Glasgowby Paul Hathaway
In the old days, Zoom was a rocket shaped ice lolly produced by Lyons Maid and came complete with Thunderbirds cards. Then came Covid and Zoom took on a very different meaning. Under the guise of the new Zoom, The Pubwright got involved with a Zoom group based on the South Island which also included the Ale Chief Marshall (ACM). On a recent chat, the ACM mentioned that he was doing a grand tour of Scotland (the Very North Island) and The Pubwright suggested a meet-up in Glasgow for a few refreshments. The ACM thought this was a good idea so arrangements were made to rendezvous at the ACM's hotel on the afternoon of the day before his trip started...
Having met up in the hotel lobby we set off toward the first port of call, the Bon Accord, out at Charing Cross, about a 15 minute walk away. Enough exercise to justify a refreshing pint. The Bon Accord is the current Glasgow CAMRA pub of the year and, though it only opened in 1971, is a firm favourite with a long legacy of appearing in the Good Beer Guide, indeed one of the pioneering real ale pubs in the City. Entering the pub, you are greeted with what at first sight, appears to be quite a small bar, but first impressions can be deceiving. The servery is divided into two parts separated by a large and chunky pillar. 10 handpumps on show and operational. We chose the Tryst Carronade, a pale beer which the barman suggested we try as it was the last cask of this beer, with the brewery having just announced its closure. Good enough reason to try it. This is the second time this year that the Pubwright has had to drink a beer as the brewery was closing. Then it was Strathaven Usquebae, a 7.0% golden ale, at the Sir John Fairweather, a Tim's Tavern (TT) otherwise known as Wetherspoons, in Cambuslang.
Back to the Bon Accord. Here we now come to what Estate Agents call "deceptively spacious accommodation" as passing the bar and going down several steps a much larger and spacious drinking area unfolds. Imagine the letter "P". The entrance is at the base of the upstroke, the servery ends where the round bit of the letter reaches the lower intersection of the upstroke and the round bit with the round bit itself representing the deceptively spacious area down the stairs.
Pub number two was the Griffin, a few minutes' walk away and a kop for both the Pubwright and the ACM. This pub has had a dubious reputation in the past and closed, possibly never to reopen again, in the times of the plague we don't mention. However, it has been brought back to life by Skye Brewery and now enjoys Cask Marque status. The pub has etched glass windows, stained glass in the fan light windows but is strangely not quite right. It is entered by a door in the corner of the premises, is very light and airy and with, like many other Scottish pubs, a central horseshoe servery. But the wood is very light in colour and this is what makes the difference - The Pubwright can't recall such a bar anywhere else in Scotland - as all other examples he's stood at are dark wood. Imagine the letter "U" with the servery being the empty bit in the middle and the lines being the actual drinking areas and you get the picture. Light coloured furniture, large light-letting-in-windows result what could be a gloomy pub into a theatre of light, especially as it's opposite the King's Theatre. The beer range was Skye Red, Black, Gold and Amber. The option was Black, a rather pleasant Porter.
Pub 3 was just a couple of minutes away; The State Bar, a Glasgow Institution, GBG regular and a damned fine pub. It is more like the letter "O" with the middle of the "O2 being the central servery. It is topped with several handpumps which dispense Oakham Ales plus a guest or two. The servery is surrounded by the drinking area . Beers were Oakham Citra, Green Devil along with Anarchy Blonde Star, which both explorers went for.
Tempus fugit now and with time marching on, it was appropriate to undertake further exploration. Pub number four was the Pot Still, yet another stalwart of the Glasgow real ale scene and GBG regular. It was now about 5.30 on a Wednesday afternoon. The pub was rammed to the gunwhales with locals, visitors from far and near. During our time at the bar both UK, American and New Zealand customers were engaged in conversation. The Americans were particularly keen on the Pot Still as it has a huge, and by "huge", meaning "huge" is meant, range of Single Malt Scotches, the reason the Yanks were over here. The Pubwright lives on Islay. The Island has nine operational whisky distilleries with 2 more due to start very soon. It also has a rum distillery and four gin distilleries. Not bad for Britain's eighth biggest Island and a population of only 3500. He also used to work in the whisky trade so was able to dispense somewhat, to the ACM anyway, sounded like decent details about whisky mashing, fermentation, distilling, ageing, and finally libation of same. The beer taken here was Loch Leven Warrior Queen. The Bar is a letter "E" with the hollowed out bits being an extension of the servery.
