Tag Archives: St Andrews Brewing

Beer of the Week – St Andrews Eighty Bob

Time to round out the week with another suggestion of one of Scotland’s great unsung beers that you should sample (if you haven’t already). Each and every Friday this year I’ll be taking a look at a specific bottled beer you can get hold of and yet has somehow flown under the radar. For the sixteenth in the series of fifty-two the spotlight swings towards St Andrews, and a brewery there taking a shot at one of Scotland’s classic styles.

2012 was a great year for Scottish brewing with a number of new facilities opening, and one of those popped up in Glenrothes but with an eye to parts east. The St Andrews Brewing Co arrived then and after things fell into place eventually relocated to the town that bore their name. Started by Bob Phaff the brewery has since gone from strength to strength despite remaining relatively small-scale; their brewery tap in the centre of St Andrews is a testament to that. All their beers are good, but their 80/- is one at the very top of the list.

16. Eighty Bob (4.8%)
St Andrews Brewing Company, St Andrews
Style: Eighty Shilling/Brown Ale
500 ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At St Andrews Brewing’s online shop (as individual 500ml bottles)

First thing’s first – this is their interpretation of a shilling beer (hence the brown ale designation) with Crystal and Munich Malts, Rye and other grains added into the mix. But these provide such a baseline to the beer – a sweet toffee, digestive biscuit and caramel edge that really work with the Target, Challenger and Chinook hops. It’s not often the last of these takes a back seat to a malt bill but that’s exactly the case here – a faint citrusy hum appears but this beer is a celebration of barley and is a near-perfect indication of its role in a balanced, hugely tasty beer. It is fantastic.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness

Breweries to watch out for in 2014

Last year, right at the beginning of January, I posted a list of breweries to watch out for in 2013. Looking back, the overall pick to take that next step (Cromarty Brewing Co) had a terrific year, and pretty much all of the other choices also produced fantastic beer. Despite the pressures of the recession and the increasingly contested market, the British brewing scene continues to be in good health – and for that, we have to thank the men and women making our beer; for their skill, commitment and imagination. Here, then, is a list of UK breweries who I think will move to that next level over the course of 2014…



Williams Bros – There can’t be a brewery in Scotland with a more exciting 2014 ahead than the brotherhood from Alloa. Following the announcement back in August of a £1m expansion (the ramifications of which I discussed back then), two months later it was revealed they were going halfsies on a new ‘craft’ brewery in Glasgow with the C&C Group (i.e. Tennent’s). Stand by for an exclusive BeerCast report on that particular chestnut very soon, but with so much going on, Williams Bros have to be the Scottish brewery to keep an eye on this year.




Tempest – The Borders’ finest were my overall pick to break out in 2012, and they certainly delivered some fantastic beers, cementing themselves in the Scottish brewing scene. The reason I’m tipping them again for 2014 is that, finally, it seems as if the light is at the end of the tunnel for their long-awaited expansion plan. There’s still (at least) one issue to be resolved, but once everything is squared away, the old dairy can be mothballed and Gavin and the gang can spread their wings and really aim for the top. Given the instant success of their barrel-ageing programme (see: Old Parochial), Tempest aren’t far off being there already.




Alechemy – This Spring will see the second anniversary of Dr James Davies founding the Alechemy brewery, and it arrives in the middle of a very important year for the Livingston outfit. Following the steady building of the brewery, within the last few months all kinds of things have changed, with multiple hirings, new kit, a re-brand, a barrel-ageing programme, and an entire second line of up-to-the-minute beer styles. 2014 has to be the year where all of this pays off, and the long-awaited bottling line is surely a huge step in the right direction.




Arran – I’ve had my differences with Arran Brewery MD Gerald Michaluk in the past (or to be exact, he had differences with me), but yet again this coming year seems to be one that could define his brewery. After the 2012 meta-expansion plan was torpedoed by the Government, Arran have left the Isle of Skye brewery at the altar and will look to open a second mainland brewery instead (at St Fillans on Loch Earn), and then a third at the Rosebank distillery in Falkirk. Share offers, distilleries, bars, bottling – it’s all in there too. Who will stand in his way this time?




Innis & Gunn – My outside bet for this year are everyone’s favourite chippers, Innis & Gunn. Loved by many as a gateway to interesting beer, derided by others for not having their own brewery, I think 2014 could be pivotal for Edinburgh/Glasgow’s finest. If you could lay money down on the brewing industry, I might well put a modest each-way sum on Innis & Gunn taking the plunge this year, and breaking free of the Wellpark’s comforting, lager-filled umbilical. So far, I&G have built a hugely successful empire through contract-brewing; surely now is the time for them to stand up and actually become the brewery they, and others, think they should be.




