Saturday 31 December 2011

A Year In Beer - Part 1


At the dying embers of 2011, it's time to not only look forward to the New Year ahead of us but also to pause and take a few moments to reflect on the year that's coming to a close.

As someone who enjoys beer and writing the odd blogpost about the stuff, 2011 has been a fine vintage that's delivered a feast aplenty of great beer, new breweries and the wider choice and opportunity to experience and enjoy, what I believe is, the world's greatest beverage.

So, on the last day of the year, let me review the year in beer as witnessed from not just my own personal experience but also through the eyes of other beer bloggers.


January started the way December had finished; in some pub or other having a beer. This time, I was in The Bon Accord in Glasgow for the cask launch of two BrewDog beers; their Alice Porter and their new 'improved' 5.4% abv Punk IPA. It was the last time that I was to have BrewDog cask. Haven't seen it since, won't see it again as they have announced that it is cask no more from the Fraserburgh brewing upstarts turned 'national treasures'. Which is a shame as they used to make such nice beers.

What ever happened to BrewDog?

Are they still on the go?

In other news, two thirds of a pint beer glasses, known as schooners, become legal for use in British pubs. In a tasteless PR stunt, BrewDog (remember them?) stick a four foot five inch dwarf in safety pinned combats and a mohawk outside the Houses of Parliament and try and claim some, belated, credit for the law change.

Elsewhere, Mr RabidBarfly kept a note of his daily intake of booze during the month of January. It made for excruciatingly painful reading. Here's hoping he doesn't repeat it again in 2012.


There's nothing quite like a trip on the train in the pursuit of lovely pints of well made beer to banish the mid winter blues. So when February offered up the opportunity of a trip to York to meet thirty other like minded beery souls for a Twissup, I jumped at the chance. York is a wonderful place for a beer weekend. It's got charm, history and antiquity in equal measure and some fantastic pubs too. Highly recommended.

Elsewhere in the beer world, Molson Coors spend a Sharp £20 million buying some Cornish beer. It seems to have paid off judging by this article. InBev and Stella  attempt to enter the fermented apple market by launching Cidre just as Cider sales take a nose dive. And this blogger has a pop at 'Kevin' from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) while the debates over Keg versus Cask and the use of the words 'Craft Beer' rolls on and on.......


March was Budget time and brewers, landlords and beer drinkers felt a hammer blow as a 7.2% rise in beer duty was announced by the Chancellor. Also introduced was a new additional duty on any beer over 7.5%. The pubs industry were up in arms citing that these increases could lead to 10,000 jobs being lost and would increase the rate of pub closures across the UK. The increase meant that beer duty in the UK is 8 times higher than France and 12 times higher than Germany.

Yet again, the Chancellor chose to see beer drinkers and the price of a pint as easy targets and convenient cash cows. You would have expected brewers, publicans and drinkers to be fundamentally opposed to this increase. They were. With one exception.

BrewDog, "wholeheartedly" backed the Chancellor's proposals saying they were "a blessing for Craft Beer" and that "increases in duty can only help to get more people to drink better quality beer". With beer friends like these, who needs enemies.


The month begins with a flurry of April Foolery as spoof beer blogs appear that chuckle and amuse. This hilarity is shortlived when a heavily hyperbolic and passionate blog post fires off a clusterfuck of anti-Camra invective that fanned the flames of a debate that burned bright but not necessarily with much heat.

The Tories in power, record levels of unemployment, recession, angry and disaffected youth on the streets and an increased sense of hopelessness and disillussionment across the country can only mean one thing;
a Royal wedding and an extra day off work. I spent my day off work arranging the tables, sorting out the bunting and making cheese, pineapple and pickled onion hedgehogs for our much anticipated street party.

No. I. Didn't.

I spent it at The Paisley Beer Festival, pulling pints and helping the punters drink the foreign bar dry. Many saw the day off as an excuse for an extra days drinking, away from the deferential sychophancy fest that was the blanket TV coverage on Royal Wedding Friday. Paisley Beer Festival was Camra's Big Society in action and hats off to Alesela for saving the day.


It all goes a bit 'radio rental' in May when Camra chairman, Colin Valentine, in a keynote speech at the organisation's AGM, has a pop at the beer 'bloggerati' for having the cheek and temerity of talking up beer and encouraging others to try something new and different.

Unfortunately for Colin, someone records it and posts it on YouTube.

The comments go down like a pork pie buffet at a vegan convention and a few people get all twisty knickered over it.

Remember Beerleaks?? The website set up to expose the dodgy dealings and beer myths of the brewing multinationals and get you drinking more 'craft' beer', only to disappear a couple of days after it launched when it was pointed out that a certain Fraserburgh brewer had previously used clear glass bottles. Half cocked, kneekerk, clueless and ultimately, very embarassing for all involved.

In other parts of the beer world, Reluctant Scooper sings us a song, Pete Brown vents his spleen and Mr RabidBarfly goes to Manchester.


With summer just around the corner, my thoughts turn to lovely, golden hoppy beers and June was the month that I first came in to contact with a brewery that makes superbly hoppy and flavour packed beers, The Tempest Brewing Co. My first pint of Tempest was in June at The Scottish Real Ale Festival when I had a pint or two of their Rye PA. I was to later immerse myself in a night of nothing but Tempest at their Tap Takeover event at Edinburgh's Bow Bar.

