Tag Archives: Drygate

Beer of the Week – Drygate Ax Man Rye IPA

Friday has arrived once again, and as ever that means at least two things. Firstly, the weekend is just around the corner (or maybe starting today, depending on your priorities) and secondly there’s another recommendation from my 52-strong vault of great unsung Scottish beers. With so many different releases appearing from breweries north of the border – it’s inevitable that some slip between the cracks. But no more!

Every Friday this year I’ll be gently cradling one of these precious, precious brews and placing it under the spotlight to reveal just why I think it is deserving of a place in your beer cupboard or fridge – if you haven’t tried it before. This time around, it is an IPA with a difference produced by a brewery who looked to do things differently from the very outset. Drygate’s fantastic Ax Man Rye IPA.

30. Ax Man (5.0%)
Drygate, Glasgow
Style: Rye IPA
500ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Drygate’s online shop (as individual 500ml bottles)

Rye is an ingredient that can cause all manner of problems to brewers, gumming together during the mash to slow things down if not looked after carefully. But the flipside is the depth of flavour it releases into the beer – and I’ve had plenty of rye beers (a lot more recently) where the trademark spiciness is muted, or not in balance with the flavour emanating from the rest of the malt bill or the hops. Not so with Ax Man. The tingle of bready spice is a perfect addition to the piney hops and acts another brilliant element to the orange peel, caramel, dried fruits and toast also in there. Rye can be tricky to brew with, but when it pays off it is a fabulous ingredient for the brewer. Ax Man is the best rye beer in Scotland and a must-try, simple as that.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth

Craft Beer Rising Glasgow

A beer festival held in a marquee, hosted by a brewery, within the grounds of a larger brewery; Craft Beer Rising. This Russian doll of beer took place over the weekend at the Drygate facility in Glasgow, having moved north for the first time since its London inception. I ventured across from Waverly to Queen Street on the Friday to check out the trade day and then hopefully blunder into the public session that followed. Last Craft Beer Rising, at the Truman Brewery in East London, us freebooting ‘trade’ types were clinically ushered out in the interval,* so it was a welcome surprise when, as the Drygate trade session clock ticked down, rather than squawking ‘YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR BEER IN THREE…TWO…ONE’, a PA announcement suddenly yelped into life that those of us already there would be subsumed into the public session that was about to begin. Hoorah! The white exhibitors’ wristband I had slyly acquired to avoid being turfed out would not be needed, after all.

* But…but…I’m a beer blogger!! [sniff]

There was quite a strange atmosphere on the Friday at Craft Beer Rising – somewhat inevitably, maybe. The morning after the night before; Thursday’s vote on the Independence referendum still fresh in everyone’s minds. The trade session itself was particularly muted, brewers staring out from behind their palleted bars, or talking to a couple of people at a time, at most. For a blogger like myself, this was great, as I could buzz from one stall to the next, repeatedly asking questions, like the last wasp of summer. Brewers, being as amenable as they usually are, were only too happy (at least on the outside) to chat away, and in the process I learned a fair bit of fascinating future plans from several of them. All of it, naturally, off the record (such is life). However, let’s just say I had thought I’d seen in all in the world of beer labelling; so watch out in that regard.

Talking to a few of the beer drinkers who arrived for the public session – or ‘bluebanders’ as us white-banded types could have piously referred to them, the number one item of feedback they had about Craft Beer Rising was the cost. Twenty-odd pounds to get in (although a net fifteen, as that included a fivers’ worth of tokens) it sounded, to many, to be on the high side of average for a beer festival, even one appended by the word ‘craft’. Maybe that had combined with the post-indyref atmosphere to keep numbers down; the Friday evening session was as quiet a beerfest as I think I’ve ever seen (although it must be said the Saturday sessions apparently sold out). Still, that meant a better chance of sounding out some interesting beer; and so it proved.

Beer of the festival for me was Harbour’s 8.7% Chocolate and Vanilla Imperial Stout; a nigh-on perfect joining of these two most complementary of flavours for strong, dark beers. Right from the off, a wow beer. Not far behind that was Stewart’s Lemon Grass-hopper Saison, created on the Craft Beer Kitchen kit by a couple of competition winners, the blend of kaffir lime leaves, ginger and lemongrass again worked beautifully. In fact, such was the buzz around this one, don’t be surprised to see this beer upscaled to the big Stewart kit and released to a wider audience. Still on the ‘things in a saison’ trend, the collaboration between Williams Bros and Stillwater – Stravaigin (6.7%) – was another humdinger. Interestingly, I’d had this before, at the Edinburgh Beer Bloggers’ Conference, but with a few more months in the keg has made it much more vibrant, clean and zesty.

