I wanna take you to the Ceabahr – Hebridean pub scoops SIBA top slot

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

16 March 2018

Duncan Castling (pictured centre)
Duncan Castling (pictured centre)

Think that only big city restaurants win awards? Then think again.

Winner of this year’s Best Independent Craft Beer Restaurant is The Ceabhar on Tiree, an Inner-Hebridean island with a population of less than 1,000 people.

It’s a big change from the previous two years when the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) awarded their restaurant gong to Bundobust in Leeds (2016) and Booma in Brixton (2017).

The judges, however, were unanimous in their praise, loving the fact that the restaurant’s food was almost entirely locally sourced – either reared on the island or grown by the venue, meaning that there is no waste. The beer, too, is made on-site by the Bun Dubh micro-brewery.

‘It’s all about being true to the area and championing this amazing community,' said Duncan Castling, co-owner of Ceabhar & Bun Dubh Brewery. ‘It’s amazing to win.’

Ceabhar beat off Pavement Vaults in York and Tom Kitchin’s high-end gastropub Scran & Scallie in Edinburgh.

Castling and his partner Polly Kellett took over the restaurant in 2006, having been introduced to Tiree by friends and fellow kite-surfers. Back then, while the restaurant was thriving, the beer list was uninspiring.

‘We come from Durham, we absolutely loved beers with local provenance,’ Castling said. First came a selection of Scottish bottled beers, then in 2016 Bun Dhu brewery was born, one aim being to reduce the restaurant's carbon footprint.

Now Castling produces four cask ales, including Sundancer, a 4.6% light hoppy ale, popular with visitors – 'mainly tourists and outdoor enthusiasts’ – and a good match for local specialities, lobster and crab claws.

In days of old, Tiree was known for monks growing grain, now it’s sheep and cows, so looking ahead, Castling would love to see local crofters return to growing grain.

The future might well see additions to the Bun Dhu range. ‘Perhaps a seaweed beer,’ he said, continuing the local theme.

Other winners on the night included Signature Brew (Brewery Business of the Year); Farr Brew (Green Business); North Brewing Co (Business Innovation) and Loch Lomond Brewery, who won a design award for the use of drone images on their Dr Peppercorn can.

Read about Marko Husek and the Bundobust phenomenon here

Photographs © Malcom Steele

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