Merchant City co-founder Allan Rimmer tells us all about one of Glasgow’s most exciting breweries…
First things first, how and why was Merchant City Brewing Co. founded?
The original idea for MCB was to open a brewpub type venue in Glasgow’s Merchant City. However, as we (co-founders Allan Rimmer and Douglas Wheatley) were going through various planning and licencing processes and continually hitting setbacks, we came across a larger scale brew kit for sale at a brewery which was ceasing operations. So, we got the kit, took on our head brewer Adam, and came to market as a commercial brewery.
The venue is still very much in our plans, and we hope to be able to make an announcement on it in 2020.
Does being based in Glasgow influence your beer at all? And how is the Glasgow craft beer scene?
The Glasgow craft beer scene is great; there are a host of excellent breweries ranging in production and output sizes and with fairly regular collaborative events. There is a very supportive atmosphere between the brewers. There are also a number of very supportive independent bars and bottle shops who are incredibly important as neighbourhood outlets for quality beers. As far as influence goes, we like to think the Merchant City is a vibrant and diverse area of Glasgow and want to reflect those characteristics in our beers.
You have a strong core range that anyone can enjoy and some seriously unique specials that really push the boundaries of flavour we’re used to in beer; do you think its important to cover both bases? And where do some of the more creative ideas come from?
Definitely, we set out to have a solid core range of beers that would be relatively cost effective to produce, which would allow us to sell them at competitive prices and make them more accessible to people who may be put off by the expensive reputation of craft beer generally.
We absolutely love producing and releasing our smaller pilot series seasonal and special varieties as well and it is important for us to produce these beers to satisfy demand from independent stores who are constantly changing their offering as beers from all over become more readily available.
The ideas really come from everyone in the team, but our head brewer Adam Gray is the man who takes the idea, whether it’s an ingredient or style, and creates a well-balanced final product.
You’re nominated for ‘Breakthrough Brewery of the Year’ at the 2019 Scottish Beer Awards; what’s your take on the current Scottish brewing scene and how does Merchant City stand out within it?
It’s great to be nominated for these business awards and it’s always a good night so we are looking forward to sharing a few beers with some of our industry mates.
The Scottish brewing industry overall is performing fantastically well. Everyone is doing their own thing and contributing to Scotland’s excellent food and drink reputation world-wide, as well as what seems to be becoming a whole new tourism interest.
We are just trying to carve our own way as a Glasgow brewery in a city where there is a very limited number of taps that aren’t tied to big breweries or distributors. We hope our different ranges help us appeal to new and seasoned beer drinkers alike and that working on things like our well received barrel aged series of beers along with being able to showcase some of our core beers through routes such as the Flavourly Craft Beer Club will help our reputation grow.
We’re featuring your Unit 1 Red Ale in our Craft Beer Club, what can you tell us about the beer?
Unit 1 was the first beer we brewed on large scale and is modestly named after our current premises.
It is a session-strength, Irish style red ale with a big dose of hops. Well-rounded and balanced with a caramel malt flavour alongside hop and roasted grain aromas. It was awarded a Silver Medal in the SIBA 2018 Bottled beer, British Dark beer up to 4.4% category, and is a finalist at the Scottish Beer awards 2019 in the Best Amber or Dark Ale category. We think it is very easy drinking for a darker style and we’ve one particular team member who thinks it goes perfectly with a sticky toffee pudding for a dessert beer.