Monday, 17 August 2015

BRAPA : Archives (281-290)

It's off to bonny, bonny Scotland we go.  A place I'd love to go BRAPA ticking in a lot more often and my recent trip to Aberdeen set all sorts of ideas going in my mind.  But for now, I'll just have to reminisce.......

281.  Abbotsford Bar & Restaurant, Edinburgh

I recently told John Watson that any place with "restaurant" in the name cannot be trusted to keep good real ale, although here, it's dispensed by the traditional gravity method (i.e. from the barrel) that used to be common in Scotland.  I was on my way to Inverness for a random trip (like BRAPA pre-BRAPA, like A-Z mid A-Z but not my "I") and had an hour plus to change in Edinburgh for lunch and "refreshment".  This was also an "OMG Si!" pub in that I had been recommended it by quite a few people I knew.  I entered a beautiful old room with a big circular bar and just a few seats around it, more typically Scottish than Nessie drinking Irn Bru whilst telling a Billy Connolly joke.   Unfortunately, office workers having lunch meant all tables were taken and even finding a suitable stool at the bar meant I was resting on some staff paperwork which looked highly important.  I had an Oakham Bishop's Farewell, the gravity dispense meant it felt a bit "limp beer festival" to me but it was a big moment - my first Untappd check in!  My Facebook replacement.  So I was over generous,

Perching precariously on the bar at Abbotsford, 12:43pm 24/9/13
282.  Blue Blazer, Edinburgh

Pre-BRAPA, one of my main challenges from about 2009-12 at least was to try and tick off every Scottish league ground, a challenge that has since had to be put on hold.  At it's height (3rd March 2012), me and John Watson arrived in Edinburgh and a grey rainy morning for some pre-match drinks ahead of a train ride to Croy to see Clyde v Montrose, possibly the worst quality football match I have ever witnessed (and I support Hull City) but it was 9th v 8th in Scottish bottom division.  I digress.  This was our first pub of the day and an absolute corker.  Lovely old simple one roomer with a blue blazer mosaic on the floor and friendly bar chap was dressed in a suit (possibly a blur blazer too) and it was when we saw the selection of Scottish ales that we finally put to bed the myth "Scotland doesn't do real ale" which seems a ridiculous thing to say now anyway.  Okay, so the loos were a bit "Ten Bells" in Whitechapel but added character I'd say. 

283.  Bow Bar, Edinburgh

Still 3rd March 2012 and me & John Watson headed back to Waverley station via the Halfway House and firstly, this little famous pub, which had quite an old touristy reputation and it suffered from that on our visit.  Well, we suffered.  Luckily, an army of young staff were working as hard as they could, just as well as hoards of Japanese schoolgirls in Jimmy hats, tartan and sporrans kept piling in, whilst Americans tried to look like they knew what they were doing and a couple of grizzly Canadians scowled at everyone, whilst a table from New Zealand tried to show off because they were actually from the southern hemisphere.  It was enough to drive a man insane, but John is cool in such situations as I fought my way back with two pints, he'd done really well to squeeze in to a tiny thin table between some cackling hens and excitable Japanese.  Table was so small, we barely both had room to put our pints down, but I can remember yet another cracking Scottish microbrewery showcase, some interesting looking pub snacks, and lots of laughter.  It was all a bit too much for an old pub man like me! 

John tries (unconvincingly) to look relaxed in a heaving Bow Bar
284.  Cafe Royal, Edinburgh

Post match now on 3rd March 2012 and with bouncers(!) on the Guildford, we opted for the bouncer free Cafe Royal, quite a famous pub for being huge, historic, cultural and apparently having artwork by John Eyre on the walls.  Plus it has one, if not the, longest bar in Britain along with the Falcon at Clapham Junction which I know well.  Like so many pubs of this ilk, we couldn't really find a seat or settle down but unlike Bow Bar, we were fuzzy and relaxed from the horrendous match and scary walk from Broadwood Stadium back to Croy.  Yes, the pub was impressive, we had some good Scottish beers again (but probably not quite the range of the previous two pubs).  It must have had quite a lot of seafood going on cos it hung in the air, plus lots of smart staff with crisp white shirts kept darting past us with shiny plates of stuff.  So not a classic, but a nice woman did at least volunteer to take a nice picture of us both together, aaaaah.