Finally, to finish off Part One of A Year in Beer, I'll leave you with a nice little parody of 'Craft' brewing.

Part two tomorrow.

Saturday 24 December 2011

One Man's Quest For Beer

It's the festive season and no doubt your thoughts will turn to maximising your beer intake in order to get you through the holidays. But remember, there comes a time in the evening when you know that you have had enough. Take your inability to walk straight and your inability to talk straight as signs that you have had your last beer of the night.

When this happens, you should say your goodbyes and head home. Failing that, you should locate the bundled heap of guest's jackets in the spare room, crawl under them and go to sleep.

What you should never, ever do is convince yourself, like the guy in the video, of the need for one last six pack of beer from the local kwik-e-mart. It will only end in tears.

Have a wonderful Christmas and go easy on the eggnog.


Friday 23 December 2011

Following The Beer Star To Bruadar


And lo, it appeared in the West, a new beer star; it's brightness burning boldly as a beacon of beervana that offered hope to the hopless, salvation to the stoutless, keg to the converted and some free mini burgers if you were lucky enough to get there early.

Walking down Byres Road, towards Partick Cross, it's hard not to be drawn like a beer moth to an incandescent ale flame of a neon sign that proclaims, 'Cold Beer, Warm Heart' and marks the arrival of Bruadar Bar to the West End of Glasgow.

Fuller Thomson, the people that own Holyrood 9a and The Red Squirrel in Edinburgh as well as Drouthy Neebors in Dundee, have travelled west like modern day Wise Men acquiring, as they go, a 5 year lease on the former site of The Millhouse. You'll know where it is but probably didn't go in when it was the Millhouse as it was a fairly unexceptional place serving dull food and generic beer.

Bruadar Bar aims to be different to what's been before. It has beer. Lots of beer but more about that later. It also sells food with burgers making up most of the menu. A choice of twenty meatily thick 'gourmet' burgers served with thin and elegant crispy shoestring fries that are perfect for picking up and dunking into a dollop of ketchup. Most of them for less than eight quid, which is pretty good value in my book.

Not much has changed in terms of interior from it's previous incarnation save for a fresh lick of paint and the arrival of long tables that produce a conviviality among it's customers that is contagious. The tables, like the food, are made for sharing. The biggest change, however, is the removal of the beer fonts and handpulls from the bar and their relocation to a stainless steel panel attached to the bar's back wall similar to what the Euston Tap has. There are 20 taps serving the most diverse range of keg and cask beers currently available in Glasgow.

To the right hand side of the till sit ten taps that offer a mainstream choice of continental (Staropramen, Peroni, Stella) and home grown (Tennent's, Belhaven and West). The left hand side of the till sit the 10 pumps that showcase the 'cool' beer selection that the hip hopsters crave.

As a statement of Bruadar's beery intent to be at the forefront of a resurgent interest in good beer, opening night was notable for the number of beer 'firsts' that took place.

The first time Lovibonds beers available in Scotland

The first pub appearance north of the border for Magic Rock's excellent beers.

The Glasgow premiere of William's Brothers' Profanity Stout

Keg and cask Tempest beers side by side in a Glasgow debut

Black Isle beginning to make it's presence felt on the west coast.


These weren't mere beer baubles or tannenbaum trinkets brought out for the opening, to tease, entice and attract as headline grabbers only to disappear once the fuss has died down but a window into Bruadar's beer future. They aim to continue as they have started; by offering Glasgow and west coast drinkers a place where some of the best beers from Britain, Belgium and beyond are regularly available. I've seen what's in the cellar and, in terms of breadth of choice and quality of beers, Bruadar will take a lot of beating.

As you would expect from any opening night, there were a few minor hiccups - temperamental tills and bar staff unsure of some of the prices but these are issues that will resolve themselves with experience and some staff training.

I was taken by Bruadar. I liked the choice that Bruadar offers drinkers that want to try different tastes, flavours and styles of beer.

I liked and appreciate the thought that has gone into this pub, particularly the beer range.

I also liked the fact that Bruadar proves that cask and keg beer can co-exist side by side without the beer world imploding. Who would have thunk it?

The arrival of Bruadar means that the west end's quest for Glasgow beer domination moves a step closer. The corner that Bruadar inhabits is also home to one of the best real ale pubs in Glasgow, the Three Judges. BrewDog and the Bon Accord are not far away, either. That, has the makings of a rather fun mini pub crawl.

I've been in Bruadar a couple of times since the opening and it hasn't let me down. I've had a couple of great pints of Tempest's Into the Light and the Lovibonds 69 IPA has impressed me greatly.

On the showing so far, Bruadar's beer light will continue to burn bright for some time to come.


Sunday 18 December 2011

Don't Booze and Bicycle this Christmas


What follows is a short Czech public information film that serves as a timely reminder of the perils of taking your push bike to the pub and then enjoying a pint or two or three or four of Rosey Nosey this Christmas.

Don't say I haven't warned you.

Have a happy and safe Christmas.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Golden Pints Awards 2011



It's that time again, folks where we reflect on a year in beer. It's been a cracking year, which made choosing my nominations for some of the categories very, very difficult. There was simply too many nice beers to choose from. So, I've listed, in some categories, the runners up but I could have easily extended it further and made a list as long as my arm.

