February 7, 2006 Back to Pub Crawling In Glasgow
Our flight from Shetland back to Glasgow was relatively uneventful, although the landing was quite bumpy. Our bags came out really quickly, and we purchased our return bus tickets for £5.00 each, a savings over the £3.30 one way. It’s good for 28 days. Maybe we should stay on…..
The 905 bus was waiting out front, and we were at our hotel at 12:50 pm, after leaving Shetland at 10:30 am – pretty good. We dropped our bags off, and were at the Phoenix (a smoke-free pub with real Ales) at 1:00 pm. Aidan started with a cask Deuchar’s IPA, possibly the best beer in the world, and Jackie sipped a Bells. We ordered our food – ham and egg and chips for Jackie – you can’t go wrong with that. Aidan had a Leek and Caerphilly cheese burger, served with onion rings and a pepperless salsa. Both were excellent, and at two lunches for £6.95, a good deal too.
Aidan tried a half-pint of Staropramen Lager, which was not offensive, but still a lager, and not Aidan’s favourite type of beer. Aidan then tried the Greene King Abbott Ale, another magnificent real ale rich mahogany in colour (like the colour of stewed tea), slightly yeasty on the nose, perfect temperature, slightly toffee flavour, but not overly so. It is also quite fruity. This was followed by a pint of Old Speckled Hen, also a real ale – a beautiful representation of the bottled beer, gorgeous body, very smooth, but a little too sweet for a “session” beer. Another Deuchar’s was called for to cleanse the palate!
The toilets at the Phoenix are downstairs, and are in old bank vaults, through two huge steel doors – very cool.
Time to brave the elements – it’s a windy and wet afternoon, typical Scottish day, and what we’d expected the whole trip. It’s only the second day of rain we’ve had! Next stop was Dow’s, just up the street. A real old Glasgow bar, full of old men watching the horse racing on the telly. Jackie had a Bell’s and Aidan tried a pint of Calder’s 70/-, not previously tried this trip. The temperature was good, it was coffee in colour, slightly fruity (apricot) aroma. In Aidan’s words “PFG for the price” – the round was a mere £3.20, of that £1.54 was for the Bells. The men’s toilet had “old men’s toilet paper” piled up in sheets on the window ledge. No rolls here!
We headed to the hotel to check in, and then headed back to the Barras. Unfortunately, most of the shops were shut, and it was raining really heavily. The skies were blue to the north, and the sun was setting. We nipped in to Mackinnon’s to warm up. Aidan had another pint of Calder’s 70/- and Jackie tried the Isle of Skye 8 yr old blend - grass, ocean and sherry to the nose, smooth, rolls off the tongue, fruity (apricot) finish. Not bad.
Next stop is Cairn’s Pub, where double Bell’s were £1.54, and they were also serving Calder’s 70/-. Considering the number of pubs we’d been to, and the number of pints that have been quaffed, it is amazing that we had not encountered Calder’s until today, and its been available in the last three pubs! The pub was great – it had a beautiful round dark wood bar. The place was full of mostly old men. There was one very large guy in his 50’s wearing a white singlet vest and was covered in tattoos.
The two barmaids were tough cookies. One older fellow, Donald, started to get lippy and Jackie predicted he’d be kicked out soon. After mouthing off the barmaids and all the patrons, and swearing up a storm, Donald, with his fly open, holes in his pants and shirt hanging out the zip ala Mr. Bean, was forcibly removed from the place by the surly barmaids! He tried to get back in a few times, but was no match to the Glaswegian gals! He was literally thrown out of the pub. He proceeded to kick down some barricades on the street and mouthed off anyone who happened to be walking past, then headed off into the night.
We left too, heading the opposite direction from Donald, only to re-encounter him at the Tesco’s! We heard him before we saw him – he was swearing away, and before long the security guards had him back out on the street. Poor old Donald!
We moved on and found the oldest pub in Glasgow – the Tavern Bastille, which is still known by the name Sloan’s. It was built in 1797, and is down an alley, off the beaten track. It originated as where the stage coach left for Edinburgh twice a week, only a five-hour journey. The bar itself was fantastic with a check tile floor and dark wood bar and seats. We had to pass through red velvet curtains to get inside. The food menu was sparse, so instead of dinner we had a bowl of prawns (very small, and more like shrimp), and a bowl of chips. Aidan had a pint of Tennent’s Ember 80/-: a very smooth, syrupy ale, not very cold, but very drinkable indeed. Jackie enjoyed a Laphroaig for £2.30. They practically give it away here! And after all the blends lately, Jackie commented is was good to be back to the peat.
We moved on to Central Station where we found the Grant Arms. A double Scottish Leader was £2.55. They practically give it away here too! Aidan had a pint of Tennent’s 70/-. The Grant Arms was a sparse bar, probably used to a big crowd after work; definitely a working man’s pub. We watched Birmingham vs. Reading in a cup-tie. The menu here included a 9 oz mixed grill for £3.95 – this would be a great spot for the traveler on a budget.
Next stop was the Argyll bar, across the street. Jackie peeped in while Aidan took the photo, and commented “This is a Ranger’s pub”. Our first one. We had arrived at closing, and the chairs were already up on the tables. There were half a dozen patrons around the bar, and a rather surly looking bloke behind the bar. Only after we convinced them that we were not Catholic, they agreed to serve us. No kidding. It turned out that the guy behind the bar (Ronnie) was actually a patron and the girl off to the side was actually the barmaid. Ronnie was quite a character. He started off by trying to convince Jackie he was actually a Celtic supporter, and gay. Jackie saw right through him, and told him he was full of shite, that he’d never be able to leave the place alive if he was a Celtic supporter. He said other than a few black eyes, the blokes were quite good! He was quite the comedian, but Jackie was able to get him back, the lads at the bar slapping their hands on the bar when she did. It was a very weird experience, and we were glad when we were done the drinks. We didn’t even write down what we’d had.
Next stop was Denholm’s – a very quite bar, with soccer on the telly. Aidan had a 70/- and Jackie a Johnnie Walker Black Label. It was well passed dinner time, and we were quite hungry – luckily there are a lot of chippies around, and fish & chips and a black pudding supper hit the spot.
The next stop was the Alpen Lodge – it was a very small place, and we recognized one of the guys from the Argyll, so had to be careful what we said. Jackie had a Black Bottle, and Aidan a Tennent’s 70/- that was served way too cold.
We moved on to the Drum & Monkey, a place we visited last time. It was a great place, and were playing great tunes. Jackie had a Lagavulin 16 yr old and Aidan a Deuchar’s IPA (not a cask).
Our last stop of the evening was the Counting House, another repeat stop, but on the way back to the hotel. It too was very quite (well, it is a Tuesday night!). Aidan had a pint of Cairngorm Stag (Real Ale) and neither of us recall what Jackie had….. probably “enough” !
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