Brewing in Glasgow
Rich craft beer scene accommodates everything from specialist Scottish beers to small-scale, locally produced ales
Craft beer mania took a while to arrive in Glasgow. But these days, from bars in the East End to cafés in the Southside, Joker and Punk IPA jostle for fridge space alongside the mainstream lagers. The breweries behind those products are certainly the most prominent in town. Aberdeenshire’s BrewDog opened their Glasgow pub in 2011. Alloa’s Williams Brothers followed suit with Inn Deep, their own West End site.
Then there was Drygate. This ambitious Williams co-venture with Tennent’s gave Glasgow a destination brewpub, shop and restaurant adjoining the latter’s famous Wellpark Brewery. There has been understandable scepticism about the influence of a major player, but it’s beyond doubt that the choice and standard of beers in the city has improved markedly in recent times. So what beer can Glasgow call its own? The Red T casts a long shadow, a pint playfully scorned yet sipped with affection citywide.
We also have WEST, a Bavarian brewpub on Glasgow Green, with recently opened sister venue WEST on the Corner, that produces in line with German purity laws – their tankard glass is a familiar sight in many a bar.
Most recently, Jaw Brew, a small-scale operation based in Hillington, has joined the ranks. Home brewer Mark Hazell and his wife Alison took the plunge after being consistently told how good their offerings were. They launched their first two beers (a pale ale called Hop, and a golden one, Drift) in July 2014. Almost immediately they won two silver awards at the Society of Independent Brewers awards that November. But it wasn’t as easy as all that.
‘The biggest difficulty we had was getting our foot in the door,’ says Alison. A few months on and their persistence saw several pubs in Glasgow stocking them. Farmers’ markets allowed them to give the public a taste, and social media has spread the word: blogs, tweets and posts are massive part of how pubs, brewers and punters stay aware of each other and of who’s serving what.
So where does Jaw Brew sit on the real ale/craft beer question? CAMRA defines real ale as something that must, among other things, be served from the cask. Others, like BrewDog, believe this is outdated thinking and that ‘craft beer’ – from a keg – is every bit as worthy of praise. ‘We leave everything in for full flavour, and all our beer is bottle-conditioned or served from the cask, so we’re definitely making real ale,’ chuckles Mark – pointing out that this makes them the only real-ale brewery in Glasgow.
‘CAMRA is changing. There are more young members at the meetings now, and they’re the most vocal too. The way we see it, every person who is old enough to drink is a potential customer. We’re confident that they’ll like what they taste, if we can just get them to try.’ Mark Hazell’s words sum up Glasgow’s brewing zeitgeist. It’s a good time be a beer drinker in the city.