Friday, 7 March 2014

BrewDog Presents... at the SWG3 and into Finnieston: 1st March 2014

So here was something a little bit different to look forward to this weekend. BrewDog had decided to organise a Beer/Whisk(e)y/Music event out in the wilds of the SWG3 Warehouse in Glasgow - an arts/music place situated between Partick and Finnieston. This would involve beer (kegged of course), a number of meet-the-brewer events (Tempest, Beavertown, Magic Rock, Brew-by-Numbers and BrewDog themselves were all involved) and some kickin' street food in the afternoon, and then an evening of beer & live indie music until the small hours. It's a combination that BrewDog seem to be using to great effect in their bars, at Brew at the Bog and at their Equity Punk AGMs. Anyway I decided it was definitely going to be worthwhile to head out to the afternoon event (I'm way, way too ancient for the evening gigs) and this would also give me that opportunity to visit a few pubs in Finnieston on the way back into Glasgow city centre.

View SWG3 in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows :-
  Train: Partick Station (low-level train or subway)

The SWG3 is a bit of a strange place to get to; the optimal (but somewhat illegal) solution would be to stop a low-level train about mid-way between between Partick and Charing Cross, but instead I decided to leave Partick Station by its south exit, cross over the Clydeside Expressway by the Harbour Bridge and then set off back east towards the City Centre. This led me over the River Kelvin and to the site of the hyper-modern, zinc-clad Riverside Museum, housing the exhibits from the former Transport and Travel Museum and also the berth for the Tall Ship Glenlee.

It's definitely worth a visit if you have a day (or at least a good few hours) to spare, but I didn't, so I carried on (passing a good number of conscientious joggers & cyclists) until the Glasgow Tower and the Science Centre came into view across the Clyde; The Waverley paddle steamer is moored here for the winter months.

I then re-crossed the Expressway by a spiralling footbridge which led me down to the entrance of Eastvale Place. Here, situated under the long sweep of the railway arches, are a number of small businesses - antique shops, picture framers, photographers, design houses and a motorcycle parts/repair business; it's like a (very, very, very) much smaller version of Hackney and the other London Boroughs.

The SWG3 Warehouse is at the very end of Eastvale Place (it's a complete dead end), with its name writ large at the top of the building for everyone on the frequent trains to notice and wonder about.

I was one of the first to arrive, and after a bit of a wait we were allowed in to the main SWG3 building. This is spread-out only on the ground floor (at least today anyway) and was split into 3 main areas - a foyer & seating area with a small bar (not really needed or operational today)...

... a small stage for bands (look at that model train located on high where the dry ice comes from, nice)...

... and the main large floor space where the temporary bar was being set-up by the hard working BrewDog staff.

Also in this larger space were a T-shirt vendor, the Bourbon Whisk(e)y stand (selling different Buffalo Trace varieties) and a few guys doing some interesting wall art (which evolved to completion as the afternoon wore on).

Actually another section of the building was being used - the covered corridor leading to the motorcycle spares/repair business further on into the warehouse. Here the 'Street Food Cartel' people of So la ti dough had set-up a couple of benches and their transportable wood fired pizza oven (shades of Camden Town Brewery's Tap on a Friday evening here) - I had the spicy pepperoni pizza and it was pretty damn good.

So beer wise, what was happening ? On the dozen or so keg taps there were normally 2 sets of brewer's beer ongoing at any one time - the actual beers corresponded to the timing for the 'meet-the-brewer' talks that were happening. So with BrewDog @ 1pm, Tempest @ 2pm, Magic Rock @ 3pm, Brew-by-Numbers @ 4pm & Beavertown @ 5pm, this meant that initially BrewDog and Tempest beers were available and then the switch from BrewDog to Magic Rock started at ~2:30pm, from Tempest to Brew-by-Numbers at ~3:30pm etc... (though a couple of the BrewDog staples, Punk IPA & Dead Pony Club in particular) stayed on most/all of the time, fair enough I guess). This forced the staff to change kegs and clear the lines every hour, not easy at all, and it was quite impressive to see them go through the entire process (there was quite a lot of frothy beer overspill about when this happened). To give an indication of what was available this was the beer board when Magic Rock and Brew-By-Numbers were both on.

