Friday, 28 March 2014

Gullane to North Berwick with a stop at Archerfield Walled Garden: 22nd March 2014

This weekend the 1st Birthday celebrations for the Archerfield Walled Garden in East Lothian were being held, and that included those for the Archerfield Fine Ales/Knops Beer brewery that it houses (although Knops were 'cuckoo' brewing at Traditional Scottish Ales for a quite a while before). I hadn't seen Bob Knops since his 'Brewing 101' talk-and-tasting a couple of years ago and it had been ages since I'd been through to Gullane & North Berwick (Gullane Beer Festival 2005 ?), so I decided that a trip along the lovely East Lothian coast for a visit was definitely worthwhile.

View Gullane in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows :-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Edinburgh Waverley
  Train: Edinburgh Waverley to Longniddry (12, 43 on the hour)
  Bus: Longniddry to Gullane (First X24 - 10, 40 on the hour)

The X24 bus along the East Lothian coast was really busy, full of walkers getting off to start a section of the John Muir Way or bird spotters leaving at the Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve (the first in the UK). I stayed on until the first stop into Gullane and then walked back to the 1st tee of the Gullane #1 Golf Course. Having played the course once before I know that walk up the 1st fairway to the top of that huge dune (normally into the teeth of the prevailing wind, as per today) can be a really long one.

Since it was still fairly early I decided that I had time to walk down to the Gullane Bents, a sweeping Blue Flag beach only 5 or 10 minutes north of Gullane Main Street. It's a stunning beach with spectacular views both from the overlooking high green and along the beach itself.

Heading back into the town centre I went looking for lunch, and in particular The Old Clubhouse. This is set just off the main road, facing a small car park and some practice ground for the many golfers.

The name gives away its original use, that of clubhouse for the historic Gullane Golf Club, but the Club moved out in 1927, with the building being converted into its present day hostery from 1989 onwards. Obviously there are a lot of reminders of this heritage scattered throughout, with small snugs also available at the front to watch the golf.

The large main room comprises the long bar, with seats at the sides, in the centre of the room and at the windows, and another, more formal dining room further in and to the right-hand-side of the building. There is *a lot* of golfing memorabilia (old black-&-white photos, clubs, balls) and other bric-a-brac (caricatures of Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Brothers, water jugs, radios, stuffed owls & ducks, box-brownie cameras, bottles, clocks, books, etc..) scattered around the place - thankfully it's just about spacious enough space to accommodate all of this without looking cramped. The wooden bar has a nice array of shiny fonts, with both keg and cask beers, today Knops Musselburgh Broke, Deuchars IPA, Taylor's Landlod and Thistly Cross Cider. I took a pint of Musselburugh Broke (quite a smoky, 80/- style dark ale), ordered my lunch and managed to get one of the last seats close to the front windows.

And it was busy. I got in just before 12noon and even then there were quite a few people in drinking coffee & tea and bagging the best seats, and then by 12:30pm it was packed out (both the bar & the restaurant). I can't often remember seeing so many people come into a place in such a short period of time and that included day trippers, golfers and groups of walkers (with a lot of dogs). Even with so many people around my Fish Finger Sandwich came in good time and was great - a crunchy batter and full of thick fish, with the chips absolutely superb.

It's all very relaxing, traditional and homely, so what in the world made them decorate the Gents like this I have no idea (this is a very rare toilet photo) - flaming golf balls anyone !

As I headed back to Gullane Main Street I noticed an interesting shop (with associated old-style delivery truck). This was for the Falko Kaffeehaus, an authentic German Coffeeshop and Konditormeister (or Master Confectioner); there's also one at Bruntsfield in Edinburgh. I took a closer look at the truck (immaculate) and inside the Kaffeehaus - it too was packed for lunch, and it had a pretty good selection of German bottled beer, but a quite incredible selection of German cakes and pastries. I'm not a huge Black Forest Gateaux fan but I'd have to admit that these looked amazing (or Ausgezeichnet!).

Further along the High Street is an impressive building, which I eventually noticed was the Scottish Fire Service Training College. However it seems this is due to be shut down, but hopefully they'll find some other use for the building (although I'm guessing luxury apartments are a likely possibility).

