Sunday 12 July 2015

BRAPA - Aberdeen (Day One)

Warning message at the Moorings (see pub 694) 
Despite the 'T in the Park' festival goers dominating the train, it was a pretty quiet, pleasant and easy journey up to Aberdeen where my aim was simple, to 'tick off' all ten BRAPA pubs before my train back 2:57pm on the following day.  

I even had time to learn from a very Scottish chap with daughter brandishing 'Hello Kitty' satchel, that Aberdeen houses a Wetherspoons that only serves you a minimum of two pints plus meal!  I hoped this didn't apply to either of my two 'Spoons ticks.

Kings College and student area of Old Aberdeen - worth a visit.
After five hours plus of sitting down, a brisk walk around the city was required so it made sense to get in my furthest tick, in the photogenic Old Aberdeen area, which strangely as well as being the prettiest, was also the student quarter.  It all felt a bit Rebus meets Morse as two miles walking later (I'd gone in a bit of a circle!), I reached my first pub amidst cobbled streets and granite.

692 - St Machar Bar, Old Aberdeen

And it immediately felt like a student pub, despite two grizzled locals at the end of the bar who looked like the uni had been built around them!  Three geeky guys were chatting to a crazy German student girl about why she'd chose to study Spanish in Aberdeen.  It all felt a bit like a bad pilot episode for Big Bang Theory.  It was a thin, small one roomed bar, presided over by two muscular jocks (in the American, not Scottish sense) who seemed to be doing bar work to fill in time between egg-chasing and rowing.  Perhaps.  Beermats had been replaced by flyers for 'Bangkok Lady Boys'.  I felt a bit isolated perched on the edge of seat, but tried to settle down to watch either tennis at one end of the bar, or cricket at the other.  Eventually, the local men demanded their favourite sport Golf be put on both channels!  My Inveralmond "Inkie Pinkie" was the first of many great local brews, the range satisfactory rather than stunning.  Three students came in, hovered, before being presented with food in a polystyrene tray, and left without buying a drink.  It was that kinda place!

Studenty fun at the St Machar Bar

I then walked back into the centre and checked in at my Travelodge, had some lunch and a hour's nap (that's how relaxed I was about the pub ticking) to take me through to about 16:30pm.

693.  Carriages, Aberdeen

Underneath the Brentwood Hotel was this classy, smart bar which had only just opened at 16:30 so was one I had to 'tick' on day one.  A bar man called Andy was being shown the ropes and I got service with a smile from this chap who was like if Marlon King wasn't a registered sex offender.  I went into the elegant, comfy side room full of leather settees, it would have felt like a Gentleman's club if it hadn't been for a huge screen showing the tennis - within five minutes it was over and two friendly old guys joined me in agreeing Sharapova, for all her grunting, isn't in the S.Williams class.
I ordered an ale called Clock Brew from Eden St Andrews - it is billed a 'traditional Scottish ale' so quite dark and heavy, but surely the sulphury tones shouldn't have been there and despite the nice place, it was certainly my most disappointing beer of my travels which soured an otherwise good experience in a pub that was doing real ale in the days when Aberdeen had hardly any outlets.

Carriages - a very plush hotel bar but sadly, my pint wasn't very good.
694.  Moorings, Aberdeen

Another strategic 'tick' next, as this place only opens 1pm on Friday and sometimes enforces a cover charge after 8:45pm - and no way I'd be paying that.  Weird location I thought, a bit isolted near the Quayside and I was expecting a few elderly fisherman so I got a big shock when I entered!  This is what they call a 'dive' bar, it was a feast for the eyes with young alternative people, geeks, rockers, hipsters, businessmen, punks, lawyers - well, so the mission statement on the menu said!  People come here from all walks of life, the only rule is you don't judge other people, oh, and don't vomit anywhere!  The way they'd gone into overdrive on the anti-vomiting signs and tried to make a joke out of it meant they've probably had some very sticky situations in the past.  The lively staff were jumping around and singing a bit,  There were 3 different groups of beer fonts, one helpfully proclaiming "cask beer" so that's where I went.  I ordered a Marooned by Windswept (Lossiemouth) and was amazed to find a sour blackberry flavoured fruit beer.  Apparently, it was maroon in colour but I was sat under a red neon light so couldn't tell.  I also had my red leather jacket on so everyone who entered Moorings squinted in a pained way as they saw this red feast!   A group of punks at the bar started reminiscing on "Are you Being Served?".  Then some hairy metallers stood near me and played pinball on a Star Trek themed machine .... it was that kinda dive! Superb.

