After a week in Glasgow, we were ready to move on. Our last day there, we stumbled upon West Brewery. It sat at the far end of Glasgow Green: a river park, smelling of Victorian imperialism and the caramelized malt of a nearby distillery.
West Brewery hugged a side of Templeton Carpet Factory, itself, an orientalist carpet of brick and tile from the 19th century. A rare sun blared the building into a riot of red, green, yellow.
Our water bottle was empty. Our feet hurt. A liquid lunch called us inside. Aspirational brewing had tidied up the factory’s cavern of beams and steel.
The germanic-sounding Hefeweizen and Munich Red didn’t sound very Scottish so we considered the other two. We hovered around the stainless bar, ordered, and returned to the sun.
West brewery’s eponymous beer, “West”, is your everyday ale. Clear and golden, with a pencil-wide white head, and big, rapid bubbles. Its aromas couldn’t compete with the distillery’s, but honey, lemon, and coriander persisted.
Bright and tart, with little bitterness, alcohol, or body: West’s West offered notes of lively lemon zest, coriander, licorice or taro, and a floral honey. Although the flavor duration was medium, I judged this beer as very good (4 of 5).
This was a happy beer, made by happy people, in a happy corner of Glasgow: a city mired by years of industrial decay, shipping collapse, and some crime.
Next, West’s Saint Mungo, named for the town’s patron saint and brewer.
The color tended toward highland cow, with smaller, slower fizz, and a lighter white lacing. Aromas of warm honey and wheat bread said good morning. Acid, tannin, and alcohol all stood in place, with extra body and flavors of honey drizzled wheat bread, and a dollop of toffee and cream. Bread crust flavors lingered for a medium plus, lightly bitter finish. Very good (4 out of 5). Think of fuzzy, kindly, yet hardy highland cattle.
Maybe I was biased. The Glaswegian family that hosted us promised us a free stay in Aberdeen. Old ladies helped us on buses. Mackintosh’s arts and craft was everywhere. Damp Iceland had lowered our standards. We had a massive room to ourselves.
West Brewery’s sun slathered deck didn’t hurt either. Yes, they may be the UK’s first brewery to follow the Reinheitsgebot: German Purity Law for beer. But to copy German beer styles out of deference, or worse, for sales via public recognition, is like me speaking Mandarin when ordering at Panda Express. Neither is needed. Although, one must start somewhere.
West’s beers are quite good. Their location is brilliant. I hope they can evolve from such a pure start.