From here I left Gullane and walked along the busy A198 main road for a bit. This took me to a sign-posted path for the John Muir Way which led between a number of fields and to the start of the Archerfield House estate. I then had to double-back a bit along the main access road, but it wasn't too far (at all) before I came to the entrance for the Archerfield Walled Garden. There were a few balloons tied-up to the signposts and the gates to distinguish the Birthday celebrations, but nothing that ostentatious, and looking through the gates it was easy to spot the low-slung buildings of the shop, restaurant and brewery as well as the outside kids play area.

In the centre area of the buildings there is a large open-plan restaurant/bistro (again, really busy today), with a well-stocked shop/deli taking most of the right-hand side. It was good to see a number of displays for their own Archerfield Fine Ales given a prominent position in the deli.

On the left of the restaurant is the long flowing main bar, full of light wood and brightly lit from the brass downlighters, with seats at the bar and a number of tables and chairs opposite. It's a really nice bar, I just wish they could been a bit more explicit about what was available to drink - I had to search for the taps (set behind the bar) and the small pump-clip labels that were above them really didn't give much of a clue (to the non-beer geek) about what to expect from the beers. It's your own beers guys, be proud of them!

Today they had all the Archerfield Fine Ales on tap (IPA, Dark & Golden), with WEST St Mungo available as well, so I took a pint of the Golden Ale (way better than on bottle, some nice light lemon citrus bitterness and a bit of life & body) and asked the barman (when he had a moment) to see if head brewer Mr Bob Knops was around.

And thankfully he was. Bob was in the brewery today for (mostly) cleaning & setup purposes and was more than happy to show me about (as always, beer people are great). First impressions as I entered were that the brewery was really quite well laid out - there was a lot of space between the pieces of shiny kit and it all seemed to flow really well from the front observation windows to the casks at the loading bay and far door. Bob mentioned he has been limited with respect to the kit he can use, the brewery can't be any higher than the walls around the Archerfield Walled Garden which means tall and narrow are mostly out. He uses an ~12bbl kit from S.Im.A.T.eC in Italy, designed by Davide Zingarelli who has a couple of microbreweries/brewpubs in 'La Bel Paese' (see SorA’laMa’ Brewery, some 'interesting' beer names there). First of all is the combined steam powered mash-tun/copper/whirlpool, with recipes programmed from a control panel, which then feeds a small hop-back for (predominately) aroma purposes.

In tandem with this there's a large filtration unit, as wide as possible to extract the spent and/or unused solids...

... which then leads to a large Heat Exchanger. This isn't operating quite operating as efficiently as it should be so Bob's (reluctantly) going to have to disassemble this with his own fair hands. At the moment there's only one dedicated Fermenting Vessel...

... and one dual use fermenting/bright-beer vessel (although a couple more are set to be 'plumbed' in soon) which has limited the number of times he can brew a week (really only once or twice). However there are a number of Conditioning Tanks in which the beer can stay for a number of weeks before being either racked-off or bottled.

There's also a really impressive, fully automated 8-head bottling and labelling line, which is needed for the in-house deli/shop and for the large number of outlets in-and-around Edinburgh. From talking to Bob there's no doubt that they (he and his assistant Keith) have faced a number of challenges in the 1st working year of the brewery, both in the operation of the brewing kit and the smooth running of the bottling line, which has resulted in a lot of 12-18 hour days, 7 days a week, but he now thinks they're over the worst and can start planning some interesting and new things. First amongst these is a couple of barrel aged beers - one of these has Musselburgh Broke in it, the other the fabulous Black Cork, and they are due to age for a couple more months before (hopefully) being decanted into a limited number of elegant bottles.

A couple of other possibilities he's mulling over are using the British hops which are growing like wildfire in the actual Archerfield garden, and also the long fabled Cock Ale recipe (no - I won't believe it either unless I see/taste it). It might be that some of these will be trialled in the old pilot kit (made out of spent casks) hidden away in a corner of the brewery.