Best UK Draught Beer

1. Hawkshead Windermere Pale - the perfect session beer
2. Fyne Ales Jarl
3. Tempest Brewing Long White Cloud
4. Millstone Tiger Rut
5. Redemption Brewery Trinity

Best UK Bottled/Canned Beer

1. Magic Rock High Wire
2. Fyne Ales Jarl

Best Overseas Draught Beer

1. Matuska Fastball 9
2. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

 Best Overseas Bottled/Canned Beer

Caldera Brewing IPA

Best Overall Beer

Hawkshead Windermere Pale

Best Pumpclip/Label

Magic Rock

Best UK Brewery

1. Hawkshead
2. Fyne Ales
3. The Tempest

Best Overseas Brewery

Matuska - Their beers at GBBF blew me away.

Pub/Bar of the Year

1. The Jolly Butcher's, Stoke Newington. Beer and Spurs. Spurs and Beer. Perfect
2. The Beer Hall, Staveley. It's got the lot. Great cask, excellent bottles and superb food.
3. The Southampton Arms, Kentish Town

Best Beer Festival

1. Hawkshead Summer Beer Festival - 2 gloriously sunny days and 70 of the best British beers. Bliss.
2. The Paisley Beer Festival - I put a few shifts in and enjoyed every minute
3. Tempest Tap Takeover at The Bow Bar, Edinburgh

Supermarket of the Year


Independent Retailer

The Bottle, York

Online Retailer

My Brewery Tap - the addition of their beer pick and mix selection was very welcome.

Best Beer Blog

1. Are You Tasting The Pith?
2. The late lamented Cooking Lager
3. Reluctant Scooper

Best Beer Twitterer

Simon Johnson

Best Online Brewery Presence

Magic Rock

Open Category - New Scottish Blogs To Keep an Eye On

The Three Sheets
Walking and Crawling

It's been a great year for beer. Here's to 2012 being even better.


Thursday 8 December 2011

I Must Be Dreaming.......of Beer

Last month I wrote about the plans for a new pub in the west end of Glasgow, which will occupy the premises vacated by the The Millhouse at the bottom end of Byres Road, just at Partick Cross. Since writing the article, things having been moving very quickly.

On Sunday, the Millhouse poured it's last pint and the following day the builders moved in to begin the process of turning an ugly ale duckling into a beautiful beer swan.

The new lease holders, Fuller Thomson, have a creditable track record on the east coast of the country for establishments that serve a solidly eclectic range of cask and keg beer. In Edinburgh, they have Holyrood 9a and the Red Squirrel as well as Dukes Corner and Drouthy Neebors in Dundee.

Now, they have ventured westwards into Glasgow with the opening of Bruadar on the 19th of December. The name 'Bruadar' means dream and for many west coast quaffers, it certainly is one come true, particularly, when you look at the list of beers that they have lined up for the opening and beyond.

The Black Isle Beer Company, yesterday, wrote about their beers that Bruadar will be carrying as regular and rotational choices. Black Isle's Glasgow beer profile is certainly going to be enhanced with the arrival of Bruadar as their Blonde, Goldeneye and Porter will regularly be available on keg as well as cask choice of two porters, Chilli and Molly's Vanilla porter.

But that, my beery friends, is only the tip of the iceberg as Bruadar will have 20 draught taps that will dispense a variety of delicious keg and cask.

I've had a look at the opening night beer list as well as the plans for the next few months and, to be honest, it's nothing short of stunning and very exciting.

Whoever put the Bruadar's beer list together should, if there is any justice in the world, receive a gong or three in the New Beers Honours List.

For the opening night expect a great range including,

On Keg -

Tempest Red Eye Porter
Magic Rock Cannonball
The Keg launch of William's Bros Profanity Stout
Lovibonds 69IPA
BrewDog Punk
Black Isle's Goldeneye, Blonde and Porter

On Cask -

Durham White Stout
Magic Rock Rapture
Tempest Emanation Pale
Black Isle Molly's Vanilla Porter

Following the opening night, expect:

The full Lovibonds range
8 new Summer Wine beers inc, Diablo
Williams Bros Cask Profanity Stout
14 Belgian kegs, including, Duchess de Borgogne and Westmalle Dubbel
12 US kegs to begin with......more to come

There will be rotating U.S. and Belgian lines plus a designated Scottish keg line as well as rotating cask.


Christmas has, indeed, come early for Glasgow Beer drinkers.

Bruadar or BrewDog?

I know where I'll be on the evening of  Monday the 19th of December.


Monday 5 December 2011

High Hopes and Missed Opportunities?


The arrival of a new pub should be met with expectant cheers, raised glasses and high hopes that it will be something just a wee bit different and out of the ordinary that expands the range and choice available to punters who, like myself, enjoy tasting and trying an eclectic mix and not the same old, same old that you can get just about everywhere else.

So, naturally, I gave a hearty cheer when this guy let me know that a new pub was being planned in the Partick part of Glasgow's west end. Not much was known about what exactly was planned, however, various rumours ricocheted around the city that it was going to be something to look forward to.

The proposed pub is on the site vacated by the Hayburn Vaults and will be called the Deoch an Doris. It takes it's name from a song by professional Scotsman, shortbread salesman and tartan botherer, Sir Harry Lauder. A Deoch an Dorus is Gaelic for a small drop of something alcoholic as a farewell drink.