Maroon pint, neon lights, a bit like a student bar dream at the Moorings
695.  Six Degrees North, Aberdeen

Whilst I was on the more 'modern bars' theme, I thought I'd give this one a try.  It was careful positioned near the similar and very busy looking Brewdog flagship bar (more on that later) and I guess it is no coincidence.  This was quite a unique place too, and my friend Lisa who originates from Aberdeen and loves 'brutalistic' architecture would have been in heaven with all the granite, steelwork, stonefloors and harsh industrial feel.  It had a busy hubbub of young drinkers, and I had to be pointed to a huge overhanging blackboard to ascertain what cask ales were on.  The young bar chap certainly knew his stuff, and soon I was drinking a Salted Caramel Porter by 'Fallen' - my fourth consecutive Scottish microbrewery, could I keep it going?  It was a delightful drop and great they do a cask range when the Six Degrees North brewery specialise in Belgian style Scottish ales.  As so often happens, everyone was crowded downstairs but a huge upstairs area was virtually empty so that's where I headed and I was starting to feel like I'd been drinking by now.  As I left, I was very surprised how the bar had almost completely cleared out almost like a ghost town - was there a fire drill?

Amazing ale but didn't like the (s)wanky glass it came in!
696.  Under The Hammer, Aberdeen

On the street where all the auction rooms are (hence the pub name), I had to get in this strategic tick today as it only opens 5pm midweek.  It took ages to find.  A huge pub next door, the Globe. looked really popular, but UTH was hidden unassumingly down some steps just like Carriages.  I entered a very peaceful dark one roomer, it had that 'Scottish real ale pub feel'.  I was very pleased to see a top range of Scottish ales, and Jarl by Fyne is one of those 'must have' brews.  Sadly, a moment of controversy soured the experience somewhat.  A serious looking American tourist, presumably he'd been at an auction, was trying to pronounce the second word on a fancy looking coin.  Our Bulgarian host seemed a clever young chap, and whilst serving me, he assisted our American friend with an expert pronunciation.  The American seemed humbled, so sensing he might feel bad, I interjected "I'd have not been able to pronounce that either!"   His reply to me?  "Off you go!"  So off I went, to sip my delicious Jarl from a nearby table where I could give him "evils".  I suspected Bulgarian host was on my side as he'd smiled sympathetically during the exchange.  Luckily the serene atmosphere, beautiful pint and fact I was already comfortably numb helped greatly.  But when I took my glass back to the bar and said thanks, Bulgaria's finest coin pronouncer (who'd later resorted to showing photos of his homeland to Captain America) simply glared at me!  I deserved better here.

Coin drama ensued at Under the Hammer
Back on Union Street, I got in some foody supplies for my evening feast but still had one more tick to get in, determined to get past the half way point.  Luckily, my Travelodge (the Justice Mill) had a next door Wetherspoons of the same name!  I hadn't even realised his when I booked it.  

697.  Justice Mill, Aberdeen

It seems strange to me that whilst Aberdeen has a few independent pubs that are 10am openers, the Wetherspoons have a strict "no alcohol til 11am, 12:30 on a Sunday" rule, so my original plan to do these pubs early next morning suddenly didn't work!  We were well into Thursday evening by now and a quite intimidating class of Aberdeen drinker had filled up the pub - lots of drunk people who couldn't walk straight, it was only about 7:30pm in truth.  I felt more suffocated by this because for 'Spoons standards, this was quite small and claustrophobic, well long and thin anyway so no real corners to hide in.  Sadly, I missed the statue of the upside down man and the 'fire behind the glass' art installations they pride themselves on, but I sat and cowered with by Williams Red Ale from the famous old Alloa brewery.  It was okay but the experience was quite bland 'Spoons to be honest, it was time to get back to my room for my supper and a relatively early night - early start tomorrow of course to finish our ticking so got to be on good form.  

Standard edgy 'Spoons fayre at the Justice Mill.
See you on day two! 



  1. I tend to judge nationalities based on their representatives based on their representatives who have played for Hull City AFC. As former Hull City AFC goalkeeper Boaz Myhill isn't really American, I believe that leaves us with Brad Guzan and Jozy Altidore. As the former was only on loan with Hull City AFC, he doesn't really count. Therefore, the representative sample is Jozy Altidore, who was a bit of a prat. This can be clearly exrapolated to your coin purchasing friend.

    With that kind of judging, and my opinion of not a doctor Assem Allam and his dimwit son, am I automatically prevented from entering the Moorings?

  2. That is some crazy logic Tom - I wondered where you were going with it but yes, there was a certain Altidore-esque innocent arrogance is Coin-man's nature.
    I think Moorings would make an exception when the judgement is reserved for the aggressor.

  3. What did you have for "supper". I've been wondering that for 7 years.

    1. Assuming it was haggis, neeps n tatties or whatever they eat up there. I'll ask Tand if I see him on Thursday. I miss Scotland. I need to get back there. Soon!