Given the multitude of pubs, bars and other purveyors of intoxicating liquor in St Andrews, along with the large number of skiving students willing to drink in them, it is perhaps surprising that it has taken this long for a St Andrews brewery to be set up.
Bob Phaff has spotted this niche and in January this year began brewing in Glenrothes under the name The St Andrews Brewing Company. Admittedly, this is not exactly in St Andrews, but he is looking to move closer. As every student knows, cheap (or even reasonably priced) property in this town is rather rarer than gold-dust, so Mr Phaff’s choice to locate some distance away is not to be sneered at.
‘I’ve been home-brewing since I was eighteen or nineteen,’ explains Phaff when questioned about his brewing origins, ‘and I helped out at a friend’s micro-brewery in Milton Keynes called the Concrete Cow.’ He has also written A Guide to the Beers and Breweries of Idaho, so his brewing grounding is pretty solid.
Phaff’s raw enthusiasm for beer and brewing shines through whenever you speak to him. His beers have been developed from home-brew recipes with the aid of Stewart Noble of the Abbeydale Brewery in Sheffield, and they very much retain a homely, down to earth feel not usually associated with mass produced beer.
Indeed, Phaff’s aim is to ensure his brewery never loses that personal touch. He intends to remain a one-man-band for as long as possible. Although he is hoping to move on to casks by the end of the summer, he is planning to keep his focus on bottles as they will allow him to keep his operation at a manageable level, while opening up sales opportunities in the many hotel bars, restaurants and bottle shops in Fife.
These bottles are instantly recognisable thanks to their striking Celtic-style labels. They have been designed by local ceramics artist Susan McGill in consultation with Phaff, and give his beers a striking visual appearance, something that was commented favourably upon by several punters at his introductory tasting held at Luvian’s this week.
Along with the use of a local artist, he is also keen to produce his beers in as sustainable a fashion as possible. He has worked in organic shops and farms in the past and plans to produce a completely organic beer in the future. He sources his barley from Scotland and ensures that his waste products are used by local farmers to feed cows or fertilise crops.
Phaff currently has five beers on offer (with seasonal ones to follow), ranging from the pale, summery Fife Gold to the caramel, roasted flavours of the Oatmeal Stout. Comments on the beers praised the taste, body and smell but were possibly summed up by John Parkin who said, ‘they are promising, but do need a little work.’
Phaff is happy to admit that a bit of tweaking needs to be done, although they are already very tasty. I am confident that given another few weeks of work, the St Andrews Brewing Company will be producing truly top-notch beer.