St. Andrews’ Brewpub, lovingly known as ‘BrewCo’ by locals and students alike, will celebrate its fifth birthday this weekend.
From Friday to Sunday customers popping in can sample new and returning Winter drinks, such as Brewing Co. Oatmeal Stout Beer or Mulled Cider. There will also be balloons, cake and free gin or beer tastings paired with canapes – all complimentary for visitors to enjoy.
Staff and loyal customers certainly have a lot to celebrate since St. Andrews’ Brewing Company opened its first pub five years ago.
‘The place was set up quite quickly’, General Manager Robbie Docherty reflects. ‘It was meant to just pair with the brewery opening, so much of it is still the same…everything was set up just to be functional.’
From its humble beginnings when founder Bob Phaff was brewing the company’s first beers in his garage, the Company has expanded to a larger base beside St Andrews’ Botanic Gardens, opened two more bars in Edinburgh and another bar on St Andrews’ North Street last Wednesday. This season will also see the opening of another bar at Caird Hall, Dundee.
It’s safe to say that over the past five years ‘BrewCo’ has become a household name, renowned across Scotland for its beer. As manager for three and a half years at Brewpub, Docherty has watched the success unfold. ‘Now all of a sudden, we’ve gone from having fifteen to twenty staff with five to ten down at the Brewery, to having fifteen to twenty staff at each pub…it’s crazy!’
To what does Brewpub owe its unceasing influx of customers over the past five years? For Docherty, it’s down to the location. In a student town, he explains, Brewpub has been ‘passed on’ by the young population, so its wave of loyal student regulars is ‘just constant. It’s amazing’, Docherty remarks. ‘St Andrews isn’t like other places, where you can go out on a Sunday or Monday night and it will just be silent.’
Brewpub’s enormous stockpiling of Thistly Cross cider is also down to the students, according to Docherty. ‘That’s mostly the go-to because it’s an easy drink and it’s strong’ he jokes. ‘It’s unbelievable quite how popular it is here…I think for a while we were selling more Thistly than Thistly Cross was anywhere else!’
To the question about what makes Brewpub so popular, Docherty’s answer is instantaneous: ‘the people.’ The Brewing Co. staff are ‘really good at their jobs but also just good people to speak to’, he says, and they ‘always want to improve things. There’s no one that just sits there and goes, “it’s fine the way it is.”’
The aspirational team’s latest initiative was the opening of their second St Andrews location, with the official launch occurring in a couple of weeks’ time.
But St Andrews Brewing Co. North Street will offer a different experience from its South Street counterpart. Rather than mimicking the former’s tap-room layout and atmosphere, North street will instead mimic an American-style sports bar, with televisions on show for customers to enjoy the golf, the rugby or the football. Docherty hopes it will be ‘a nice place to go and watch (these sports), with nice beer as well as good spirits…compared to this (Brewpub) it’s so slick! It looks amazing.’
Will Brewpub be consumed by the shadow of its new sibling?
It seems unlikely, given the different horizon of consumers the two will attract. What’s more, Docherty has upcoming projects in the works for Brewpub that he hopes will keep his customers interested – as well as attract new ones. This includes more food tastings, to showcase the skills of Brewpub’s chefs; and expanding the range of barrel-age beers on offer for customers. Three or four of these will be available to taste during the weekend’s birthday festivities.
Additionally, the brewery is expecting the arrival of a new brewing kit that will allow for larger quantities of beer to be produced. According to Doherty it will be ‘as good a kit as anywhere in the country really, or anywhere in Scotland certainly.’ Loyal customers can be reassured that the beer won’t stop coming.
And that their cozy, rustic go-to pub won’t become too flashy. ‘I hope we’ll still be part of that sort of chain of students’ he says. ‘I hope people will still be coming in here on a stupid Tuesday night and just drinking, I think that’s the best part of this place.’