St Andrews – I’m listing the St Andrews Brewery here, but I may as well have added their near neighbours Eden Brewing as well – both are in the starting blocks for a fairly big 2014. Eden are expanding their Guardbridge site, increasing brewkit and exploring markets for their products (and also, again, looking at different forms of booze). St Andrews, for their part, have won a Sainsbury’s deal, and have just opened a brewery tap in the centre of the town (having leapfrogged Eden from Glenrothes), and are poised to complement it with a bespoke facility, located right within the centre of this increasingly sought-after beer market.




Pilot Beer – Finally for Scotland, keep an eye on the most recently-arrived producers in this list. Having flipped the covers back on their branding, the first Pilot beers are just starting to hit the bar counters. That said, things are very much in the testing phase at the moment, however, and Matt and Pat are girding their loins for an official launch sometime in the spring. Watch out for how they get on; as two Heriot-Watt graduates bringing beer-making back to Leith, Pilot certainly have huge potential.





Greene King – Yes, Greene King. This (fairly safe) bet comes purely on the back of December’s announcement of a £750,000 microbrewery expansion for the East Anglian powerhouse. Having spent a six-figure preliminary fee merely on scouting the project, GK are clearly placing a significant percentage of their eggs in the ‘craft’ basket. Other big regionals have dabbled first, of course, but how the St Edmund brewhouse fares will surely determine whether ‘craft’ is able to become as ‘mainstream’ as Greene King believe.




Beavertown – The flood of microbreweries in Hackey has lessened (a little) of late, but one that has recently moved in the other direction are Beavertown. Having relocated a couple of miles eastwards to Fish Island, Logan and his crew have even more of a local community to become a part of. Beavertown are so utterly of the moment that non-‘craft’ beer drinkers may never have heard of them; but there isn’t a British brewery around now that gets more flavour into their beers, or does it with more inventiveness. Beavertown are set for a breakout year.




Wild Beer Co – Somerset may be a considerable distance from Edinburgh, but the beers from Wild Beer Co seem to be almost omnipresent here. That’s a testament, in part, to how much of a beer town Edinburgh has become, of course – but also it’s down to the work ethic and experimentation of the Wild Beer team. There’s no shortage of ingenuity at work down in Westcombe; this can be seen both in the number of collaborations they enter into with the brewing industry, and their recently-awarded status of best new business in Somerset. Clearly, the word is out.




Alpha State – I’m going to be honest here, other than the name of the man behind the operation, I know absolutely nothing about Alpha State. And yet, this is one of the great things about drinking beer; turning up at a bar one night, taking a punt on something called Alpha State Citronvand, and being hugely rewarded. Jonathan Queally is making some spellbinding beer – alongside the Citronvand, Neapolitan and Sorachi Red IPA formed as good a trio from the same producer as I tried in 2013. I can only imagine the kinds of beers that will emanate from Alpha State this year – but I’ll be keeping an eye out, that’s for sure.




Bad Seed – I know I’ve mentioned Bad Seed quite a bit recently, but their debut beers were as good a launch line-up as I can remember. Hailing from rural North Yorkshire, their decision to make beers they liked rather than beers that would fit the local scene was hugely brave; as they start to get more widely noticed, that decision should hopefully pay off handsomely for them. Look for the word to spread wider in 2014, as Bad Seed’s bottles make it to thirstier parts, and they take steps down two very popular modern-day beer roads, those marked ‘kegging’ and ‘collaboration’.




Buxton – Only a couple of weeks ago I picked Buxton as my brewery of the year for 2013, so they really had to be in this list. The main reason is that as I write, the Peak District resounds to the clang of hammers and the soft Irish cursing of Colin Stronge. Once the new Buxton brewery is fully online, and their capacity increased accordingly, look for all of the reasons why they were so good last year to be multiplied by a similar factor. If everything transfers to the new facility (and I’ve no reason to doubt it won’t), Buxton could be on the brink of something very special.

I’ll be revisiting this list later in the year to see how the breweries are getting on, and whether tipping them for greatness was the right way to go or not. Which breweries do you think will have a great twelve months?

Scottish Real Ale Festival 2012 – the beers

The Scottish Real Ale Festival is well and truly open for business – once the doors were unlocked the first hundred people had entered the venue with only thirty-five minutes having elapsed. We covered the details of how the Corn Exchange is working out for the SRAF in yesterday’s post – so today, it’s on to something far more important – the beers. I was involved with the judging for most of the day, but still managed to sample a few when the deliberations had finished.

On that note, congratulations go – once again – to the Highland Brewing Company for winning the Champion Beer of Scotland with Orkney Best. Rob and the team deserve every credit – they are surely the most consistent brewery in the country. Underlining this, they also finished second with Orkney IPA – only a bronze for the fantastic Fyne Ales Maverick prevented a potential clean-sweep.

