Friday, 27 December 2013

Golden Pints 2013

These are my Golden Pint 'Awards' for the beers I've drunk and the pubs, bars & beer festivals I've been to in 2013 with links to various blog posts & untappd checkins.

Best UK Cask Beer:
Loch Lomond Brewery Drayman's Travels - Cove & Kilcreggan Beer Festival. A chocolate-orange-candy stout infused with chillies, it made me smile *a lot*. Outstanding!

Best UK Keg Beer:
Summer Wine Brewery The Devil Loves Nelson Sauvin - The Knott, Manchester. I love Nelson Sauvin but sometimes it's a bit unbalanced; this was toned down just a tad and superb.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer:
Celt Experience Ogham Willow - bought from their own web-site. Excellent US/Euro Double IPA, but all the Celt Ogham & Shapeshifter beers I've had have been are great.

Best Overseas Draught Beer:
Brouwerij De Molen Amarillo - FyneFest. Seville oranges with added alcohol heat, yumm.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer:
Odell Brewing Co. Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout - bought from Valhalla's Goat.

Best collaboration brew:
Comarty Brewing and Tempest Brewing Cone Head - Cloisters, Edinburgh. Just picked toasted pinecones, lots of hops and Ardennes yeast, lovely.

Best Overall Beer:
It has to be Loch Lomond Brewery Drayman's Travels.

Best Branding, Pumpclip, Label or Beer Name:
Fyne Ales Spaghetti Western, aka The Good, The Bad and The @WillMill82

Best UK Brewery:
Cromarty Brewing. Consistency, consistency, consistency & brilliance.

Best Overseas Brewery:
Brouwerij De Molen (although not for the Raad & Daad).

Best New Brewery Opening 2013:
Six° North, Stonehaven. The 'The Belgian Brewers of Scotland' has worked out really well.

Pub/Bar of the Year:
Large scale - Inn Deep, Kelvinbridge, Glasgow.
Small scale pub - Railway Tavern, Kincardine.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013:
St Andrews Brewing Co. Pub - South Street, St Andrews

Beer Festival of the Year:
FyneFest 2013 - Great people, great beer, a walk to a bothy in the hills - what more could a person want?

Best city for beer in the UK:

Supermarket of the Year:
Aldi(Scotland) - 2 great Scottish Beer Festivals in the year, Summer & Winter.

Independent Retailer of the Year:
There's such a choice now in Glasgow and I can't possibly choose between Hippo Beers, Valhalla's Goat and Good Spirits Co.

Online Retailer of the Year:
AleselA - beer choice, packaging and service you can't beat.

Best Beer Book or Magazine:
CAMRA Ayrshire's Full Pints magazine is a good read.

Best Beer Blog or Website:
The Beercast - The Scottish Beer Website (by the 'legendary' Richard Taylor)

Best Beer App:
Untappd is pretty well the only one I use.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:
@broadfordbrewer - beer & (bad, hilarious) puns.

Best Brewery Website/Social media:
Siren Craft Brew - always informative blog

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year:
Whitebait & Loch Ness Brewery Ness Express - Benleva Hotel, Dromadrochit.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Strathaven Ales and some surrounding places: 20th December 2013

This was to be my last day off in 2013 so I hoped I might be able to repeat last year's trip to Penrith, but the impending rain & gale force winds meant that I thought somewhere closer to home was more sensible. Instead I decided on Strathaven, in deepest Lanarkshire, which would allow me to visit Strathaven Ales, possibly not the most 'fashionable' of breweries (I can't really see The Hanging Bat taking too many of their beers for instance) but they still manage to get a lot of their beers into a lot of Glasgow pubs.

View Strathaven in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Hamilton Central (every 15 minutes)
  Bus: Hamilton to Strathaven (50 on the hour, 13 Henderson Travel)

The bus from Hamilton took a bit longer than scheduled due to masses of standing water on the back roads to Strathaven; it's been a Wet-Wet-Wet week in more aspects than one. I got off at the bus stop in the bustling shopping area of the Common Green and then walked due south to Lesmahagow Road. This was a busy road out of town, and even though the footpath was set back slightly from the road there was still lots of spray from cars & lorries to avoid. I had hoped to get onto a path just out of town but this was totally waterlogged; it was a river not a path.

