Art meets Craft: introducing the Drygate Brewery

Posted by on Feb 19, 2014 in Scottish Beer | No Comments


There’s something fitting about launching a new Glasgow brewery in a gallery, I think. Looking over at the city from the easterly end of the M8, it always comes across as a boiling cauldron of creativity. That’s probably due to being drawn through every now and again for Events (with a capital E); gigs, exhibitions, that kind of thing. So, it came as no real surprise to be padding quietly around the parquet flooring of the Glasgow Print Studio on Monday night, viewing the debut of a collaborative brewing project, in turn debuting via a presentation of potential label art for their new beers.

Drygate Brewing Company is a pairing of Alloa’s Williams Bros Brewing and west-coast heavyweights C&C Group (Tennent’s, Magners etc), and involves an expansion of their Wellpark site, just to the east of Glasgow city centre. Chatting to several of the people involved with the project, two things are clear. Firstly, this is going to be one seriously big operation. And secondly, those same people are buying into Drygate in a seriously big way. As in, getting the new logo tattooed onto their bodies, kind of way.

That logo, a seven-peaked zig-zag, has been created by design agency D8, and reflects the corrugated roof of the building about to be converted into the brewery. At the same time, it also touches on the symbolic translation of the old street in Glasgow where the work will take place – Drygate derives, apparently, from two halves – the Germanic for priest (dry), and a Norse word for path (gata). So, literally, ‘Priest’s Path’, with the multi-peaked logo possibly hinting at the testing journey of the faithful.

Well, maybe not. Anyway, what is undeniable, I think, even at this stage, is the focus that is being shown by those on the project. Aside from the brewery, the site will feature event space, overlooking the brewkit, enabling gigs to take place there. Also, a two-tier humdinger of a restaurant – Vintage at Drygate – to be overseen by Darren Blackburn, shortly to leave the all-conquering Vintage Leith. Buy shares in Glasgow-area suppliers of wooden serving boards, is my advice; with the pedigrees of those involved, it’s going to be something.

On the Monday, Scott Williams was there to give a short speech on what the Drygate Brewery will be about, and why they decided to release the first contact from an art gallery. In conjunction with D8, Drygate contracted out to alumni of the internationally renowned Glasgow School of Art for label designs for three core beers – a lager, an IPA, and an apple ale. The shortlisted portfolios were on display at the Print Studio, for the invited audience (head over to Creative Review for detailed pictures of all the entrants).

This approach is fascinating. Like it or not, there is a link between art and beer, as art influences choice. In a supermarket, scanning a bar counter, peering into a fridge – labels are important. As more and more breweries open, they have to stand out, and there’s an intrinsic link between unusual, interesting design and carving a niche for yourself. Just look at Kernel or Magic Rock. Wander around the wine aisles from Californian vineyards, and see how their labels have been influenced by US Craft Beer.

Everything about Drygate is a collaboration – the backers, the brewers (Robbie at Refreshing Beer was also there, and blogged that Jake Griffin from Fyne Ales will be at least one of the brewing team involved). The label art project is an extension of this. The winning entrants – Patch Keyes/Good Press, Andrew Park and Linda Sweenie/Jack Bedford – will have one of their designs matched to one of the new Drygate beers. Although this won’t give consistency across the range, that’s not what this is about – it’s about standing out, like Mikkeller, like To Øl, like Beavertown.

The beers were good – the lager was noticeably hopped-up, making a statement of distance from the Big Red T, I guess. The IPA was great, and had that definite Williams-streak through it, leading everyone I spoke with to iterate the final beers will be truly independent, and improved on these test batches. The apple ale tasted like sweet apple juice, and points to a development of craft cider, perhaps – unsurprising given the apple-heavy portfolio of the C&C Group. This core range will be supplemented by others, adorned with more bespoke art. As Scott Williams concluded, interestingly…

“One thing we are looking to do is use the work of other artists, not in this final three. Their work will influence the beer we make. The art will create the project”

Art influencing beer? Look out…

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