Thursday, 22 December 2011
A midwinter night’s dream in Partick
The bar is in the premises last known as the Millhouse (which embarrassingly proclaimed itself “a great pub” on a sign outside. Erm, we’ll be the judge of that, thanks), the scene of several previous failed bar ventures. It’s the attempt by Fuller Thomson, operators of bars such as the Holyrood 9a in Edinburgh, to create a serious beer establishment in the west end of Glasgow. I’ve never been particularly impressed by the beer on offer in the Holyrood 9a the couple of times I’ve been there, so I was cautiously curious, albeit not wetting myself in anticipation.
Though announced to the public at very short notice, brewers like Williams Bros, Black Isle, Tempest and others have been happy to help out by supplying beer. Indeed the Williams brothers themselves, Bruce and Scott, had turned up for the opening to launch their kegged Profanity Stout.
First impressions were not great. Looking around and wondering where the handpumps were, it was a few moments before I twigged that the cask taps were mounted in the wall, Euston Tap-style, alongside the keg taps. Confusion ensued when I asked the bar staff what was available from cask—I was confidently assured that Profanity Stout was cask, as was 69 IPA from Lovibonds (a brewery who actually produce no cask beer whatsoever). Luckily my cynicism won out and I’d by now noticed the difference in the tap handles so could tell cask from keg. Still fumbling over which beer to try, I ordered Durham White Stout and got a shock when the half pint surprisingly came to £3. It was a strong beer and fairly good, but not worth that much. Fortunately this price point is not necessarily typical, with weaker quaffing beers even a little below the average for this part of town.
Still, these quibbles could be easily fixed with better signage (you have a blackboard, chalk the prices on it!) and when the staff get more experience.
I certainly didn’t let them spoil my night, as Glasgow’s contingent of beer nerds were arriving. We all crowded into a corner and joined brewery people from Williams and Black Isle for drink, burgers and chat.
What several people have been wondering is: is it a good idea to situate this new venture right next to one of the best-known real ale pubs in the city, the Three Judges? My answer is an unequivocal yes—it makes Partick Cross a real beer destination, worth crossing town for in the knowledge that if there’s nothing you fancy in one pub, or it’s full to bursting, you can always try the other.
Moaners will say “it’s not a traditional pub, though, is it?”, to which one can only point out that the weirdly fossilised pseudo-Victorian pub interiors favoured by pub companies are very much a historical aberration. Glasgow bars have often been refurbished in modern style, as the few remaining examples of 1930s art deco bars show. One thing I do find annoying is how loud the place is. It’s hard to hear yourself talk across the wide tables when even a few other customers are in. When it’s full it’ll be deafening.
How is the beer? 69 IPA’s deep, resiny harshness makes it an acquired taste, but I think I want to acquire it. Star of the show, though, was Tempest’s Into The Light, a pale ’n’ hoppy full of citrus flavours. Magic Rock’s Rapture was one of those hoppy red beers that I don’t normally like, but is well made.
Some of us were drinking keg, others cask, some both. Just as at Social Media Week’s beer tasting a few months ago, people are capable of enjoying the products of different brewing traditions without getting their knickers in a twist. Will Hawkes had an excellent piece on the Independent website last week which really hit the nail on the head about what’s going on in Scotland (and I’m not just saying that because he quoted me in it). Scottish brewers and drinkers are developing closer ties based on respect and a love of good beer. Suddenly it’s the sectarian Brewdog cult that looks out-of-touch and irrelevant. Everyone else is getting on great and having a good time.