Instead I continued on down the main road and before too long sighted the Craigmill Brewery, home to Strathaven Ales, from the top of the hill before the River Avon.

I crossed the bridge over the River Avon, turned left and reached the 200-year old mill building, initially developed & used by Williams Brothers in their earlier Heather Ales incarnation before they moved to Alloa. Since 2005 it has been home to Strathaven Ales and they have extended the use of the building and developed a fairly large range of core beers and seasonal specials (their Aleberry made with Clyde Valley berries is one of the best cask fruit beers around).

Heading inside I came to a small office and shop/display area. On show were lots of bottles & minikegs and also lots of awards (the most recent being a SIBA Scotland Gold Award for Craigmill Mild, a much underrated 60/-).

Because of the 'unsettled' weather I had a complete change of clothes with me so that meant I could only carry a few bottles. Thankfully they had the one beer that I wanted, their Usquebae Ale (from the Gaelic Uisge Beatha, Water of Life). This is their strong, sweet 7% 500 beer (initially brewed as their 500th brew) and then matured in 1st-fill bourbon casks from Grant's distillery in Girvan. I took the bare bottle for the hardened drinker rather than the gift pack tube and also bottles of Lord Kelvin and one of the 500 (for the ridiculous prices of £1.25 since it had the wrong Best Before date printed in error). There was also the tempting sight of some real ale fudge (made with Craigmill Mild) available - an opportunity that I couldn't possibly resist.

Craig Buchanan (the owner) was then good enough to give me a quick look around the brewery. It's a 10bbl plant spread over 3 levels, with the Mash Tun set on high...

...and the Copper gravity fed below. This is stone-clad and unusual (to say the least). Craig mentioned that it does help with keeping the temperature constant but that it is mostly decorative (it definitely looks the part). The copper is gas-fired with a real flame going through the element inside which perhaps explains why there is a more burnt, roasted malt flavour to a lot of their beers.

The fermenters are back on the top level and are 3 old rectangular dairy vessels, double insulated with internal cooling elements.

And then back on ground level are the 10 conditioning tanks, 5bbl each. Beer can be conditioned here for 2 weeks or more depending on demand.

Down on the lower level of the building is the Tap Room which is reached by heading downstairs past the old mill wheel (a fairly impressive piece of mechanical engineering).

This is used for functions, CAMRA group visits, Strathaven Gala Day etc... and although it was pretty chilly down there today, in the summertime with the doors open to the picnic area beside the River Avon it must a lovely place for a beer or 2 or 3.

Whilst we were there I quizzed Craig about his possible plans for the next year. It seems they are thinking about a very hoppy golden beer (they don't really have one in their current range) and are also seriously thinking about kegged beer, which would go hand-in-hand with a bottling line. I was also intrigued about their branded JD Wetherspoon 'house ale' which Craig told me was Claverhouse Red with a slightly higher alcohol content, but it also seems most of their strong 500 beer also goes to the Wetherspoon pubs (I don't know if that's an indictment of the Wetherspoon drinking culture or not).

Craig then helpfully gave me the best directions to the nearby Spectacle E'e waterfalls (it's a great name, the (supposed) history behind it can be found here). I walked through the brewery yard, over a couple of stiles and found the path between the bank of the River Avon and the edge of a couple of wired off fields. Turning alongside the Kype Water I could have crossed the river over a handy wooden bridge/plank to get to the built-up viewing area, but I decided to clamber up a steep muddy slope to get my photo (probably not too sensible in hindsight). After all the rain of the past few days the Spectacle E'e falls were pretty (well) spectacular and incredibly noisy.

There is another nearby bridge over the River Avon but as it led to the waterlogged path I had passed previously I decided to retrace my steps back to the brewery and then back up the road to the centre of Strathaven. This did give me a good view of the long abandoned ruins of Strathaven Castle.

