Thursday, 8 January 2015

Here come the nanos

Around eighteen months ago I was talking to someone who asked me about the beer scene in Glasgow. I said that I thought we were on the cusp of something big about to happen. And for once, I was right – although it was hardly a difficult prediction.

For several years we have looked east with slight envy as new brewery after new brewery sprang up in and around Edinburgh and the Forth Valley. Meanwhile, an hour to the west Loch Lomond started up in an enviable location – making it all the more inexplicable that local pubs in Balloch wouldn’t sell their beer, but they have been able to build up trade in Glasgow and Edinburgh. 2014 saw the launch of Bute Brewing Co in Rothesay. Adam has visited and provided a much better report than I could have done. It could be that the Clyde Coast could experience a renaissance as a tourist destination, now that there are more and more places to get a decent beer.

In Glasgow city proper, scarred by a legacy of failed brewpubs (Pig & Whistle, Millers Thumb, Glaschu, Leonardo’s, etc.), we still had only three breweries since 2006 – Clockwork, Tennents and WEST. We have the same population as Portland, Oregon, who have ten times as many. It took until 2014 for the dam to break as two micros began operating – Jaw Brew in Hillington, technically inside the city, and the achingly hip Drygate, clinging to the side of the Tennents site in Dennistoun.

Within days of the beginning of 2015 we already have news of two new outfits in Glasgow city, and one slightly outside.

Ride Brewing Co. is the brainchild of Dave Lannigan, one of the names behind 2013’s South Side Beer Festival. This is a tiny operation which, as I write this, is setting up in the basement of a relatively recently opened restaurant in Drury St, bang slap in the city centre. The brew kit is the German-made Speidel Braumeister, an automated piece of equipment which the manufacturers actually target at wealthy homebrewers. Ride promises to support local good causes with any profits – which is just as well, as I can’t see it (or any of the others mentioned below) being viable as a commercial operation. Drury St (the bar and restaurant) plans to bring a new high-end beer bar to Glasgow, but without the high-end prices charged at some other locations. With its neighbours the old-school Victorian gin palace the Horse Shoe Bar, a lap dancing club on one side and the pro-independence “Yes Bar” on the other, Drury St (the street) is becoming one of Glasgow’s more eclectic back alleys.

Chris Hoss started brewing when he lived in New Zealand. Returning to Glasgow he introduced Callum Mcleod to the joys of making beer at home. The pair tried several very experimental batches including a “South East Asian Pale Ale” with lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander seeds, chili flakes and ginger. Now as Monolith Brewing with the addition of Sean Brown, a bottled IPA, Bellwether, described as “big and fruity” has been launched commercially and the trio, currently brewing on the studio kit at Drygate, are looking for investment to acquire their own premises and equipment. “We've been approaching our brewing like making music: every beer’s like a song with its own reason and meaning and eyecatching cover art.” says Chris.

Just outside Glasgow in Cumbernauld, Lawman Brewing Co is a hobby nanobrewery and proof that you can in fact run a commercial brewery from your kitchen. Craig Laurie is the man behind this and the name comes from his university law studies, before he decided to go into brewing instead. The first beers were launched at Cloisters Bar in Edinburgh before Christmas: Horizon, a juicy APA; Steadfast, a Kölschalike beer that isn’t quite sure it’s not actually a Pilsener; and Obsidian, a strong export stout. A prototype imperial stout is even richer and smoother than Obsidian.

It’s only January. I fully expect to see more new producers springing up throughout the year.

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