It was great talking to Bob and seeing how proud he is of his own brewery and I left him planning the 1st Birthday Open Day on the Sunday. Heading out from Archerfield I rejoined the John Muir Way and followed this into the nearby village of Dirleton. The John Muir Way forks off to the coast here but I kept straight on until I could glimpse Dirleton Castle and Gardens in front of the well looked after village green.

Also with great views over the green and to the castle is the nearby hostelry of the Castle Inn, a coaching inn in its previous life and dating back to the 1800's.

It's setup to be very much a food-led place, with a bistro are on the left (complete with exposed brickwork and centre fireplace) and a restaurant further into the back, but there's also a nice dark wood bar, an incredibly precise geometrical array of champagne & whisky bottles set out on shelves behind the bar, with some stools and quite a few tables situated in front and to the right of the bar. On hand-pull were the ubiquitous Deuchars IPA and also Caley's latest seasonal, Port of Leith, so I took a pint of that (OK, but there needed to be way more hops in it) and went to sit at one of the tables in front of the bar to relax and read the papers for a bit.

If I had taken the John Muir Way along the coast there would have been quite a few interesting features to view, but instead I decided to save time and head straight along the flat, straight main road and into North Berwick. On the outskirts of the town are a lot of large houses, some of which have been converted into small hotels and B&Bs, and one of these is the Nether Abbey Hotel.

The original building contains the hotel lobby, lounge and all the accommodation, whereas the Fly Half Bar & Grill extension contains the main bar and the majority of the seating (both inside and outside).

And what a bar it is. Seriously long and marble topped, a huge mirror behind, lots of colour-coded wine bottles in racks and on the shelves, and bright downlighters highlighting the 2 sets of shiny metal fonts (with a grand total of 14 in all). They actively try to support & promote local breweries with Alechemy, Tempest, Knops, Williams Brothers and Thistly Cross (OK, it's a Cidery) on today, and I was more than happy to take a pint of light, citrusy Alechemy Starlaw to quench my thirst.

It can certainly hold a good number of people - there are plenty of stools in front of the bar and a large number of tables in the extension itself. At this time of day Scottish tapas (chips, chorizo, olives, cheese board, scotch eggs etc...) was the main food being ordered (really just to graze on), but they also do lunches, a la carte meals and a whole hog roast if you can get enough like-minded people together. I would have been quite happy to stay for a while, but I needed to set off on a bit of a trek through the winding streets of North Berwick and into the centre of town to get to The Ship Inn.

I quite liked the bustling feel of the place, a long dark-wooden bar at the right, plenty of standing space in front of the bar, and a lot of tables & chairs at the far side. There are more seats further back, out in the beer garden and under the canopy at the front. As well as the array of keg fonts there are 3 hand-pulls, with only 2 on today, dispensing Kelburn Jaguar (a fair distance from home) and Broughton Jeddart Justice, a couple of more than decent beers.

I really had to almost speed-walk back to the train station, but I had just about enough time to drop into one of the local off-licences, Lockett Bros. What caught my attention was the full range of Elixir Brew Co. beers in the window, and anyone who stocks these must know a thing or 2 about good beer. Here I was able to get some Baird Brewing beers and (according to the World Beer Awards) the world's best stout, Minoh Beer Imperial Stout - I guess we shall see.

I just didn't have enough time in North Berwick (I didn't even manage to climb North Berwick Law or get some decent pictures of the Bass Rock), so I'm hoping it won't be too long before I can make a return journey to this part of the East Lothian coast.

Return travel:-
 Train: North Berwick to Edinburgh Waverley (21, 50 on the hour)
 Train: Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen St.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

An energising walk from Fairlie to Ardrossan: 15th March 2014

Last year I'd walked south from the Ardrossan Accies RFC Beer Festival, this year I decided I was going to walk south to their Beer Festival. This would involve starting at Fairlie, hopefully passing a few interesting structures on the way, stopping for a bite of lunch at Seamill, before reaching the Beer Festival mid-afternoon (weather permitting, of course).

