Drink: Micro breweries are thriving again in Fife, with very pleasing results

NOT SO long ago, it looked like our local brewing industry was being overtaken by giant nationals and we were destined to drink diluted mass-produced ales.

Breweries all but disappeared in Edinburgh, Dunfermline and East Fife. Now the pendulum has swung the other way – with micro-brewing all the rage.

The renaissance of the craft beer movement has been particularly active in Fife, which has a long history of brewing. From 1490 to 1898, there were no less than seven breweries in Dunfermline alone.

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Now a Dunfermline resident has decided to revive this 400-year-long brewing history. Sommelier David Austin, who owns thriving Reuben’s café and wine store, has just launched his own Blond Honey Ale. His first bottling is a very decent brew – my favourite of the new Fife ales.

In East Fife, Yorkshireman Bob Phaff has set up his own four-barrel microbrewery, St Andrews Brewing Company, in Glenrothes. Phaff has been brewing since he was in his late teens, having learnt his trade at craft brewery Concrete Cow in Milton Keynes.

Phaff came to live near St Andrews when his wife, an academic, got a post at the university - and he spotted a gap in the market for a local ale.

I found Phaff’s range of bottle conditioned ales on the light side and some over-hopped – but he admits his initial range of five beers still needs tweaking. His Neuk Ale (Scotch ale with a twist) and richer Oatmeal Stout are the best.

The most mature of the Fife breweries is Luckie Ales in Auchtermuchty. Brewer Stuart MacLuckie produces quirky historic British ales and handcrafted Scottish beers. His Best Bitter bittered with Saaz aroma hops makes a decent pint – and his unusual Edinburgh 68/- a reincarnation of Usher’s 1885 recipe is another favourite.

In Kirkcaldy, Nick Blomfield of the tiny 2.5 barrel plant Fyfe Brewing Company is brewing above the Harbour Bar - with special bottlings of Weiss Squad, Rope of Sand and Christmas Cold Turkey.

This summer a new start-up, the Eden Brewery, is promising an exciting larger volume offering from Guardbridge.