Thursday 26 May 2011

Glasgow Pubs - The Pot Still


When it comes to pubs, some tend to attract more attention than others. Whether it's for the way that beers are kept or diversity of beer range, they always seem to catch the eye and entice you in.

Others are more like journeymen, plodding away, doing what they do in a steady workmanlike fashion. They are the steady dependables that are never top of your visit list but ones that you don't mind popping into if someone suggests a quick pint. Occasionally, you neglect them and time passes before you re-visit and re-appraise them. When you do pop in after a lengthy absence, you either realise that nothing much has changed or things have generally gone downhill. It is a very rare occasion that you discover that the pub has grasped the nettle and upped their beer game. When this does happen, it is a beautiful and lovely thing to behold.

One such pub in Glasgow has done just that and is not just raised their game but is also raising eyebrows among Glasgow beer enthusiasts. The pub in question is The Pot Still in Hope St, slap bang in the City Centre. It is primarily a whisky pub offering several hundred rare and sought after whiskies to a knowledgeable single malt clientele that consists of local and far travelled tourists drawn to the dram. But, it has recently gained a reputation of serving a wide range of well kept and beautifully conditioned beers from Scottish microbreweries.

In recent weeks beers from Arran, Orkney, William's and Kelburn have been on and in the next few weeks we are promised appearances from great breweries such as Fyne Ales and Black Isle Brewery. When I was in last week, I was blown away by a great pint of Renfrewshire Brewery Kelburn's Cart Noir. Not only was it on peak form, it was also served superbly. The Pot Still have started to take a renewed interest and passion for the ale and it shows in the beer choice and condition of the beer. It's never going to be known primarily as a beer pub but it is good to see that they have realised the importance of having an everchanging selection of nice, well made beers rather than relying on the dull and uninteresting staples of Caledonian, Belhaven and Greene King that similar pubs have chosen to do.

It is also simply a stunning, lovely traditionally pub to have a pint of tasty refreshing beer in.

If you are in Glasgow sometime soon, then it might be a very good idea to pay it a visit.


Tuesday 24 May 2011

Scottish Pub Bosses Fight to Relax Smoking Ban


The body which represents Scottish publicans, The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), is to hold talks on how it can campaign for a relaxing of the ban on smoking in public places five years after it was introduced. The meeting that takes place in Edinburgh will see the SLTA take the advice of licensees from Hungary, Croatia and The Netherlands - countries which have banned smoking but have a more relaxed system of implementation and enforcement.

The SLTA have called Scotland's complete ban as 'extreme' and partly responsible for the closure of 800 Scottish pubs since the smoking ban was introduced in March 2006.

Chief Executive of SLTA, Paul Waterson said "We think it's appropriate, five years since the ban, to have a look at how it's working and perhaps re-evaluate it. We're flying over some people who are in the trade who have a far more relaxed system."

Waterson added that there wasn't any "appetite" for going back to the "old days", instead he hoped that there was some "room for accomodation."

I wish him well but given the current political climate against smoking in Scotland, I think I'll be ice skating in hell before the Scottish Government relax the laws on smoking.

The SNP Government says that tobacco "remains the biggest single preventable cause of death in Scotland" and that the party wants to take further action against smoking by setting "ambitious" targets to reduce smoking.

The Labour opposition are also against relaxing rules on smoking and want the Government to go much further than they have by tightening up legal loopholes and campaigning for a possible ban on smoking in cars carrying children as passengers.

I've always argued that a common sense approach to smoking in pubs was to have a differentiated two tier system of pubs in which there was an outright ban in some pubs and in others you would be allowed to smoke after a certain time. Both would be clearly signposted outside which would mean that punters and bar staff would make an informed choice on which pub they wanted to frequent or work in.

The chance to campaign for the implementation of this two tier system was in 2006 when the options of what type of ban was up for discussion. That horse has long since bolted and any attempt to get it back in it's box will promise to be fruitless and futile one.


Sunday 22 May 2011

Dream Job for a Beer Drinker?


What's your dream job?

If it is tasting beer and getting paid a mash tun of cash for the privilege then you might just be in luck.

Or possibly not.

I see that multinational brewing giant, InBev is looking to recruit one 'lucky' person to "judge the beer's aroma, appearance, temperature and taste before it is served to bands and DJs including Grooverider, Calvin Harris and the Chemical Brothers as well as general festival-goers."  The beer in question is InBev's Budweiser 66. It was launched last year as a sweeter and less carbonated version of the original Bud aimed at, according to their press release, 'brand savvy 20 to 30 year olds' who want an 'easy drinker lager that doesn't leave them bloated'.

