On my way back south, I called in to a couple of GBG pubs by Glasgow Central Station. One, the Toby Jug is an old favourite. I used to work for another pub in the same group when it was owned by Eadie Cairns, who then owned Auchentoshan Distillery and a few pubs too. Goodness knows who owns it now. Or the distillery for that matter. It has sold cask as long as I can remember, though there may have been gaps I don't know about. Three beers on offer - the ubiquitous Landlord and two from Arran Brewery, Dark and Fireside. The Dark was pleasant and inoffensive, while the Fireside, promising ginger within, delivered on the nose, but less in the taste. It was decent enough and I learned from a customer that Arran Brewery, which went bust and has been relaunched, is either relocating, or has relocated from the island to Glasgow. Another interesting feature of the pub was the price list that grouped draught beers into "CO2" beers, "mixed gas beers" and "lagers". An odd thing I thought.
A pub I haven't been in before and will think twice about before visiting again, is the Drum and Monkey in St Vincent St. It is a nice place, reminiscent of a Gentleman's Club, with three cask beers on. It is Cask Marque listed if you like to know that sort of thing. I dismissed Caley 80/- and Deuchars IPA out of hand, but the third wicket dispensed Morrisey Fox Blond, so I plumped for that. The unsmiling barmaid and I got off on the wrong foot straight away. Standing where I was, I noticed all three swan necks were devoid of sparkler, but a sparkler was sitting on a drip tray. "Aha" I surmised. "You have to ask for it." So I did. The Goth like barmaid demurred. "It will be fine without it" says she. "Maybe" says I "but it is my personal preference to have it sparkled, so please do so." She did so huffily and managed the whole of the rest of the transaction without speaking. I watched the scene. There were three young women running the bar. There was about ten customers, including three at the bar. The staff seemed pre-occupied by rearranging the furniture, talking amongst themselves and consulting sheets of information of some kind. Customers came a poor second. I was served by a different barmaid for my second pint. She seemed to be in charge and immediately got the sparkler and said "You prefer a sparkler. Right?" I agreed and tried to engage her in conversation about the beer. I was batted aside with a Jean Brodie like indifference and the lass retreated to her chums at the bottom end of the bar, where, like the witches of Macbeth, they huddled together. A ginger haired guy at the bar tried to chat to the apparent boss woman too, but got nowhere. He had no doubt observed my attempts, so we were united in our need for that touch of human contact that the lone drinker hopes for in a pub visit. Our eyes locked and we shrugged - beaten!
You read about pubs being in difficulty and it is annoying to find a decent looking boozer run so coldly in such bad economic times. I have to say it is most unusual in Glasgow, where the welcome is usually warm. So who owns this place? Well, oddly it is Nicolsons, who mainly run pubs in London. I didn't know they had any elsewhere. Their web site says"The fundamentals of success for Nicholson’s remain constant; providing timeless hospitality to customers".Not in the Drum and Monkey on my visit they didn't!Anyway what about the Morrisey Fox? God knows where this version was brewed, but it was very good indeed, with a good balance of malt and hop, though perhaps a tad too sweet. I'd drink it again happily, but in a cheerier pub please!
As a footnote, on the way home I called in with Graham to the Angel in Manchester. I have mentioned the wonderful welcome and service here before. There were only two lasses running that pub, but they couldn't have been more warm and welcoming. It seemed to come naturally to them. Maybe that's the secret?
The second photo shows the ice covered lager founts in the Drum and Monkey. Never seen ice that thick on a beer fount before!
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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