Friday, 4 January 2013

Guardbridge & the Eden Brewery to St Andrews: 31st December 2012

Being back in Dundee to visit family for Hogmanay gave me the chance to head across the 'Silvery Tay' to the Eden Brewery St Andrews. They began 'beery' operations in the springtime initially 'cuckoo-brewing' at Williams Brothers in Alloa before having their own 6bbl plant installed and configured in late August/early September in part of the disused Guardbridge Paper Mill (see The Beercast for more details). I'd met their head of brewing John Reade at the Abbot House in Dunfermline earlier in December where I'd tried their lovely 1882 St Andreas Lager and this had whetted my appetite (or thirst) to see their own brewing setup. In addition a trip across the Tay always gives me an excuse to visit St Andrews, probably one of my favourite places in the whole-wide-world.

View St Andrews in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Bus: Dundee Seagate Bus Station to Guardbridge (99 Stagecoach, every 10 minutes during the day)

The old Guardbridge Paper Mill complex closed in 2008 but the site still extends over a huge area, although this is obviously now derelict in the most part. Situated on the banks of the River Eden it employed 620 people at its height, and having had one of the last Mill Chief Engineers in my family, it was quite a nostalgia trip to be back.

The main entrance to Eden Brewery is to the south side of the Mill (I didn't see any guard dogs), but there's also a pedestrian entrance from further up on the road to Leuchars.

Walking into the brewery I found Paul Miller (Owner) in the brewery office/shop as well as Scott Gowans (Head Brewer), Scott Ferguson (Brewing Assistant), and Cameron, an Australian Vet graduate planning to radically change careers and brew back home in Australia - a very diverse, friendly and passionate bunch of people. Paul went through a brief history of his extensive drinks-industry related career (he was the man who brought Carling Lager into Scotland!) and of some of the trials & tribulations of getting Eden St Andrews up and running (see the website for descriptions of their core range of beers). Paul's a smart & canny guy and Eden St Andrews' cask beers are now in a significant number of pubs/hotels in the East of Scotland, they have already changed their bottles from clear to brown, dropped the IPA term from the 19th Brew and are selling at Farmer's Markets in Dundee, Stockbridge & Partick as well as attending 'Foodie' type events in Edinburgh, Glasgow & the St Andrews Old Course Hotel. He plans to expand the office area with a full-blown shop and tasting area and also re-organise the the brewing area (they have at least the same amount of space available further back into the Mill). Part way through this we got pleasantly diverted by the opening of a couple of new barrels - a rum cask (full of sweet, dark molasses aromas) and a bourbon cask (with a definite strong alcohol spirit aroma, but still some underlying vanilla and rye sweetness) into which Eden St Andrews plan to brew 2 different base beers and then leave for a couple of months.

Because the Paper Mill is now owned by St Andrews University they have a good relationship with the both the Governing Body & the Students Association and have brewed the punningly titled Raisin d'Etre beer for the traditional Raisin Monday celebrations. Scott G also plans to brew a Shipwreck IPA full of New World hops for The Gaudie torch-lit procession and MayDip on 30th April/1st May which commemorates student John Honey who rescued five sailors from a wrecked ship during a storm in 1800 - it's a nice local community tie-up and gives some great publicity.

Paul was then good enough to crack open the 3 Edradour Oak Wood Finish beers for sampling - oh well, at least it was (just) past midday. These used the same base beer but were matured in 3 different types of casks previously used by the Edradour Distillery in Perthshire. I wouldn't normally try to describe these but the fact that they were all quite different probably makes the attempt worthwhile.

First was the No. 3, matured for 55 days in Château d'Yquem Sauternes barrels. This initially tasted almost like a medium white wine with some green apple sharpness - it was certainly quite bizarre and initially didn't really taste like a beer at all! However I did actually grow to quite like this.
Next was the No. 1, matured for 50 days in Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux Claret barrels. This was still slightly hazy and had an initial tart, almost sour lambic flavour before the peaty/smoky whisky after-taste kicked in. Not really my type of thing but the whisky drinkers should love it.
And finally the No. 2, matured for 83 days in Olorosso Sherry butts. This was a more traditional whisky beer, as per Tullibardine 1488, but still had quite a lot of toffee sweetness which almost threatened to overcome the whisky taste - it perhaps needed just a bit more whisky ooomph.

Scott G (another Heriot-Watt Graduate who had previously worked at Fuller's, Adnams & Fyne Ales) then showed me round the brewing equipment. It's a 6bbl plant (Canadian-built) with Mash Tun, Copper and Hot Liquor Tank.

There are 4 Fermenting Vessels, 2 of which were full of the lovely 1882 St Andreas Lager (and had been that way for quite a few weeks).

And 5 Conditioning Tanks were in use in the cold store (I couldn't get all 5 of them in shot).

