Monday, 7 November 2011

Kilbarchan and Houston: 5th November 2011

I'd decided on another relatively quiet weekend - this time a walk to some pubs in Renfrewshire followed by a beer at the Fox and Hounds in Houston, where there was to be a presentation for CAMRA's Scottish Pub of the Year. In addition Houston Brewery were celebrating their winning of CAMRA's Champion Best Bitter of 2011 for Peter's Well with an open afternoon at the brewery, including a free pint - cannae say fairer than that.

View Houston in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train : Glasgow Central to Milliken Park

Milliken Park is really only a commuter halt, so it was a short walk over the main A737 road into Kilbarchan, a conservation village where weaving was once the dominant industry.
The first pub I came to was The Trust Inn (Facebook page).

It's a large single room pub and a bit of a barn of a place when quiet, but the staff were efficient and friendly. There were 3 real ales on today - Deuchars, Old Speckled Hen and Strathaven Fiery Cauldron - I had the latter (nice, but needed a bit more in the way of fire/spice, sigh...), and left all my change in the Poppy Appeal collection 'box' (good to see them in pubs).

I then hiked up a steep incline to the Glenleven Inn which I'd never been into before.

The place was totally deserted when I first went in and the barmaid and I chatted away for ages (she must have been really bored). On hand-pull were Tetley's Cask (I struggle with this after a night on the smoothflow many years ago) and Sharp's Doom Bar - it's a decent enough bitter but I'm not quite sure why Molson Coors paid so much money for it earlier in the year.

Inside the Glenleven's a nice place - a separate restaurant area and a pool table at the back - hooray - don't see many nowadays, and they have music on Sundays (trying not to conflict with the Trust Inn).

It was then a bit of a walk to Houston via Brookfield and Crosslee. The lovely clear weather had allowed the farmers to work all hours - this was towards the end of the day just outside Brookfield.

After Crosslee there's a new path around the modernised primary school which takes out a few bends and a roundabout, so it was only after 45 minutes or so before I came to the Fox and Hounds, an old coaching inn on Houston Main Street.

I've always liked the place since I first came here close on 15 years ago. OK - it's by no means Scotland's best beer bar, but it's a nice pub (better than nice - it's a great pub) doing all the basics right (beer (5x Houston, 1x guest), food, multiple bars/restaurants, live music, beer festivals), and sometimes you just have to go with financial and customer-base realities. I must admit the place would be great to have as my local.

Today the downstairs Vixen Lounge was mobbed with people looking for a pint before the presentation and others hoping to win (stuff of some sort) during the draw for using Houston's Ale Passport scheme.

After the ceremonies a number of us trooped into the brewery for a pint (Killellan - v. nice) and a look around. I don't think it's changed too much in the 15 or so years, possibly a few more fermenting vessels.

Carl Wengel (the owner, head brewer and generally nice guy) came in, accepted our congratulations for Peter's Well, chatted for a bit, and showed us the next batch of Pioneer, fermenting away nicely in FV4.

Houston have a core range of all-year round beers and also a new range of space-themed monthly beers with new pump-clips. Image-wise it's a real improvement on the almost sea-side humour of the previous monthly range of beers, but they've still left some toe-curling puns in there! I've felt that some of the lower abv beers can be a little bland, but the Juno I had at Troon Beer Festival was really good, lots of chocolate and fruit, and quite spicy. Hopefully some of the others can be just as good.

Return transport:-
  Bus : Houston to Glasgow Bothwell St (X7 - McGills Transport) - a long, long journey with a breakdown stop somewhere in Linwood

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