View Seamill in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Fairlie (48 on the hour)

It was a bit of a dreich mizzly day when I set off from Fairlie train station, certainly there was no sign of the Isle of Arran making an appearance across the Firth of Clyde. The path alongside the busy A78 took me across the Clydeport Hunterston roundabout and then to a signposted path for the Ayrshire Coastal Path almost underneath the Hunterston Ore Terminal conveyer belt.

This path eventually connected me onto the service road to the Hunterston Power Station complex. There's a Test Centre for offshore wind turbines here; as always I'm always amazed at the sheer size of these things.

But this paled into insignificance compared to the size of Hunterston B Nuclear Power Station which slowly came into view, but then (irrespective of your views on nuclear power), it does currently provide over 25% of all the electricity that Scotland generates. I'd somehow thought that a nuclear power station was going to be quiet, but there was a noisy, echoing and almost eerie whine from the turbines (I assume) which are used to convert the heated steam into electricity.

EDF Engergy provides tours at Hunterston B, but they need 2 weeks notice (for security checking), but I'd hoped the Visitor Centre outside the main plant was going to be open. However the place was definitely closed, and when I checked at the security gate, a formal tour of the facility had just started (probably from the party off the UlsterBus parked outside). That was a bit of a pain (I should really have phoned beforehand), but I guess they don't get too many drop-by tourists at the weekends.

I rejoined the road south which took me past Hunterston A Power Station (currently being decommissioned) and a number of high-tech office buildings until it petered out to a muddy path hugging the shoreline. The cliffs here facing the sea are known as The Three Sisters and are really quite high & somewhat intimidating.

Further on the path become more stony & well-defined and here I came to a small harbour with views across to the ancient fortress of Portencross Castle. I was able to access the Castle and the spit of land it sits on through a path between a couple of cottages, but the doors to the areas inside the Castle were locked shut (it's due to re-open in early April) which meant I couldn't get to experience what must be great views across the Clyde to the Island of Cumbrae and further beyond.

I then followed a narrow road which turned the corner of the peninsula until I came across a helpful signpost to 'The Shore'. This marks the very far end of the renowned West Kilbride Golf Course and the path extends past a number of holes of this links course (beware the cry of Fore!, a couple of wayward drives went pretty close to me).

The beach goes on for quite a distance and there are a number fairly elegant baronial-type dwellings which overlook it. A mile or so past the start/end of the golf course I came to the private entrance for the Seamill Hydro Resort.

This took me through the secluded gardens (looking very green, unsurprisingly after all the rain) and to one of the many entrances of the hotel/resort. Here I was able to follow a number of well marked directions until I came to the Aura Lounge Bar, one of 2 restaurants at the Seamill Hydro (the Orangery is the more formal one, but with my muddy boots and sodden balaclava I didn't think I had much chance in getting in there today).

It's a pretty impressive hotel bar - a large central rectangular bar with twinkly hanging lights set from the ornate ceiling & lots of sparkling glasses, lots of high bar stools, a number of columns set to the ceiling, tables on the floor area in front of the bar and a raised area with more tables & seats at the windows. Interesting enough it got quite a bit darker the further out from the bar I went. It definitely has all the ambience of classy hotel piano bar, complete with jazzy background muzak, but since it is still the West of Scotland, the early football game was being shown on the large-screen TVs (and not the 6-Nations Rugby, hmmm...).

There were 2 sets of identical keg taps with (to be honest) a pretty disappointing selection of beer, but thankfully WEST St Mungo was present (and being well promoted), and there were also bottles of Innis & Gunn available in the fridge.

I ordered a pint of St Mungo, looked at the menu and then deliberated on which of the 2 'Build-a-Burger' choices to have. These were the winning entries from a recent competition to 'design' a burger, with the 2 winners fighting it out for a month on the Aura menu and the winner (i.e. the most ordered) being kept on the menu for a year (and the designer allowed to have free burgers for the duration - not a bad prize!). The choice was between a Spicy Haggis Burger (including Pepper Sauce) and a Pepperoni Pizza Burger, and since I'd tried a variation on a Haggis Burger before, I decided that the Pepperoni Pizza Burger had to be tried. When it came it certainly did look the part - a full-on tomato pizza sauce between the bread & the burger, a topping of pepperoni & melted cheese and some really great fries. It tasted absolutely great, albeit that pepperoni did swamp the taste of the burger somewhat, but it was certainly something different to try.