By now I was looking for somewhere to eat and decided to try The Waterside where I'd eaten before on my last (and only) visit to Strathaven. However on inspection this didn't look too promising with leaves piled up in front of the main door. A hairdresser across road out for a smoke took pity on me and said that it had closed down in early November but the rumour was that it had been bought over and could re-open in New Year - hopefully so.

My next possibility was The Star Inn just down the road. It's in a nice location just across from the burn and there was a single hand-pull with Greene King IPA available, but they weren't doing any food on 'Black Friday'.

However the helpful barmaid did direct me to the large Bucks Head Hotel and Restaurant on the main road out of Strathaven to Kilmarnock.

I went into the lounge, made sure they were serving non-festive food, and decided that I didn't really want any of the Fosters, Guinness or John Smith's available on tap. However the waitress was more than happy to direct me to the bar where I took a (slightly) more inviting pint of Kronenbourg 1664 Cold Premiere and was then shown the way back into the lounge (they really were a helpful bunch of people in Strathaven).

It's only a small lounge with 4 or 5 tables, a nice fire and stone walls so thick that I couldn't get a either a phone signal or the WiFi signal from the other section of the hotel. I ordered the soup & char-grilled chicken ciabatta (very good with loads of chicken breast on this), but it was more interesting to watch the waitresses dealing with the Christmas parties in the restaurant next door; they knew what they were doing and were really good.

Food done I was finally able to head to The Weavers pub, just down from the Bucks Head at the junction of the main road and the Common Green.

It's a classic single room pub with the bar at the far wall, a single large pillar in the centre and today the place absolutely sparkled with Christmas decorations. I don't think I've ever seen so many hanging baubles, they must have been one every 10cm or so arranged in a precise grid pattern over the bar.

In addition there were snowmen, reindeer, tinsel, candles, flashing lights and more baubles strewn around the rest of the room; it was certainly very Christmassy and I really quite liked it. This was in addition to the nice hanging glass/ceramic lamps, the fireplace at the right side of the room with the surrounding comfy seats and the mass of prints of movie stars hung on all the walls - Bruce Lee, Marilyn, Robert De Niro, Keanu Reeves etc... were all present and correct.

There were 4 hand-pulls on at the bar, with only 3 available today dispensing Strathaven Weavers Ale (complete with picture of the pub on the pump-clip), Fuller's ESB and Big Lamp Lamp Light, as well as Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier and Veltins Pils on draught.

I only had time for a couple of 1/2s so went with the Strathaven Weavers Ale (perhaps a bit astringently bitter) and the Big Lamp Lamp Light (far more balanced). However I did manage to chat with landlady regarding The Waterside and it seems it has been bought by the owners of The Tap Room in Hamilton, who specialise in food & cocktails, so I'm guessing that it's unlikely to have much in the way of real ale in the near future.

Return travel:-
  Bus: Strathaven to Hamilton (04 on the hour)
  Train: Hamilton to Glasgow Central (every 15 minutes)

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Sorn and Failford on the River Ayr: 7th December 2013

With the weather and the shorter daylight hours it's sometimes difficult to get to many pubs in the wintertime, but get an early enough train and there's normally a way. This weekend I headed to East Ayrshire to visit a pub I hadn't been to before and also one that I hadn't been in for a few years, with (hopefully) a walk in-between along the picturesque River Ayr.

View Sorn in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows :-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Auchinleck (08:12, then every 2 hours)
  Bus: Auchinleck to Sorn (21 on the hour, Stagecoach X50)

Auchinleck is an East Ayrshire former mining town which (unsurprisingly) hit a bit of a downturn when the coal mine and nearby Barony power station closed down in the 1980's. However with the opening and restoration of Dumfries House (only a mile or so away) it's perhaps undergoing a bit of a resurgence. Dumfries House is certainly an interesting place for a wander around (the photo was taken in the summertime, definitely not today!) and the collection of 'old master' paintings is probably worth the entrance fee on its own (though photography is not permitted inside the House).

About the only other thing I'd come to associate Auchinleck with was their 'Junior' football team, the mighty Auchinleck Talbot, so with a few minutes to spare I walked up from the train station to see if I could find their ground, Beechwood Park. As Junior Cup winners 'The Bot' have automatically been in the Scottish FA Cup for the past few years, and in 2012 were narrowly beaten in the Fourth Round by eventual winners Hearts.

