291. Pot Still, Glasgow
10th October 2009 was the first I've two times I've been into this small but lovely dark, architectural gem which I'm surprised isn't heritage or listed or anything. This was with Krzb when we first arrived off the train into Glasgow (it is an early opener), and it had a strange fake frontage as building work was going on outside, a kind of "don't worry, we are still open" style sign, but with a full huge photo of the pubs normal frontage. The pub was lacking something on this occasion, maybe a very sterile showing of Japan v Scotland from halfway round the world didn't help, it certainly didn't have the masses coming up to support their "heroes". A year or two later, I brought a group of about 5 work lads after we'd finished picking up an award and having a Scottish meal for some CYB course we were on - a very pointless but easy work day! We had time to kill so I noticed this was the nearest real ale pub and it was on this occasion, I really noticed how nice it was and how much room their actually was - I guess the refurb had been a success. We sat in a raised seat and looked out onto the pub, and I was on a later train (going to York, they were all Leeds) so had one on my own when they left and messaged JW2 about the Levellers - because I was drinking on Hope St as in the song.
292. State Bar, Glasgow
1st March 2014 and on my walk back into Glasgow Centre after the A-Z challenge in Yoker and eXhibition Centre, I popped into this absolute cracker which I declared pub of the day. It had all the hallmarks of a great Scottish pub - great unusual Scottish microbrewery ales, a grand interior with circular bar, and jocular Jocks and staff swarming around. And unlike Bon Accord, they put Rangers v East Fife on rather than the White Shite so I settled down with a Duke IPA by Highland Brewery which was strong in a hoppy way, blew my socks off. I enjoyed watching Rangers struggle, and was on my feet as they eventually got a 93rd minute penalty which they converted, I think to draw 1-1. I felt defalted, but a ginger Celtic fan (possibly Neil Lennon) told me he was "devastated" though I think he'd only been here to see the last 20 minutes. Wonderful pub, much recommended.
|Arriving at the State Bar - my pick of Glasgow pubs to date.|
293. Lord of the Isles, Renfrew
Yoker seemed a bit of a non-place to try and find something cultural to do for the "Y" section of my A-Z - a point borne out by the fact that everyone Scottish I've ever told since has laughed hysterically at the idea. So to find a "ferry crossing" to Renfrew, I decided this would do. A metal tin bath with 4 rugged Scotch men was how the 'ferry' actually turned out, but on the otherwise, I walked up the main road to this Wetherspoons, part of the Xscape centre (an "X" in itself ironically) with dry ski slope, cinema and all that rubbish. It's fair to say this was a modern, bright version of the 'Spoons chain, but it wasn't too large as to lack atmosphere altogether. I ordered my first pint of the day, an Edinburgh Gold by Stewarts, which I reported had more "oomph" than an English Gold. People were eating late breakfasts around me, so I tried to smuggle some of my scotch eggs on the sly but the staff were too efficient clearing plates etc. A solid start to my A-Z day which was by now, glorified BRAPA (it probably always was.....)
294. Benleva Hotel, Drumnadrochit
Rewind the clock back to September 2013 and I went on a random two night stop to Inverness - it wasn't classed as the A-Z, and BRAPA hadn't been invented, but it had elements of each in that it involved pubs, culture and crazy walking! On day two (25/9/13), I took a bus down to the western edge of Loch Ness and after a few fruitless hours failing to see Nessie and getting lost in Urquhart Wood, I emerged to this real ale gem, possibly the flagship for Loch Ness brewery. It had all their ales on anyway including some experimental brews. I was a bit unhappy with the reception I received from chubby miserable bar girl and the walkers. I wasn't "one of them" from my attire, and I obviously wasn't a local. But I was determined to push through all the negativity and before long, I was at a central table munching away on whisky soaked haggis with salad, a weird combo, washed down with ales like Caith Ness and Bonnie Monster (still one of my faves ever on Untappd). Great things can happy when you exude positivity and before you know it, I was joking with an elderly couple of diners because their dog wanted some of my haggis, but all I could offer by that stage was a whisky covered leaf of lettuce! Oh well. It was also here that I made that monumental of all decisions - quitting Facebook.
|My delightful lunch at the wonderful Benleva Hotel|
My team leader at work is a frequent visitor to Inverness and knowing I was off, she gave me a local CAMRA magazine. On the front were landlord and landlady of this pub which had recently won some local CAMRA award - both had big cheesy grins on their face. So imagine my surprise when landlord was looking glum as sin, he didn't even make eye contact at one point as he pulled my pint of Corncrake by Highland Brewery. Him and three local men's eyes were all fixed to some German football league game - I think Schalke were one of the teams. Not one of them said a word the entire time I was there! Considering Inverness were at home that night, they should've gone there. I was at a low ebb having had a big fall out with my sister, but a phone call home to Mum put me in a better frame of mind (this was my first Inverness pub and second ever Untappd check in - I wanted to enjoy my trip and not have a cloud hanging over me!) Cheered up, I saw barmaid crash through the door with a few bags of shopping looking a bit dishevelled. She attempted a smile that didn't really work - it was a start I suppose! Pub was airy, bare and spacious - beer being the only highlight. Onwards & upwards to other Inverness pubs!