They bottle in-house with about half their output going into cask and half into bottles. Their bottling equipment is fairly sophisticated with 2 people needed to operate it and it can also keg the beers as well (although they don't have the key-kegs at the moment). There was a Quality Control cask of Eden Blonde available and this was lovely - a full-on citrus aroma and lovely grapefruit, melon and passion-fruit taste. This is a Galaxy single-hop beer and is the first really hop-forward beer that Scott has managed to persuade Paul & John to let him brew - here's hoping there are a few more like this.

As always I was amazed at the amount of time that the Eden guys let me monopolise and I left after buying the 3 bottle set of the Edradour beers and also a one-off special, John(Reade)'s Winter Warmer. I was also pretty hungry after this so thankfully it was only a short walk from the brewery through Guardbridge village and across the Old Bridge over the Eden to the recently renovated Guardbridge Inn.

It only re-opened on December 13th so there's definitely still a 'new look' sheen to the place. There's a fairly large modern (and busy) restaurant at the rear of the building, with a bar area, some seats and a small number of tables at the front, complete with a lot of old photographs of Guardbridge. There wasn't any cask ale available (as yet) but all the core Eden Brewery St Andrews bottled beers were available and being well promoted by the friendly staff.

They also use Eden Brewery beers in a couple of items on the menu, a Beer Battered Fish-and-Chips and a Steak-and-Seggie Ale Pie - nice to see, but I only had time for the Soup-of-the-Day, Cream of Cauliflower with croutons. I ordered this with some trepidation but I have to say that the addition of Pesto oil & Italian spices in the soup really raised it well above what I was expecting, and it contrasted nicely with the chocolate/coffee & spicy malts from the Seggie Porter.

From the Guardbridge Inn it was a bit of a trek along the A91 main road into St Andrews, but there were decent views across the River Eden to the RAF Leuchars Airbase (no fighter jets today) & Tentsmuir Forest before I reached the new St Andrews Strathtyrum Golf Course & the Golf Academy. Slightly further on is the extensive 5-Star St Andrews Old Course Hotel & Spa...

...which includes the more traditional Jigger Inn, just to the side of the 17th hole of the Old Course, the (in)famous Road Hole.

The Jigger Inn really must have one of the best views about - across the fairways to St Andrews Bay & the North Sea and down the 17th and 18th fairways to the town of St Andrews and the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse.

I popped my head into the Jigger and it was stowed - full of families having a late afternoon meal and groups of visitors about to start their Hogmanay pub-crawl. There are lots of nooks-and-crannies in the Inn and it's (not surprisingly) jam-packed full of golf pictures & memorabilia. The bar is tiny, but there's a good selection of whiskies and a single hand-pull for the malty Belhaven Jigger Ale - although this was on the cool side today it was still far superior to the Belhaven Best.

I think I was only in the Jigger for about 15 minutes before I decided to get in front of the crowds and head into St Andrews proper. There are lots of more than adequate drinking establishments in St Andrews - the Central Bar, The Criterion & Aikman's Cellar Bar (to name but a few), but I decided to walk to bustling South Street through the West Port, one of the few remaining Medieval City Gates left in full use in Scotland.

In South Street I found The Rule Diner, where Scott G had indicated that there was the possibility of finding the Eden St Andrews Blonde on cask.

I assume it's named after St Rule’s Tower in the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral (which is well worth a climb), but The Rule Diner is very much a modern US-style diner/pub, owned by Maclays, with lots of bench seats, a number of split level areas (including a swish balcony) and cocktails-a-plenty, but at least there were 2 hand-pulls on the long bar with Deuchars IPA and Eden St Andrews Blonde (hooray!) available.

They were closing at 4:30pm to prepare and then re-open later for the Hogmanay festivities but I had enough time to savour my Eden St Andrews Blonde - perhaps with the aroma slightly muted compared to the QC cask, but just as tasty. On finishing this I decided that the best idea was to save myself (and my liver) from any more beer consumption that afternoon so instead, as a last port of call, I walked up Church Street & into Market Street to end up at one of the better bottle shops in Scotland, Luvians (not to be confused with Luvians Ice Cream Parlour further along Market Street, although this too is well worth a visit, especially on a sunny day).

As well as wine, spirits & cigars they have an outstanding selection of more interesting local, Scottish, UK, European and US beer. They normally have the latest Luckie Ales bottles and I was more than happy to procure the last bottle of Luckie 56/- Resurrection as well as a Durham Brewery Tripel, the Bristol Beer Factory/Dark Star collaboration and a Mikkeller Christmas Ale (all that I could carry along with my Eden St Andrews beers). The staff were more than helpful (as usual) and we got talking about the Bristol Beer Factory 12 Stouts of Christmas - there were definitely some envious glances when I mentioned that Crème Brûlée Stout.

Return travel:-
  Bus: St Andrews Bus Station to Dundee (99 Stagecoach)


  1. The last time I was in St Andrews I don’t think I was old enough to drink. That means a return visit is overdue!

  2. It's a great place to visit, Rob. Just a pain to get to by public transport from Glasgow (train to Leuchars or bus (3 hours+))