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      Harris & Scalpay News

The Isle of Harris Brewery Taproom and Deli launched in Leverburgh over the Easter weekend. A packed evening event on Good Friday introduced South Harris to the new venture, and doors opened to the public on Easter Saturday.

Housed in the former Anchorage Restaurant, which closed two-and-a-half years ago, the Isle of Harris Brewery Taproom and Deli comprises a bar, light-filled drinking and eating space, and shop.

Brewer Nick Helfrich produces Isle of Harris beers on the premises in expanded facilities from which they are tapped into the bar.

Twelve Isle of Harris Brewery beers are available on tap alongside cocktails, spirits, beers and soft drinks from the Hebrides and beyond, plus a selection of wines. The menu concentrates on staples such as fish and chips, steak and ale pie, and Anchorage Langoustines – one of several references to the venue’s previous incarnation.

‘We loved the Anchorage and always used to order the langoustines,’ says manager Anna Helfrich. ‘We didn’t want to erase it.’

The original Anchorage sign hangs on one of the taproom walls, and a minke whale spine suspended from the ceiling dates from Anchorage days. An item on the breakfast menu is named after Finlay MacQueen, who opened the first Anchorage restaurant 30 years ago.

The vibe in the taproom, which has views on to the harbour, is relaxed and friendly. Anna Helfrich designed the interior herself and has created a modern but cosy space with lots of leather, wood and metal. Tables are light and designed to be easy to push together as new friendships are forged.

The deli stocks a range of Hebridean food and drink, as well as island cookbooks, pottery and gifts. A selection of over 100 Scottish beers sits alongside artisanal produce, with coffee, sandwiches and cakes to take away. In due course, Anna Helfrich says she plans to introduce a range of Isle of Harris Deli branded ketchups and preserves.

It’s a new departure for a company that started out as a home-brew project. The Helfrichs, who ran beer festivals in the Oxfordshire village of Merton for 10 years before moving to Harris, originally started brewing beer for themselves at their croft in Borrisdale.

‘People tried it and liked it, and it grew and grew,’ says Anna Helfrich.  

For the new venture, Anna and Nick Helfrich have teamed up with business partners Euan and Morag Galloway. They have also received support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the CnES Business Gateway Covid Economic Recovery Grant and the Outer Hebrides Young Enterprise Support Scheme.

The new brewing facilities have allowed the company to double its beer production. This means it can continue to produce as much bottled beer as before, while supplying the taps in the taproom. The beers are produced in line with the real ale tradition and have no additives. Due to popular demand, the company is now planning to introduce a lager.  

As well as offering a new place to enjoy Hebridean food and drink in South Harris, which has seen two closures in recent years, the Helfrichs hope the Isle of Harris Brewery Taproom and Deli will provide employment and boost the local economy. The new venture will employ four full-time staff, including a chef, and at least six part-time staff. A Leverburgh baker will supply the deli, and the company is also working with local producers Croft 36 and Mustheb. 

The taproom serves breakfast from 10am, and its main food menu from noon until 8.30pm. The core target market is not tourists but local residents, and the venue can accommodate events such as weddings, with one already booked in for May.

The Isle of Harris Brewery Taproom will also showcase musical talent from the island and beyond. The Good Friday launch event offered a flavour of what’s to come with performances from ‘Hit the Road’ participant Isla Scott, Sarah Helfrich and Sarah Duce.