It was a bit of an expensive lunch, but it's a nice, classy, modern place (and it's still privately owned, with a recent £4Million investment), the staff were great (there are supposedly 180 employed at the Hydro), and lunch was a bit out-of-the-ordinary so I was glad I stopped there. I headed out through the main entrance of the Hydro and onto the A78 main road heading to Ardrossan. Only a about a mile further on I came to The Waterside, a place which has gone through a number of changes in the recent past, but which has now settled down as a restaurant specialising (mostly) in fish.

The car park was mobbed, and as I went in I heard that there was a wait of ~30 minutes for food, but since I was only in for a beer I wasn't too concerned about that. What I was concerned about though, was the beer choice, and it seemed for a moment that I was going to be forced to have a pint of (authentic Belgian!?) Heverlee or just leave (I wasn't sure which), but then I spotted some bottles of Arran Brewery's Guid Ale in the very bottom of the fridge. This is probably one of Arran's better beers nowadays, a decent bitter session ale, with more flavour than its 3.8% abv would possibly suggest.

Since it was so busy I had to take a seat at the long bench table in front of the kitchen, but that was quite OK. All the fish signs & decor and the staff in full flow kept me occupied. It was quite amazing to see the amount of Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas being sent out from the kitchen and the size of the portions would have been enough to keep almost anyone happy.

And if you wanted something different then you could always make a choice from the fish counter in front of the kitchen (although there wasn't too much left at this time in the afternoon).

There is also a terrace extending out to the rear & left side of the building which would be great in the summer and it seems they will be further extending to provide accommodation at the right side - it definitely seems to be a successful place (or plaice!). As I left The Waterside I thought about waiting for the frequent 585 bus from just along the road straight into Ardrossan, but since the wind was pushing me in (vaguely) the right direction I decided to steel myself and head on further down the coast. I passed a Garden Centre/Italian Bistro Restaurant (The Rowan Tree)and then carried on at the Three Town Bypass roundabout into Ardrossan itself. Since I had been denied my high-up views over the Clyde at Portencross I decided on a slight detour to Cannon Hill, the site of Ardrossan Castle. Unfortunately it seems the Castle has fallen into ruin (with I'm guessing, no money for it's upkeep) and so the whole site has been completely fenced off. This was the closest I could get to it (with the camera held just over the fence) and there was no way to get to the subterranean vaults (named Wallace's Larder).

However the hill did give me great views in almost all direction (this was the view south along the beach into Saltcoats and beyond)...

...and there was an interesting needle-type Memorial to local physician Dr Alexander McFadzean who is credited in helping to bring street lighting as well as water & gas to every house in Victorian-era Ardrossan.

I left Cannon Hill by its southerly exit, walked past a playground and then across a railway bridge to South Crescent Road. At the Lauriston Hotel I turned back inland and then it was only a short walk to the Ardrossan Accies RFC Clubhouse.

It was £3 to get in, which I happily paid, but in my rush to get to the bar and watch the Scotland rugby game I managed to leave my wallet at the entrance. I didn't realise this for about 40 minutes, but then went through the 'normal' state of panic when I had to purchase some more beer tokens. Thankfully my wallet had been put away into the kitchen for safekeeping by the honest Accies folk - many thanks indeed for this ! At the bar there were 12 casks setup on gravity with beers available from Loch Ness, Windswept, Atom, Houston, Strathaven, Isle of Skye, Alechemy, Fallen and Atlas (Orkney) which had been obtained via The Village Inn at Fairlie (with a number supplied from the AleselA people). I was hoping that Alechemy's 10 Storey Malt Bomb was going to be as Over-The-Top malty & sweet as the couple of pints I'd had earlier in the year, but it was definitely a bit muted, however their Starlaw was great and (slightly to my surprise) I also liked Isle of Skye's Young Pretender a lot - both lovely citrusy golden ales.