And so onto the meet-the-brewers talks. These guys were available pretty well all afternoon and quite willing to be plied with beer for an informal discussion on any matter beer related, but there was a more formal stand-up talk and Q&A for 15-20 minutes in the side room with the small stage. I missed the BrewDog one, but Gavin Meiklejohn, the owner & brewer from Tempest, gave a great talk on (amongst a whole load of subjects) his previous life as a Chef, the current state of the Tempest brewery in particular the length of a brewday (12 hours+) & moving into a new brewery later on in the year, the use of Seville oranges in the latest variant of Marmalade on Toast (absolutely superb, with a more pithy deep orange flavour) and how he puts the 'craft' in his beer (quality ingredients and a seriously hands-on approach).

Head Brewer Stuart Ross from Magic Rock came complete with beard (but no clown outfit), and mentioned his previous brewing experiences (Kelham Island & Acorn), how the brewery name & distinctive label artwork came to happen, that Magic Rock will soon be moving from Quarmby to new premises near the centre of Huddersfield (with extensive Brewery Tap), how happy he was with the gose-style Salty Kiss (pictured in hand) and how they will be trying to get more bottled beer available this year (hooray!). Stuart had brought 2 new beers with him - a hopped up Brown Ale called The Stooge and also Slapstick, a seriously dense & tangy wheat beer - lovely stuff.

And I just managed to catch Steve Gray, the new recruit at Brew-By-Numbers, as he explained the coded 2 tier numbering system that they use (the 1st number gives the style - 01 Saison, 02 Golden, 03 Porter, 04 Berliner Weisse, 05 IPA, 06 Belgian, 07 Wit, 08 Stout, 09 Brown Ale, 10 Coffee Porter, 11 Session IPA, 13 Brett, 99 Experimental; with the 2nd number being the recipe variant), how they had built their main brewery fermenters from fruit & dairy tanks (interestingly Strathaven Ales have done something similar) and the use of their pilot brewery which he is hoping to monopolise. I managed a couple of their beers, the 05/05 IPA Simcoe Chinook and the 01/08 Saison Wai-Iti & Lemon, the latter of which allowed the lemon to shine through the saison spiciness and was extremely good (probably the best beer of the day). These were expensive at £3.50 a half, but well worth it.

I left the SWG3 building at ~4:30pm when it was probably at its busiest (without seeing the Beavertown guys, hopefully I'll rectify that sometime soon or certainly when I'm next in East London later on in the year). The BrewDog Presents... event had a ticket limit of 300 and was fully sold out in the afternoon, but it didn't feel too crowded and the only time the bar got *that* busy was when the meet-the-brewer talks finished. I really enjoyed it - there was a diverse range of people to chat along to (mostly about beer) and it was good to see @TheBeerCast Rich again, there were new & interesting beers to drink, and I learnt quite a lot from the meet-the-brewer talks, so here's hoping BrewDog Presents... becomes an annual event.

On the way out I walked past all the (now closed) railway arches on Eastvale Place and then into Kelvinhaugh Street. There's a lot of residential developments going on here, but just before the Argyll Street junction is The 78 (named after the old-style HMV-78 rpm record player they have, I believe).

It's been around since 2007 and is one of Glasgow's few fully Vegan/Vegetarian food establishments, offering a seriously tasty lunch & then evening menu between 12:30pm until 9pm. They also provide vegan & organic beers from Sam Smiths, Black Isle and Williams Brothers, with cask Williams Brothers beers (they use a vegan friendly fining) also available. In days gone by there used to be 2 of these on hand-pull, but nowadays there is normally only 1, today Williams 80/- (a nice sweet Heavy, but perhaps needing a bit more body).