It was tough at this point to avoid the barrel-aged Even More Jesus being poured from an open bottle on the Siren bar, but I’d wanted to try Undercurrent again ever since managing to get a quick half at the Hanging Bat, many moons ago. It didn’t disappoint; the oatmeal pale ale was as great as I remembered. Once again, it reminded me of a grapefruit power bar, should such a thing exist. Finally, the fifth beer of five that really made the pages of my notebook tingle was another collab – Camden’s jaunt with Beavertown, One Hells of a Beaver. Sold underneath a sign proclaiming where ‘The Home of Hells’ was (as if you were in any doubt), this mashup of Gamma Ray and Camden Hells was really quite something. Proof, if any were required, that whatever and however you want to quantify it, ‘craft beer’ is still on the rise…

Thanks to the organisers of Craft Beer Rising for the trade ticket, and the staff at Drygate who had to put in extra shifts to get it all working. The atmosphere reduced somewhat towards the end of the night, unfortunately, as news filtered through as to what was occurring on George Square (past which those of us from Edinburgh would have to go to get the train). A real shame, but as the mood in the city was better at the weekend, hopefully that pervaded to the festival as well.

Drygate Brewery opens

That whole Edinburgh-Glasgow comparison thing has been done to death, on sounding boards far more intelligent and worldy-wise than this one. Perhaps such X vs Y talk is inevitable, when two cities are so close geographically and at the same time vie for cultural importance. Think Melbourne and Sydney; Tokyo and Osaka; Preston and Blackpool. There must, though, be something in the differences between these twinned cities, otherwise nothing would be said, I guess. I remember talking once to an MD/founder of one of Edinburgh’s most respected independent coffee houses about the imminent prospect of him opening a branch in Glasgow. “It’s tough” he said. “The people in Glasgow, they want labels, they want design, they want the best. They want it all!”. I’m not sure what that says about those of us in Edinburgh, but it is a neat summation of our friends along the M8, maybe.*

*He actually said us Edinburghers are more experimental, and willing to try new things (for what it’s worth)

Those ‘tired and trusted’ notations that have been pinned to Glasgow really stood out for me yesterday, when looking around the finally completed Drygate Brewing Co in the east end of the city. Since heading through on a miserably rainy night in February for their label artwork launch event, the whispers about what Drygate are up to have intensified. I can say, after having seen it, those whispers are not just true, but hugely understated. Drygate is going to be the start of something, without a doubt; you get the impression that they don’t so much want to start a brewery as begin an entire movement. A 24-tap brewery bar. Food created by the team that got Leith’s Vintage to where it is today. A raised flat-roofed beer terrace. Event space for gigs and exhibitions. The outlook is firmly squared at Glasgow, but Drygate is on a par with anything in the rest of the country.

There is a small elephant in the room, though – the investment the project received from the C&C Group; a company that has long held the lion’s share of drinking chips in Glasgow. But from what I gather, the suits from up the road (and it really is just up the road; the Drygate brewery sits on the grounds of the Tennent’s facility) have handed the reins over to Scott Williams and his team and let them at it, as they see fit. So are C&C buying ‘craft’? Or are they simply investing in it, like other groups have done with other breweries? Does it even matter? The idea that was repeatedly returned to during my visit was that Drygate means to appeal to everyone, right from the beginning. Everyone recognises this is the only way ‘craft’ beer will become mainstream. And inclusion, on this scale, requires investment.

One way the Drygate brewery are seeking to gain a groundswell of support is similar to what other breweries are now introducing – a public access brewkit, allowing members of the public the chance to create, brew and take away their own beers. Drygate’s Studio Kit (pictured) will come online at the end of next month. Like the full-scale kit, it sits in full view of the enormous bar area, allowing people the chance to watch what goes on at any time. This is deliberate, as Scott explained. “This whole layout sets up for theatre,” he told me. “You get to see people doing something; you want to see brewers actually at work, connecting hoses and creating the beer. You come to our brewery, at Williams, and you’re just on an industrial estate. This is so much better.”

The kit, which has now been stencilled with the previously-released artwork created by graduates of the Glasgow school – is a Simatec 24 hectolitre system fabricated in Italy. It’s a compact kit, and with the numerous conditioning tanks in place, will allow for what the Drygate Brewery really want to major in – experimentation. Billed as the UK’s first experimental craft brewery**, the core lineup of three beers (more on which later) will be augmented by many more small batch offerings. Over twenty different recipes are already on the cards, when brewing begins (for the next few weeks, all beers will be produced at Williams, whilst the final installation is undertaken). As Williams/Drygate’s Richard McLelland said “We’re not going to be straight out of the traps; we’re going to maintain interest levels by not being afraid to make mistakes.”

