Hippo has expanded into festivals and wholesaling. Graeme Murray reports
HIPPO Beers may sound like an unusual name for a specialist beer shop, but it wasn’t plucked from the ether.
The Glasgow firm is named after St Augustine of Hippo Regius – the patron saint of brewers.
Its directors, Derek Hoy and Alec Knox, met while studying geography at Strathclyde University and initially pursued careers in the public sector.
But the beer lovers said their frustration at a lack of international beers being sold in Scotland prompted them to open a dedicated shop in the city’s west end, which now stocks around 350 beers.
Hoy said: “We got into real ale in our 20s after I spent a bit of time in America and that got me into the craft beer scene.
“At the time I didn’t see these types of beer here. We also really loved a lot of German beers which we didn’t see much at all.
“We thought there was a bit of a gap in the market for opening a specialist beer shop.
“We didn’t have any industry experience and it does take a lot of time to get your head round, but we’ve now been open for almost two years.”
Although an off-trade operation, Hippo Beers last weekend (March 13 and 14) hosted its first beer festival, The Great Scottish Beer Celebration, at the Barras Arts and Design Centre (BAaD).
The two-day event featured 18 breweries from across Scotland including Alechemy, BrewDog, Fyne Ales, Fallen Brewing Co, Highland Brewing Co, Stewart Brewing, Jaw Brew and Windswept Brewing Co.
“Craft beer has taken off everywhere, but Scotland is holding its own which is why we wanted to hold the festival,” said Hoy.
“It also seemed like the right time to host it.”
The focus of the two-day festival was Scottish beers, but the business is perhaps better known for its wide range of international craft and specialist brews.
Drinkers can choose beers from countries including Belgium, Germany, Scandinavia, Czech Republic, USA, England and Scotland; there’s also a Rest of the World section.
The duo also created their own brew, releasing a small batch of their own Kiboko Pils beer, in partnership with Fallen Brewery in Stirling, in tribute to the patron saint of brewers on Hippo Feast Day (August 28).
However, their core business remains retail and online beer sales where suppliers include specialist beer importer Dameck, which was recently taken over by Dunns Food & Drinks.
Hippo Beers has also embraced the wholesale and distribution side of the trade and supplies beers to operators looking for something unusual.
Hoy added: “When we started off, distribution was not the goal of the business.
“But we are getting more interest from people in the trade.
“Most places have a craft beer offering, but they are now coming to us to see if they find a few things which are out of the ordinary.
“We chat to bar and restaurant owners about different beers and try and find out what they are looking for.
“We have no desire to be a big, massive company. We don’t want it to be impersonal, we just want to make a living.”