There's a pretty good bus service from Auchinleck to both Kilmarnock & Ayr but I had to take the more circuitous X50 service which literally went 'round the houses' in Auchinleck before heading off into the Ayrshire countryside and eventually dropping me off in the main street of Sorn (and then it seemed to reverse back the way to continue on to Catrine). After a very short walk past a playground and a bowling green I came to the whitewashed buildings of the Sorn Inn,

OK, I admit I probably did hang around at the main entrance of the Inn for 5 minutes or so before they took pity on me and opened up at almost dead on Noon. I then walked through the fairly large Michelin-guide listed restaurant before being directed back the way and into the festively decorated small bar.

There are a few small tables here around the opposite corner to the bar and I was happy to de-camp there rather than go and sit in the more formal seating area across the partition from the bar (I think this is called the Chop House, I don't know why).

There was a single hand-pull with Orkney Northern Lights on today (John Smiths, Coors & Guinness were also available) and I took a pint of this (very well kept) and went to peruse the extensive menu. Or at least I did for about 3 minutes or so before most of the lights went out, leaving only the twinkling, colourful Christmas lights (probably not quite enough to eat by). Thankfully this proved to be short lived and having made my choice I was happy to look around the bar at the pictures of old Sorn, the modern freezes and note the local Post Box (for Christmas Cards, I guess). I'd gone for something filling and warming, meatballs with tomato sauce & pesto, and although the sauce was great the meatballs seemed a bit dry and just a tad disappointing.

Stepping back out into the dreich weather I walked along Sorn main street and past a large motorcycle shop until I came to Sorn 'Auld Brig' over the River Ayr, with restored milestone and old church on either side.

It's an early 18th Century Bridge built to reduce accidents when fording the river (makes sense!) and is just about wide enough for a single car.

There was then a slight incline until the start of the River Ayr walkway. As the path rose it gave great views of Sorn Castle, a private residence complete with extensive grounds which can be used for weddings and other functions.

The path did quickly head back down to the bank of the River Ayr where the river was in full flow after the storm of Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

The path was pretty muddy with a lot of run-off from the surrounding ground, but that was easy enough to negotiate. What was more difficult, however, were the amount of trees and branches that had blown down to block the path, I think due to a combination of the winds and the sheer force of the river in some places.

Apart from a couple of such obstacles it was a nice walk along the river until a large bend which heralded the Catrine Voes, an area of wetland which was used as a reservoir to power the historic cotton mills, but which is now a nature reserve. There's also a weir here to help provide the necessary water flow.

Unfortunately just before the footbridge over the river, the path was closed for what seemed to be some serious repairs, and by closed I mean there were some all encompassing high metal fences which would have been difficult to breach. This required a detour up the driveway of Daldorch House, a large home/school run by the National Autistic Society which eventually took me out onto the Sorn-Catrine B-road. As I descended into Catrine there were some very veiled views of the Glen Catrine Bond complex, the largest independent bottling facility in Scotland. To be honest I don't think there is too much else of interest in Catrine so I hopped on the first 43 bus to Ayr, which took me through Mauchline and then into the village of Failford (though the driver missed the bus stop by a good 100 metres). Situated at the roadside is the Failford Inn, a low slung building located in the middle of a terraced row of houses.

This was the first time I'd visited the Failford Inn since Michelle Kelsall & family had moved back to England in 2010 with new owners having taken over. Michelle had setup the long-remembered and long-lamented Windie Goat Brewery in the cellar of the Failford in 2006 and had given me some of my earliest memories of UK-brewed, hop-forward, US-style IPAs (the magnificently hazy & cascade bitterness of Gutter Slab anyone ?). Michelle now operates Offbeat Brewery in Crewe and still produces some outstanding beers (for instance the lovely Topsy & Turvy at Carlisle Beer Festival). The bar area on the right of the Failford hasn't changed too much; a very small space with just a few tables and a lovely warming fire, with a lot more seating in the adjoining restaurant area. Although the brewery has been sold to the Iceni Brewery in Ickburgh, Norfolk they (thankfully) still do some cask beer - today Ayr Brewing's golden bitter Leezie Lundie was the only beer available on the 2 hand-pulls.

