Monday, 30 April 2012

Barrhead to the Paisley Beer Festival: 28th April 2012

Due to circumstances beyond my control I couldn't get to the Brewdog AGM in Aberdeen this weekend, but thankfully there was a more than acceptable alternative nearer home - the Paisley Beer Festival. I'd gone with a few friends from work on Friday night and had sampled a few of the newer beers, so come Saturday I was quite happy to walk from Barrhead into Paisley and then pick up a selection of whatever beers were left late on in the afternoon at the Festival.

View Paisley Beer Festival in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Glasgow Central to Barrhead

By a quirk of fate this was actually going to be a continuation of my North/East Ayrshire trek from last week which ended up at Barrhead train station. Today having started from the station I was able to head up to Kelburn Brewery which has been operating from a nearby industrial estate since 2002. They brew some nice, good quality ales (their newest Carte Noir is an excellent chocolatey Porter) and although I knew it wasn't going to be open on a Saturday, I went for a look around in any case. I actually walked past it the first time since there's only a small sign and a few empty casks indicating that the brewery actually exists - it's certainly a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the end product!

Heading back north towards Cross Stobs and Paisley I came across this - a drive-thru coffee 'shack' (which I assume is a converted petrol station) called Coffeze. I hadn't seen one before (hey this is Scotland and not the South-East) but the prices looked more appealing than Starbucks and they seem to be making good use of social media type marketing - good luck to them.

On the outskirts of Barrhead at the junction of Paisley Road and Grahamston Road is the Cross Stobs Inn.

This has a well respected family restaurant (R. Nicol at The Stobs) in the conservatory and a bar with a separate games room (2 pool tables - rare to see). There are 2 hand-pulls with only 1 in use today dispensing Kelburn Misty Law, but also WEST Munich Red and an SABMiller/Czech lager called Kozel on draught. I quite like the place with some nice lighting in the bar, a range of pump clips displayed (although I think I've only ever seen Kelburn beers on), brass fixtures, old pictures of Barrhead High Street and a prominent flyer for the Beer Festival.

Attached to the Inn is the Cross Stobs Wine Shop. Not surprisingly there is a large selection for those who prefer the grape to the grain, but there's also some deli goods (chocolates, oat cakes, biscuits) and a number of shelves and a fridge with some decent bottled beer. All the Fyne Ales were present along with Kelburn and Black Isle beers and I also spied a pilsner called Kingdom from Cambodia which I hadn't tried before - thus an easy purchasing decision was made.

Next it was a walk somewhat back on myself past an industrial estate (on one side) and a farm (on the other) to the main A736 Glasgow Road and the The Waterside Inn.

The last time I was here I got caught up in the middle of a wedding celebration - great fun, though seriously noisy, but today the place was very quiet after having seen off the lunchtime diners. There's a nice relaxed bar area, with lots of pictures of the Inn in days gone by, a real fire and then a separate restaurant with lots of specials and steak nights advertised. Kelburn Goldihops was on the single hand-pull but I allowed the manager to subtly direct me to the just available WEST St Mungo lager (at a decent price for a half compared to the brewery) - WEST certainly seem to be doing a very good job of getting their beer into Greater Glasgow pubs at the moment.

On leaving the Waterside I couldn't see any better way to walk into Paisley other than to follow the main Glasgow road to The Hurlet (a local hill), go past the Toby Carvery (busy compared to the Waterside, shame) and then walk along the busy dual carriageway to the Barrhead Road junction. Just up from here is the Abbey Inn, a Maclays pub, and very similar in tone & decor to another Maclay's establishment in Paisley that I'd been to a few weeks ago for a night out, the Canal Station.

This is very much a food and accommodation led establishment with a large conservatory restaurant, lots of meal deals etc... and quite OK for what it does, and thankfully from a beer point-of-view this time instead of Deuchars IPA there was at least Harviestoun's Bitter and Twisted - a significant improvement to the Canal House.

As I entered Paisley town centre I walked past the iconic red-sandstone Anchor Mills complex, built in 1886 but substantially redeveloped in the early 2000's. The company I work for used to be based in there, and when the Taggart people from STV were looking for a location in Paisley for filming they chose the distinctive Anchor Mills building and our 'high-tech' offices - it was a good piece of business for a weekend's filming time if only about 30 seconds of actual screen time.

