Orcadian Norman Sinclair, graduate of Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology, is an acclaimed Highland businessman. He’s very proud to have created a company showcasing real ale brewing in Scotland. Norman has been in business since graduating in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management from the Do School at Kepplestone in 1981. Initially, he took over his family hotel business — The Moorings in Fort William (since voted the AA Inspector Hotel of The Year [JG1] ). His next step was to buy and develop Cawdor Tavern, a country pub and restaurant in the beautiful conservation village of Cawdor, near Inverness. This was also highly acclaimed, and among other was awarded two Booker Prizes for Catering.
A FAMILY BUSINESS
Norman’s wife Christine also studied catering at RGIT, graduating in 1988. She works alongside him and is the front of house face at Cawdor Tavern.
The interest in brewing stems from this catering background. With Orkney Brewery the connection runs even deeper, as Norman and his family are all Orcadians. In fact, the building which houses the brewery is the former school for Quoyloo, which his father attended.
MAKING IT WORK
Norman took on the company in 2006 — a very difficult time to start a new business. But he successfully managed to develop and expand it. He built a new brewhouse and visitor centre with shop, cafe and event venue. It’s now Scotland's only five-star brewery visitor attraction, and a real boost to the west mainland of Orkney.
The company’s market share is going from strength to strength. As a student in Aberdeen, Norman had fond memories of Orcadian brands like Skullsplitter, Dark Island and Red MacGregor. Now he exports them around the world, to countries including the USA and Japan.
Norman and the team have been continually developing their product line. Dark Island Reserve, for example, is a whisky ale, featuring the original Dark Island Ale matured in malt whisky casks. At 10% ABV it’s designed for slow savouring rather than social drinking. And it packed enough punch to win World Champion status at the 2011 World Beer Awards.
In fact, the Brewery has won a string of awards, including Best Standard Lager for the Latitude Pilsner at the International Beer Challenge in London on three separate occasions.
Dark Island Reserve won Best Beer In Europe, then World Champion Strong Dark Ale at the World Beer Awards. And the ever-popular Skull Splitter took Silver in the CAMRA 2015 Winter Beer of Britain Awards, in the best barley wine and strong old ales category.