A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel and her husband Graham from Hidden Lane Brewery based in Glasgow. The timing couldn't have been better, as they were visiting Skye, so I organised a get together and we talked all things beer!
Hidden Lane Organic Brewery is situated in just that, a hidden lane in the Finnieston area of Glasgow. The building is full of character! It's an old jaded white two storey building, with vintage pulley style windows and battered blue weathered doors, having served as laundry in a former life. They have four 1000L tanks at the back, where nearby a beautiful black spiral staircase transports you to a private room, which is a safe and neutral space used by artists, for business meetings and a staff training area, which they allow people the use of for free. Rachel is the founder and director of the brewery and is supported by her husband Graham who runs a couple of bars throughout Glasgow and is a great help to the brewery and his wife!
After working in all areas of the hospitality industry, Rachel was keen to branch out and be her own boss. However, more importantly, she wanted to create product that was good quality and organic, which is the brewery's USP.
After finding a space to make beer and realising her ambition, the next step was to find a brewer who was on the same page. Up stepped Pete Hannington. Recommended by a friend in the business, Pete had previously brewed at Brewhouse & Kitchen in London. Within minutes it soon became clear that Pete shared the same ideals as Rachel, believing in the organic brewing techniques as well as the emphasis being on the product and not about the brewer themselves.
As we sat outside a pub in Portree, I asked Rachel how she has found adapting to life running a brewery.I have to say we've been extremely lucky. Obviously COVID has meant that I haven't been able to travel and meet potential stockists or allow people to come to our brewery. However, we realised at the start of the lockdown that we had to adapt our business in order for it to survive. The business flipped from focusing primarily on kegging our beer, to concentrating on canning it. Therefore, making it accessible to the general public via online orders. Of course, with this, there were initial teething problems, not to mention figuring out supply and demand quantities. But I was able to actually gain business throughout the various stages of lockdown, which given everything is pretty impressive.
Obviously in an ideal world you would have the doors open and welcome people to come and visit. When things return to normal, how do you see the brewery and building functioning to the general public?
At the moment, we've allowed a friend of ours (who is an artist) to use the taproom upstairs as a space for him to work. It's worked well as he was able to have enough room to work and provide an area that is safe and inspiring. We have a really excellent coffee station set up by Rocket Monkey Coffee Roasters. This allows an environment which is perfect for business meetings, staff training and eventually people wanting to know more about the brewery. We have beautiful Chesterfield sofas, local artists artwork and taps with all our beer available. We are also planning on hosting beer schools, which allows the public the chance to get hands on and make one of our beers. Being so open is what we are about. If we can help people out by using our space then we will.
Apart from the quality of beer and your focus upon organic brewing, what are the other key factors that are important to you and the brewery.Having worked for years in all manner of jobs in the hospitality sector, I've always seen the importance of good customer service. This is at the forefront for us. There are so many great people in this industry and creating links with retail, on-trade, other breweries is vitally important. We have been able to call on friends throughout the industry for support and we are always available for advice to anyone needing it. Having such a small team, it is vital to be approachable and available whenever necessary.
The four beers that we are stocking from Hidden Lane are as follows.
Nitro Shilling 4.5% Here is a style that I am very familiar with from my days in 'old man pubs'. Of course, in a new direction. It's malty, with fruity notes and a caramel finish. A great take on a classic.
Tropical Ale 4.4% Straight away I get notes of pineapple and raspberry. It's on the sweet side, and therefore a great beer for a summer’s day! A different pale for sure.
Glasgowist Lager 5% Wow, this is delicious. It's got all the good parts that you'd expect from a lager, with some added extras. Loads of honey sweetness
Raspberry Saison 4.5% If Saison is a new style for you, give this a try. It's a great entry beer. The flavour of raspberry is at the forefront and it's really refreshing!
Click here if any of them sound like something you might enjoy.