Saturday, 29 November 2008

Ice Cold in Glasgow


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!

27 comments:

Tyson said...

The war for compulsory sparklers goes on!

Tandleman said...

Default yes. Compulsory no! (-;

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

Your article really pissed me off! Who in the &^%$ do these people think they are! If I were you, I'd contact the head of that particular pub chain and let them have it. Years ago I had a problem with a barmaid in a West Coast brewpub. I asked her how strong their Russian Imperial Stout was. She replied, "Sir, just because it's dark, doesn't necessarily mean it's strong." Well, the next day on the way to work I stopped in and talked to the brewer. The Russian Imperial Stout was 8.5% abv. I would consider that pretty strong. I mentioned to him that he has a dumb bitch serving his beers. He apparently spoke to her and printed out tasting notes and abv. for all his beers, so staff don't make fools of themselves.

Here's a pic of two pints that have been sparkled. My Landlord clone. Yes, off the hook!

http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z74/Whorst/2pintslandlord.jpg

Jeff Frane said...

I'm glad we missed those pubs. A pity you weren't with me last night at The Green Dragon here in town. I took my son out for a pint and a sandwich, meeting up with some of his friends. The waitress was everything your bartenders were not, and well-rounded into the bargain.

Tandleman said...

Jeff. Sounds good to me. You know how I like a well rounded barmaid!

Paul Garrard said...

The war for banning sparklers goes on!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Default no, available yes.

Jeffrey said...

I'd love to hear the other side of this story you're telling! Your references to "witches of MacBeth" and comments like "you know how I like a well rounded barmaid" would lead some to suspect you may not be blameless in your frequent battles with pub staff.

I have a barmaid who would cure you of your problems in one short session. Either that, or you'd run out the door and never go in a pub again!

Rednev said...

Perhaps they were Anglophobes and assumed you were a Sassenach, seeing that your accent has been smoothed off by more than 25 years of living in England.

It's possible, but whatever the reaon, such behaviour is unacceptable. We had a similar problem here in Southport where a licensee had three daughters, all very attractive but two with major attitude problems. We never saw the boss and the running of the pub was left to these three. Within a couple of months, a large busy pub had become almost deserted. The current licensee is still trying to rectify the damage.

Jeffrey said...

Those ice covered fonts are hilarious, by the way. An emblem of the folly of "extra cold" lagers.

Jeff Frane said...

It's funny, but here in the States, "ice-cold" is how most beer is advertised, especially in package stores but I've never seen taps like that in the States nor have I seen digital thermometers over the bar, registering how close the beer is to freezing.

Since little of the UK is in the Tropics, I don't get why frozen beer should be so popular.

Tandleman said...

Jeffrey

What frequent battles might they be then? Please elaborate.There was no battle in Glasgow, rather a feeling that my custom and my attempts to chat were an intrusion on whatever it is the bar staff supposed they were there for. I didn't confront anyone, far less battle with them. I merely reported what I saw and encountered. I often praise good staff - comment on that!

In your cheery beery world, perhaps such things should not be remarked upon, but in my world where I can choose where to drink, based on customer experience they are important.

I rather doubt that you actually believe that all things are sweetness and light in pubs.That you choose not to remark on bad service is up to you, but I will continue to speak as I find. There is no the side to the story. I am impeccably polite to bar staff, but I don't forget I am the customer. Nor should they.

I rather think I'd like the feisty barmaid you describe but then again, recalling your put down to Paul Garrard who also had the temerity to complain about bar staff attitudes, I can't regard you as a credible witness.

You live it seems in a rarefied world. Get out more!

Jeffrey said...

What a tirade! I've no desire to expand on my comments, to be honest. You seem to have done that for me!

paul said...

I don't understand.What is Jeffrey objecting to?If he runs a pub he's unlikely to be very open to criticism of bar staff.

footyphil said...

stonch is a southern plonker.carry on calling it as you see it.

Jeffrey said...

OK.

