Friday, 11 August 2017

From the ashes

Like many other drinkers I was shocked and saddened when Glasgow beer business Hippo Beers suddenly went into liquidation. The group which ran a beer shop and just over a year ago opened its own bar, the Hippo Taproom, closed its doors and appointed liquidators at the end of July.

I’m particularly sad because I’ve seen the business start up right from the beginning and can imagine how much work the founders Derek and Alec put into it. When the Hippo shop on Queen Margaret Drive finally opened I was the first customer through the door (I wanted them to be able to say there were customers waiting outside).

One of the earliest events I remember was a brewing demonstration in the shop with the homebrewers who went on to form Out Of Town. That particular beer had to be dumped due to someone’s insistence on using far too much rye. The boys were back at Hippo Taproom a couple of years later to launch their brewery. Chris Lewis of Dead End Brew Machine also credits Hippo with giving him the impetus to go commercial.

I do not know the reasons for the liquidation but some people are speculating that there just wasn’t enough trade. Compared to other specialist stores Hippo was a bit out of the way, and not near any convenient public transport. Although the inhabitants of the surrounding area are precisely the demographic likely to buy its wares, perhaps a beer shop also needs to attract custom from elsewhere. The Taproom was rarely busy but put an extraordinary effort into organising special events and – unlike some beer bars – offered several well-kept cask ales. Perhaps its location, among the Saturday night drinking barns of Sauchiehall St, didn’t do it any favours either; though it made a pleasant pub crawl from there to the State Bar round the corner (and sometimes back again).

The liquidation came at a particularly inconvenient time, as the team were in the middle of organising their festival, the Great Scottish Beer Celebration, which had previously taken place at the Barras and this year was planned for the Art School. Happily, brewers and other beer retailers have come to the rescue and organised an ad hoc consortium to allow the festival to continue. “I was basically asked ‘do you fancy helping get the thing moving again’ … it’s been very much a collective since the beginning,” one of the organisers told me.

It will be on the same dates in the same venue, but under the name Beer Makes Glasgow (a take on the city‘s own PR slogan “People Make Glasgow”). Ticket holders for GSBC should contact or just turn up for the same session originally booked. Tickets can be obtained from Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Drumchapel Food Bank.

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