Me & Watters in Cafe Royal - might be better visiting before lunch.
285.  Jolly Judge, Edinburgh

Y had been for Yoker, X had been for eXhibition Centre as my A-Z adventure drew to a close on 1st March 2014, and I'd just woken up with dribble on my chin, having fallen asleep on the train between Glasgow and Edinburgh.  It had been a good afternoon in Glasgow.  I had time to try one new pub before the train, so I came to this little underground place very near Waverley, not far from Bow Bar and Halfway House (I still managed to get lost!)  Drama on entry as I was told by an excitable barmaid that a private party had hired the pub in half an hour so it'd be closed to the public.  I explained that I had exactly half an hour here before my train, so I was allowed to stay.  My Inveralmond Lia Fail was chosen by me because of Hull City's epic fail (see pub 290 for more info), but I enjoyed it immensely as person after person wandered in only to told to clear off due to the private party, making me the last customer.  Lovely subdued atmosphere.  No wonder I recommended it to Dad for a recent Pensions trip.  Incidentally, this was the fifth last time I visited a new pub which I didn't classify as a BRAPA tick.

Little did I know that messing around over this photo nearly cost me a pint!

286.  Babbity Bowster, Glasgow

10th Oct 2009 and another one of my Scottish lower league ground ticks was Hampden Park, where me and Krzb Britain went to watch Queens Park lose 2-1 at home to Stranraer in the last minute in front of 598 fans (spookily, Berwick had lost 1-2 at home in the last minute on my visit there and Clyde v Montrose also finished 1-2).  "Come on you Spiders!" as the scary man next to me shouted once every 15 minutes.  Before that, we went to sample some new pubs in Glasgow and found ourselves in the well-to-do Merchant City area where life expectancy is really high, at least 45 years old.  I'm joking.  It's only 43.  Anyway, I didn't really "get" this place, what was it supposed to be.  It had two interesting ales on, at extortionate prices, the interior looked like some single woman's front room though it went round a corner to create a pubby feel.  Beer was very nice but I really didn't feel like I was in a drinkers place, staff seemed bored and pre-occupied, no-one else really came in to have drink and sit down, it was all a bit of a weird one.  

287.  Blackfriars, Glasgow

Same day, same part of the city as the above and this was much more like what we were expecting / hoping for from our trip.  It seemed to be a multi-cultural young person's bar with gig posters everywhere and a very basic boarded feel and rock music playing.  It was in the days before hipsters, so we had to be content with the barmaid's black nail varnish and piercings, and the hairy barman's crazy earrings that hung down too far.  A good range of ales too, some English but mainly Scottish I seem to recall, with woodchip on the wall (perhaps), a bit of a cross between Moorings in Aberdeen and the John Duck in Durham.  I can't say any more than that.

288.  Bon Accord, Glasgow

1st March 2014 and having completed Yoker and Exhibtion Centre in my X & Y A-Z Challenge, I was walking eastwards back into Glasgow, picking up pubs along the way.  The first I reached was this pretty derelict looking old building with a mountain of motorbikes outside, but I'd walked in through the back so presumably the front was more picturesque.  Presumably, because this was a very good pub.  The dark haired barmaid was brilliant throughout, and when I said "no, I was having food" she looked so sorry for me, like I was an urchin dressed in rags spending his last change on beer.  My pint of Bonnie n Blonde by Loch Lomond was nice & zesty, slipping down easily as I watched an awkward couple having their first date, rather amusing.  This was better entertainment than watching L**ds United, who'd inexplicably been screened in place of Rangers v East Fife, but maybe if this was the same Bon Accord who lost 36-0 to Arbroath, they have a "no Scottish football policy".  Of all the pubs I've recommended to Dad and his friend when they go to Glasgow for pension meetings, this has produced the most positive response.