For working 6 days at Budweiser/InBev sponsored music festivals this summer, you will receive £10,000. InBev get, I would imagine, considerably more in free advertisement via the newspaper column and magazine column inches that would flow as a result of their lager largesse.

There is always a catch and it would appear that the catch is a fairly obvious one. The beer is Budweiser 66.

Would you sell your beer soul to the Budweiser Beelzebub for £10,000?


Wednesday 18 May 2011

All Hail, Alesela


When thirsty West of Scotland drinkers cleared the Foreign Legion international beer bar at this year's Paisley Beer Festival a full day before the festival finished, a certain crisis was averted when a new beer Knight in shining armour stepped into the breach to save the day with a much needed delivery of bottles from Flying Dog, Great Divide, Odell and Victory.

The Knight in question was new Scottish based beer webshop, Alesela. It has only been up and running since the start of May but it looks as if it with be a great source for hard to get bottles from some of Scotland's independent microbreweries.

It not only offers a range of beers from breweries such as Tryst, Kelburn, Oban Bay, Ayr, Sulwath, Williams Bros, Islay, Isle of Mull and Madcap but also promises interesting beers from further afield as well as one off guest bottled beers.

It looks good and I wish Alesela all the very best in their new venture of bringing quality (apart from Innis and Gunn) Scottish beers to a wider audience.


Monday 16 May 2011

The Glasgow Beer and Pub Guide


Glasgow has many lovely pubs serving a wide variety and pretty good selection of quality Scottish, UK, Continental and Foreign beers. The type of dispense varies from pub to pub but you can usually guarantee a mixed economy of cask, keg and bottle.

As a native of Glasgow, I'm quite proud of some of our pubs.  We do not too badly in the pubs and beer stakes. It could be a bit better but it could also be a whole lot worse. Ask the people of Dundee, Stirling and Perth.

Over the next few months, The Beer Monkey blog will be carrying a series of reviews by Glasgow Beer lovers of some of the City's pubs and beers available. It's been a difficult task badgering, bribing and blackmailing some of my beer imbibing buddies to get themselves out and about in the interests of research but I've managed to assemble a motley crew who are willing to take on board such a burden.

They will be chronicling cask, commenting on keg, babbling on about bottles and sharing their penchants for pubs in Glasgow.

The first three pubs to feature will be -

The Society Rooms

The Laurieston

The Belle

Hopefully it will be an informative and irreverant sideways look at the pints and pubs that float our Glasgow beer boat.

If there are any pubs you'd particularly like us to review, get in touch.


Friday 13 May 2011

What are BrewDog up to?


Aye, Aye Captain?

Followers of the twinternet - (see what I did there? It's an amalgam of Twitter and Internet) - will probably be aware of the latest BrewDog video that has been recently posted on their blog.

If you haven't seen the video, it's a little two minute teaser in which the BrewDoggers appeal to us to reject the bland beer mainstream and to accept the diverse and unique. They also give out a link to a website called beerleaks which has a ticking digital clock that counts down to midnight on Sunday.

Seemingly, all will be revealed and explained at that witching hour. Or, possibly not. Many are speculating that the big reveal will consist of a BrewDog expose of the scams and swindles that the major beer multinationals employ to convince the feeble minded to imbibe their beverages.

The more cynical among us see it as no more than another of BrewDog's schemes to gain the maximum amount of  press and media exposure for their brand with the minimum of financial input.  Others, see it as an attempt by those Fraserburgh Upstarts to deflect from the recent criticism that they have had in terms of fulfilling their orders and meeting market demand.


I've been waiting the best part of three weeks for a box of beers to come from BrewDog in Aberdeen to my door less than 140 miles away in the West of Scotland. If I had known that it was going to take this long, then I would have taken a walk up to Aberdeen, met my order at the brewery and walked back to Glasgow. It would have probably taken less time. It's still not arrived.

Perhaps, if BrewDog spent more time meeting their orders and less time circle jerking with their craft beer fan boys then maybe a lot more punters would be content with the scope and standard of their customer service.

The mainstream expect nothing less.


Wednesday 11 May 2011

ShortList Magazine's Top 20 Beers


You may have seen ShortList magazine on your travels. It is a free weekly magazine that's usually thrust into your hand at the entrance of mainline train stations as you scuttle busily to and from work. Failing that, you are more than likely to find a discarded copy on the train as it fights for floor and seat space with another free sheet, the Metro Daily newspaper.