Their food is also meant to still be very good, but having eaten already I decided that even on a day like today it was worthwhile heading out to the lovely terraced beer garden at the back of the Inn with the River Ayr in full flow at the far end of the terrace.

The are a fair amount of both bench & individual seats on the terrace and although I wasn't going to sit down today without some plastic sheeting it was still good to drink a decent pint out in the fresh air whilst leaning on the decking.

Normally when I'm at the Failford I walk the 3 miles or so downriver to the Stair Inn, another lovely country pub set in the Ayrshire countryside just off the River Ayr. The riverside path is pretty spectacular with parts of the sandstone cliffs of the River Ayr steeped in history (Peden's Cove and Windie Goat Wood), but today I decided it probably wasn't worthwhile (it's definitely a summertime walk-and-crawl in the longer daylight hours). I therefore got on the next 43 bus to Ayr and went pretty well straight to The GlenPark Hotel for a beer (the Ayr Brewing Clootie Bree is a lovely warming, spicy winter ale) and to pick-up one of their bottles of Doctor Blacklock Stouts (the Blueberry one). I'd have to say they probably have enough beer to last the Festive Season (but perhaps not...).

Return Transport:-
  Bus: Catrine to Failford (13, 43 on the hour, Stagecoach 43)
  Bus: Failford to Ayr (23, 53 on the hour, Stagecoach 43)
  Train: Ayr to Glasgow Central (very regular)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

St Andrews on St Andrew's Day: 30th November 2013

I normally head to St Andrews in the Christmas/New Year period when I'm back in my home city of Dundee but I'd recently seen some social media chat about a new 'craft beer' pub about to open up in the town, a joint venture between Bob Phaff of the St Andrews Brewing Company (who brews some really good beers) and local businessman Tim Butler (who runs an award winning restaurant). It was therefore 'put into the diary' for a visit in few weeks time. However I then I noticed that this St Andrews Brewing Co. pub had actually opened last week and since this weekend just happened to coincide with both St Andrew's Day and the St Andrews Food & Drink Festival I decided that a spur-of-the-moment trip to St Andrews was worth the effort.

View St Andrews '13 in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Haymarket
             Haymarket to Leuchars
  Bus: Leuchars to St Andrews (Stagecoach in Fife 99, every 10 minutes)

After the tragic events at The Clutha bar the evening before it was in a pretty sombre mood that I started out from Glasgow on St Andrew's Day morning. I love the town of St Andrews but it's not the easiest place to get to from the west coast and even when I managed to get both my connections by mere minutes it was still almost 2 hours before I alighted at Leuchars train station. The frequent bus from Dundee then took me past Eden St Andrews Brewery in Guardbridge and although I was tempted to get off and see what they were doing for St Andrew's Day possible time pressures meant that I stayed on until St Andrews bus station. I first of all went up to 177 South Street to check on the St Andrews Brewing Co. pub premises (it was where I thought it would be, hooray!) and its opening times (1pm to 11pm this Saturday). This meant I had at least a bit of time to wander back down to the magnificent West Sands Beach area of St Andrews.

Of course the world famous St Andrews Old Course starts & finishes here with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club clubhouse located just behind the 1st Tee and the 18th Green.

It's normally only open to Club members (and male members at that, but I won't go there), but they've had a recent tradition of opening the clubhouse to the public on St Andrew's Day. Since it was St Andrew's Day and I was a member of the public I decided that such an opportunity had to be taken. As I entered the main foyer of the clubhouse pride of place in the trophy cabinet is a certain 'claret jug', also known as the Open Golf Golf Champion Trophy.

This is the original trophy (all the others including the one the winner keeps for a year are replicas) and I did check that Phil Mickelson's name was engraved on the base of the trophy. There were a couple of other rooms available to peruse, as expected they were full of portraits of famous golfers and not-so famous captains of the club, and there were lots of golfing memorabilia on display.

However it is the view out of the main drawing room windows down the 1st fairway with the Old Course Hotel in the background which is the most spectacular part of the building (and look at all those binoculars for use by the members).