It was also good to meet up with a couple of the Ayrshire CAMRA guys and swap beer chat. It seems Houston Brewery has been rescued from the brink after founder Carl Wengel's departure last year, and it was also useful to learn about a few more local outlets such as the Saracens Head in Beith and the forthcoming JD Wetherspoon pub in Irvine's Rivergate Centre (name still TBD). As always this is worth knowing for future visits down Ayrshire way.

Return travel:-
  Train: Ardrossan South Beach to Glasgow Central (11 & 41 on the hour)

Friday, 7 March 2014

BrewDog Presents... at the SWG3 and into Finnieston: 1st March 2014

So here was something a little bit different to look forward to this weekend. BrewDog had decided to organise a Beer/Whisk(e)y/Music event out in the wilds of the SWG3 Warehouse in Glasgow - an arts/music place situated between Partick and Finnieston. This would involve beer (kegged of course), a number of meet-the-brewer events (Tempest, Beavertown, Magic Rock, Brew-by-Numbers and BrewDog themselves were all involved) and some kickin' street food in the afternoon, and then an evening of beer & live indie music until the small hours. It's a combination that BrewDog seem to be using to great effect in their bars, at Brew at the Bog and at their Equity Punk AGMs. Anyway I decided it was definitely going to be worthwhile to head out to the afternoon event (I'm way, way too ancient for the evening gigs) and this would also give me that opportunity to visit a few pubs in Finnieston on the way back into Glasgow city centre.

View SWG3 in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows :-
  Train: Partick Station (low-level train or subway)

The SWG3 is a bit of a strange place to get to; the optimal (but somewhat illegal) solution would be to stop a low-level train about mid-way between between Partick and Charing Cross, but instead I decided to leave Partick Station by its south exit, cross over the Clydeside Expressway by the Harbour Bridge and then set off back east towards the City Centre. This led me over the River Kelvin and to the site of the hyper-modern, zinc-clad Riverside Museum, housing the exhibits from the former Transport and Travel Museum and also the berth for the Tall Ship Glenlee.

It's definitely worth a visit if you have a day (or at least a good few hours) to spare, but I didn't, so I carried on (passing a good number of conscientious joggers & cyclists) until the Glasgow Tower and the Science Centre came into view across the Clyde; The Waverley paddle steamer is moored here for the winter months.

I then re-crossed the Expressway by a spiralling footbridge which led me down to the entrance of Eastvale Place. Here, situated under the long sweep of the railway arches, are a number of small businesses - antique shops, picture framers, photographers, design houses and a motorcycle parts/repair business; it's like a (very, very, very) much smaller version of Hackney and the other London Boroughs.

The SWG3 Warehouse is at the very end of Eastvale Place (it's a complete dead end), with its name writ large at the top of the building for everyone on the frequent trains to notice and wonder about.

I was one of the first to arrive, and after a bit of a wait we were allowed in to the main SWG3 building. This is spread-out only on the ground floor (at least today anyway) and was split into 3 main areas - a foyer & seating area with a small bar (not really needed or operational today)...

... a small stage for bands (look at that model train located on high where the dry ice comes from, nice)...

... and the main large floor space where the temporary bar was being set-up by the hard working BrewDog staff.

Also in this larger space were a T-shirt vendor, the Bourbon Whisk(e)y stand (selling different Buffalo Trace varieties) and a few guys doing some interesting wall art (which evolved to completion as the afternoon wore on).

Actually another section of the building was being used - the covered corridor leading to the motorcycle spares/repair business further on into the warehouse. Here the 'Street Food Cartel' people of So la ti dough had set-up a couple of benches and their transportable wood fired pizza oven (shades of Camden Town Brewery's Tap on a Friday evening here) - I had the spicy pepperoni pizza and it was pretty damn good.