I took a brisk walk by the pub last night to check on it's progress. I'm not one to dismiss, out of hand, a pub before it has opened or pulled it's first pint but the poster on one of it's windows was enough to convince me that it will probably be a pub that won't be getting much of my business. For a start, how can something that hasn't opened yet, claim to be 'A Tradition of Partick'?

My First Visit to The Deoch and Dorus early 2012

"What are you having, Sir?"

"What have you got?"

"Fancy a pint of cold Tennent's Lager?"

"What else do you have?"

"What about some Caledonia Best?"

" thanks."

"What about some other Caledonian Guest Ales?"

"Do you have any hot needles for my eyeballs?"

"No. But we have 14 HDTV's showing sports all day?"


"What about a baked potato or a panini? Pizza?"

"No thanks, mate. I'll try elsewhere."

If the poster is anything to go by, then the DnD could end up a missed opportunity and be just like the countless other pubs out there serving a generic smorgasbord of High St beer, sport, sandwiches and spuds that offers nothing new or unique.

I hope I'm proved wrong.



Sunday 4 December 2011

The Session - The Twelve Beers of Christmas


Apologies for my brief blogging hiatus of late but I've been away pondering such questions as 'Why doesn't your pen drive get heavier when you add data to it?' and 'Do spiders live alone?'.

However, I am now back. Whether I am new and improved, I'll leave that for you to decide.

Anyway, to celebrate the fast approaching winter festival of conspicious spending and ostentatious consumption in which we worship Saint John Lewis and the baby Argos, this month's Session is on the subject of beer and Christmas and is being hosted by Phil from Beersay.

Here's my contribution.

The Twelve Beers of Christmas

On the First day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
A Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Second day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Third day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Fourth day of Christmas,  the Landlord gave to me
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Fifth day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Sixth day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Six Gueuzes gushing
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Seventh day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Seven stouts a supping
Six Gueuzes gushing
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Eighth day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Eight pristine porters
Seven stouts a supping
Six Gueuzes gushing
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Ninth day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Nine cracking Kernels
Eight pristine porters
Seven stouts a supping
Six Gueuzes gushing
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Tenth day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Ten dodgy Deuchars
Nine cracking Kernels
Eight pristine porters
Seven stouts a supping
Six Gueuzes gushing
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Eleventh day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Eleven boozers burping
Ten dodgy Deuchars
Nine cracking Kernels
Eight pristine porters
Seven stouts a supping
Six Gueuzes gushing
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, the Landlord gave to me
Twelve punters puking
Eleven boozers burping
Ten dodgy Deuchers
Nine cracking Kernels
Eight pristine porters
Seven stouts a supping
Six Gueuzes gushing
Five Pork Scratchings
Four Furstenbergs
Three Camra beards
Two lager tops
And a Thornbridge Jaipur for free


Monday 14 November 2011

A Day in the Life of Newcastle Beer


It felt like an absolute eternity waiting for the next instalment of Twissup to come around since the last one in York. But, boy was it worth it.

For the uninitiated, a Twissup is the coming together of like minded souls who share a duality of interests: drinking lovely beer and using the medium of Twitter to communicate their appreciation of all things hop related. Put Twitter and piss up together and you get Twissup. Put the Twissupers together for a session, one Saturday, in a city serving a sublime smorgasbord of some smashing beer and you get a session that will be difficult to surpass.

How could it be any different?

The city in question hosting the lastest Twissup was to be Newcastle. It had been chosen via an online vote on Andy Mogg's Beer Reviews Blog. I had expected Edinburgh to be a clear winner as host city  but was pleasantly surprised when Newcastle was announced as the location for our late Autumn libations. It's easy enough to get to from Glasgow and, with the train snaking parallel to the stunning distraction that is the breathtaking North East English coastline, we were there in no time.

The meet up pub for everyone was to be The Bacchus in the heart of the city centre. It's a strangely enigmatic place. It's won the local Camra Pub of the Year for the last three years but it has a stylish and elegant wine bar ambience rather than traditional pub vibe. It's all about the beers, though, and Bacchus had great beers in abundance. Tall fonts, hand pulls and bottles. Loads of lovely beer.

As soon as the doors opened, thirty thirsty twissheads swarmed round the bar and began to frantically order beer, beer and more beer.

And the beer flowed, as did the conversation as old friendships were renewed and new ones made. Putting faces to twitter names is an enjoyable yet unusual pastime. It normally follows the same routine in which you exchange first names swiftly followed by your twitter moniker or blog name. And then the penny drops. "Ah, that's who you are? Pleased to meet you. What's that you are drinking? Is it nice?"

I was drinking some nice stuff in The Bacchus. I started off with Tempest's Canyonero - as nice as it was the last time I tried it in Edinburgh's Bow Bar. Followed by a Yorkshire Dales beer, Bacchus V Zeus, a very hoppy, zesty pint. Bitter and rather nice.

Next up was a Glastonbury beer called Thriller, a cappuchino porter. It was roasty, smooth and mellow with some slight coffee notes. Bad pumpclip but not a bad beer. The Black Isle Porter also hit the spot but then again Black Isle beers normally do.

I could have stayed in The Bacchus all day but there were other ale escapades to be had elsewhere.