I was now in the centre of Paisley and thought I could manage 1 more pub before setting off to the Beer Festival. The Last Post (JDW) close to Paisley Gilmour Street station probably has the best beer selection (and is a great building), The Wee Howf probably has the most eclectic clientèle, but I've always liked the Bull Inn, another Maclays pub, but with a lot more character than the other places (and obviously a different customer base).

It's a long narrow place with great stained glass windows at the front, large book & whisky bottle cases, hops & twinkly lights at the bar, and of course, the ornamental Bull's Head at the centre of the bar. On hand-pull today were Deuchars IPA, Houston Peters Well and Kelburn Carte Blanche, but there was also a flyer for a free Caledonia Best tasting, so the Maclays-Tennents tie-up is starting already. Probably the most interesting feature of the place are the 3 snugs at the rear, great places to have a chat or a meal away from the noise of the main bar (although there are now TVs in a couple of them).

Finally I could now head along Paisley High Street to the magnificent Town Hall, location of the 25th Paisley Beer Festival.

Renfrewshire CAMRA organise this and this year they'd changed the rooms around with the Scottish beers now in the larger main hall, and the English beers in the smaller minor hall, which just shows the strength of Scottish brewing at the moment.

The theme for the English bar this year was Cumbria (which had definitely been expanded to the North of England) with the Hawkshead & Ulverston beers uniformly excellent and (unusually) all of the Theakston beers conditioned (for 39 days) in oak casks rather than the standard stainless steel. Opinion was varied on this, but I really liked the smoothness and slight vanilla flavour that it imparted to their beers. 'Journeyman Cooper' Jonathan Manby from Theakston also performed a cooperage demonstration and 'trial' - good fun, but there was no way I was volunteering to give it a go.

The Foreign bar was almost completely finished by the time I got to it at about 5pm on Saturday afternoon. I managed a half of the great Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbok beer, serious stuff at 7.4% and extremely tasty, but I think that just afterwards Radio Scotland star Ronnie from the 3 Judges was about to sell the last of the draught and bottled Foreign beers.

The festival staff had tapped 35-40 new casks on Friday night, so the cask beer choice, especially in the Scottish Bar, was still excellent - unusual, but very welcome for a beer festival Saturday with great beers from new breweries such as Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Scottish Borders still on (it's amazing how good the beers from these new breweries have become in such a short space in time). So it was a last few Scottish beers before my train home, including the Fyne Ales Davaar Blond - a superb bitter IPA to end my visit.
Main hall - Scottish Bar (thanks to the Renfrewshire Council staff for allowing me upstairs)

I think that was probably one the best beer festivals I've ever been to so well done to everyone involved - the choice of beer was impressive and in great condition, the 'craft' chocolate stall was an excellent idea and the staff were all pretty amazing. I'd not volunteered this year as I had last time (I couldn't be sure of my time), but will definitely do so again next year.

Return Transport:-
  Train: Paisley Gilmour Street to Glasgow Central


  1. Looks like a great festival - does the inclusion of English and European beer give the edge over SRAF?

  2. I'm probably biased, but I'd say so. A couple of (associated) reasons - the beer enthusiasts/geeks/raters amongst us will probably have had a very large proportion of the beers on at SRAF so that 'fun' of trying new beers is definitely less, and since I would normally only make the Saturday at SRAF, it's highly likely that most of the new Scottish beers will have gone, whereas at Paisley there will always be a large number of 'unknown', yet excellent, English (possibly not European) beers still to try - this year including Theakston (from oak), Ulverston, Geltsdale etc...

  3. Don't call me a geek! ;)

    To my eternal shame, I've never been to the Paisley festival. I attend every day of the SRAF too - next year I'll make it over to Paisley.

  4. Ha! Thankfully geek was 2nd in my list of choices ;-)
    I'll prob wait for a twitter update before deciding whether to go to SRAF on the Sat. That's what happened at Paisley - the official twitter feed indicated 35-40 new beers on Sat. so it was a no-brainer to go again on Sat. a/noon

  5. They have a record number of beers on at SRAF this year, but you're right - it depends if they keep some back to avoid running out like last year. But they know what they are doing, I reckon that'll be the case - some will be held back.