So beer wise, what was happening ? On the dozen or so keg taps there were normally 2 sets of brewer's beer ongoing at any one time - the actual beers corresponded to the timing for the 'meet-the-brewer' talks that were happening. So with BrewDog @ 1pm, Tempest @ 2pm, Magic Rock @ 3pm, Brew-by-Numbers @ 4pm & Beavertown @ 5pm, this meant that initially BrewDog and Tempest beers were available and then the switch from BrewDog to Magic Rock started at ~2:30pm, from Tempest to Brew-by-Numbers at ~3:30pm etc... (though a couple of the BrewDog staples, Punk IPA & Dead Pony Club in particular) stayed on most/all of the time, fair enough I guess). This forced the staff to change kegs and clear the lines every hour, not easy at all, and it was quite impressive to see them go through the entire process (there was quite a lot of frothy beer overspill about when this happened). To give an indication of what was available this was the beer board when Magic Rock and Brew-By-Numbers were both on.

And so onto the meet-the-brewers talks. These guys were available pretty well all afternoon and quite willing to be plied with beer for an informal discussion on any matter beer related, but there was a more formal stand-up talk and Q&A for 15-20 minutes in the side room with the small stage. I missed the BrewDog one, but Gavin Meiklejohn, the owner & brewer from Tempest, gave a great talk on (amongst a whole load of subjects) his previous life as a Chef, the current state of the Tempest brewery in particular the length of a brewday (12 hours+) & moving into a new brewery later on in the year, the use of Seville oranges in the latest variant of Marmalade on Toast (absolutely superb, with a more pithy deep orange flavour) and how he puts the 'craft' in his beer (quality ingredients and a seriously hands-on approach).

Head Brewer Stuart Ross from Magic Rock came complete with beard (but no clown outfit), and mentioned his previous brewing experiences (Kelham Island & Acorn), how the brewery name & distinctive label artwork came to happen, that Magic Rock will soon be moving from Quarmby to new premises near the centre of Huddersfield (with extensive Brewery Tap), how happy he was with the gose-style Salty Kiss (pictured in hand) and how they will be trying to get more bottled beer available this year (hooray!). Stuart had brought 2 new beers with him - a hopped up Brown Ale called The Stooge and also Slapstick, a seriously dense & tangy wheat beer - lovely stuff.

And I just managed to catch Steve Gray, the new recruit at Brew-By-Numbers, as he explained the coded 2 tier numbering system that they use (the 1st number gives the style - 01 Saison, 02 Golden, 03 Porter, 04 Berliner Weisse, 05 IPA, 06 Belgian, 07 Wit, 08 Stout, 09 Brown Ale, 10 Coffee Porter, 11 Session IPA, 13 Brett, 99 Experimental; with the 2nd number being the recipe variant), how they had built their main brewery fermenters from fruit & dairy tanks (interestingly Strathaven Ales have done something similar) and the use of their pilot brewery which he is hoping to monopolise. I managed a couple of their beers, the 05/05 IPA Simcoe Chinook and the 01/08 Saison Wai-Iti & Lemon, the latter of which allowed the lemon to shine through the saison spiciness and was extremely good (probably the best beer of the day). These were expensive at £3.50 a half, but well worth it.

I left the SWG3 building at ~4:30pm when it was probably at its busiest (without seeing the Beavertown guys, hopefully I'll rectify that sometime soon or certainly when I'm next in East London later on in the year). The BrewDog Presents... event had a ticket limit of 300 and was fully sold out in the afternoon, but it didn't feel too crowded and the only time the bar got *that* busy was when the meet-the-brewer talks finished. I really enjoyed it - there was a diverse range of people to chat along to (mostly about beer) and it was good to see @TheBeerCast Rich again, there were new & interesting beers to drink, and I learnt quite a lot from the meet-the-brewer talks, so here's hoping BrewDog Presents... becomes an annual event.

On the way out I walked past all the (now closed) railway arches on Eastvale Place and then into Kelvinhaugh Street. There's a lot of residential developments going on here, but just before the Argyll Street junction is The 78 (named after the old-style HMV-78 rpm record player they have, I believe).

It's been around since 2007 and is one of Glasgow's few fully Vegan/Vegetarian food establishments, offering a seriously tasty lunch & then evening menu between 12:30pm until 9pm. They also provide vegan & organic beers from Sam Smiths, Black Isle and Williams Brothers, with cask Williams Brothers beers (they use a vegan friendly fining) also available. In days gone by there used to be 2 of these on hand-pull, but nowadays there is normally only 1, today Williams 80/- (a nice sweet Heavy, but perhaps needing a bit more body).

