Mention Glasgow and beer and the response is invariably ‘Tennent’s,’ but there is now an alternative to the dominant InBev owned company down on Glasgow Green, where a little piece of Bavaria has been established in a truly innovative brewpub.
WEST brewery, bar and restaurant occupies part of the magnificent, Victorian former Templeton’s carpet factory that was modelled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice and once made floor coverings for the Houses of Parliament, the White House and the Taj Mahal.
It is the only brewing operation in the UK to produce all of its beers in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, otherwise known as the German Purity Law. This is the oldest existing food law in the world, and dates from 1516. Adherence to the Reinheitsgebot means that only the four core ingredients of water, malt, hops and yeast are used in WEST’s beers, with no artificial additives, colouring or preservatives being added.
WEST is owned by Bavarian-born Petra Wetzel, who arrived in Glasgow to study law in 1994. “When my father came over to see me and to play golf he wanted to drink local beers, just as he would back in Bavaria,” she recalls, “but there really wasn’t very much available. So we decided to create a local Glasgow beer.”
The use of the iconic Templeton’s site came about partly because a section of the building happened to be available at the right time, but also, as Petra explains: “In Germany a brewpub should have a garden, and so we wanted a garden. Here we have a garden! Also, we couldn’t really do it right in the city centre because you need to be able to get access for deliveries and so forth. But we didn’t just want some industrial unit, we wanted to have an attractive retail outlet alongside it, so this place was perfect. I think it’s one of the most beautiful industrial buildings in Britain.”
When it came to acquiring the equipment to install in that building, Petra notes that: “We sourced the German built brewing plant second-hand, and a German brewer who was a friend was very helpful with advice when it came to getting the brewery up and running early on. We chose the name WEST partly because we are in the West of Scotland and partly because ‘west’ has positive connotations. ‘Go west, young man,’ for example!”
WEST opened its doors to the public on 10th March 2006 and now offers a core range of half a dozen of its own beers on tap, along with a variety of seasonal specials. There are regular live music sessions and the food menu always contains a number of authentic German dishes, courtesy of Germanborn head chef Rudi. These might include Franconian sausages with home-made sauerkraut, or slowcooked beef, served with dumpling and spicy cabbage. WEST beers are also used in the preparation of a number of dishes.
Head brewer is Matt Doswell, who hails from the West of Scotland town of Bridge of Weir. Already a keen beer enthusiast, Matt studied pharmacacology at university, but became disillusioned with the course, and transferred to Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh where he began to study brewing.
Article continues in Issue 22 of Beers of the World Magazine