firstly I started working at Barony Mill (a historic watermill that’s famous for grinding bere) which was my introduction to bere malt kilned using traditional methods to dry. This got the creative wheels in motion and I began to think about innovative ways to use it. Then I bought a homebrewing kit for my father in law, Keith, for his birthday, with which he was delighted. Things developed from there and we tried different styles, yeast strains and additional foraged flavours.

Eventually we came to a conclusion about maybe brewing in a smaller than micro setup. I really wanted to explore wild flavours that are in abundance in Orkney such as meadowsweet, rosehips, wild raspberries, seabuckthorn, gorse and pineapple weed. I was at work grinding some malted flour for a chef in Edinburgh when the thought of vinegar came to me. I thought that vinegar would be a great medium for carrying the flavours available to us on the island.

The first flavour had to be the bere malt as far as I was concerned. I consulted Keith about the idea to see if he was up for doing it with me. I didn’t expect him to be positive about such an unorthodox idea, but I was pleasantly surprised that he was. After that the long rocky road to producing vinegar in 100 litre batches commenced.

Bere is Orkney’s ubiquitous landrace barley that’s been around for maybe 5000 years or longer. To orcadians bere is ‘corn’ because it would have been the most prevalent grain before modern strains of barley with better yields and plump uniformed grains. It is a six row spring barley adapted to short growing seasons, with high protein levels, variable grain sizes and relatively high in nitrogen reduces the sugar extraction from the malt.

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