Following last year’s surprise victory for the Skye Brewery, Highland’s win marks six consecutive years that an island brewery has won the Champion Beer of Scotland accolade. It was waaay back in 2006 that Kelburn’s Cart Blanche last won CBoS for the mainland. In fact, Highland have now won the trophy four times in those six years – and with four different beers. How’s that for an achievement?

Back to the other beers on offer – one of the first I managed to seek out was Head East, from the brand new Strathbraan Brewery in Dunkeld. A 4.2% bitter, it was the ideal festival starter – as was the fruity Burnside M-pire, which had a bit more body at 5.2%. Next up, Stewart Brewing Solas – the winning red IPA from their most recent brewer battle, which I really enjoyed.

Speaking of Stewart Brewing, hops and enjoyment – bolted to the bar was something new for the SRAF – the inaugural run of Stewarts’ Hopinator. Pulling Pentland IPA through a column of hops is a great idea – and it looked fantastic, like a beerhound’s lava lamp. However, the result was almost undrinkable at first – pure hop juice, with no alcohol or body. We went back later, and it had calmed a little, but still wasn’t right – hopefully it’ll come good later in the week.

There were more successful experiments with hops on offer – St Andrews IPA was possibly the beer of the day, although Cromarty Red Rocker on cask is another cracking beer from Craig Middleton. Both producers are relatively new on the scene – as are the Spey Valley Brewery. If the 5.4% Spey Stout is there on your SRAF visit – it’s a must-try, simple as that. A fantastic rich, roasty beer – the best in show, for me.

Another good one is DemonBrew Mashup – we featured Dave Whyte and his antiquated brewkit on our new Edinburgh brewers post a few months ago. Operating from the Prestoungrange Gothenburg, he somehow manages to get great results from his cantankerous gear. I imagine a brewday for Dave is like the Tardis scenes in Doctor Who, all hissing pipes and sudden warning sirens, as he gets thrown around whilst trying to hammer things back in place.

Mashup is a result of one of these days of excitement – a blend of two different brew runs that didn’t make it to fruition. What were to become an 80/- and a well-hopped bitter eventually were blended together to form this new beer. Having the heat exchanger fail halfway through a run was far from ideal – but it resulted in Mashup, a fruity best bitter with a blast of citrus from Motueka and Pacific Jade.

On a final note, we can’t talk about the SRAF without mentioning the twisted madness of Tinpot. The small brewery in Bridge of Allan always sail close to the edge – as last year, when their Thai Pot and Beetroot & Black Pepper Pot divided opinion. With their offerings this time around, they are sure to do the same. Prune Pot, for example, is unfortunately horrendous – although it is big on the prunes.

This is the bottom line with Tinpot – their beers do taste of what they say – but it’s completely up to you whether you find them palatable or not. Five Spice Pot really does smell and taste of star anise and dandelion and burdock. Raspberry Pot was probably the pick of the bunch with its slightly sharp fruit edge. We spoke to Mr Tinpot – Walter ‘Wattie’ Dunlop – who confirmed his next beer should be Apple and Raspberry Pot – although his oregano beer, Pizza Pot, might return.

That conversation summed up why I love beer festivals. For all the fantastic, locally-made, on-style beer available (such as the Spey Stout or Red Rocker), there are always surprises. Before, I’d have taken a few sips of an ‘XYZ’ Pot and gone looking for something else, but having chatted to the man behind it, I still might not like many of his beers – but I hope he carries on inventing them for a long time to come.

What’s brewing in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh has a rich history when it comes to breweries – the golden age at the turn of the twentieth century supported well over thirty in the city. These days, that glorious (if ultimately untenable) number has reduced to a mere one – Slateford’s Caledonian. Their last major competitor, McEwans, was recently demolished for housing – although the old Fountain brewery had been a redundant shell for a long time.

On the other side of the bypass are Stewart Brewing, who are enjoying a purple patch as they seek to enlarge their premises in Loanhead. Apart from them, Bob Knops puts out his Edinburgh beers via TSA’s equipment in Stirling, and Innis & Gunn do the same via the Wellpark in Glasgow. But there’s certainly room for other brewers to enter the local market – Edinburgh drinkers are notoriously thirsty, particularly as we’re approaching Spring and then our two weeks of Summer.

Well, buckle up Edinburgh beer fans – there are now four new players on the scene. If proof were needed that British brewing is in a healthy place, this is yet another example. We’ll be running full features on each of the new producers when we can get a chance to visit them (as only two are currently in action). Until then, here are the names to bear in mind with regard to new beer in the Lothians this year…

Alechemy Brewing Ltd Livingston, West Lothian
Official Website / Facebook Page / @AlechemyBrewing

If you looked up ‘work in progress’ in a brewer’s dictionary, it would currently show a picture of Alechemy Brewing Ltd. At this very moment, their brewery is being welded together in a prefab unit on the Brucefield Industrial Park in Livingston. Founder James Davies moved up to West Lothian from Nottingham, with designs on opening a production brewery in an area with little beery presence. Over last weekend, the conditioning tanks arrived, and at the time of writing the rest of the kit is en route or being plumbed in.

