As previously mentioned, our first stop in Glasgow was the Clockwork Brewing Company,
where mixed results were the order of the day. My first pint was vinegary sludge, but was exchanged after the staff had tasted a sample from the same pump. The offending beer was then removed from sale immediately, so top marks for that. At least there was no question of continuing to sell it. Our party then had 45 minutes in West, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. German style beer and a great place, great atmosphere and great staff , marred only by the odd pricing. Pints are around a very reasonable £3.60 - £3.80 mark, with halves being around £2.60 to £2.80. No sample trays are offered, so if you want to try a few, you either need to cough up, or sup from someone else's glass. It just seems silly and the only jarring thing about what is a wonderful pub.
Keeping on the Glasgow theme, when we retuned from Ayr, Troon and Houston the following day, we finished in the famous Three Judges in Partick. Again the verdict was that the beers didn't really hit any high spots of cask presentation, which is astonishing considering the pubs almost legendary status. We were mob handed there. All 26 of us, but nobody thought the beer much better than average. Nor was our cider bod was impressed by Scotland's Cider Pub of the Year having only one cider.
Four of us diverted to BrewDog as one of our party was particularly keen to see it. We all enjoyed excellent service, great views of the Kelvin Hall at sunset and me an unremarkable pint of 5 AM Saint. Despite there being no cask beer and a lot of very strong offerings, it was a good half hour and the staff couldn't have been more pleasant or helpful. We then headed up Byres Road to another famous pub, Tennents Bar. This is an old favourite of mine, but it seems to have gone mainstream in its beer selection. Mostly English and of the Everards/ Brains/ Wadworth's ilk, the beer was OK, but nothing special. Lager flowing from the pumps like a river, perhaps explains why. I was the only one of our party that liked the place. Oh well. Our last stop was the Curler's Rest, poshified from my memory, but superb Harviestoun Wild Hop hit the spot - several times - before we grabbed a taxi for late night reflection in the Bon Accord, just across the road from our hotel.
Next day in conversation with others on the bus south, we found those that had gone to the City Centre and the Merchant City had fared much better quality wise, but had still hit some lows. This reflects to me the problem of too many beers for the clientèle that are likely to drink cask beer. Choice is often good, but quality is always good. I'd rather have two beers in top nick, that ten in so-so condition. Poor quality beer has always been cask beer's Achilles Heel. Pubs really do have to ensure that they always serve beer well, particularly as they struggle to lure customers in. Failure to do so really is both inexcusable and suicidal these days.
As always, when these things are undertaken, it is only a snapshot, but I've said it before and it is worth repeating. "It's the offer stupid." Why do so many pubs fail to get that right? On the way back to Greater Manchester, we spent a warm, sunny couple of hours in Lancaster. Lovely town, brilliant beer and pubs. I haven't been there since Mitchells closed. I'll be back soon though.
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. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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