Filtering out into the early afternoon sunshine we made our way to our next destination. It was time for a piss up in a brewery. Not just any brewery, but a brewery that I was very keen to get to know better, Tyne Bank Brewery.

I had met the brewery's acquaintance once before, at the recent Carlisle Beer Festival when I had a taste of their German inspired Alt Bier. It was one of my beers of the festival and one of the best Alt's I've tasted in a long time.

The brewery was a short Twissbus ride away that took us along the banks of the Tyne up to a small nondescript industrial unit in the Byker area of Newcastle. The industrial unit where Tyne Bank brew their beer has some ale pedigree, having previously been home to Hadrian and Border Brewery.

We were welcomed by Mark the brewer, given a glass and pointed in the direction of the five casks of beer proudly lined up and just waiting to be poured. It was my kind of welcome.

Tyne Bank Brewery are Newcastle's newest brewery having been on the go a mere six months. They have a 20 barrel plant and they have increased production, steadily since they opened to it's current level of 10 barrels per week. I got the impression that they are building up a solid and appreciative fan base drawn to their well made and rather lovely beers.

They have a stable of seven beers, with two regulars - Monument Bitter and Newcastle Gold. However, as Brewer Mark explained, they are keen to experiment with new beers and have just bought a 100 litres test kit that will allow Tyne Bank to play around with recipes and try new things.

What I tasted at the brewery, I was mightily impressed with. Their 3.5% Single Blonde packed a lovely bitter punch and a tender, lingering dryness. The Southern Star was packed full of fruity Nelson Sauvin New Zealand hops and was a delightful distant cousin of Hawkhead's NZPA. It was that good.

Time marched on and we quickly did the same, leaving the brewery and briskly making our way the short distance to The Free Trade Inn.

In no time we were indulging ourselves in some elegant slumming in the shabby genteel surroundings of a truly great pub. My head didn't know where to look as it was torn between the stunning view, out the huge glass windows, of the Tyne and the stunning view that greeted me as I scoped the beer selection on the bar.

Summer Wine, Hardknott, Brodies, Durham and on and on. Landlord, Mick has turned the Free Trade into the beating heart of a thriving Geordie beer scene and he knows what hot and what's not as he  strives to bring some of the most exciting and innovative beers and brewers to the pub. I made a pretty good effort of trying most of the beers they had on the bar.

The standouts for me were Summer Wine's 'Cohort', a double black Belgian IPA, Hardknott's, Vittesse Noir, a triple imperial vanilla mocha stout and something a bit simpler and less complex, Brodie's London Field's. The bottle selection is top notch too and I picked up a mixed bag of some Summer Wine bottles to take up the road.

Toon Twissup had found it's spiritual home in The Free Trade as we spend several very enjoyable hours in the pub, soaking up the beers and lapping up the beery chat and ale soaked atmosphere.

It was nearly time to head back to the station and catch the train home but there was still time for a final pint or two in a pub not far from The Free Trade. The pub is the Cumberland Arms, and it was a very pleasant surprise; warm  and welcoming with dark wood interiors and a decent range of beers. I'd tell you what beers I had at the Cumberland Arms, if I could remember.

I guess it had been a long day.


read the beer cast's review of toon twissup here

Glasgow Pub of the Year?

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.


Sunday 13 November 2011

A New Pub for Glasgow?


I've been hearing on the beer breeze that the New Year will bring a shiny new bar to the West End of Glasgow.

It seems that Fuller Thomson, the owners of Holyrood 9a and The Red Squirrel in Edinburgh, have acquired the lease on the premises at Partick Cross currently occupied by self proclaimed 'great pub', The Millhouse.

This is good news.

The Millhouse has always seemed to me a bit of a wasted pub opportunity offering up the same old standard Scottish beers from the likes of Belhaven and Caledonian that can be obtained in countless other generic pubs across the city. In short, it brings nothing new to Glasgow's beer party.

The same can't be said for what will be replacing it.

Predominantly beer and burger establishments, Edinburgh's Fuller Thomson pubs have gained a reputation, in a relatively short space of time, for offering up a wide range of beers, both cask and keg, from British, European and U.S. breweries.

From what I hear, the new Glasgow pub will replicate the Fuller Thomson's Edinburgh pubs template and will carry a decent selection too. It's current west end equivalant would be Curler's Rest rather than the Three Judges.

The Partick Tap it won't be but it does, at least, offer Glasgow beer drinkers a little bit more choice that The Millhouse currently does.

That, in my book, can only be a good thing.


Friday 11 November 2011

Saltaire and Saltires


If you are a beer drinker based in Glasgow and it's environs, then November is shaping up to be a decent month for some interesting beer choices. Indeed, there appears to be more than enough beer events, festivals and one offs to appeal to, and whet the whistle of, even the most difficult and hard to please drinker. Some of the beers are rather nice too. Others, well.........

Tonight (Friday 11th Nov) sees the start of The Bon Accord's Winter Beer Festival in which over 60 beers will be showcased on the pub's 10 handpumps until the 27th of the month. The beers are a marvellous mix of new seasonals, old favourites and there's even a couple of new breweries making their Bon Accord debut.

