Glaswegian Heart, German Head
Prior to helping start WEST, a German-style beer hall and microbrewery in Glasgow, in 2006, Petra Wetzel had never had a pint of beer. Although she had grown up in the heart of Bavaria, it was custom for her to join her family on weekend meals at breweries , alcohol had never had much appeal to her.
“After taking over WEST there wasn’t a chance of running a brewery successfully without understanding the product that we are providing to our customers. I became a beer expert by tasting various brews and reading about the subtle differences that ingredients or the fermentation of the yeast can affect the taste. In industry terms I became a beer bore!” Petra says laughing.
Petra talks so passionately about her brewery and WEST beer that its hard to imagine her in any other career. In actual fact it was only six years ago that she quit her career at a successful law firm in Glasgow to keep running the WEST business.
The idea for WEST had stemmed as early as 1994 when Petra’s father came to visit her in Glasgow and was unimpressed with the quality of the lager. Nothing was done to solve the lack of good lager during his visits until nearly ten years later when Petra and her then husband decided to set up the brewery. Despite having no professional experience in hospitality, Petra knew the type of place she wanted to set up. Breweries were a large part of her German childhood because of the culture. “Beer halls were usually attached to the breweries available in the town. The halls were where you socialized, where you networked, and on the weekend it was a family environment. I didn’t feel that there was anything like that in Glasgow and wanted to establish that type of environment there.”
As luck would have it, her family’s gardener’s son in Bavaria was a master brewer. He was integral to setting WEST up with the proper equipment and recipes and making sure that all lagers that were being produced in Scotland were in accordance to the German Purity Law. This law states that beer should be a product of barley, hops, yeast and water – nothing else. WEST is the only UK brewery to produce all their beers in strict accordance with this 1516 Law that led Petra to coin “Glaswegian Heart. German Head” to describe her business. When circumstances changed and Petra took over the business in 2008 she realised the risk she was taking.
“The business is now gaining recognition but when I took over it meant that for a while the head of the company knew much less about the industry than any of my employees. I surrounded myself with people who were very clever and immersed myself in the hospitality industry. Now I joke that I haven’t worked a day since taking over WEST. There have been steep learning curves but I have loved every minute and do not regret leaving my career in law for the hospitality industry. Hospitality has the best people.”
Over the course of running WEST, Petra’s lagers and wheat beers have received numerous accolades and recognitions for their quality and taste including 3 DLG German Gold medals and a SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers Association) Supreme Champion award. Some of the lagers have even made it down to London with WEST’s St Mungo lager being offered as the house beer at Hix Soho and Oblix (the Shard) to name a few locations.
With all the success and growth of her business, we ask what the future holds for WEST?
“We have plans to build a second brewery in the North of Glasgow in 2014. Depending on how successfully the second location is rolled out, we are also considering replicating the concept around other locations in the UK”
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