The Shilling Brewing Company (SBC) opened its doors in Glasgow with much fanfare last month, and owners Glendola Leisure have spent upwards of £1.5 million on its creation.
Walking in, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you are actually standing in a fully functioning brewery. The ceilings are high, the walls are cast in a luminous marble, and the sparkle from the copper on the bar mixed with light grey tones around the rest of the pub makes it more of a stylish bar or hotel lobby. But when you look on the left, as close to the ceiling as possible, there are eight tuns brewing one of the three house brews; Glasgow Red, Unicorn IPA or The Steamie. In front of them there is the bar gantry, which stretches three quarters of the width of the pub. The actual workings of the brewery are closeted behind dark grey panelling, while the bar itself is covered in a marble-effect covering. The panelling has a splash of bright blue dripping down it, which seems like an oversight until an explanation from Euan Robb, group sales manager of Glendola, who says, “I thought it was just a design thing, but when I asked about it, it connects with other parts of the design around the pub. There are four elements that make up beer; the blue signifies water, hops which are designed on the brocade, yeast which is used in the dough and malt which is both behind the bar and used in the beer. Having said that, absolutely no one has asked me about it since I found out!”
Along the bar there are three fount banks of 8 draught beers. Each tap is numbered, not branded, and at the front of the bank, there is a see-through section where the customer can see the colour and transparency of each beer before they purchase. That’s not to say that Shilling is a pub that aims to cater for just craft beer drinkers. It still carries Tennent’s and Guinness and, while its range of gins, whiskies and wines is smaller than most pubs, it was the demystification of craft beer that was a key focus for Glendola when coming up with the concept of The Shilling Brewing Company. Euan says, “We wanted something very different from what people would expect from a brewpub. As you can see by the design, it’s very female friendly and our HR and recruitment people were keen on getting staff who were passionate about craft beer.”
Looking around Shilling, you can barely recognise its predecessor, Horton’s. The mezzanine floor with a sweeping staircase is gone, and the entire interior has been stripped back to its beautiful Edwardian architecture. The pale cream marble build is now visible, and the entire pub benefits from the waves of sunlight that stream in from the floor to ceiling windows. The main floor of the pub is broken up by a pattern of tables. Two high, chest-height, long tables seating six either side, are matched with a dozen, wooden backed high chairs then a spattering of square, metal topped lower tables with either copper brown stools or black armchairs with SBC patterned cushions. Then flanked by another high table again, you’re led into the raised area by copper handrails, with sable grey curtains on each wall. Both walls have a blue brocade covered banquette (where the hops feature), with square metal covered tables and black armchair.
In the middle of the raised area, there are a mixture of square and round metal covered tables, with black armchairs. The wooden stripped floor has been stamped faintly with the SBC logo, randomly enough to look like the strips have been reused from packing crates.
The pièce de résistance, though, is in the raised area, A 20 ft painted unicorn painted in dark, gothic greys on the left wall dominates the room. Says Euan, “A lot of people don’t realise that the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal. When we started talking about it as a design, all the boys were thinking My Little Pony, but the result is vastly different!”
The far back of the pub houses the pizza kitchen serving artisan pizza, made fresh in a cupola oven using dough raised with brewers’ yeast. The pizza offering was a key part too. Euan says, “We wanted to do food and thought what goes well with beer? Pizza.”
This whole area is open to the customers and there’s a trio of tables if you want to have a closer look. Pizza is going to be offered until midnight on a Friday and Saturday, when the pub is open until 2am.
On the other side of the panelling, there’s another blue covered banquette, which would seat around six people. Towards the bar, there’s another booth, this one slightly more in the recess. Says Euan, “We want people to have a choice of where to sit. Some people are fans of high tables when they’re eating while others are more settled at a table with armchairs, it’s about mixing it up.” There is no function room as such, but Euan is keen to say their tasting room, that is downstairs and sits a mere six people, is something they’re planning on packaging for customers. He says, “It’s got a widescreen TV, which you can hook up a projector or a laptop to. It’s not open to the public, but we will put together offers. We’ve actually had a few of our own meetings here.”
The entire construction job cost £1.5 million and took 16 weeks from the last week in January, which makes sense given that they had to put plumbing in for the brewery and strip the insides of Horton’s back. “So far, reviews have been good,” Euan says. “At the moment we’re competing with the football, but we’re still getting very busy. We’re very happy.”
To have a real live brewery in the city centre is certainly something to be happy about, and Shilling Brewing Company proves craft beer drinkers are just as style-conscious as the rest of the drinking population.