Posts Tagged ‘pubs’

I thought I would stick to Norwegian beers this spring, book writing and all. I was wrong. When I got an e-mail telling me BrewDog wanted to fly me to Scotland to visit their brewery, I was not difficult to persuade.

So, last Thursday, as the pubs were opening, I found myself on Union Street, Aberdeen. One of the places on my list was just a few minutes from the hotel, and it came recommended by the taxi driver that took me in from the airport.

The Grill does not look like much from the outside. It probably had a more elaborate sign, perhaps windows with frosted glass and more trimmings some decades ago. Some details of hops and grapes shows that this was more upmarket in another age.

A look at their web page – I was surprised they had one, shows a long history, the name unchanged since it opened as a restaurant in 1870. Their claim to fame, however, is of another kind:

When the pub reopened after the 7-month long refurbishment, (in 1925) John Innes hung a sign in the window which said “ No Ladies, Please”. For nearly 50 years this remained the policy, despite an invasion by female delegates attending the Scottish Trades Union Congress at the Music Hall in April 1973. This demonstration made front page headlines in the national press and the police had to be called to disperse the thirsty ladies!

It wasn’t until December 1975 that women were officially served in The Grill, following the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. This was followed sometime after by the construction of a ladies toilet in 1998.

Going inside, it is a well kept pub. Nothing fancy, but tidy and clean. No signs of any food, let alone a grill, though, this is a place for drinking. A place dominated by regulars, good atmosphere, where people are greeted on their way in and their regular is poured right away. Local beers on several hand pumps.

I ask for an American APA from the Windswept brewery. The adult lady tending the bar asked if I had tried it before, and offered me a taster. This was apparently a bit outside the mainstream of their beers. It was pouted expertly, topped up and served with a fine head. The cask gives smoothness, but there was a fine bitter mouth feel, too. Malt, caramel, oranges, discreet pine. And APA? The cask treatment makes it difficult to say. An ESB with American hops is perhaps more correct.

A quite small bar, I looked in later, and it was more packed in the after work rush hour. Personal and attentive service. Some serious drinking old men, some reading their paper, some chatting. Not the cheapest place in town, but certainly not the most expensive.

I liked this place. No pretensions, polite service, well kept beer. But I would not be surprised if it was replaced by a fake Italian place with over priced coffee the next time around. I don’t know if Union Street will keep its name either, come to think of it. Go while you can.

Windswept APA

A proper pint

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On pub-going politicians

A (British) Home Office minister who wants stringent measures that will cost the trade millions of pounds of can’t remember the last time he was in a pub, according to the Publican.

Not surprisingly, he is scalded by the pub trade:

“So the man who can’t remember the last time he was in a pub, thinks he knows more than the trade about why pubs are closing and why this code is necessary. ”

Around here, being in a regular in a pub is not seen as a mark of quality for any politician. It is rather the opposite, most alcohol debates are dominated by members of the temperance (or rather, abstinence) movement – and they are to be found in most parties. Some of them would probably boast never having been in a pub.

And there is no decent watering hole, let alone cask ale, in our parliament, either, surely a necessary condition to be considered an advanced civilization.

I think it all started with Martin Luther.

We all need Courage

We all need Courage

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Gloomy news from the British trade newspaper the Morning Advertiser – pubs are now closing at a rate of six per day.

Last year, 1,973 pubs shut — 40% up on 2007 levels.

Suburban pubs seem to be hit worse then others, but the figures are grim for rural and town centers as well.

Indutry voices consern that new legislation will cripple the pubs further, this includes  compulsory training , making the provision of 125ml wine glasses mandatory and introducing alcohol warnings at the point of sale.

I can see that expensive training courses can be of importence, but I hardly believe introducing new wine glasses will be decisive. I assume the breakage over time will lead to replacement of glasses anyway.

What I miss in this atmosphere of doom are the success stories.  You can complain about the government all you want, but that is hardly a strategy to survive, let alone succeed.

Tough times

Tough times

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Coney Island lagerss

Coney Island lagers

I will not go into details about every visit abroad in 2008, but I want to mention some new beer experiences. I have been to all of these cities before, except Riga, but not necessarily with an emphasis on beer. And yes, I’ve been to Italy, England, Ireland and other countries, too, even if they did not make the short list.