What Richard means by this is that they are essentially coming at the project with a sense of adventure and an open mind. Whether you subscribe to the fact that they are the first experimental** craft brewer here or not, from talking to the brewing team, it’s pretty clear that very little is off the table at the moment. And, speaking of tables, the star in the making at Drygate is undoubtedly the food that will be on offer. From paired charcuterie, Vintage-style, to a more relaxed upper bar area for burgers and substantial beer food, two kitchens will get people in for the food, right from the start. Some comparison to the Vintage is inevitable, but V@Drygate (as I think it is to be called) will nonetheless be bar-led; pints will be available, for instance – although beers over 5% will be offered in the schooner serve; stronger beers in third measures.

**See update at the end of this blog post

The upstairs event area still has throwback touches to the building’s previous incarnation as a cardboard box factory (not least the corrugated roof, which has become the symbol of the entire project; and a design of tattoo for several of the team). Yellow lines, fading on the floor, must have had some significance in previous years; the external wooden beer patio is perfectly-placed as a sun-trap (tables are apparently being constructed from the metal cladding that protected the conditioning tanks on their long journey from China). A bare wooden stair up to the beer terrace will be stencilled with artwork, and then have hops trailed up it, to supply the restaurant with hop shoots (and hopefully the brewery, one-day, should the climate allow). The downstairs bar area also has a fully-stocked caged takeaway shop, featuring dozens of UK and overseas beers; also, growler fills on any of the 24 draught beers will be served. Every base has been covered; it’s quite something.

In terms of the ‘home’ beers, we got a chance to try the three core lines – pictured for the first time above, in their final guises. Bearface Lager (4.4%) was the product of a long-held wish to create a craft lager, to give people an entry point into something further (and disassociate from Tennent’s, presumably). Using a different yeast from Williams’s Alloan lagers, Bearface is hopped with Calypso, Amarillo and Cascade, before being dry-hopped with the latter. Soft and lemony, it’s really very good indeed. Gladeye IPA comes in at 5.5% (“I was doing my damndest to not make it taste like Joker”, said Scott) and features the interesting pairing of C-hops and Nelson Sauvin. Finally, Outaspace Apple Ale (4.7%) – described as ‘aromahopery with crunch’ is there not just to stand out; it serves as a nod to C&C’s numerous appley concerns, and is sweet and yet surprisingly moreish.

You can’t fail to be impressed by Drygate. Standing out in a city that prides itself on standing out; it has everything going for it to be hugely successful. Part of this is because of the facility, constructed to appeal to as wide a cross-section of Glaswegians as possible. But the other part are the people involved; the experience Williams Bros have, mixed with the intriguing prospect of a young triumvirate of brewers. Jake (ex-Fyne Ales), Alessandra (ex-Harviestoun) and Ed (ex-TSA) all arrive with reputations to be made, and boundless enthusiasm and recipe ideas in tow. Creativity looks set to run riot at the Drygate Brewery, that’s for certain.

I’m not going to get totally carried away, and say Drygate is like a small corner of Williamsburg transplanted to Glasgow – but it’s definitely a statement of intent. The idea of doing things for the fun of doing them, of appealing to as many people as possible, will help to act as a gateway for those who wish to walk through it, and discover new beers. With this in mind, there are even plans for C&C pubs to take Drygate lines with their Tennent’s orders; although everyone was keen to stress this was a long-term goal, at this stage, and the onus will be on the pubs themselves to give the new beers a run, if they think they’ll be taken.

It will work for a share of them though; the best beer I had yesterday, finally, was Jakes’ 8.8% Rin Stout – a one-off, it was like drinking smoothed, chocolately charcoal. “There’s really no way of going back to this,” said Richard, almost poignantly “Unless it’s really good, of course; then we’ll find a way.”

Drygate Brewery, Bar and Kitchen
85 Drygate, Glasgow G4 0UT
Tel: 0141 2128810 Email: info@drygate.com
Website / Twitter Feed
[Drygate opens to the public tomorrow, Friday the 23rd of May, at 12noon]
[Robbie from I Might Have a Glass of Beer was also there; check out his opinion here, and the guys from Get Around Glasgow’s thoughts are here]

** UPDATE – Apparently, I mis-heard on the evening, and the word ‘experimental’ was actually ‘experiential’ – the process of learning through direct experience. On reading Drygate’s website, I actually even assumed experiential was a typo. So much for being a writer. Drygate are claiming to be the UK’s first experiential craft brewery; technically it is along the same lines as experimental, but it never pays to assume something has been mis-typed. The Guild of Beer Writers award is going back in the post! Thanks to tomh for the tip-off. What an experients…

Art meets Craft: introducing the Drygate Brewery


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…