James is keen to get his beers on the market as soon as possible, with Alechemy concentrating on the cask market. Edinburgh should see a lot of their beer very quickly, with rumours of a launch event at one of the city pubs. Alongside the draught, James will also be putting out a smaller range of bottled beer on shorter runs – looking towards the bigger abv options and hoppier numbers. Clearly, if you’ve ever read more than a single post on the BeerCast, you’ll know that’s right up our street.

Keep checking their Facebook page as the rest of the gear goes in, and once the beer is flowing, we’ll be sure and try the beers when they arrive. James is obviously very enthusiastic, and wants to run an open, friendly brewery – so once they are on their feet, anyone in the Livingston area (or beyond) is welcome to head down and pay them a visit.

DemonBrew Prestonpans, East Lothian
Official Website / Facebook Page / @DaveDemonBrew

DemonBrew’s Dave Whyte isn’t exactly a new producer – his Summer Storm was well-received at last June’s Scottish Real Ale Festival, for example. But the size of the kit, lack of storage space available, and a certain amount of politics all mean his beers are very rare – and only now are beginning to appear in Edinburgh. Using the striking but archaic five barrel plant at the Prestoungrange Gothenburg (the ‘Goth’), Dave averages a brewday per week and has recently begun to set his sights wider.

The equipment is owned by Fowlers Ales, but not currently used by them – it had been operated as Prestonpans Ales, but the brewer Roddy Beveridge tragically passed away in 2010, aged only 43. Dave works independently from these two organisations, but sells his beer to the Goth – putting him in the unusual scenario of ‘cuckoo’ brewing in a brewpub with a ready market. However, speaking to him the other day he would clearly love to take the kit to a new location and go solo.

Dave’s passion is new world hops – specifically the Pacific Jade/Gem varieties from New Zealand. The Goth’s most famous beer (other than the discontinued Fowlers Wee Heavy) – Gothenburg Porter – is produced by Dave, but he clearly has his sights set on hoppier additions to the lineup. Having said that, he recently invited the Heriot-Watt Brewing Society along to produce their festival beer – a 6.6% stout. If he can get a wider distribution network in the city, look for his beers to really take off.

Eclipse Brewery Edinburgh
Official Website / Facebook Page / @EclipseBrewery

Of our four new producers, Eclipse Brewery have the longest road ahead of them – as they have no kit, and are just at the very initial stages. However, having spoken to co-founder Michael recently, they clearly have a strong idea of where they want to go. Having formed an LLP company, they are currently sourcing a bespoke brewery to be sited in Edinburgh (or more likely on the outskirts). Once in place, they are keen to get their beers on the market before the end of the year.

Michael’s background lies in Germany, and he told me he wants Eclipse to produce unusual beer that you can’t get anywhere else in Scotland – such as a recipe involving authentic Bamburg rauchmalt, for example. He’s extremely enthusiastic in his outlook, but well aware of all the huge hurdles they need to overcome before anyone can enjoy an Eclipse Rauchbier. Unlike our first two newcomers, they are going for the bottled beer market initially, rather than starting off casking their products.

Their blog will be fascinating to follow – having started from scratch following a number of years homebrewing, they have nothing concrete other than Michael’s recipes. However, once they get that concrete (and steel) in place, the real work will begin. Every frustrated blogger has thought about opening their own brewery – we’ll be following Eclipse closely to see how they get on.

St Andrews Brewing Company Glenrothes, Fife
Official Website / Facebook Page / @standysbrewing

For a business to succeed, one of the things needed is to find a gap in the market. Bob Phaff identified one – the lack of any decent beer in St Andrews. Other than a couple of decent pubs – and one very decent bottle shop – all those thirsty golfers, students and tourists have a disappointing set of options from which to choose. No longer, as the St Andrews Brewing Company have arrived to supply eastern Fife (and beyond, as Bob’s beers have already arrived in Edinburgh).

Currently working on a 4bl plant located in Glenrothes – which came online in late February – the eventual plan is to operate nearer to St Andrews itself, but having a central location probably works in his favour at the moment. With Yorkshireman Stuart Noble on board, they have already produced a core lineup of five beers – all in bottles at present. Ticking every box, their lineup includes an IPA, golden ale, and an oatmeal stout – each one with a distinctive label designed by local artist Susan McGill.

St Andrews Brewing have strong foundations – they are positioning themselves into a ready market, have their range of beers already formulated, and are already putting them into local bottle shops. As the word spreads, look for more beers to be added to the selection as Bob and Stuart build on their early momentum.