My "problem" is as follows. I once went for a couple of drinks with the author of this blog and he was a little bit brusque (nothing major) with a perfectly pleasant barmaid for an inconsequential reason (it had something to do with pouring a pint and was so minor it didn't warrant any comment). She looked daggers at him. I understood why.

Due to that I don't consider him a "credible witness" (to use the expression he deployed against me) when criticising bar staff. Also, if you read back through this blog you'll find numerous instances where he's found cause to gripe about staff. As this rarely happens to me or people I know, I can only surmise he's a bit of a mardy customer.

I didn't really want to say that but as he was so aggressive in his response to my jokey comments, and I write under my real name as opposed to a pseudonym, I feel I have to defend myself!

That's what happens, Tandleman, when you insist on calling people out on brief and flippant comments! If you're as thick skinned as you claim to be you surely won't object to me "calling it as I see it" and "mentioning specifics", and we won't fall out! I hope we don't, bar staff incidents notwithstanding you're very agreeable in person.

Tandleman said...

Well let's start from the end. I certainly won't be falling out with you over this either Jeff. Please do call it as you see it, here and elsewhere. I don't mind at all. But in my own defence, I did wonder if you have the right of it and that I frequently fall out with bar staff. That would indeed be worrying (behaviourally) as would be condemning myself through my own keyboard.

I have checked my blog back to the beginning of the year and can find only 3 instances where I mention anything adverse about bar staff. On the other hand I praise staff no fewer than 18 times. (It is probably more, but I have been conservative and excludes my local.)On none of the 3 occasions did I have words with the bar staff.

The ones I can find were the miserable Czech lass when I was with Tyson in Huddersfield, the Fringe Bar problem (19/9)when I was there but not party to a discussion about undrinkable beer and on 18/7 when I remarked (not to them) that the staff were happier chatting amongst themselves. Going back a bit further I did have polite words with a JDW barmaid (see post 6/12/07)over a voucher validity, but read it and see if you'd have done differently.

In summary, though I admit I can't recall what the concern was when I was out with you,I plead "Not Guilty" to your statement "Also, if you read back through this blog you'll find numerous instances where he's found cause to gripe about staff". Oh and "Not Guilty" to I am a "mardy" customer.

Anyway, it is all there. People can read it and count it up for themselves.

So even though I reckon your statement is disproved,we still won't fall out. And in person, you are very agreeable too!

Jeff Frane said...

Not that our host needs any defense, but I can't help myself. My own experience with him has been sporadic, since we live 7,000 miles apart, but it also stretches back nearly a decade and when we have been out pubbing it has literally gone on for days.

I've chased beer with him in here in Portland, in Chicago, Glasgow, Rochdale and Plymouth. In Chicago he did get rude, but with his fellow drinkers rather than staff, because he was horrified by a deep dish pizza. We were in turn horrified by his attraction to a barmaid, but he was very polite (if effusive) to her.

I have never seen him rude to staff, ever. My experience has been quite the opposite, in fact, because he has always been the first to be friendly with the bartender or server and has never been bashful with compliments.

I don't even know what "mardy" means, but I'm sure he ain't that.

Tandleman said...

I'm still getting therapy for that pizza! I can picture it yet!

Tyson said...

Sounds like a lovers tiff to me:)

Jeff
Deep dish pizza is just wrong on so many levels.

Jeffrey said...

Deep dish pizza isn't pizza. It's a strange bizzare cake.

Oh, by the way, tonight I went for a drink with Tandleman and he gunned down forty barmaids while I looked on, aghast.

Tandleman said...

It was only 39 barmaids and since they all spoke with Northern accents I assumed you'd approve!

toni said...

I've just seen this and have to say that Tandleman is always the perfect gent.

Tandleman said...

Indeed I am, so much so that my turning the other cheek abilities would put most to shame. And my revisionist tendencies are almost nil.

Anonymous said...

Tandleman is always very charming.Well I've heard he's charmed the pants off a few anyway!

Tyson said...

Anon

Male or feamle? Only kidding-we all know which way his sporan swings...

paul said...

Doesn't Tandleman hang around with some blonde bird?