As I left the R&A Clubhouse I went past the red-bricked Hamilton Grand building just up the street. This used to be a hotel and thereafter was part of the St Andrews University student residences. I remember some years ago that when Nick Faldo refused to play a shot to the 18th green due to fog, some students hung out a banner the next day asking 'SEE THIS ONE NICK?' - Mr Faldo was supposedly not amused. However the building was purchased by an American billionaire in 2009 and now the 26 luxury apartments with 'the best view in golf' can go for more than £7million each.

By now I was looking for somewhere to eat a lightish lunch and I did contemplate The Seafood Restaurant which just happens to be owned by none other than friendly local restaurateur Tim Butler (director in the St Andrews Brewing Co. pub).

The view at the water's edge almost persuaded me but I decided instead to head to the Scores Hotel at the top of the raised beach which as part of the St Andrews Food and Drink Festival was running a 'Pie Fest' as well as their normal menu.

The lower Chariots Bar was closed for the winter, but the upstairs Coffee Shop & Champions Grill Restaurant was open for business (if a bit quiet). The actual bar area is fairly small with only a few draught beer taps, with the walls covered with lots of pictures of golfers & celebrities who have obviously stayed at the hotel...

... but the main selling points for me were in the form of the view out to the beach from the windows and also the availability of bottles of beer from Eden St Andrews Brewery ('Would you like a lager, Sir', 'No - I'll have a local beer, thanks').

Pie Fest consisted of menu 5 different types (Mixed Game, Steak & Ale, Chicken Ham & Leek, Seafood & Roasted Winter Veg) so trying to be as local as possible I went for the East Neuk Seafood Pie with Savoy Cabbage & Bacon. As pies go it was certainly pretty good, full of smoked haddock & large prawns and topped with cheesy mashed tatties.

After quite an in-depth technical chat with one of the staff about Android phones and Operating Systems (a real first for me in a restaurant!) I headed back up to the town centre and popped into St Andrews Wine Company shop on Bell Street. This has only been open for just under a year (and the owner used to be a manager at Luvians, so must know what he's doing).

The have a reputation for always having a bottle of wine or beer open and today was no exception. The lovely Siobhan from Eden Brewery St Andrews was giving out samples of their 600th beer, celebrating 600 years of St Andrews University. This was a light golden beer flavoured with lime honey and also meadowsweet (a traditional flower used in beer making) from nearby Little Herb Farm. It was certainly very interesting with a floral aroma, an initial tart lime taste and then a very dry bitter-sweet finish. It certainly didn't take much persuading from Siobhan for me to buy a bottle.

The opening of the St Andrews Brewing Co. pub seemed to have been delayed for a bit (there were still boxes littering the floor, a dead give-away), so I decided that a visit to Aikman's Cellar Bar just down from the St Andrews Wine Company Shop would be a more than acceptable diversion.

On the ground level it's more of a bar/bistro type of place (the downstairs Cellar Bar doesn't normally open until past 6pm) and it seems to have been modelled somewhat on a cosy Dutch/Belgian café-bar. There's a lot of small tables, photos of St Andrews & some literary figures on the walls, gig posters, books & games on a number of shelves and on the wooden bar a good selection of draught continental beers (Bitburger Pils, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Duvel Green and Velkopopovický Kozel) and 3 hand-pulls (with only 2 available this afternoon, Black Sheep Bitter and Kelburn Red Smiddy). I actually went for the Duvel Green as I hadn't tried it on draught before and I quite enjoyed it as a somewhat easier drinking option to a normal Duvel so early in the afternoon.

Unusually there is also a separate pâtisserie counter next to the main bar, with loads of tempting cakes, cream-filled pastries, flapjacks, slices of gateaux etc... but I did (somehow) manage to hold myself back from buying anything.

By now the St Andrews Brewing Co. pub had opened their doors (hooray!). In its previous life it was Chillies Indian Restaurant, but now the windows are full of malt, hops and lots of bottles of St Andrews Brewing Co. beer.