The beer list is extensive but stand outs for me are the trio of tipples from Fyne Ales (Jarl, Hurricane Jack and Avalanche), Highland's Orkney Blast as well as beers from Pictish, Saltaire, York, Dark Star, Thornbridge and Crouch Vale. However, the high point of the beer list is the first Glasgow showing of beers from the rising star of Scotland's microbrewing scene, The Tempest Brewing Co. I've written about them before and I rate them highly, so it's great that thirsty Glaswegians can now get their hands on, and mouths around, something that Edinburgh punters have been enjoying for months: some lovely Tempest beers. Not just one but two Tempest beers will be available during the festival. Hat's off to the Bon's beer man, Russell for getting Tempest's Into the Light blonde and their Citra IPA on to the beer list.

Not to be outdone, the Maclay Inns group that own 26 pubs and inns around Scotland, including in Glasgow, The Three Judges, Drab!, sorry Dram! and Clockwork, launch their  'Scottish Craft Ale Festival' (ho hum) involving some Scottish Breweries including Broughton, Caledonian, Houston, Scottish Borders and Williams Bros.

Yeah, I know. With the exception of it's not the most exciting line up of breweries ever assembled in one place.  If I was to hazard a guess, I'd say these breweries were selected by Maclays not on quality but on price.  Get some cheap beers, create a few posters, dress it up as a festival and shift some stock in the process. From what I hear, Drab!, sorry Dram! had Caledonian Deuchars as their festival ale. Come on, that beer is as ubiquitous in Glasgow as ginger hair and chips. It's hardly a beer to set the heather (ale) on fire.

I popped into the Judges to see if there was a beer list for the festival but none existed. One hadn't been sent. The only beer that I know that's definately making an appearance is William's Brother's 'Movember Foxtrot Whisky', a red wheat beer.

As Jean Brodie in her prime would say, "For those that like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like". I've seen the pumpclip and it's got a sketch of a big old bushy moustache on it, so I presume that, going by the name and the etching, it's their contribution to St Movember, the patron Saint of not shaving your top lip and cultivating a Victorian handlebar, Mexican bandit or 1970's porn 'tache.

This smashing selection of beers in the Maclays 'craft festival' can be yours for just £2.75 a pint.

Which is cheap but not as cheap as a pint in everyone's favourite vertical drinking establishment, The Wetherspoons Craft Beer Co. Which is where you will find, over the space of a fortnight, one off beers produced by Scottish Breweries such Kelburn, Houston, Orkney, Caledonian and Harviestoun among others. The beers are being produced to commemorate St Andrews day, the patron Saint of shortbread and The Sunday Post.

The beers all have mock jock traditional names such as "Donald, where's ma deep fried mars bar?', 'Haggis, haggis, who the fuck is haggis?' and 'Och aye, the brew'. I'm certain the pumpclips will be suitably adorned with Saltires. The beers will be available in a Wetherspoons near you from the 17th through to St Andrew's Day on the 30th.

I'll be in the Bon Accord.


Saturday 29 October 2011

Tempest Brewing Total Tap Takeover


For a Glasgow based beer drinker, Tempest Brewing Co and their beers have a near mythical status in my home city. Many have heard of them but very few have actually tried them. Anyone who tells you that they have tried and tasted them inside a Glasgow pub is probably lying. To the best of my recollection, no pubs in Glasgow have poured a single drop of their stuff. Which is a pretty poor showing given that there has been quite a word of mouth beer buzz about this new brewery and their beers north of the border for most of 2011.

Word of mouth is a wonderful thing in the world of beer and the word is that Tempest make some very special beers that aren't afraid to showcase big, bold assertive hop profiles and flavours that tantalise your tastebuds and leave them reeling in pleasure. They make the sort of beers that a certain Aberdeenshire brewery could only dream of.

The first time I tried one of their beers was at Edinburgh's Scottish Real Ale Festival in June. It was their Rye PA and, for me, it was one of the highlights of the festival. I've since been lucky enough to stumble upon a few of their beers when I've been through in Edinburgh. Lucky old Edinburgh drinkers for having the chance of tasting Tempest on a regular basis. It seemed that if I was wanting any more of their beer I would have to haul myself from west to east and it proved to be the case when I heard that one of the city's best pubs, The Bow Bar was planning a Tempest total tap takeover where ten of their beers would be available with eight on cask and a further two on keg.

If Jimmy Saville had done beer'll fixits, then this would have been top of my list.

I just had to go.

My timing was impeccable as I arrived just as the first pints of the tap takeover were being poured.. Within a half hour, a relatively quite boozer had been turned into a thriving hive of beery activity, three deep at the bar with an appreciative ale audience lapping up the range of beers on offer. It was a cracking selection that showcased pale ales to porter, gorgeously subtle to heavily hopped and relatively weak (4.1%) to deceptively strong (7%).

Tap Takeovers are a terrific idea. They are a great way of getting a bigger, more complete picture of a brewery's abilities and talents rather than just seeing one beer every once. I've done not too badly this year with tap takeovers. The Stone night at BrewDog, Glasgow and the Harviestoun event at Hengler's Circus were both great evenings with some lovely beers on show. The Tempest Tap takeover continued in a similar vein.

The beers included Into the Light, Emanation Pale, Long White Cloud, Rye PA, Elemental Porter, Canyonero, Caligula and Brave New World.

The stand out and outstanding beers of the evening for me were Long White Cloud and the Canyonero.

