My freshly pulled pint of Iron Lady IPA is strong, tangy and refreshing, and is all the more enjoyable for having come from the most remote microbrewery on the planet.
Four hundred miles east of the southern tip of South America, the Falkland Islands are a far-flung British Overseas territory surrounded by sub-Antarctic waters where penguins, seals and whales frolic. Windblown and treeless, this lonely archipelago of 778 islands is almost as big as Northern Ireland but home to just 3,200-odd islanders — who have strong ties to the UK — plus a military garrison where around 1,300 servicemen and women have been stationed since the 1982 conflict between Argentina and the UK.
Given all this, it’s no surprise the locals like a beer or two. The capital, Stanley — adorned with a towering redbrick cathedral and colourfully painted houses with corrugated iron roofs — boasts a handful of traditional British pubs, such as the Victory Bar and the Globe Tavern, which come complete with pool tables, live football on the TV and fish and chips. Here you can sip draught and bottled beer made by Falkland Beerworks, a one-man brewery started by Jeff Halliday in his garage in 2012.
A fifth-generation islander, Jeff knew the sort of beer he liked but had no idea how to make it. But that wasn’t going to stop a member of this close-knit community descended from sheep farmers. There was clearly a demand for decent ale — his first brew, Maiden Bitter, named after the islands’ national flower, proved highly popular when launched at a sheep show in the local settlement of Fitzroy — so much so that 140 pints were downed in just three hours.
Three years later, Jeff moved into purpose-built premises close to the town centre, undeterred by the need to import everything from the UK, over 8,000 miles away. He signed up for a three-week brewing course at Brewlab in Sunderland, and ordered stainless steel tanks and fermenters from Swindon. Besides having to wait two and a half months for fresh supplies to arrive, the main problem Jeff faced is the lack of cellars; pubs and hotels here have generally always served bottled beers. With no access to CO2 cylinders, kegs were out of the question, so the only way forward was to create cask ales and educate bar staff in how to look after them.
“If I could do it all again,” Jeff reflects, “I’d have built the brewery twice as big.” A full-time electrician, he currently brews 5,000 pints a month, in his spare time. His range of four beers includes the top-selling best bitter Longdon Pride; a dark mild named Black Tarn after a local lake; a blonde beer, Rock Hopper, which pays tribute to the local penguins; and Peat Cutter, a stout that celebrates the island tradition of cutting peat for fuel.
While getting to the Falkland Islands requires determination — the choice is a once-a-week commercial flight from southern Chile or an 18-hour Ministry of Defence charter from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire — for those who make the long journey south, the rewards are a friendly welcome, sensational wildlife and fine local beer. Best of all, it only costs from £2.80 a pint.