Petra Wetzel: Career Profile

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Petra Wetzel had never had a pint of beer before she took over WEST, but now the managing director's beer is sold in outlets across the country
Petra Wetzel had never had a pint of beer before she took over WEST, but now the managing director's beer is sold in outlets across the country
German-born Petra Wetzel gave up a career in law six years ago to save the restaurant, bar and brewery in Glasgow she'd bought for her ex-husband to run. A self-confessed new-born 'beer nerd' Wetzel has grown the beer hall considerably while the brewery is now a major producer of artisan lagers and wheat beers in Scotland and supplies outlets all over the country.

How I got to where I am now:

I'm an accidental brewer. I never thought I'd run a brewery one day. I came to Scotland as an exchange student from Germany when I was 13 and I completely and utterly fell in love with Scotland on that trip, so when I was 19 I came to study at Glasgow University. In my third year I won a scholarship to go to France for two years, but while I was there I got homesick for Glasgow, so came back and they haven't been able to get rid of me since. 

In 1999 when I finished university I got a job as a corporate sales manager for the Glasgow Tourist Board where I sold Glasgow as a business tourism destination to the world and I thought, as I wasn't from Glasgow, I did a good job of it. In my second year I met a lawyer who was a partner in one of the biggest law firms in Glasgow and I said I had always wanted to be a lawyer, so he said 'come and train and work with us', so I trained with them.

While I was there I got married to a man who was a bit of drifter and so in 2006 I bought WEST to give him a job. However, I always said he couldn't hold a p*ss up in a brewery, let alone run one and in 2008 the business went bust. We'd split up by that point, so I left my career as a lawyer and took over the business. I'd never had a pint of beer in my life before that - I didn't even know the difference between an ale and a lager - so I had a lot of learning to do, but now six years later I am still here and having the best time.

I've become a beer nerd now, but it's the best industry I've ever worked in and I've made so many friends. WEST is a bar, restaurant and brewery, so I have an understanding of how all parts of the business work, but when we started we only set out to serve our own beer within our own bar and restaurant. When we had publicans come to us and ask if they could sell it in their own places we realised there was demand, so we now sell our beer in London, Manchester, Bristol and other parts of the UK. 

My biggest challenge: 

Not to fall out with graphic designers, because in my experience they always sell me an idea (for beer labels and brochures) and then when they deliver it, it doesn't add up or look as nice as they said it would. I need to overcome the disappointment that people sell an idea and it doesn't stack up, that's probably my biggest challenge. 

My greatest achievement:

Turning WEST around. It was a business that went bust with a million pounds worth of debt and now it is a successful growing sustainable business today. My dad instilled the idea of WEST in me. He visited me when I was a student in Glasgow and he couldn't find a good pint of beer. He said he couldn't believe a city like Glasgow couldn't brew lovely lagers, so now for him to come to WEST and drink a pint of our St Mungo's lager and say 'I'm proud of you now, this is what I wanted to drink all those years ago', that is an achievement. 

My tips for success:

Don't take no for an answer. I was on Dragon's Den in 2004 and was one of the first companies to pitch and I remember they said it would never work, it was a rubbish idea and no-one in Manchester would buy German beer brewed in Scotland, but I proved them wrong. Constructive criticism is one thing, but don't listen to those who dismiss your ideas completely. I'm also very resilient, I've had a lot of knock-backs in my time, but have always picked myself up from failure quickly. That's another tip, don't be defeatist. Go out and show the world that you can do it. 

My future plans:

We are growing the business in terms of site sales, but we are also looking at two sites in the UK to grow our beer hall concept. We didn't think we could replicate what we have at West Green, but we have been offered two beautiful buildings in the UK - one in Scotland and one in England - which are very similar in style to what we have here. We are seriously considering that. 

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