In for a Shilling

We stop in for a pint with Glasgow’s friendliest brewpub.
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Shilling Brewing Co. is celebrating. Since June 2016, Shilling has served up its beers in its brewhouse that sits directly on top of the city-centre brewery, the first of its kind in Glasgow. Today, it’s just put in its first permanent line at an external venue. From now on, Waxy O’Connors will sell Shilling’s Glasgow Red Ale on tap. Not bad for a microbrewery that’s yet to see its second birthday.

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General manager Chris Nicol is delighted. “To have the opportunity to see our brews go out into the world is incredibly exciting for the business. There's a very real sense of pride in knowing that people are enjoying something you helped create.” Nevertheless, it’s the brewhouse that’s this company’s heart and soul. A 500 litre mash tun and kettle, three fermentation vessels and eight conditioning and serving tanks are all on view to Shilling’s guests, with the brewhouse being situated directly behind the bar, and beer served from tanks above it. It’s a bit of a goldfish bowl environment, but Chris loves it.

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“It’s one thing we weren’t sure about at the start, but we’ve made our peace with it. I really like it, I think it bridges a gap. People can see the thing getting made, it’s a nice experience. And I think there’s a bit of provenance there with it,” he explains. The way customers can interact with the brewery is a major consideration for Shilling too. For those new to craft beer, help is always on hand. The bar staff all have excellent knowledge of both the in-house range and beer in general, and Chris is proud to say that’s been picked up on in reviews. “There’s a perfect beer for everyone, but not everyone’s found theirs yet. Our staff really enjoy getting customers to try something new.”

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Shilling have certainly gone some way to providing that opportunity. Machine Gun Lager is a 5% abv golden-hued hit of Hallentau Mittelfrau and Motueka hops, imparting notes of grass and hay, pineapple and juicy fruits. Perfect for a fresh spring afternoon. Black Star Teleporter, on the other hand, is rich and dark from roasted malts, and finished with an infusion of roasted coconut after fermentation. Sweet and toasty, this is one for nodding off in front of the fire. Then there’s the brew chosen by Waxy O’Connor’s, Glasgow Red Ale, with candied plums on the nose and a hoppy tang that creates a bitter-sweet ale. The names are creations in themselves - Chris says these come from anything the bar

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staff might say, especially something from a movie.

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All in all Shilling has brewed over 35 different varieties, with just one full-time head brewer with two assistants. The beer for the brewhouse customers is made on the big brew kit, with a smaller single batch kit for experimentation. While some of the beer can be kegged, most goes straight into the conditioning tanks, which are connected to six lines behind the bar. With another 25 guest lines, “I’d like to think of us as showcasing the best beer that Scotland has to offer,” says Chris. “Having a good relationship with other brewers is great for arranging collaborations and events, helping each other out with anything we might be doing.” Last June, Chris collaborated with Loch Lomond Brewery on the fruit beer Mango and Pash and the 7% Dr Peppercorn, an aromatic saison made with pink peppercorn, orange peel, black pepper and coriander.

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These are bold moves for a brewery based in Glasgow, where the shadow of Hugh Tennent looms large, and most of the city still loves a lager. “But now, looking at the way things are going, we’re a lot more craft,” say Chris, “and as the only microbrewery in the city centre, that’s pretty exciting for us. From mashing in to serving, we’re looking at two or three weeks. For me, it’s the freshest pint in Glasgow, for sure.”  

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