The St. Andrews Brewing Co. has been supplying Rufflets for several years. We caught up with Tim Butler, Owner and Director at the end of a recent exporting showcase organised by Scotland Food & Drink to find out more about their plans to expand internationally.
Your website puts 2012 as the year in which the business was founded. How long was it from the moment you founded the business until you were able to brew the very first beer?
Our brewery was in production within 3 months of incorporation and produced its first beers by the end of March 2012. All the homework had been done regarding installation costings, equipment and suppliers so it was just a case of signing the lease, gaining access and awaiting delivery of the brewing equipment before installation and commissioning.
What do you think it is that makes your craft beer so unique?
Firstly, there are many new breweries in Scotland (about 150 in total) and producing amazing, delicious beers. Our definitive USP is that we are the only brewery in St Andrews and the first since 1902 when the last brewery here (Argyle Brewery) stopped production. We are also highly focussed on using as much local produce as possible in our beer, with barley being grown and now malted in Fife, sourcing fruit from neighbouring farms and even launching the first commercially available beer made from 100% Scottish ingredients, as the hops were grown in Invergowrie by the James Hutton Institute. We are also recognised for our efforts to become carbon neutral and plastic free. Our packaging is biodegradable or recyclable.
You presently operate three venues, two in St Andrews and another in Dundee. Are their plans to expand the number of bars/restaurants and where? Will we see one in Edinburgh or Glasgow soon?
We actually took over two small bars in Edinburgh at the end of 2017, which we ran for 18 months. We were keen to get our products into the capital and push the brewery to its capacity, thus requiring the new brew kit which was installed earlier this year. We have moved from a production volume of 650 litres per brew to 5,000 litres; an increase of 8 times. Our focus is always on the brewery and the beer. Bars are an excellent way of showcasing our products and ensuring that they are served exactly as we want them to be. When we opened our 7,500 square foot bar restaurant in Dundee, we pulled out of our Edinburgh venues to focus on the expansion in the brewery and the new flagship venue. We are always willing to look into opening new venues to help spread the brand and the beer around the UK and the world.
What was behind your decision to begin making gin as well as beer?
The gin story is a fun one. The popularity of our bars is due not only to the great beers we serve, but also the large range of Scottish gins, delicious food and atmosphere. Due to selling so much gin, we decided to develop our own range as a side project. I already had an idea for a great new gin flavour from my days owning the Seafood Restaurant. One of our sauces we used to serve with scallops was an orange, cardamom and vanilla reduction. At the time I thought this would make a fantastic gin flavouring. I then created the Lemongrass and Ginger gin to be an aromatic and dry gin ideal for seafood; actually it is delicious neat with sushi or sashimi and drunk instead of sake.
Will you be adding additional flavours to the three gin blends that are already selling?
There is a 4th gin in my head which we may get around to making once the brewery has hit the targets for the new production capabilities. Having said that, the gin brand has grabbed serious attention from Europe, the US and Far East. I’ll keep the flavour of the 4th gin a secret though.
Are all of your products available to buy on-line?
Yes. We supply various online retailers but also have our own webshop, offering delivery across the UK.
Do you also export St Andrews Brewing Co products? Which is your biggest international market?
We are in the middle of signing up new export distributors in various countries, markets which we were not big enough to supply in any significant volume in the past but now are open to us with our new brewery. As a hint, the US and the Far East are the most significant, but Europe will be a great market for us to get into.