296. Castle Tavern, Inverness
After a bus back into town from the banks of Loch Ness on 25th Sept 2013, day two of my stay (my return ticket wasn't valid on the bus I stopped but he let me on anyway!), I walked down the busy Castle Street eventually crossing a scary road to this cosy little pub. It was late afternoon and a few jolly locals were sat at the bar, but as I went to sit in the raised area, most tables were full of students wishing emotional farewell's to parents. I didn't know there was an Inverness Uni but of course it was around fresher time, so it made sense. It was a heartfelt yet positive atmosphere, quite unique in my pub ticking. One American "Mom" in particular kept sympathetically smiling at me, thinking my parents had already ditched me, leaving me clutching a Cromarty Red Rocker. Not a bad beer to be stuck with - it has since become a favourite and was like a cask Punk IPA here.
297. King's Highway, Inverness
|View of the bar in the Castle Tavern, Inverness|
In these early days of solo pub exploration in a new town, it was somewhat reassuring to find a Wetherspoons at the heart of everything. This was my first night in Inverness and only my second pub tick. What was a shame was the lack of unique Scottish brews so I opted for a Great Newsome Pricky Back Otcham, all the way from errrm Hull (South Frodingham to be precise). I asked for this a few miles away from the brewery in Hedon recently and the lass didn't have a clue what I was on about, so full marks to the efficient friendly barboy for knowing what I was after here. There was a generally warmer and friendlier atmosphere than you get in a lot of 'Spoons. I sat on a high stool along a wall and experimenting with my new Untappd App, messaged John to confirm both Hull City and Sunderland were currently winning in the League Cup, a rarity indeed. The beer was working. Next, a roly poly ruddy faced friendly drunken couple were waiting for their friend, another roly poly ruddy faced lassie, to emerge from the loo. We got talking and they started arguing about what clubs I should go to to meet some young ladies! This was nice of course, but it transpired most places had shut down or didn't open on a Tuesday so I declared I was satisfied just to visit the real ale pubs. They thought I was mad.
|A pint of Humber Hedgehog - served in a handled glass in 'Spoons|
My visit here was shrouded in drama as shortly before the end of my time in the King's Highway (see above), I received a dramatic call from my friend Emily from work because her new boyfriend would not "commit" to saying he loved her. Oh dear! Well this wasn't in the BRAPA spirit, even if BRAPA didn't exist. So I had to be counsellor for the next 15 minutes, walking to this next pub slowly, and what's more, being a modern cafe bar, they were shutting early so I had to pretty much beg for a last pint as long as I was quick. It wasn't the comfiest of environments anyway despite a welcome return of Scottish microbrews. But it was made worse by staff hoovering, cleaning, putting chairs on tables, rolling beer casks around, with me sat in the middle of it all smiling guiltily at the next member of staff who turned the corner and was surprised to see a drinker still in their pub. With hindsight, I should have left it til the following day and done it after Loch Ness with the Castle Tavern. Seemed more of a daytime type of place. On the plus side, my Ossian by Inveralmond (a Scottish favourite) went down very nicely.
|Even the blackboard has had enough! Last orders at Number 27.|
Sunday 10th April 2005 was the unofficial promotion day from League One for Hull City, and retribution for that awful last day of season in 95/96. This time it was our turn to be giving their home end (side)! Before that great win though, it was annoyingly a Sunday so we had to hang round an industrial estate before this cracker opened just after 12 noon. Well, all I remember was a proper bare boarded pub and the kind of range of real ales that I simply wasn't used to seeing, 3 years into my use of the GBG to find pubs. Frequently on my many recent Bradford BRAPA nights, people have raved about this pub to me, so all I can do is yawn and say I went 10 years ago! It did fill up quite quickly, mainly with home fans to be honest but it was a friendly if boisterous atmosphere and I think Dad might well have done his "I'm claustrophobic so I'm disappearing outside for a bit" routine, or even suggested we take our drinks out and perch in the sun. Proper drinkers pub, wish I could remember more details.
300. West Riding Refreshment Rooms, Dewsbury
Again it is fitting that a landmark archive tick coincides with an absolute belter, but this is the best of all station pubs I've been to and really hard to leave (especially when you are drunk and stand on the wrong platform for your train as I did in June 2015). The first time I ever came here was on the first Welly transpenine day out, which I'm putting around July 2008 where my naivety in not getting one of their amazing breakfasts meant I was very drunk very quickly. I didn't make the same mistake when I returned with York friends in June 2009, or the second Welly crawl (2011 I think). Between these came my favourite time in June 2010 when me and John Watson came to a "World Sup" beer festival (all the beer were football themed) where I kept bumping into work people (Bryan, Damian, a filing lady!) and we saw Mad Jack and the Hatters, easily the best band ever witnessed at a beer festival - JW2 was awestruck. In fact, we may have been to two festivals here and I am amalgamating them into one super festival in my mind! The decor, the beer range, the breakfasts, the quirky staff, just the building, and outside area make this a place anyone should enjoy. No wonder the website is imissedthetrain.com - simply stunning. It was the start point for both of my Heavy Woollen BRAPA crawls, and I always get confused when people tell me Dewsbury is a shithole of the highest order - I simply cannot get beyond this place.
So there you have it! The 300 up, we'll delve further into West Yorks next, there'll be a L**ds special at some point, and then it will be a case if tweaking a few existing entries, putting them all on a new tab in my BRAPA spreadsheet with "date first visited" next to them, sorting them in chronological order, seeing if any more archives pubs appear in the 2016 GBG, and then start collating it all into book form as was always the plan. I could do a volume for each county. It is going well.
See you soon, Si