New brewery taproom is already a hit with customers in Milngavie
By Dave Hunter
MARK Hazell, co-owner of craft brewery Jaw Brew, had been making beer for decades before he launched his own company.
But it’s safe to say he wasn’t always the brewer he is today.
Mark, who founded Jaw Brew with wife Alison in 2014, freely admits that when he brewed his first batch of beers as a student the results were “truly awful”.
He stuck with it though, and gradually became more encouraged by the beer he was making until, several decades later, urged on by friends and with the support of his family, he decided to take the plunge and brew professionally.
Jaw Brew – taking its name from The Jaw, the family’s home on the banks of Loch Bardowie – was born in an industrial unit in the Glasgow suburb of Hillington with a launch range of two beers: session IPA Drop and golden ale Drift.
In the coming years they were joined by dark beer Fathom; German-style wheat beer Wave; pale ale Surf; and craft lager Spinnaker as well as a number of seasonal and limited edition beers. Several of the range, which are produced in bottles, kegs and cask, have picked up awards from SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers.
Speaking to SLTN, Mark said the nautical theme of the range began as a happy accident but has since been embraced wholeheartedly.
“It does mean that when you launch a new beer you don’t have the brewer’s equivalent of writer’s block,” he said.
In the years since, in addition to building up their beer business, the husband and wife team launched their own small-batch gin brand, Bardowie, which is distilled and bottled at their home.
And yet despite these various successes one of Mark’s early ambitions was yet to be realised.
Right from the beginning he was keen to open a brewery taproom where the company could sell its beers directly to the general public.
“Not only is the revenue optimal, but you’re engaging with your customers and you can respond to the tastes and demands of the local beer drinkers,” he said.
It took more than five years, but the goal was achieved in December when Jaw Brew opened its new brewery taproom in Milngavie.
The bothy-esque 28-seat bar, which is situated next to Milngavie train station, was envisaged as a cosy local pub, with the brewery itself situated just through the wall. The pub opened its doors on December 13, with Jaw Brew’s five-barrel brewkit due to transfer from the Hillington unit in the near future.
In the meantime Mark has been manning the bar almost every shift (the taproom is open Monday 5pm till 10pm, Friday and Saturday 12pm till 10pm and Sunday 2pm till 7pm) while son Alick takes care of the brewing.
When SLTN visited in January the bar was stocking three Jaw Brew beers on draught along with a cider from Perthshire producer Cairn o’ Mhor, with another two Jaw Brew cask beers on handpull.
And Mark was clearly delighted with the response he’s received from locals.
Not only is the revenue optimal, but you’re engaging with your customers and you can respond to the tastes and demands of the local beer drinkers
While social media and PR helped to boost the profile of the pub in the lead up to its opening, Mark said the real success has been word-of-mouth recommendations from customers.
“I had local residents in the first Saturday I was open,” he said.
“They started talking to each other and realised they lived about 70 yards from each other and had never properly met.
“It was like the inaugural meeting of the Dougalston Gardens Residents Association. They were having a whale of a time. It was laughter, smiles.
“That was exactly the atmosphere I wanted to create. And that was the first Saturday.”
The new bar also helps tackle another issue: the increasing competition for listings in both the on and off-trade due to the growing number of craft breweries in Scotland.
Mark said: “Because so many of the beer taps are tied, if I go for the free of tie taps I’m competing against all the other small independent breweries. And I don’t want to compete against them, I want to compete against imported beer.
“So by opening this taproom I’ve given people the opportunity to come and buy a pint of independent Scottish beer rather than going and buying Italian, French, American beer in bars further away.”