I had heard lots of positive things about the NZ dry hopped Long White Cloud since it's appearance at the Troon Beer Festival and those that tried it there informed me that it was one to look out for. For some, it was their beer of the festival. These reports of it's greatness turned out to be true. I adored the pungent fruit nose, the gloriously lush resinous hop kick and big, bold, crisp zing of the pineapple and passion fruit that's balanced beautifully with a robust malt spine. A solid and lovely drinking 5.6% gem. A wowser of a beer.

The Canyonero is a strange beast of a beer. It's 5.9% oak aged pale ale hopped with the New Zealand varieites Pacific Jade and Wai-iti. There was a slight oakiness to the beer but plenty of peppery spiciness from the hops joined with a touch of treacle toffee and caramel. There was even a cameo appearance from what seemed to be pumpkin. I was quite taken by it.

The Emanation Pale Ale cuts the mustard as a mid strength (4.5%) session beer that is full of crisp, fruity hops, sweet maltiness and  lingering dry bitterness that really was rather nice and very moreish. I would say that it's more a bitter than a pale ale but that doesn't really matter. It is still a lovely beer, whatever you call it.

The only fly in the ointment of an otherwise excellent night was the Keg Caligula. It's a 6% Black IPA and I was expecting nice bold hops and some roasted, toasted malt but it was served just too cold for the flavours to come through. The temperature of the beer masked masked most of the taste. All I really got was cold and wet.

That aside, It was a great event and my abiding hope as I left the Bow Bar and headed back home to the west was that some of Glasgow's better pubs get on the phone to their beer suppliers and start ordering some of Tempest Brewing Co's marvellous beers.

You know it makes sense.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Fyne Ales Jarl - Champion Beer of Glasgow


Fyne Ales' Jarl beer was originally launched as a seasonal beer to an expectant audience at the brewery's beer festival in June 2010. Since then it has become one of the their biggest selling beers and has gained an ever growing legion of fans won over by the delicious fresh citrus fruitiness and thirst quenching bite in this 3.8% single hopped (citra) golden ale. It is a great beer and one of my tip top favourites.

It's not only myself that has sung it's praises and recognised the quality of this beer. It's won praise and plaudits, awards and acclaim most notably winning SIBA's overall Champion Beer of Scotland at the Scottish Real Ale Festival.

a heaving awards cabinet

The most recent award won by Fyne Ales for Jarl was 'Beer of the Year' as voted by the Glasgow Camra branch and as a member of that branch I headed up to Loch Fyne with 18 other hardy souls, enduring the horrid autumnal rain showers, to present the trophy to Tuggy, Wil and Charlie from the brewery.

It's a brewery I'm very familiar with, having been up there a handful of times before, and they always put on a tidy spread and a good range of beers. On this visit, we were treated to a trio of Fyne tastic beer soaked up with some barbequed beef sausages and burgers from the Fyne Ales estate that had been fattened up with the spent grain from the brewery.

Three beers available on our trip were Maverick, West Highland Black IPA and, of course, Jarl. I was in the mood for a Jarlfest and made this my beer of the day. I did dip my toe, metaphorically, into the other two beers but the thought of Jarl straight from the tap was too much of a temptation to resist.

There is something particularly lovely and pretty special about drinking from the brewery tap surrounded by boxes of hops, dozens of casks and hundreds of bottles of lovely beer. Beer always tastes better straight from the brewery tap. No question. 

a glass and a half of class - Fyne Ales Jarl

It was good to have a chat with brewer, Wil and production manager, Charlie. I discovered that plans are coming along well for their shiny new brewery that will triple capacity as Fyne Ales try to keep up with demand for their beers. I was very interested to hear from Wil that he intends 2012 to be a year for IPA's at the brewery with them producing up to a dozen over the coming year. Great news.

Finishing off the day, we made our ritual stop at the nearby Village Inn. More Fyne Ales beers were on, including a beer that I hadn't tried yet. I was about to pop my Fyne Ales Cherry Stout cherry. But, that's for another blog.

Thanks to Tim at Glasgow CAMRA for organising the trip.

Here's what other people think of Jarl, Champion Beer of Glasgow. The Beer Cast , Taste Sensations , The Beer Prole , I Might Have A Glass of Beer


Friday 21 October 2011

Making History at the Wetherspoons Beer Festival

The Wetherspoons beer festival was in full swing and, being on holiday for a week, it seemed like a good idea when Mr Guest Beer Guide, Al suggested that we should hook up in Glasgow city centre and head to a few of their pubs to sample for ourselves some of the fifty beers on their festival line up.

The plan was simple. Meet up in the Crystal Palace then head to the Counting House before making our way to the Society Rooms and finally on to Hengler's Circus on Sauchiehall St. Hopefully en route we would enjoy a few tasty beverages.

However, on past experience, I've always found Wetherspoons beer festivals a bit like their pubs - inconsistent and fairly hit and miss but hope springs eternal that our luck would be in and we would be dealt a favourable beer hand tonight.

First stop, the Crystal Palace just down from Glasgow Central train station. Despite it huge glass frontage it is, like many Wetherspoons in Glasgow, too dark and dull with the brown carpet and beige walls drawing out any natural light. It's not an attractive place to have a drink and I tend not to linger too long when I'm in.

Tonight was no different.

