Local Heroes

In the grand scheme of things, The Island Brewery is very young — although its brewer’s knowledge could be said to be far older. The passion and dedication that goes into the time-honoured skill of producing Britain’s traditional tipple has resulted in gold medals at international competitions. The Brewery also gives 10p per pint of its flagship brew, Earl’s RDA, to the Island-based Earl Mountbatten Hospice. It is also giving away a free commemorative gift with every new order — just quote RF24.

Meanwhile, the oldest brewery on the Isle of Wight has been brewing its real ales since 1993, in the stunning surroundings of Barnsley Farm in Ryde. Goddards is one of the first independent craft beer producers in the UK and brews its ales using locally sourced Island barley as well as hand-picked hops from Ventnor Botanic Gardens. Its beers can be found in most pubs and bars on the Island, as well as pubs up and down the country. With delightfully quirky names such as Starboard!, Ale of Wight, Wight Squirrel and Fuggle-Dee-Dum, they have become firm favourites with locals and visitors alike.

Yates’ IOW Brewery began life back in 1998 and has grown rapidly in that time, now supplying over 250 outlets across the Island. Its flagship ale, Yates Islander, is a very easy-drinking, amber-coloured brew, which has become the fastest-selling cask ale on the Island and a permanent fixture in most of the Island’s pubs, cafés, restaurants and supermarkets. Islander was also a finalist at the Great British
Beer Festival 2017 so be sure to try it whilst you are here. Yates also has a wholesale drinks division and is a wholesale partner with every drinks company in the UK.

If gin is more your thing, the Isle of Wight Distillery is the first and only distillery on the Island, licensed in 2014 by friends Xavier Baker and Conrad Gauntlett. Combining a wealth of experience in brewing and wine-making with locally sourced ingredients, they have created a range of premium spirits that express the beauty and character of the Island they love. Situated on the outskirts of Ryde in stunning countryside, visitors are invited to watch the distilling process, sample the spirits on offer in the Mermaid Bar or enjoy a gin and tonic on the terrace, looking out over the valley.

A small batch, hand-crafted spirit, the distillery’s signature spirit Mermaid Gin captures the essence of the Island, blending locally sourced botanicals, including rock samphire foraged from chalk cliffs, to produce its smooth yet complex flavour. The Isle of Wight Distillery is committed to environmentally friendly production, the preservation of the Island and the marine environment.

When it comes to wines, long-standing Island wine-producer Rosemary Vineyard was planted in 1986 and covers 30 acres at almost 60 feet above sea level. With its mostly south facing aspect, the vineyard is ideally placed to benefit from the mild island climate. The valley’s situation helps retain summer warmth and offers shelter from the south-westerly winds. The gentle slopes allow excellent frost drainage in the spring to protect the newly budded vines, while the soil — a clay-silt loam overlying greensand — is not only free-draining, but also retains sufficient moisture for healthy growth.

The vineyard’s speciality is dry, sparkling wine, made from its oldest grape variety, Seyval, in the traditional way with re-fermentation in the bottle. As well as sparkling wine, the vineyard also produces red and white country wines with locally foraged ingredients, ciders and liqueurs, using Solaris, Orion, Reichensteiner, Triomphe D’Alsace, Ronda and Phoenix grape varieties.

A delectable drink deserves to be accompanied by a delicious dish — and The Best Dressed Crab has been serving up its fantastic food for 18 years now. Run by Graham Henley, a local fisherman and ex-RNLI, this delightful family-run business based in Bembridge specialises in the freshest, finest crabs and lobsters. Caught locally, only the very best are selected for sale. It also provides beautifully fresh local dressed crabs served ready to eat in their shell, as well as whole crabs and amazing giant crab claws. Fresh, local lobsters are also available, simply cooked, prepared or live. But the crème de la crème has to be the local Bembridge prawns, an absolute delicacy, which are available when in season.

All of the above can be combined in one of The Best Dressed Crab’s famous seafood platters, to be enjoyed while sat in the floating café looking out over the bustling harbour.