St Andrews Brewing Co continue Scotland's micro-brewery revolution in Fife
New beer brand aims to make St Andrews famous for more than golf
Fife has become famous for its quality produce and foodie destinations, but breweries have been thin on the ground – until now, as David Pollock discovers
Ask Bob Phaff what is the unique selling point of his new range of St Andrews ales, and the answer is simple: ‘We’re really the only guys in Fife doing this at the moment.’ The Kingdom hasn’t exactly had an illustrious history of brewing, yet the St Andrews Brewing Company is seeking to create an identifiable brand for Fife based around its most famous town.
Originally from Sheffield, Phaff has seen the industry from many angles, having worked in Milton Keynes’ Concrete Cow brewery and written a book about the breweries of Idaho while living in the States. He came to Fife when his wife got a job lecturing at St Andrews University, and his decision to bite the bullet and start his own brewery was the fulfilment of a long-held ambition. Having worked with many brewers on his travels, he’s enlisted the help of a master brewer friend from Yorkshire to get the recipes just right.
His four-barrel brewery is actually based in Glenrothes for the moment and currently operates at a two-and-a-half barrel capacity. That’s around 760 bottles per brew, says Phaff, which is around the right level to supply local farm shops, restaurants and the occasional artisan alcohol shop in larger Scottish cities. ‘My aim isn’t to get into Asda or Tesco,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to take on lots of staff; I want a company that’s just myself running around like a madman and meeting the people who are actually drinking the beer.’
He’s started with an enticing range of five bottled beers, including a traditional IPA which Phaff declares himself most happy with for its combination of malt and floral hops character, an oatmeal stout with a hint of a citrus kick and a ‘Neuk’ Scotch ale, a dark ale packed full of hops for a long, bitter flavour.
Does he feel any concern about stepping into a Scottish market that’s going strong at the moment? ‘It seems like Scotland has a lot of breweries,’ he laughs, ‘but compared to Yorkshire or Lancashire there’s hardly any. It’s a market ripe for tapping, where people have the opportunity to start up and make beers that are a little bit different.’
Also on the cusp of commercial craft beer production at the time of going to press are the folks behind the Eden Brewery. They’re planning to make use of local ingredients, authentic maturation techniques and lots of customer consultation. Based at a 20-barrel brewing plant near St Andrews, production is pencilled in for June 2012, and the production plant will be open for visitors to look around.