In essence it's a lifestyle magazine that is 'For men with more than one thing on their minds'. The adverts that ShortList carries tell you all about it's target audience - There are usually ads for high performance cars, upmarket men's grooming products, smart phones, trendy designer labels and  high end shops like Selfridges.

What has all this to do with beer?, I hear you ask.

Well, the 12th May edition of ShortList contains a feature entitled '20 Beers you probably haven't met yet' that contains the selection of five people who are pretty much in the loop when it comes to beery knowledge and taste. The five are Pete Brown (author of Hops and Glory), Jon Howard (organiser of the Great British Beer Festival), Tony Lennon of the Euston Tap, Charlie McVeigh owner of the Draft House pubs and Head beer buyer for Waitrose, Pierpaolo Petrassi. It is perhaps indicative of the growing popularity of Real Ale and 'Craft' Beer that a lifestyle magazine such as this should run a feature and compile a best of beer list in their publication.

For me, it also indicates the near seismic shift in how beer is now being perceived and how it is now, dare I say it in a hushed whisper, becoming rather trendy and fashionable. Beer is being accepted, enjoyed and loved by growing number of people.

Witness the expansion of craft beer pubs that are popping up all over the UK and doing spectacular business - The Southampton Arms, The Jolly Butchers, The Grove, Dean Swift, Port Street Beer House, The growing BrewDog Bar empire, Pivni, Mason Taylor, The Rake and the Sheffield and Euston taps among many, many others. And lets not forget the Real Ale pubs dishing up an exciting array of well made and beautifully kept cask beers.  A change in tastes and preferences is clearly taking place and it is all rather exciting.

This list is numbered but I don't think that it is in order of preference. It is as follows -

Hophead by Dark Star

Badger Golden Champion by Hall and Woodhouse

Budvar Yeast

Bernard Unfiltered by Bernard

London Pale Ale by Meantime

Texas Ranger Barrel Aged by Mikkeller

Ola Dubh 40 by Harviestoun

Camden Pale Ale by Camden Town Brewery

Hooky Dark by Hook Norton

Crop Circle by Hop Back

Organic Best Bitter by St Peter's

Old Ruby Ale by Duchy Originals

India Pale Ale by Goose Island

Kipling by Thornbridge

Abbot Ale by Greene King

Manchester Bitter by Marble

Artisan Gold by Bowland Brewery

Hefeweizen by West Brewery

Doppelmalz by Schremser

Punk IPA by BrewDog

As you can see it is a pretty eclectic list of UK and Foreign, Cask, Keg and Bottled beer and underscores the great choice and variety available out there. You can't argue with the vast majority of it, Abbot Ale aside. Some I haven't tried and can't pass comment but the good thing is that it is only the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of other beers out there to try and enjoy.

It's a great time to be a beer drinker.

You can read the article in shortlist

Monday 9 May 2011

Should Camra promote all 'craft' beer?


I've just received my Summer edition of Camra's quarterly publication 'Beer' and I was pleasantly surprised to see a healthy debate within it's pages titled - Should Camra promote all 'craft' beer?

Arguing for the 'YES' camp is author of the Good Beer Guide Belgium and former Camra exec member, Tim Webb. In the 'No' corner is the current Chairman of Camra's Rochdale branch and author of the Tandleman Beer Blog, Peter Alexander. It is an interesting debate.

Webb argues that 'Camra needs to get involved in the new world' and that a 'new generation of beer drinkers' are 'not impressed by technical correctness of production' but instead 'get excited by exploring taste and variety'. He goes on, 'What makes beer neither dictated by technical specification nor advertising. It is defined by what experienced palates taste within it'. He describes Camra's definition of good beer as 'now plainly inadequate'.

Alexander counters in a concilliatory tone by stating that 'Few of us are so closed-minded to believe that cask is the only way to serve good beer'. However, he goes on to state that 'Our purpose, until the members say otherwise, is to promote real ale as the indigenous beer style of Britain. It is why we exist'. To reinforce this point, Alexander qoutes one of the Camra founders, Michael Hardman, 'I must point out that we're not fighting against anything, we're fighting for something'.

Alexander finishes his argument by saying that 'The craft beer movement must find it's own way in the world'.

On the following page, Fuller's head brewer, John Keeling continues the debate further by exploring the science of packaging, dispense and it's influence on flavour.

