Glasgow brewer West to take over abandoned cooperage as orders rise

GLASGOW brewer West is set to breathe life back into part of Diageo’s abandoned operations at Port Dundas as the business heads towards a doubling of turnover in 2012.

West – which currently brews at its eponymous East End beer hall – expects to open the “West centre of brewing excellence” at the former Diageo cooperage by next autumn. The long-delayed project will increase capacity from 300,000 litres to five million litres annually, helping to meet rising demand for its signature St Mungo lager and other brews.

Petra Wetzel, founder and managing director of West, said the company had initially looked at building a £6.6 million facility in Maryhill. Port Dundas will cost just shy of £9m, though part of that will be defrayed after West secured £1.85m from the Scottish Government’s Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation scheme. “That backing was important, because this is bigger than what we were going to do at first,” Wetzel said. “It’s just great to finally get started.”

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The new brewery will be the base of operations for Heidi Beers, the company formed at the start of this year to focus on expanding off-premises sales of West brews.

Majority-owned by Wetzel, Heidi has five other private backers as well as bank and government funding. Heidi operates as a sister company to Noah Beers – owned by Wetzel and fellow West executive Hilary Jones – which encompasses the restaurant and bar operation at Glasgow Green.

The micro-brewery at the beer hall is working at full capacity to meet on-site demand as well as supplying bars, hotels, restaurants and clubs throughout the UK. There is also increasing demand for West beers from abroad, with sales into countries including Australia, Ireland, Italy, Russia and the United States.

Although Port Dundas will not come on-stream until next year, Wetzel said Heidi Beers was already on course to outstrip last year’s sales of £1.65m for the business as a whole.

Noah Beers will likewise surpass last year’s combined turnover figure.

Diageo closed its Port Dundas cooperage in 2010 as part of a larger restructuring that led to the loss of 900 Scottish jobs. The new brewery is expected to create 18 jobs, taking total headcount at West to 78.

News of West’s expansion comes as fellow craft beer outfit BrewDog is also preparing to ramp up production by building a larger brewery at Ellon in Aberdeenshire.