On offer were Wharfebank's Treacle Toffee Stout, Caledonian's Cossack's Imperial Russian Stout, Bell's Kalamazoo Black Silk and Belhaven's St. Andrew's. I had been told to avoid the Wharfebank and I'm not a fan of Belhaven or Caledonian so it had to be the Kalamazoo by Bell's Brewery. It's one of the five U.S. craft breweries participating in the festival. The U.S. beers aren't imported from the States. Instead, they are cuckoo brewed at British breweries. In this case, one of the Bell's brewers travelled to England's oldest brewery Marston's and used their kit to make it.*

It is a 4% oatmeal porter that I found quite grainy, wet and fairly hollow. There was a slight smokiness to it but not much in way of rich, dark chocolate and fruit that I was expecting. Mr Al had a half of the 6% Caledonian and it's fair to say that he wasn't particularly impressed with his either.

First pub done. Time to move on.

Price of a pint - £2.15

But not to the next 'spoons. Mr Al's twitter feed had informed him that Blackfriars pub has just put on a cask of Swanney Brewery's Highland Best. So we swiftly diverted to this cracking little pub in the Merchant City. Blackfriars is a great wee pub steeped in history. According to the Oxford Compendium of Beer, it dates from the 9th century when it used to act as a staging post for King's Farquhar and Hamish before they headed to Patrick's Market at the Bridge Gate for hog roast and pigeon pie. It was downstairs in Blackfriars where the monks first made a new beer to satisfy the thirst of the porters who worked at Patrick's Market. They called it electric soup porter. The whole of Glasgow was a forest at this time.*

I'm glad we made the diversion to Blackfriars as the Orkney Best was on top form. It was refreshing with aromatic pear drops set against some stiff maltiness. It is a beautifully balanced session beer.

Beer finished, we headed to the Counting House at George Square. It's another dark, old Wetherspoons that could benefit from a few more lightbulbs. There was a lot of pumpclips but most of them were showing as 'coming soon' which is probably the two words you don't want to hear when you are out for a beer. Never mind 'coming soon', we wanted the good beer now.

It was just as well then that Thornbridge's Brother Rabbit was on and available. It's a 4% golden ale hopped with amarillo and cascade. We both wanted a pint of it. Unfortunately, we had to wait a while as it's not normally the most efficient pub in the world for quick service. It also didn't help that the guy in front was constantly changing his mind. After he was served, we still had to wait a bit longer as he then asked for his change to be made up entirely of one and two pence pieces. As Theresa May might say, "And, I'm not making this up". It's true. It did happen.

We finally got our Brother Rabbit and it was worth the wait. It was in tip top condition with an oh so subtle fruit taste of light grapefruit and peach with a super smooth mouthfeel that was refreshing and cleansing. It was a slurper of a pint with some stubborn malt and a lingering bitter tingle that rounded off the beer very nicely.

Price of a pint - £2.20

Onwards to our next stop, The Society Rooms or as it's known in Glasgow, The Jaipur Social Club. According to the Oxford Compendium of Beer, this pub stands on the site of where the first hops in Scotland were grown. The peat hops were then added to the Scotch Ale and exported to Jaipur in India. To commemorate this momentous happening, Thornbridge's Jaipur is on sale all day, every day for less than two Scottish pounds. This has gone down a storm with the 'Post Meridian Ale Moths', that strange species of older men that tend to be found lingering round the bar of most Wetherspoons most afternoons. Incidentally, the Society Rooms is officially the darkest pub in Glasgow having won the award every year since records began. *

The ubiquitous Jaipur was on but as it was not part of the festival, we went for some Rooster's Last Stand. It's rumoured to be Roosters' final ever beer as they are packing up and moving on. I've been known to quite like some of their beers but I didn't think that the Last Stand was up to their usual standards. There was a lot going on in it, usually at the same time. Mr Al, on the other hand, thought it was rather lovely. But what does he know? He supports Motherwell.

Price of a pint - £1.75

Home straight now as we head to Glasgow's most improved Wetherspoons, Hengler's Circus. According to the Oxford Compendium of Beer, Hengler's Circus was a Russian juggling and acrobatic troupe who first toured Scotland in the 1760's. They brought with them a beer called Imperial Stout which was big in their homeland at that time. They used to sell this Imperial Stout at the interval of their show along with the strawberry Mivvi's and choc ices. A certain Mr Arthur Guinness happened to be at their show one night and bought a couple of bottles to take home. The rest, as they say, is history.*

Anyway, back to the future. I opted for a couple of half pints at the Hengler's. One was Woodforde's Kett's Rebellion, the other a crafty U.S. number, Odell's 90 Shilling made by Caledonian.

I'd like to tell you that both were lovely and were the high point of the evening. I'd like to tell you that, but it would be a big fat WMD of a lie. Both were not nice. The Woodforde's was a 'hide behind the plant pot' beer. Watery, oversweet and not pleasant.

The Odell beer was, alas, 90% Caledonian and only 10% Odell. It was a foul malt bomb of candied apples and burnt sugar. It was in nice condition. Which is a bit like complimenting a tramp for having nice shoes.

Price of a pint - £1.55

Why the big swings in prices in pubs in the same chain no more than 15 minutes apart?

Mission accomplished but it wasn't quite the success that we had both been hoping for. As we headed out of Hengler's Circus, we sought a final beer of the night. We could only think of one place to head next. The Bon Accord. We had heard that they had some Fyne Ales' Cherry Stout on. But that's for another blog.


*This blog may contain historical inaccuracies.