It's very much a stripped down place - a number of wooden tables & benches on the left hand side & in the middle, with some sofas on the right in front of a roaring fire (and that 78 player & a selection of associated records) but it makes a welcome change from some of the more 'commercial' places on nearby Argyll Street. This also applies to the the nearby Ben Nevis, just around the corner on Argyll Street proper.

It's always a great friendly place for a chat with the staff or the regulars, but today with just Deuchars IPA available (and WEST Steam Beer on keg) I decided that a quick half was all that I wanted.

Heading back east along Argyll Street I came across The Finnieston, a newish seafood restaurant/bar (opened in 2011) that I'd never been into before, so I decided it was worth a try (OK, and I'm a sucker for anchor murals on outside walls).

The bar area does have a number of high stools in front of the main bar and at the windows, and there's a couple of tucked-away nooks & crannies at the back, but the main area at the right is for the consumption of seafood specialities (including oysters done correctly). From a drinks point-of-view their main expertise is in cocktails but there was a decent selection of kegged beer on the fonts including Williams Ceilidh, WEST 4 and Sam Smith's Extra Stout (in place of any Guinness). I took a 1/2 of the Extra Stout and it certainly came in an interesting glass (to say the least). I'm assuming this is a Hi-Ball cocktail glass, but the barman assured me it was 1/2 a pint.

Almost directly opposite on the other side of Argyll Street is another relatively new place, the goth-coloured, black-on-dark-blue with tinted windows premises of Rockus.

This used to be The Pourhouse but has undergone a full-on long-haired, spandex-trousered rock/indie-music transformation with live music, open-mic nights, a free Wurlitzer-style juke-box, abstract murals and US diner food (burgers, wings etc...). For those of the Metal persuasion there are even bottles of Robinson's Iron Maiden Trooper beer in the fridge (although it isn't very good IMHO, a chilled Fyne Ales Jarl would be a far better choice).

And speaking of Fyne Ales these were an interesting find on the bar counter - seriously cool designer Fyne Ales keg fonts with Hurricane Jack and Zombier available.

I took a 1/2 of the Hurricane Jack (really good on keg, the fizz helps lift the very dry citrus) and watched the AC/DC-themed pinball machine flash its alluring lights at me. All told I'd certainly rather go here for beer, food & music rather than the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe in the centre of Glasgow (although, to-be-fair, they do serve somewhat different markets).

On leaving Rockus I decided that it made sense to give the almost twinned Lebowskis & The Brass Monkey a miss and so headed along Kent Road towards North Street and the incessant droning rumble of traffic from the M8. Here I came to magnificent splendour that is the Mitchell Library. The main entrance with its distinctive copper dome is on North Street facing the motorway and the city centre...

... but I actually prefer the opposite side of the building, with its pillars, statues and lamp-lights.

Taking a look inside the Mitchell Library after (quite) a few beers probably wasn't going to be a good idea (especially close to the 5pm closing time) but I thought I might be able go into the Avalon, on the south side of the Mitchell Library, to see if any of the advertised 'Real Ales' were available. However for some reason it was well and truly closed (although it was definitely open a couple of weeks ago, admittedly with only Belhaven IPA on hand-pull).

This meant I could head into the sanctuary that is the Bon Accord, situated on North Street (next to the West of Scotland Harley Davidson shop).

It's still one of my all-time favourite pubs in Glasgow (and also in Scotland) but today after a fair few beers (and at this time of the day) I wasn't going to be able to take enough good photos to do it justice; that will have to wait for another day (hopefully when the owner Paul McDonagh gives me the Cellar Tour). Suffice to say that there are always 10 beers from all over the UK on, all in great condition (and all at the same price, regardless of abv), so that wherever you stand (or sit), at the long bar, the seats at the front, or the tables at the back, you can be assured of a warm welcome to go with your great beer or wee dram.

Return travel:-
  Train: Charing Cross (low-level)