It is good to see Camra devoting some space over to this issue and exploring it in a mature and non finger pointing, knee jerk way.

This is an exciting time to be a beer drinker. The range and quality of beers out there has never, in my opinion, been better. Both keg and cask have their merits and on the issue of dispense, I'm fairly pragmatic. If the cap fits and all that. Keg has clearly moved on since the dark days of the 1970's when Camra first started and I believe that quality cask and keg can peacefully co-exist in a perfect beer world.

 However, on the question of whether Camra should promote all 'craft' beer. That is, as Peter Alexander says, down to the members of that organisation. If you are not a member of Camra and think that they should endorse keg, join the organisation and try and change it from within.


Saturday 7 May 2011

Bonnie and Clyde - The Helensburgh Real Ale Festival


Beer festivals are a bit like waiting for a number 57 bus. You wait ages for one and then three come along at the same time. First there was the excellent Paisley Beer Festival last week. In June there is the Fyne Ales Festival and sandwiched between these two events is a West Coast festival that often gets overlooked but, if previous ones are to go by, it promises to be a grand couple of days out drink great beer in beautiful surroundings.

The fifth Helensburgh and Lomond Real Ale Festival, organised by the local Round Table, takes place in the wonderful setting of Helensburgh Sailing Club on the bonnie banks of the Clyde on the 2oth and 21st of May. Last years festival was basked in brilliant sunshine and it was a perfect way to spend a few glorious hours sampling some delicious beers.

It is a festival with a distinctive local feel with the huge selection of beers coming from Scottish brewers. Included in this years list are -

 Fyne Ales Avalanche, Jarl, Hurricane Jack, Highlander and Sublime Stout

Williams Bros Brewery Seven Giraffes, Ceilidh, Midnight Sun, Kelpie and Ginger Beer

Tryst Brockville Pale, Blathan, Transatlantic Hop Trials No 2 and Zetland Wheatbier

Orkney Brewery Skull Splitter and Corncrake

Sulwath The Black Galloway, Galloway Gold and Criffel

Stewart's Pentland IPa and Edinburgh No 3.

Harviestoun Schiehallion, Haggis Hunter, Bitter and Twisted

Cairngorm Black Gold and White Lady

The money raised by the two day festival will be going to local children's charities so it's a conscience free way of getting out of the house for the day and getting yourself down to the Clyde coast and enjoying some excellent beers.

What's stopping you?


Mad about Mallinsons


If, like me, you tend to gravitate towards the light and hoppy side of the beer world then you should be paying more attention to a great Huddersfield Brewery that, in my eyes, can do very little wrong when producing their fantastic light, golden and very sessionable ales. The brewery is called Mallinsons Brewing Co and they have been regulars in my beer fridge since Rich from My Brewery Tap started stocking them on his website. They really do produce cracking examples of that style and tick all the boxes in terms of taste, flavour and refreshment.

The female owned brewery opened in 2008 and since then they have built up an appreciative and growing group of followers attracted to their well made, well hopped and well lovely beers. Word of their brewing and beer prowess has spread and Mallinsons beers are now being regularly stocked in pubs in places such as Huddersfield, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Manchester.

 It would appear that Huddersfield is cutting the mustard when it comes to good beer and good beer places - what with Mallinsons, The Grove and now Magic Rock Brewery flying the flag for excellent beer. It's next on my list of beery towns to visit in England.

I haven't been fortunate enough to taste any of their cask beers but I've had my hands on and my mouth round some of their bottle beers including Dart, Castle Hill, Hidden Malt, Summit and 29 Arches. Everyone of them was outstanding in terms of taste and flavour and they hit the spot as lovely, light and very refreshingly drinkable beers to quaff during the Spring and Summer months.

You can find out more about Mallinsons here and you can buy some of their lovely bottles here


Tuesday 3 May 2011

Open It! Sierra Nevada Special


The idea behind Open It! is a good one. You dig out from the back of your beer cupboard those bottles that you have put away for a very special beer time and instead of letting them sit there, you get them out, pop them open and get them poured down your throat. What's the point of beer if it's not to be consumed.

I haven't taken part before but I thought I would get involved this time. So, over the course of a few posts I shall be blogging about which beers I have dug out of the dark recesses of my special beer cupboard and opened.

The first two are big, old American beers from the same brewery, Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum and their 30th Anniversary beer called Charlie, Fred and Ken's Imperial Helles Bock.

The Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Ale is produced in collaboration with home brewers and highly regarded U.S. 'craft' beer writers, Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhardt. It is an 8.3% Imperial Helles Bock and comes in a rather elegant 660 ml cork and caged bottle.

It pours a glorious golden orange colour with a lovely soft white head. It's aroma is light malt with some grassy, grapefruit and pine poking through. It had a lively effervescent carbonation that wasn't too oppressive in the mouthfeel.

It had, initially, quite a punchy alcohol hit which gave way to solid flavours of sweet orange, caramel and toffee apple notes. It ends with a crisp, clean and refreshing finish that lingered with a slight bready dryness.  It was, for it's ABV, a very drinkable beer that was maybe just a little too sweet for my taste.

Next up was the 10.4% Sierra Nevada Hoptimum, which is described as a Whole-Cone Imperial IPA. I was expecting this to be a big, bold beer bursting full of juicy hop goodness.

Sierra Nevada claims their Hoptimum beer "Pushes the boundaries of whole-cone hopped brewing: a 100 IBU beer, aggressively dry hopped with new varieties of hops to create ultra intense flavours and aromas."

Boy, they weren't wrong.

It pours an amber orange with a thicky foamy white head that momentarily distracts you before you are delightfully mugged by the awesome aromas of loads of oily pine resin and citrus hops notes that fight each other before taking turns in assaulting my nostrils. This was like taking a walk through a Scandanavian pine forest as someone squirts orange, grapefruit and tangerine zest at you.

It tasted lovely too. Hops, hops and even more hops in the mouth that gave you a citrus and tropical fruit rainbow of delicious tastes and flavours. Present were sticky, waxed orange peel, lemon mango, lychee, floral notes, pineapple, pear and bubblegum. And a tease of sweet caramel too.

The hop loveliness gave way to a  belightfully hoppy, dry but not too bitter a finish that you sometimes get with beers such as DIPA's.

Overall, this is simply a stunning beer and my favourite of the two.

I'm very glad that I opened the Hoptimum when I did as a beer like this benefits from being drunk early whilst the full on hop assault is at it's best.


Monday 2 May 2011

The Fyne Ales Beer Festival


With the nice weather and light nights now upon us, a beer drinker's thoughts inevitably turn to the Beer Festival season. The Paisley Beer Fest has come and gone and it proved to be a fantastic success with a great range of lovely beers being eagerly supped by the attendees.

The next big beer event on The Beer Monkey's radar is one that should not be missed if you, like me, are someone that enjoys a great day out drinking quality beer in stunning surroundings. The Fyne Ales Fest that takes place over the weekend of 11th/12th of June at the brewery next to the beautiful Loch Fyne and it ticks all the boxes.

Great beer, Tick. Great location, Tick. Great food, Tick. Great people, Tick.

Last year's event was a fantastic success and this year's promises to be even better.

There are over 30 beers available with all the finest beers from the Fyne Ales stable, including this year's Paisley Beer Fest Gold and Silver medal winners, Hurricane Jack and Avalanche.

Last year, the festival was used to launch Fyne Ales' Jarl which has since proved to be one of the most successful beers from Fyne Ales. So much so, that it is now part of their regular range and is now available in bottles.

This year will see the launch of Fyne Ales' Fiddler's Gold. It's described as a well hopped 4.5% golden ale made with a handful of U.S. hop varieties that guarantees that the hop flavour and aroma volume is turned up to the max. Fantastic.

At the moment, brewer Wil and Fyne Ales' Jamie are sourcing some of the best British beers from the best British breweries for the thirsty throats of the beer fest frolickers. Included in this year's beer list are beers from superb brewers such as Bristol Beer Factory, Otley Brewing Co, Moor Beer Company, Thornbridge, Marble, Whim, Oakham, Steel City and Greenjack.

Now, that's what I call a great beer line up.

The festival will take place in a field next to the brewery and for the first time it will run on into the Sunday with an 'After Party' beer and BBQ in the brewery forecourt on the Sunday afternoon. This is open and free to anyone who attended the festival on the Sunday. Camping is also available for those that wish to make a weekend of it.

As far as I'm aware, Renfrewshire Camra and The Three Judges in Glasgow are organising buses to and from the event.

If you are not doing anything that weekend, then you should get yourself up to the Fyne Ales Beer Festival as it is one of the most enjoyable events in the Scottish Beer calender.

To book tickets for the event, please see the Fyne Fest website.