Pub toilet backing for the Bon Accord
289.  Drum & Monkey, Glasgow

My penultimate Glasgow tick of 1st March 2014's wonderful A-Z day saw me at this incredibly chaotic central Nicholson's not far from the main railway station.  Dad had initially recommended this to me on the strength of a quality Oakham Citra in quiet surroundings but had since found most beers off, similar chaos I was experiencing, and had revised his opinion!  This was the first pub of the day where I couldn't find a Scottish real ale, and my Longitude by Vale Brewery was brown and average.  It was standing room only, and even finding somewhere to rest my beer was a problem.  But not as much of a problem as finding the toilets!  I walked around the typically Scottish circular bar about three times, and on my third lap, found a tourist chap doing the same.  We went in search, he waved to indicate he'd found them down a narrow staircase at the entrance.  But then, a member of staff asked if I was alright and I replied "I'm just following that man to the toilets!" which to this day is still one of the most embarrassing things I've said in a pub, luckily I explained myself and was quite drunk so actually not too embarrassed at the time.  Oh well, I figured, I'll never be back.

English brown ale and toilet troubles at the Drum & Monkey
290.  Horse Shoe, Glasgow

And after that Drum & Monkey trauma, I ended my Glasgow time in this equally busy but much better pub, in my heritage guide and having supposedly the longest bar counter in the country, I didn't have much time to appreciate the fine interior though I remember admiring a mirror at one point.  My Glasgow work friend Katrena tells me she's barred from here for dancing on a table, quite an achievement looking at how old and fragile most of them looked!  I was back on the Scottish ales, staff and locals were all in full Saturday afternoon swing but as I turned to see the Sky Sports News screen, it popped up Hull City 1-4 Newcastle.  I must have said something, but I didn't have time to wallow in self-pity as an angry Glasgow man told me he had money on us to win and I was (personally!) ruining his accumulator.  I told him he shouldn't be silly enough to back Hull City ever, but this didn't make him feel better.  It was time to slink away from the bar, so I asked a friendlier looking couple from Paisley if I could share a table with them.  With BRAPA all but officially started by March '14, they were telling me how friendly and amazing Paisley's pubs were and how it would be a great trip for me, we also talked about supporting rubbish football teams but they didn't believe me when I said St Mirren could easily beat us!  A really good pub experience.

And there we have it!  Ten more pubs reviewed.  Join me next time as we approach the big 3-0-0 by finishing up in Scotland before edging into our final archives county, West Yorkshire.



  1. I wonder whether the trouble with Bishop's Farewell on the Scottish Ayr dispense is that it isn't designed for it, for want of a better term. Is the converse true (Mars bar please Dr Kevin Houston), ie would a Scotish beer designed for serving the Scotish way be less good on a handpull?

    The obvious chant for proud to be southern New Zealanders is 'You're so
    southern, you're worse than the French". That'd put them in their place. Or even stick with tried and tested practically French, but I don't think they'd get it.

    There is a very good way to do more Scotish pub ticking, but not until you've done the vast bulk of northern England I'd suggest. In the meantime, I demand that we install Walter Smith as manager and have annual friendlies away at teams that are called City without being a city. And teams with traditional Scottish non geographic names. And Cowdenbeath.

  2. 1. I think the problem was I wasn't prepared for "gravity" beer like what you get at a beer fest (or that awful place in Ipswich) which seems a bit more lifeless to me, but a good theorm as they say!

    2. "you're so foreign, you shouldn't be here" was in my head but I may have been ejected for that, and of course, I embrace multi-culturalism really.

    3. Do you remember when Hateley was manager. Our pre-season tours took us to such places, I remember temping in the bank and he was on Blunderside trying to pass off a 0-0 draw at Meadowbank Thistle as progress.

  3. 2. I embrace multi-culturalism in so much as I hate everybody equally. Including myself. Hence all accusations of racism against me must automatically fail.

    3. I remember when Hateley was manager. Phil Parkinson of his day, except Drabford didn't spot the potential. Sadly, it was early on in my life as a supporter of Hull City Association Football Club (Tigers) Ltd (I have managed to fit that to a chant by the way), and hence before my time of going to exotic pre-season destinations like Meadowbank and Hereford. One of my many regrets of being as young as I am.

    We must be at Macc
    We must be at Maaaccc
    It's raining so hard
    We must be at Macc