It's very much a stripped down place - a number of wooden tables & benches on the left hand side & in the middle, with some sofas on the right in front of a roaring fire (and that 78 player & a selection of associated records) but it makes a welcome change from some of the more 'commercial' places on nearby Argyll Street. This also applies to the the nearby Ben Nevis, just around the corner on Argyll Street proper.

It's always a great friendly place for a chat with the staff or the regulars, but today with just Deuchars IPA available (and WEST Steam Beer on keg) I decided that a quick half was all that I wanted.

Heading back east along Argyll Street I came across The Finnieston, a newish seafood restaurant/bar (opened in 2011) that I'd never been into before, so I decided it was worth a try (OK, and I'm a sucker for anchor murals on outside walls).

The bar area does have a number of high stools in front of the main bar and at the windows, and there's a couple of tucked-away nooks & crannies at the back, but the main area at the right is for the consumption of seafood specialities (including oysters done correctly). From a drinks point-of-view their main expertise is in cocktails but there was a decent selection of kegged beer on the fonts including Williams Ceilidh, WEST 4 and Sam Smith's Extra Stout (in place of any Guinness). I took a 1/2 of the Extra Stout and it certainly came in an interesting glass (to say the least). I'm assuming this is a Hi-Ball cocktail glass, but the barman assured me it was 1/2 a pint.

Almost directly opposite on the other side of Argyll Street is another relatively new place, the goth-coloured, black-on-dark-blue with tinted windows premises of Rockus.

This used to be The Pourhouse but has undergone a full-on long-haired, spandex-trousered rock/indie-music transformation with live music, open-mic nights, a free Wurlitzer-style juke-box, abstract murals and US diner food (burgers, wings etc...). For those of the Metal persuasion there are even bottles of Robinson's Iron Maiden Trooper beer in the fridge (although it isn't very good IMHO, a chilled Fyne Ales Jarl would be a far better choice).

And speaking of Fyne Ales these were an interesting find on the bar counter - seriously cool designer Fyne Ales keg fonts with Hurricane Jack and Zombier available.

I took a 1/2 of the Hurricane Jack (really good on keg, the fizz helps lift the very dry citrus) and watched the AC/DC-themed pinball machine flash its alluring lights at me. All told I'd certainly rather go here for beer, food & music rather than the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe in the centre of Glasgow (although, to-be-fair, they do serve somewhat different markets).

On leaving Rockus I decided that it made sense to give the almost twinned Lebowskis & The Brass Monkey a miss and so headed along Kent Road towards North Street and the incessant droning rumble of traffic from the M8. Here I came to magnificent splendour that is the Mitchell Library. The main entrance with its distinctive copper dome is on North Street facing the motorway and the city centre...

... but I actually prefer the opposite side of the building, with its pillars, statues and lamp-lights.

Taking a look inside the Mitchell Library after (quite) a few beers probably wasn't going to be a good idea (especially close to the 5pm closing time) but I thought I might be able go into the Avalon, on the south side of the Mitchell Library, to see if any of the advertised 'Real Ales' were available. However for some reason it was well and truly closed (although it was definitely open a couple of weeks ago, admittedly with only Belhaven IPA on hand-pull).

This meant I could head into the sanctuary that is the Bon Accord, situated on North Street (next to the West of Scotland Harley Davidson shop).

It's still one of my all-time favourite pubs in Glasgow (and also in Scotland) but today after a fair few beers (and at this time of the day) I wasn't going to be able to take enough good photos to do it justice; that will have to wait for another day (hopefully when the owner Paul McDonagh gives me the Cellar Tour). Suffice to say that there are always 10 beers from all over the UK on, all in great condition (and all at the same price, regardless of abv), so that wherever you stand (or sit), at the long bar, the seats at the front, or the tables at the back, you can be assured of a warm welcome to go with your great beer or wee dram.

Return travel:-
  Train: Charing Cross (low-level)

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