Creative Writing Editor Hudson Cleveland reviews BREW 2018, the first trendy craft beer fair of its kind in St Andrews.
I wandered into the St Andrews Town Hall — Main Hall — and scoped out all the stands from dead centre in a slow, dumb pirouette. I’m a beer person, but didn’t know what to do, hadn’t planned out where to go first and last, and had done the bare minimum research. Soon Andrew, the event organiser, approached me, and unknowingly snapped me out of my dazed observation. He was kind, and, as I noted to him in conversation, a good organiser: each of the eleven beer stands (made a biblical twelve by the Blackhorn stand) pressed to the walls and turned the entire place into a giant clock tick-tocking away each choice, kegs and plastic pipes were all around, the raised stage turned into a cafeteria where a rugby game I didn’t watch played on a flat screen, and all tables came equipped with handy pitchers of water.
I plopped down beneath the stage with a glass of Tempest’s ‘Long White Cloud’, and I jotted some notes on it, the bones of a ratings system. An idea bubbled into my mind, which solidified into a goal: to try at least one beer from each of the eleven represented craft breweries. As it was 13:00 by the time I’d arrived, this meant I required some haste (the event ended at 18:00), but also regularity so that I didn’t wind up too full of my earlier beers to have any more. I finished my ‘Long White Cloud’, had a swig of water, then acquired my second choice: 71 Brewing’s ‘Ferrous Red’.
After the ‘Ferrous Red’, I decided to systematise by hitting the rest of the stands counterclockwise, so the first brewery to serve my third beer was Law Brewing Co. Here I realised how eager many of the brewers could be about their product: as he poured, Law’s creator talked ‘60s music, how other brews inspired his own, taking his experience as scientist into the fray of marketing and the flavours behind the beers. By this third beer (‘All Nighter Gold Ale’) I’d worked up a slight buzz, evidenced by the increasingly skittered handwriting from my notes.
This continued into my fourth beer, Late Night Hype’s ‘Dulce Stout’. The times, they were good. By 14:00 the crowds seemed there to stay; by 15:00 they surged stronger, the stands then seeing their peak action. Andrew returned and asked how I was doing, and I let him know of my plan to get around to every brewery with perhaps too devilish an air. He left me alone again, and I spent my free time split into reading, listening to an audiobook, taking notes, eavesdropping halfheartedly, taking note of the flow of the Hall and sipping whatever beer I was on.
Beers five and six (Fierce Beer’s ‘Café Racer’ and Six° North’s ‘Peloton’, respectively) cemented my buzz, and I shelled out £4 for two more tokens, my original six expended. Custom bottle caps as currency really made for a brilliantly simple organisational tool. Plus they clinked satisfyingly in one’s pocket while mulling over what to have next. At this point it’s 16:00 and I can taste the warmth of alcohol on my every breath; perhaps one addition that could’ve made this event was some sort of palate cleanser besides (and in addition to) water.
“Ohh no. Oh, I’m so upset! Oh, what a shame!” said a man watching the results of the rugby match. Other than general stuff like this, overhearing other patrons’ comments led me to the unofficial conclusion that this event turned out well: discussion centred on delighted interest in the various beers’ taste. The bartenders seemed, however, to be getting somewhat burnt out — the spiels I asked about from each brewery were shorter as the day went on. At some point just past 17:00, a self-proclaimed very loud man named Archie got everyone’s attention to give a brief speech outlining the success of this first craft beer fest, and the Hall was in agreement, applauding at all the appropriate cues. Last call, he said, wrapping up, was just under half an hour before 18:00, so I quaffed my seventh beer (‘Imperfect Storm’, out of Eden Mill) and searched for one to spend my final token on.
At this point, beyond the halfpints and two-thirds-pints granted by each token, I’d also had various smaller samples, giving my tongue a viscosity and dryness which likely tainted my appreciation by as early as my ‘Café Racer’. Very full by this point, I also could not finish my eight and final beer, Fallen Brewing’s ‘Big Black Berry Chew Chew’, though found it a strong end to the event.
Really, there’s nothing negative to say about Luvian’s first Beer Fair. The beers on offer were broad and unique, the atmosphere was both relaxed and enthusiastic, the space was well organized. I left without having spelt my doom with the midnight stroke on the beer-stand-clock — Blackhorn’s offerings of food — but felt very satisfied nonetheless. By 18:00 I’d had about seven glasses of beer, and in total had tried at least eighteen. As aforementioned, I had a small rating-system (amounting to little more than a 1-5 scale), one which became slightly obfuscated as the alcohol rendered my mind more hazy.
Here’s my toprated beers in no particular order — though it should be noted that I did not dislike any of the eighteen beers I tried, save for maybe the hoppiest of the bunch, and that over fifty beers were on offer. 71 Brewing’s ‘Ferrous Red’ (4.8%) —— Fierce Beer’s ‘Café Racer’ (6.5%) —— Fierce Beer’s ‘Very Big Moose: Tonka’ (12.5%) —— Law Brewing Co’s ‘Rude Boy Juice’ (5.2%).