Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Glasgow, West End - North: 11th February 2012

I could only manage another (very) local walk and crawl this weekend, so decided to try some pubs at the northern end of Glasgow's West End at Great Western Road/Byres Road. There are some great panoramic shots of the interiors of Glasgow pubs here, so I'll just stick to some descriptions of what's available from a beer point-of-view and some more detailed shots of the bar area.

View Glasgow - Byres Road North in a larger map

Outward Transport was as follows :-
  Glasgow SPT Subway to Kelvinbridge

When you come out of the subway at Kelvinbridge you have 2 choices - up the long set of escalators to Great Western Road (avoiding anybody running the wrong way up/down as part of the Subcrawl), or exit at the lower level beside the River Kelvin. I'd never done the latter, so today was the perfect opportunity since I thought this could be a short-cut to The Doublet and I was correct - straight onto South Woodside Road and then onto Park Road. I didn't end up back-tracking my steps and looking like a tourist - hooray !

The Doublet's a nice olde fashioned pub - a whitewashed front/bar room with mock-tudor beams and an upstairs lounge/function room with lots of wood panelling. In the bar there's a number of whisky and brewing mirrors, cooking utensils and crockery on the walls giving it a quirky, lived-in look, but the 'interesting' jukebox is unfortunately no more. There's normally at least one decent beer on - today there was the very sweet Williams Brothers Brotherly Love golden ale, a more than acceptable alternative to the safer Belhaven/GK options - Abbot Ale and Belhaven Grand Slam.

Heading back up to Great Western Road I popped into The Cave - probably the best beer shop in Glasgow (AleSela don't have a shop - damn).

They've definitely improved their range in the last few months - there have been new beers from De Molen, Brooklyn, Stone and Nøgne Ø and the staff are also pretty clued up, for example I was told that the bottle conditioned Nollaig would keep and mature for years, but the other Williams Brothers beers should be drunk before the best before date - good advice.

During this afternoon's crawl I wanted to try at least one place I'd never been in before and so went into the Big Blue, situated down on the Kelvin riverbank. There are entrances both from the riverside and from Great Western Road down a number of steep sets of steps.

It's owned by the same people who have Paperino's so the Italian food is fairly prominent, but the bar area is really nice - an arched ceiling, mosaics, and decorative bottles on the wall (although some of these Coors and Budweiser - where are the Peroni bottles ?). It was way, way too early for one of their special cocktails so I had a half of WEST St Mungo and watched the walkers and joggers trek up and down the Kelvin footpath.

Further along Great Western Road is The Wise Monkey, formerly Hubbard's, just below the infamous Viper Rooms nightclub (still known by most people that I know as Clattys (the previous name was Cleopatra's)).

It's now an Urban Pub Company place (as per 1901 and The Lincoln) and looks a lot better inside (still think the outside seems a bit temporary). There's loads of food deals and the selection of bottled foreign beer is definitely a cut above most places (Erdinger, Paulaner, Krucovice and some Belgian beers I didn't pick up). On hand-pull were Bitter and Twisted, Hobgoblin, Spitfire, Deuchars and 80/-, a pretty OK, but safe choice and I'm sure this was the same line-up as the last time I was in. It's a not bad place at all and a table at the window (or outside on the pavement) is a great spot to people-watch.

Heading further along Great Western Road past Achilles Heel (an excellent sports/running shop) I went into The Belle.

It's not the biggest place around (it's almost like someone's extended living room) but that just adds to its charms and all the mirrors/hub-caps on the wall certainly help give a bit more light into the back of the place. It was also playing by far the best music of anywhere this afternoon reflecting the younger clientèle. On tap are Brooklyn Lager and Anchor Steam Beer (both £5/£2.50 pint/half, so expensive but worthwhile) and there are a couple of decent bottled Hefeweizens.

At the south east corner of Great Western Road and Byres Road is the impressive Òran Mór, a converted church which took almost £6 million and 3 years to re-develop before opening in 2004 (supposedly just-in-time for owner Colin Beattie's daughter's wedding).

The venue hosts concerts, gigs and plays and I've always wanted to go along to a lunchtime 'A Play A Pie & A Pint' but have never done so - no excuses, especially since they now stage these on Saturdays. Today the main auditorium was being used for another wedding with kilted 'bouncers' on the main auditorium door, so I could only go into the Whisky Bar - a large, fairly dark chamber with a central island bar. On the ceiling are murals and the walls are full of painted portraits and tapestries - it really is well done and I like it a lot - sometimes it's nice to have no music, no TVs, and really efficient staff. They have 2 house beers - Òran Mór Gold brewed by Kelburn and Òran Mór Dark brewed by Houston. I chose the Dark today and it's an OK malty, dark ale, although nothing special, but there is always the choice of bottled St Mungo or Leffe.

The northern end of Byres Road was pretty busy by now so I made my way slowly down the road until Curlers Rest - recently modernised by the Mitchells & Butlers people.

It's far larger than you would expect from the outside with a lot of tables at the front, comfy sofas and low tables at the back with a single TV showing the rugby, and a large restaurant area upstairs, so they really are trying to cater for all possible customers. I liked the staff height pillar - from a quick check I noted that only one of the guys was taller than me - I should have been wearing my Docs!

They normally have some interesting guest beers and today there was Thornbridge Pica Pica - a great coffee infused Porter - probably my favourite beer of the day. Hopefully I managed to persuade the 'taller than me' barman that it would be a good idea to have further darker guest beers available in the future.

Ashton Lane is the place people most think of when going out in Glasgow's West End and one of the most prominent and long established premises is the Ubiquitous Chip - a great place for both food (especially Sunday Lunch) and a couple of beers.

There are now 3 separate bars in the building - the Wee Pub around the corner, a small downstairs bar in the actual Lane and the larger main bar upstairs.

They have a house beer called Chip 71 (the year the Chip was established) brewed by Fyne Ales, a excellent golden ale sort of mid-way between Pipers Gold and Avalanche, and they have also been doing a month long trial of Loch Lomond Ale of Leven, which I hadn't tried in cask before so was more than happy to give a go (a nice 70/- type ale). The main bar was pretty packed (a lot of coffee was being ordered and consumed) so I climbed the next set of stairs to the roof-top, covered and so sheltered slightly from the wind and mizzle - a great way to get some fresh air (smokers permitting).

In order to catch the 2nd half of the Italy-England 6-Nations game I crossed over Byres Road at University Avenue and went into Tennents, probably my favourite place to go when there is International football or rugby on - the atmosphere is normally great.

It was busy (as always) with the majority of people standing and the TVs tuned to both the rugby and the late football kick-off. They have a set number of regular beers (8 I think including Orkney Dark Island and Harviestoun Natural Blonde), and normally 2-3 guests and today I chose the Acorn Barnsley Bitter - a decent quite bitter(!) bitter, but not a patch on the Oakwell Barnsley Bitter that I had had at the Mapgpie in Carlisle.

A while ago Mitchells and Butlers had plans to modernise Tennent's into a bistro-type bar (see here), but these were thankfully shelved and as far as I could see the only significant change for some time has been was the addition of a small, quieter snug/table area at the side of the premises.

Hopefully at some point I'll manage to get a look at some of pubs at the southern part of the West End, at Byres Road/Dumbarton Road, an area which has changed considerably in the last 12 months.


  1. As of 7th Sep. 2012 The Big Blue is no more - it's now Inn Deep, and most definitely more of a Craft Beer bar with house beer by Williams Brothers and lots of interesting guests. To be visited at some point!

  2. Inn Deep and munro's are both definitely worth a visit - see