It was now time to take the ACM on a journey into his past. He had been to Glasgow before and does remember the Horse Shoe Bar. Supposedly the longest bar in Britain. The pub is a gem. Not surprisingly it has a horseshoe shaped servery, is very dark inside with little room to walk around the pub, the bar taking up much of the interior. Earlier in the day, ACM had indicated that he didn't want a too later night and would like to back at the hotel for 9.00. It was now about 8.00 and so the subject of how flexible his 9.00 was. "Quite" was the answer so The Pubwight set his mind to what to do next.
Just up the road from the Horse Shoe bar is the Drum & Monkey that now is run by Nicholson's or Mitchells & Butlers if you prefer. Once a bank, this is now a fine pub and a GBG regular. A central front door leads into what would once have been the banking hall. The servery, a very narrow U shape, is in front of you and has four handpumps mounted conveniently facing you so no beer pump hunting is necessary. The Drum and Monkey is a food oriented pub but has that happy ability to make the drinker not feel out of place. There are two raised areas, one to the left and one to the right with plenty of room for vertical drinking and normal eating. There is also a magnificent fireplace feature. The pub is always welcoming and the beer of choice was Moor Stout.
Time for one more stop. Just up the road in George Square is the Counting House, a Tim's Tavern. One time home of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the building retains so much of its splendour. It is large, light, airy, its central bar with three banks of handpumps, it really is worth going to if in Glasgow just to enjoy the building, however you may feel about Tim. Even late on a Wednesday evening at 9.30 it was busy; the buzz of conversation was the loudest noise to be heard. Unfortunately, Mr Troop, the Town Clerk, was not here to enjoy the Greene King Abbot and Sharps' Doom Bar, but a photo was taken of the pumps and sent to him. The libation chosen was Liberation ESB; a very pleasant way to end the day's exploration. The ACM returned to his hotel as did the Pubwright having agreed to meet for a couple of lunchtime pints the following day.
And so it was. Another fine morning, meeting at 11.00, a briskish walk to the Lauriston Bar, south of the City centre over the River Clyde was made. The Lauriston is yet another GBG regular and award-winning pub. It is also listed in the National Inventory of Historic Pubs. This wonderful pub was refurbished in the 1960s, yellow walls, formica topped tables, much ephemera and press cuttings of the pub on the walls so check out the pub at https://www.oldglasgowpubs.co.uk/laurieston.html for further details and discoveries. Worth the walk for the pub alone as well as earning a pint. The beers are from Fyne Farm Ales and today were Jarl and Everyone Loves Rauku, a New Zealand style golden beer.
The next stop was another splendid pub, The Scotia. This pub has been around since 1792 and vies for the title of the oldest pub in Glasgow. It is quite small with a very low ceiling, combined with small windows and a plethora of very dark wood does make for a gloomy appearance at first but as your eyes get used to the light many features appear. Four beers on and the choice is Alchemy 70/- ale, a 3.8% beer with the most amazing full flavour; sufficiently good to make it beer of the trip! Noting the ACM's theatrical background, the Scotia Bar has a plaque to Stan Laurel who began his career at the Metropole in Glasgow in 1906. The next pub was the Babbity Bowster. The Pubwright has mixed views on this pub; it is more of a bar than a pub, food orientated but has appeared in several GBGs but he has found, over the years, the beer to be of varying quality. However, today's offerings include Broughton Glasgow Cross a 5% rich beer which the Town Clerk would have enjoyed.
By now, it was heading for 1.00 and the Pubwright had to leave to catch his 2.00 bus from Buchanan Bus Station to Kennacraig to catch the 6.00 ferry home. Our intrepid explorers walk back to the City centre with the ACM asking where he could find another pint. The Counting House appeared on the left so he was pointed in this direction. We bade our farewells and went our separate ways.
In summary, a wonderful, relaxed walk around Glasgow, generally decent pubs with decent beer. A good time was had and both look forward to repeating the experience in the future, though there may be a few detours next time.
As a postscript, it appears that the ACM didn't fancy the Counting House; he returned to the Scotia Bar for another 70/- before getting lost on his way back to his hotel.