I'd decided on a gentle first walk of 2012 - head up to Stirling and the Castle and then continue along the banks of the Forth and the Allan Water to the Bridge of Allan Brewhouse just behind what used to be the Queens Hotel (now the Adamo Hotel) on Bridge of Allan main street.
View Bridge Of Allan in a larger map
Outward transport was as follows:-
Train: Glasgow Queen St to Stirling
When I got off the train at Stirling station I don't think I'd taken in the newish modern footbridge over the railways tracks before - quite impressive, and it managed to survived last week's mad weather intact!
I then successfully bypassed the majority of shoppers in Stirling city centre and walked directly up to the Castle. After the steep climb to the top of the crag The Portcullis is the closest hostelry to the main Castle entrance and as a consequence is normally packed with tourists (I didn't count myself as one this time), but today it was fairly quiet - tables were available during the entire lunch time period and I managed to blag a corner table to savor my thick mushroom soup.
I've always liked the place - it has that 'real' old fashioned look (it was an old Grammar School) which a lot of newer pubs can't possibly copy, with bare flagstones, masses of decorative whisky bottles and long bench seats in the centre of the room (not quite sure why?). On hand-pull today were Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack and Holly Daze - the latter a decent Winter Ale without all the seasonal spicy trimmings. There were a number of Polish girls operating the bar and the tables today and they were seriously efficient, but quite happy to stop and chat for a few seconds.
Just down from the Castle is Broad Street with a lot of olde worlde shops - look at this - a Bagpipe Shop - don't see many of these!
Walking down Castle Wynd hill I hoped to get a a beer at either Whistlebinkies or the Settle Inn>, the oldest pub in Stirling.
However both had only 1 real ale on (Stewart Pentland IPA and Inverlamond Thrappledouser respectively) and both were really quiet so I decided to bypass both and continue down the hill (a shame - the Settle is a great olde pub). At the bottom of the hill I took the pedestrian only Old Bridge over the Forth.
After the Old Bridge I needed to cross the railway line but made a mistake and went into the new Bracken Lane housing estate - there was no way I could see to get over the high fences to the railway footbridge even though I could see it only a stone's throw away - my fault for trusting Google Maps! I had to re-trace my steps and take the next turning into Adamson Place which then allowed me to cross the railway bridge into Chisholm Avenue. At the top of this road is the Birds and the Bees
It's a large place with a separate restaurant area, bar area, 'chill-out'/family area, function rooms and outdoor seating. The bar's not large, but it does have some interesting features - cow hide (fake?) partially lining the bar top and milk churns for stools are a bit different, but there's also a decent real fire, a couple of TVs and numerous farming bits and pieces - it's all quite well done.
The house beer is (unsurprisingly) the Birds and the Bees from Williams Brothers, I assume originally brewed specifically for this place, but it can now be found in other pubs and in bottles as well - it's a very smooth golden ale which I like a lot. Also on hand-pull were Williams Red and Deuchars IPA.
Leaving the Brids and the Bees I followed the cyclepath which runs alongside the railway line to the outskirts of Bridge of Allan. On the main road into town is the Fountain of Nineveh, but unfortunately the actual fountain effect is no more - shame.
The Bridge of Allan Brewhouse (a slightly out-of-date website) is home to Tinpot Brewery and situated at the back of the Adamo Hotel (and Eva nightclub!).
The brewery is operated by Douglas Ross & Walter Dunlop and brewing here has a bit of history. The original Bridge of Allan Brewery operated for a number of years in the late 1990's/early 2000's before being removed and situated alongside the City of Stirling Brewery, now part of Traditional Scottish Ales (TSA, a VC2 joint venture) and some beers developed during that time were kept and 'mass-marketed' by TSA. Tinpot Brewery was installed in the Brewhouse a few years later and is completely separate from TSA. It's really quite small and now only brews for the Brewhouse and various beer festivals.
Behind the bar today was Kirstie, pouring the beers, washing glasses, heating the mulled wine & cider, selling bottles, shepherding the tours (today an ~15 strong Irish group) and she had helped brew all the beers on offer - an impressive young lady (but picture shy!). The place is obviously full of brewing paraphernalia with bottles, pump-clips, malt & hops, tools, newspaper articles and beer/brewing certificates everywhere - great just to browse through. There are some comfy seats to relax in and a number of additional beer barrel type tables - the only slight issue is that the place can get just a bit cold sometimes.
They've now decided to only offer their own beers on hand-pull in the Brewhouse (no TSA beers as was possible before). Some of the Tinpot beers can be quite experimental - I remember a Beetroot and Black Pepper Pot which was 'interesting' to say the least, but you have to give them a lot of credit for at least trying something different. On today were Hogmanay Wheat Beer, Double Chocolate Stout, 80/-, Hoppy 70/-, Marmalade Pot and Thai Pot.
Everything that I tried today was very good, with the Double Chocolate Stout especially so. I also bought a number of bottles (though I missed the Sage Pot and Cranberry Pot - damn!), talked to a few people who consider it their local (even though they come from Cumbernauld) and caught up with one of the organisers of the Braco Real Ale and Music Festival, so overall it was a more than acceptable way to start 2012.
Train: Bridge of Allan to Glasgow Queen St