St Andrews Brewing Co, Notorious BIPA
Since Christopher George Latore Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie, or Biggie Smalls) was shot and killed in March 1997 there have been many tributes paid to him. From a suitably enormous graffiti-style mural at 1091 Bedford Avenue in his hometown of Brooklyn to a biopic movie where his son played him as a young boy (which was a bit creepy). He even appeared as a hologram and performed at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2012 (Correction: that was Tupac but there was a hologram Biggie). We think this is the first tribute to him in beer.
Only this week's beer is from St Andrews in Fife. A place that's best known for its university or being the 'home of golf', rather than for its hip-hop or beer. We asked Ben Wallace, sales and marketing guru at St Andrews Brewing Company to give us a bit of backstory to the brewery and this week’s beer, Notorious B.I.P.A.
“St Andrews Brewing Company began brewing in 2011, a whole 111 years after the last of St Andrew’s old breweries closed down. 200 years ago there were over a dozen breweries in the town.
Beginning its working life in a garage (like Apple Inc, The Ramones and… BeerBods!), The St Andrews Brewing Company moved out of the garage in 2014 and now brews from the heart of St Andrews next to the Botanic Gardens. Awards for our beers have come in from CAMRA, Scottish Beer Awards, Great British Beer Hunt, Great Taste Awards and World Beer Awards.”
So, not at all bad for a brewery that started out with just a 4-barrel brewing kit in a glorified shed. The move to a bigger location has been vital to the brewery. Not only has it brought them right into St Andrews and rooted them there. It has also been ground zero for their expansion into opening their own pubs and bars.
“In 2015 we also opened our first bar on south street St Andrews. We serve from 18 taps, around half of which are our own beers the other half the best small brewery brews we can find. In 2017 the bar was awarded ‘Scottish Beer Bar of the year’ at the Scottish Beer Awards. The same philosophy is applied to our bar food with locally sourced ingredients featuring in all our dishes.”
This expansion has continued with two pubs open in Edinburgh (about 30 miles south of St Andrews) and, coming soon, a bar in Dundee (about 10 miles north of the brewery). It seems that despite having some Yorkshire roots, St Andrews is proudly from and for all things Scotland. From producing an entirely Scottish beer and using a local ceramic artist, Susan McGill, to design their labels.
So what exactly is a black IPA? Because, if you think about it for more than a moment, it doesn’t make any sense.
“As an oxymoronic style, Notorious B.I.P.A. has hints of cherry and tropical fruit from the hops which are balanced by the dark, roasted flavours of the malt. There are no dark malts in the mash. Instead, black and chocolate malt is added on top of the sparge to give the lovely black colour with only a subtle dark malt flavour. This balance, in our opinion, is the key to a good Black IPA. It is then late hopped and dry hopped with loads of Cascade, Amarillo and a little Sorachi Ace.”
Notorious B.I.P.A. was the first beer brewed by Colin Wiseman (now Head Brewer and Biggie fan) when he was given a free reign with the brew kit. Simon (the then head brewer) thought Colin was crazy to create a black IPA with Sorachi Ace, which can be quite soapy.
“But he let Colin do it anyway. It has since become one of our most popular beers and even collected a Great Taste Award.”
Sometimes you have to let people make mistakes. They often make the greatest successes.