Glasgow's West End Beer Festival is heading online for a virtual series of tastings to be enjoyed at home, thanks to a collaboration with Grunting Growler.

Now in its sixth year, the Glasgow West End Beer Festival has been welcoming beer fans and breweries from all over the city and beyond to its weekend of events in July.

The festival usually takes place in the Hillhead Sports Club, close to Hotel du Vin, One Devonshire Gardens, but due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, this year will be very different.

Keen to keep the festival going, founder Conor McGeady has teamed up with owner of the Grunting Growler, Jehad Hatu, to offer the festival experience at home.

Anyone interesting in taking part can sign up to register their interest in buying a box of brand new beers to be delivered to homes, ahead of a series of online events.

Posting on their social media, the West End Beer Festival team said: “No pandemic is going to grind this fest to a halt! A box of new release beers delivered straight to your door. Drink at your leisure or take part in our online brewer led beer tastings.”

Speaking about this year’s virtual festival, Conor said: “The idea for the virtual festival came from a conversation that Jehad and I had just a few weeks ago.

“He’s had to change the whole system of his shop (because of the pandemic) so he started a click and collect and delivery service which has been really successful because despite the situation people still want to drink good beer.

“I know myself, although I am furloughed, I am not making as much money but I am saving a bit as I’m not eating or drinking out as much so I’d still like to treat myself to nice wine or beer at home.

“Because of the success of Grunting Growler’s delivery and collection service, Jehad knew that the market was there so he suggested a collaboration in order to keep the festival going this year.

“We’re using Jehad’s ordering network and infrastructure and both our social channels to create this beer festival at home.”

How will it work?

Conor explains: “I’ll be hand-picking the breweries as usual and we’ll use Grunting Growler’s distribution to get the beers out to everyone that buys a box.

“We are still formalising everything – because over the next few days we are finalising the last few beers –  but the price we are looking at is £49 and it’ll be for a box of eight brand new and exclusive beers.

“We’ve got a few brewers that have already set aside something brand new and exclusive for us and the other brewers are giving us first dibs essentially on some new releases that no one will have tried before.”

The festival is going to run over a weekend in early July, with the beer being delivered to homes beforehand.

Anyone that can’t wait to try the new beers can drink them whenever they want but there will be a virtual festival on a Saturday where there will be an online tasting sessions, brewers Q&A sessions and live music from some of the DJs usually at the festival.

While things are still in the planning stage Conor can’t say more about the beers other than he’s really excited by them, saying: “it’s all still under wraps but there are a couple that I am really excited to talk about but I shouldn’t give into temptation.

“We’re going to announce it all over the next seven days on our social media – so head to Grunting Growler and West End Beer Festival to find out more.”

There will only be about 200 beer boxes available, with fans asked to register their interest online.

Conor explains: “Will will have to cap it to about 200 boxes unfortunately. Customers in the west end can collect from the Grunting Growler but if you’re elsewhere in Glasgow we will deliver.

“Because of the time frame from some of the breweries, especially ones down south, by the time they get here and packaged up we are only really giving ourselves a day to do all deliveries, which will be for anyone not in the west end.

“If we get 200 people taking part in this, which is a brand new concept to us we’d be over the moon.”

West End Beer Festival origins

Conor discusses why he set up the West End Beer Festival, saying: “The festival started six years ago and came about from me doing a lot of beer tastings and meet the brewer type events in the restaurant I was working in at the time.

“Six years ago there was an emerging craft beer scene in Glasgow – things were starting to get exciting and there were a lot of breweries popping up and as a result of that I was doing these tastings.

“There hadn’t been a beer festival in Glasgow, for, I think it was 15 years since the Campaign for Real Ale (camra) stopped. Interestingly they started up again the same year that I started the West End Beer Festival.

“There had been the Hippo beer festival at the start of that year but there wasn’t anything specific for the west end of Glasgow. I started it as I saw it as a gap in the market, combined with a love of craft beer.

“The first event started off with about 600- 800 people attending over the course of the weekend and the last couple of years we’ve had over 1500 through the doors over the weekend.”

The festival has always been held at the Hillhead Sports Club, which Conor describes as a hidden gem in the west end.

He says: “I was the assistant manager at Cafe Source (the restaurant by the sports club) at the time so knew about the facilities of the club.

“There’s a large function space up the stairs as well as a huge beer garden that sits about 100 people. I still think it’s an absolute hidden gem in the west end. During the festival we have full use of the function space and the outside space, which is great.

“Despite having offers to change venue over the years, I still think the sports club is ideal because of the space – indoors and out – as it’s somewhere a little bit different.”

The focus was initially on Scottish and in particular Glaswegian independent releases, but after the second festival it opened it up to include breweries from south of the border, including some from Manchester and Wales.

 

About The Author

Rosalind Erskine

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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