First impressions are of a fairly wide front area at the windows which then extends into a quite long & narrow ground floor space reaching out a fair distance back into the rear of the building. There's a lot of wood here - the polished floor, the sweeping bar counter, the panels below the bar, wooden barrels being used as tables, wooden stools and a dense mass of dark wood beams, but it all works well with the exposed brick-work walls and the bright halogen spotlights.

It's only when you get closer that you see how stunning that oak(?) bar counter actually is. Originally part of the same tree it's now 5 pieces (I think, because of the hatch) and it just flows wonderfully along the length of the bar.

I wasn't the first one in that afternoon, a large group celebrating a Birthday had beaten me to it and were ordering quite a few 1/3rds of beer, but that allowed me to peruse the really quite substantial beer board consisting of 8 cask and 8 keg beers (and I didn't even get to the 70+ bottled beers in the fridge). To be honest I don't think there's anything like this in Scotland outside Edinburgh (and in particular The Hanging Bat), and they also have also decided to go with the Bat's policy of not supplying full pint measures, it was 2/3rds or 1/3rds only (although I'm not sure about 1/2s, I didn't ask). It would perhaps have been good to have both a small description/style and a price on the blackboard (probably another one would be required), but you can get around the first by asking the more than patient bar-staff for some help and a sample, and the second by buying either 3x 1/3rds for £5, or 5x 1/3rds for £7.50 (under 7% beers only) and if you don't want them all at once you just get your receipt marked up as you go. (You can now follow @STABCoTaps for details of what's on the taps).

I recognised a lot of the breweries & beers on tap since it's the New Wave people who supply a fair amount of these (as they do for the Hanging Bat, the Fuller-Thomson pubs, as well as Munro's and Inn Deep in Glasgow), but there's (doh!) a lot of St Andrews Brewing Co. beers available (and some pub-only specials forthcoming) and also some beers from other Fife microbreweries. Today Beeches Brewery Bock Biere was available and John Reade from the Abbot Brew House in Dunfermline was bringing a cask of his Adventuress over that afternoon. First off I decided to go with the St Andrews Mocha Porter, a lovely dark chocolate & cocoa porter with a hint of chilli heat that went really well on keg, and with drink(s) sorted I asked permission to take a few photos and headed off to explore the rest of the pub whilst it was still relatively quiet (by 8pm the place is meant to be totally stowed). There's a fair amount of more comfortable seating at the front windows (and a chessboard table which I liked) with all the tables having converted beer bottle candle holders and lots of artwork from Susan McGill who does the distinctive label design for the St Andrews Brewing Co. bottles.

And then upstairs opens out into an almost Bier-Halle type of place, long and narrow again with wooden benches and a huge fireplace, although from what I was told the halogen spotlights give out a fair amount of heat themselves.

There's also a more secluded room upstairs, which is planned to be used for functions, tastings, meet-the-brewer events etc...

At the moment they don't do any food, but it seems they will be trying out Scottish/Spanish Tapas style bar snacks in the next few days or so (a good choice and something that will make people drink more beer). The man himself, Mr Bob Phaff was at Kirkcaldy Farmer's Market today so I couldn't speak to him directly but he is planning to move his brewery out of Glenrothes in the New Year and into far larger premises in the Bassaguard Industrial Estate close to the centre of St Andrews (probably less than a mile from the pub). So that really will be the St Andrews Brewing Company brewing in St Andrews, great to see! In the couple of hours that I was there I was mightily impressed with the place and the concept - there's been a lot of thought and hard work involved and within a short amount of time the St Andrews Brewing Co. pub could easily turn out to be one of the best pubs for beer lovers in Scotland.

After a few more excellent beers from Lovibonds and Moor (both keg and cask) I needed to start heading back to Glasgow but had just about enough time to walk up to Luvians Bottle Shop past a small fairground, a market and a stage being setup for the Christmas lights switch-on at 6pm. As always in Luvians there was a great selection of bottled beer and I also managed to snag a few 'craft cans' for the train journey home.

Return travel:-
  Bus: St Andrews to Leuchars (Stagecoach 99, every 10 minutes but beware the roadworks in St Andrews at the moment)
  Train: Leuchars to Haymarket
             Haymarket to Glasgow Queen