by Rose Murray Brown MW
Published in The Scotsman August 2013
“Two of our barrels exploded with the intense heat we have had this summer”, says Paul Miller. I am standing in the barrel room of the Eden Brewery in Fife in this dynamic new craft brewery on the Eden estuary, which has been making waves across the UK beer scene with its stylish artisan oaked ales.
Miller set up this new brewery just one year ago. His idea was to create traditional craft beers focusing on maturing in different oak barrels. His initial plan was just a ‘seven barrel’ plant to supply local shops and pubs, but Eden beers have proved so popular he plans to increase to 20 barrels with private backing from a Glasgow businessman.
“I always felt that beer got a raw deal, compared to whisky and wine. People think beer is manufactured and mass-produced, whereas whisky and wine are more handcrafted”, says Miller. “I wanted to change this perception, having seen the development of small batch craft beers first hand in Colorado in the States where I worked for Coors. I wanted to have my own brewery with a focus on the product itself”, he says.
After a long career working in wine, whisky and beer industries at Oddbins, Diageo, Glenmorangie and Molson Coors, Miller has no shortage of experience and contacts to supply him with hops, barley, malt and oak barrels – but what took him time was finding a good site.
The disused paper mill at Guardbridge, near St Andrews was sitting empty, waiting to be developed by its new owners, the University of St Andrews. Miller discovered that this 38 acre site had a long brewing and distilling history - in fact the town of St Andrews itself had 91 registered brewers 250 years ago – and many were women ‘brewsters’.
On the walls of the new Eden Brewery, visitors can now see this fascinating history in old sepia photographs Miller has unearthed about the site’s past. The famous Haig family moved their distillery from Kincaple nearby in 1810 to this Guardbridge site, with its own pier into the estuary where whisky barrels were loaded straight onto ships. In 1860 when the Haigs consolidated their distilling business in Markinch, the Guardbridge site became the Seggie Brewery which eventually closed in 1882.
130 years later brewing began again here. Miller decided to start small with just six small fermenting tanks, a conditioning unit, bottling line and as many old rum, whisky, bourbon and wine barrels that he could source. One year on, his yard is full of casks from Appleton rum, Ardbeg whisky, Jack Daniels and Heaven Hills bourbon, barrels from top Sauternes Chateau d’Yquem and a Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux chateau. Three brewers are working round the clock to meet demand with head brewer Fife-born Scott Gowans, who worked at Fullers, Adnams and Loch Fyne, now in charge.
“We try to use local materials”, says Gowans. “80% of our barley is supplied by Cupar-based Daft Mill and the local Seggie farm takes our spent grains away”. However, his preference is for hops from Australia, USA, Germany and Slovenia – rather than UK hops.
A visit here is fascinating as you see the whole process from brewing, fermenting, maturing and conditioning all in one place. Many craft ales are made on contract by larger producers, but at Eden everything at the moment happens on one site, although Miller is discussing contracting out to Williams in Alloa to help meet demand for the core range. Interest in his idea has been so great from pubs across the UK wanting to serve his beers on draught and supermarkets wanting to stock his bottles (Aldi recently listed Eden Blonde), Miller is now developing other ideas including small batch Scottish fruit ciders.
“I want to take people on a journey”, says Miller as we tasted through his eclectic 14-strong range. “Each label has a story to tell about the site’s history, local area or provenance of the oak barrels”. The range includes Wood range, Craft series and a fascinating range of Indulgence beers as well as special projects like the new Kilted Kittock brew for local Fairmont hotel.
Miller chose Aristeuein as the name of his premium Indulgence range as it is part of local St Andrews University’s old motto, Aien Aristeuein – which means ‘always to be the best’. “That’s what I am striving for with my beer!”, says Miller.
EDEN BREWERY TASTE TEST:
ST ANDREWS BLONDE (3.8%)
Australian Galaxy hops give this sweet honeyed pineapple fruit note, finishes bitter – but very refreshing summery brew. It might be head brewer’s favourite, but not their accountant’s.
THE 19TH BREW (3.9%)
Lightly hopped golden beer made using Aussie Summer and American Cascade hops giving citric undertones; a bit duller, soft, but lacking depth.
CLOCK BREW (4.3%)
A typical Scottish red beer made using Concerto barley, dark crystal malt with Cascade, Summit and Slovenian Celia hops; coffee notes, roasted, peppery, biscuit, balanced creamy. Their biggest seller on draught. My favourite! STAR BUY
RUM CASK (6.7%)
A good summery ale with light rum notes, tropical fruit from Galaxy hops and melon from Summer hops. Refreshing, but good depth.
BOURBON BARREL (7.4%)
Dark colour, toffee/coffee, roasted notes made using German Munich hops and chocolate malt. Ideal wintery ale.
WHISKY WOOD (7.4%)
Sweet coffee marzipan notes, spicy with creamy honeyed, rounded palate, good finish. STAR BUY
ARISTEUEIN ISLAY WHISKY CASK (7.2%)
Wow – the use of Ardbeg’s casks and Slovenian Celia hops give this incredible smoky overtones. Full-on smokepot to suit Islay whisky fans. STAR BUY & GREAT VALUE
ARISTEUEIN SHIPWRECK IPA (6.2%)
Lighter smooth rounded from two months oak maturation, very good fruit notes, slight bitterness – an authentic pale ale named after the local Shipwreck rescue now commemorated by the annual May dip.
(prices are per 330ml bottle)
STOCKISTS FOR EDEN BEERS:
Balgove Larder, St Andrews; Luvians, Cupar & St Andrews; Ardross Farm Shop, Fife; Loch Leven Larder; McTaggarts, Fife; Cellar 675, Glasgow; Cork & Cask, Edinburgh; Growler Beers, Edinburgh; Beerhive, Edinburgh; The Avenue, Edinburgh
Eden Beers also available at Farmers Markets in Stockbridge and Castle Terrace in Edinburgh; Dundee, Perth, Forfar, Queens Park and Glasgow West End.
Pubs selling Eden beers: Criterion, Russacks, Forgans, Greyfriarrs, Westport, Rule, Fairmont in St Andrews; Cumberland Bar, St Vincent, Kays Bar & Blue Blazer in Edinburgh; Ship Tavern, Anstruther; Commercial, Dunfermline; Bon Accord & 3 Judges, Glasgow
HOW TO VISIT:
Eden Brewery is open to the public for visits by appointment 10am-5pm: £7.50 pp includes tasting of six beers
Contact: 01334 834038
Join Rose’s wine tastings in St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow from £30 www.rosemurraybrown.com