  • I went with my family to Riga early in the year. It is not a sensational beer destination, but there are very decent lagers to be found, from light session beers with a hint of honey and a full grainy flavour to Baltic porters that have made a revival. Good beery food, too, especially the buffet restaurants.
  • I have been to Berlin twice during the year, and I was pleasantly surprised. There is a fine range of brew pubs scattered around the city, but with logical, fast and clean public transport, you can cover quite a few, even if time is limited. One of the natives found the idea of blogging about beer fairly stupid when I explained it in rather rusty German. I particularly enjoyed Südstern, with delicious food and guest beers in addition to their own.
  • My last visit to Prague was in the mid Eighties, a gloomy city under the iron heel of their Russian masters. To return on a lovely summer day to the Golden city that has returned to its rightful place among the free nations touched my heart. It is a cosmopolitan place, too, I particularly enjoyed a whirlwind tour of some beer bars with Max the beer philosopher. I can assure you I will not wait decades before returning!
  • Copenhagen hosted a major European beer festival in the autumn. Lots of fine beer, remarkably well organized despite an unexpectedly huge turnout. I enjoyed the social side of it, too. Lots of the ratebeer people from Denmark, the UK, Sweden, Norway, the Irish Craft Brewers… A fine opportunity to chat with brewers and other professionals in the industry. All in all a splendid event. I was hoping for a repeat in 2009, but my informers tell me they will probably return to a smaller format festival in May. This is run by volunteers, and having a huge festival every year is stretching it too far.
  • It’s been more than two decades since I was in New York, too, ad I enjoyed my return very much. It is a fantastic beer destination, where all types of restaurants having fine lists of draught beers and even modest delis have several dozen craft beers in their fridges. Some outstanding beer bars and specialist bottle shops, too. I’d jump on a plane right away if I had the opportunity . Favourite? The Ginger Man.
Piovasky Klub, Prague

Piovasky Klub, Prague

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The Morning Advertiser informs me that a pub in Wiltshire, England, is giving away free food and drinks to customers.

The owners of The Roebuck Inn at Marlborough, Wiltshire, will be declaring dinner for all customers on the house at least once a month.

Licensee David Barrone : “The eat and drink free night will be a regular feature. Obviously we’re not going to be telling people the date of each event, but if they come to us for a meal on any Monday to Saturday evening, there’s a chance you’ll be dining free.

“Every pub and restaurant is running offers because of the economic climate, but as far as we know we are the only place in the country doing this.”


It could, possibly, be because it is a pretty shaky business plan…..

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White Horse

White Horse

I told you about the mixed experience Lars Marius, Stine and I had two years ago when we went to the White Horse Old and Winter Ale festival. The White Horse, with its splendid location in Parson’s Green, West London, has a long standing reputation for its solid beer list, both British and Belgian beers on draft and bottles which are picked for making up a broad range of flavours and styles, not to give a ticker’s list of pale lagers. (There is a lesson to be learned here, Porterhouse!)

But, as I have written about recently, the beer is dependent on the person who is serving it. At the time we had the most sweet waitress, who had just arrived from California. She did her best, but she did not have a clue about English ales. She kept mixing them up, which means we resorted to ordering bottles instead to make sure we got what we ordered.

This year it was easier. When I had elbowed my way past the main bar, I found that the back room, which used to be a restaurant with table service was now the bar for the festival itself, serving about a dozen milds, old ales, stouts, barley wines – English dark beers from cask stillage – no hand pumps, just the gravity to do the job.. Add to this a few BrewDogs and Belgian Winter Ales in the main bar, and you could easily spend the weekend here!

Well, I did not have the whole weekend at my disposal, just a few hours before being on my way. Things were made easier by another young American lady. From eavesdropping on the conversations she was having with the regulars, she had been there for quite some time, this being their last shift before getting back home for Christmas. The expertly poured glasses shown she had used here time there well.

The beers?

Breconshire Rambler’s Ruin is an old ale, with some (intended oxidation. A reddish beer with little carbonation. Nice grassy hoppiness, malty body, but, somehow, the element’s did not blend too well together.

The Adnams Tally-Ho is very port-like, and is most sensibly drunk in halves. Rich, sweet, syrupy. Alcohol warmth. Prunes, figs, blackcurrant, sour cherries. A complex beer, I found myself a bench and sipped this slowly.

To finish off, I asked for the Fuller’s Golden Pride. This is not a new beer, but it is very seldom seen. A classic strong ale. Ripe fruits and berries. Blackcurrants, rowan berries. a little sour and oxidised, but pleasantly so. A neglected gem from the Fullers range, which should be available more often.

But why do they call it Golden Pride? It is not golden at all, but a lovely dark ruby. And when golden beers are a dime a dozen (well, £ 36 a dozen at today’s prices..), they could have played on the true color of the beer. Maybe it used to be golden?

I thought out a name for a ruby beer. Anyone can use it, though it will cost a dozen bottles for the first batch.

Ruby (Don’t take your love to town)

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Save the pubs!

There is an uproar across Britain, as the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has proposed an 8 % raise in beer duties for next year. As the economy is stumbling into recession and pubs are already closing every day, this is seen as a declaration of war by the pub trade and its customers.

Now, if the intention is to curb binge drinking, he should have had a look at the supermarket booze where there are prize wars for lagers. There are ample opportunities for taxing and regulating that end of the market it that’s what he wants.

I’m amazed that a government that is struggling as much as it is is willing to go for such policies. I’m sure the Tories are laughing all the way to the pub!

Now, if more of the campaigners could have made some jpg illustrations instead of pdf files, I’d be happy to display them, OK?

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