It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the St Andrews Brewing Company, so when the opportunity arose for me to attend a tasting there, I was helpless to resist. Sweetening the pot was the fact that the incomparable staff and stock of Luvians Bottle Shop fueled the evening. The event, called Sustainably Sloshed, was a part of the Green Week 2015 Programme, and it emphasized eco-friendly options for fans of all beers, wines and liquors. The premise of the event was focused on how with something as popular and commonplace as going out and enjoying a drink, sustainability is an important factor to consider.
Guests first chose a beer or cider from the Brewing Company’s extensive menu at the bar downstairs. We then moved upstairs to the beer hall for the curated portion of the tasting. On offer were two red and two white wines, vodka, gin and whisky. A full list of the drinks served can be found at the bottom of this page.
After a brief talk about the importance of sustainable brewing procedures and the benefits of buying locally brewed drinks while we finished our beer and cider, we were poured our white wines, a buttery chardonnay and a fruity pinot gris. Both were distinct and tasty, and a survey of the attendees revealed an even split in preference. The red wines that followed were a full-bodied Syrah and a jammy Garnacha. Guests preferred the Garnacha, but both wines were excellent choices.
After a brief interlude to try the various flavours of crisps on our tables and recover slightly from the four glasses of wine we’d each just had, we moved on to the spirits. Each table had varieties of Fever Tree tonic water (a personal favourite) and lime wedges, should we choose to mix our drinks. Our first spirit, a potato vodka, was strong on the palate when drunk straight, but mixed brilliantly with tonic water and ice. Next, the gin, one with an excellent back story might I add, wowed everyone in attendance, even the gin-skeptics in the room. And finally, to finish, we tasted a whisky that had a surprisingly lovely banana flavor. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve enjoyed whisky, and this time was one of them.
Knowledgeable and friendly people who genuinely cared about what they were serving directed the whole tasting, and the theme of sustainability was neither lost nor made into a gimmick. I had a chance to talk with organizers Madeline Belt, the University’s Environment and Ethics Officer, and Rachel Rotheram, a member of the Luvians staff, and ask them about sustainable alcohol and why they chose to host this event for Green Week. They explained:
“Drinking is obviously an popular part of our social lives in St Andrews, and this was a good way to combine our interests and the environment. We thought that a great way to get people involved in Green Week was to offer them something that they would be interested in, and learn something from.
“St Andrews Brewing Co are a really good model for the steps being taken to make the brewing industry a more sustainable one – a lot of ingredients are locally sourced, the leftover grain gets sent out to farms in the area. There’s St Andrews Brewing Co. that actually brews in town, Eden Mill making great gin, beer, and soon whisky over in Guardbridge, Luckie Ales near Glenrothes, and soon there’ll be Kingsbarns distillery in East Neuk. We’re ridiculously spoiled for choice when it comes to great local booze.
“But its not just little companies making these changes – Brooklyn Brewery, for example, is run on electrical energy generated from wind farms alone and Sierra Nevada is a little under 100% powered by solar energy.”
Their final advice on making ethical environmental choices when drinking? “The best thing you can probably do is to keep things close to home. In Fife alone there are some great local distilleries and breweries, so you can be pretty sure your alcohol didn’t travel far to get here.”
With resources like we have, it’s easier than ever to source good-tasting, good-for-the-earth booze. Visit St Andrews Brewing Co and Luvians Bottle Shop for their excellent selections of sustainable alcohol, and keep your eye out for this event in case it comes back next year. It’s not one to be missed!
Les Tanes Chardonnay
Yealands Estate Pinot Gris
Jean Luc Colombo 2012 Syrah
El Mago Franck Massard Garnacha Tinto
Arbikie Potato Vodka
Benromach Speyside Single Malt Whisky
All available at Luvians Bottle Shop