Tonight, the Glasgow branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) meets to decide which of the city's drinking establishments will become real ale pub of the year. In the past few years, the award has been won by The Bon Accord a trio of times, Blackfriars a brace and the Three Judges and The State once.
Given this, it is perhaps timely to cast a beady Beer Monkey eye over those Glasgow pubs that I think have been impressively presenting and pulling perfect pints over the past year.
It's been a pretty good year for beer drinking in Scotland's second city. Some pubs have upped their game and have delivered, to thirsty and appreciative drinkers, a great choice of tasty and well conditioned beers served by an increasingly adventurous and knowledgeable beer buyers and bar staff.
I have to first doff my cap to two Mitchells and Butlers bars that have genuinely surprised me with the depth and range of beers available behind their doors this year. Curlers Rest in Glasgow's west end and The Drum and Monkey in the city centre have pleasantly exceeded my expectations. The Drum and Monkey, in particular, has become a byword for consistency, quality and a cracking choice of beers from Scotland and across the rest of the UK. The beers are always well maintained and it is clear that the staff recognise the importance of sound cellarmanship. The sumptious surroundings and the pork scratchings all add to the experience. As does the stunning ceiling.
The accomodating bar staff will even remove the sparkler and pour your pint into a straight non dimpled glass if you ask nicely.
Blackfriars, in the Merchant City is a nice easy going venue to have a beer. It's cask choice is always interesting and the range of hop monster U.S. beers and lovely low country lambics available in the bottle fridges are the best in the city centre.
My award for the best Wetherspoons goes to the much improved Hengler's Circus on SausageRoll St. The improvement is down solely to the pubs real ale guy, Sandy, who has put together some interesting beer weekends including regular tap takeovers from Scottish breweries such as Harviestoun. I'm sure I even got a pint of Fyne Ales' Jarl for £1.60 in Hengler's this year.
Special mention must go to the Laurieston just up from the River Clyde on Bridge St. It's much frequented by Sub Crawl participants and gig goers at the nearby Carling Academy. It's a lovely place to have a pint. Anyway, it's just got better as it now carries two real ales from the Fyne Ales range. Result.
BrewDog also opened in Glasgow this year.
No overview of Glasgow pubs would be complete without tipping a wink, doffing a cap and singing the praises of the two Old Dames of real ale in Glasgow: The Bon Accord and The Three Judges. Both have a reputation as being the first two pubs to visit if you are looking for a wide range of cask. They usually don't disappoint and you can normally find a few good 'uns among their respective ten beer selections. If i was to quibble, I would say that the reliance on using Flyer and Firkin as beer suppliers sometimes means that the Judges and the Bon have one or two of the same beers on at the same time. It's a minor quibble.
The Bon has had a couple of great festivals this year, most notably, their 40th Birthday festival. Stand out event, for me, this year at the Judges was the joint Dark Star and Fyne Ales festival in July. It was a week of superb beers from one of the best breweries in Scotland and one of the best breweries in England. More of the same, please, in 2012.
All in all, it's been a good year to be a beer drinking, pub frequenter in Glasgow.
Who do I think will win the Glasgow Camra real ale Pub of the Year?
I won't be surprised if it's the Drum and Monkey.