A beer snob’s ale trail

Joseph Trotter


As you’re stood forlornly at the back of the Hive, half way up the sticky podium while a first year medical student dry humps your leg, we’ve all thought the same thing – where is the good beer? A quality beer, a crisp pint of ale can save turn even the worst of outings from a monstrous mess to a mere painful inconvenience. If one must seek solace in a beer, it may as well be a good one. Unfortunately, none of the university’s institutions are blessed with much (any) quality ale, so the intrepid hopper must search wider and further for the finest delights, Good Beer Guide in hand and a spittoon to throw at wayward lager-boys. None believers must be cleansed, after all.

Thankfully, Glasgow proudly upholds its nefarious drinking reputation in the ale stakes too, boasting a varied and unusual bunch of pubs providing everything an ale snob needs for a great evening – good ale, quality ale and outstanding ale. Here are just a few suggestions for the enquiring ale drinker, but remember, the real joy is in the discovery and experimentation. If you manage them all in one night, then you win the Guardian’s drinking budget for this year – sweet f’ all.

191 Byres Road, opposite University Avenue.

A West End institution, Tennents is a proper local (or ‘old man’ pub, depending on your Brewdog lingo), featuring a large variety of clientèle from students to footballers. With nine regular and three guest ales there is plenty of choice, but be aware; on big football nights and weekends you are very unlikely to get a seat. However, with arguably the cheapest pint of ale in the West End (Marstons’ EPA, £2.30) and a friendly, amenable atmosphere even during the most vociferous of sporting occasions, there is plenty to make up for sore legs.

The Three Judges
141 Dumbarton Road, on the junction with Byres Road.

A Mecca for Glasgow ale-heads, the Three Judges has an outstanding and rotating selection of nine pumps, with a few excellent regulars, helmed by the knowledgeable Ronny; anything he doesn’t know about beer isn’t worth knowing. The Three Judges runs several beer festivals during the year, including a liver-busting stout fest, but for those with a sweeter tooth it regularly wins ‘CAMRA’s Scottish Cider Pub of the Year.’ Swathed in 70’s décor and a roof of beer togs that could reach the moon, the Judges is probably Glasgow’s high-water mark when it comes to ale. Outstanding in every aspect.

The State Bar
148 Holland Street, just off Sauchiehall Street near the Art School.

Convincingly Victorian, this re-production pub is impressively tatty, with polished brass and battered arm-chairs surrounding a traditional horse-shoe bar. Good for a quiet pint or for a pre-drink before hitting the madness of Sauchiehall Street, the State Bar features three guest and four regular pumps as well as a half-decent selection of food.

36 Bell Street, Merchant City, round the corner from the Old Fruitmarket.

Tidy and precise, much like the outstandingly kept beers, Blackfriars is a gem of a pub. At odds with the fan-dan style bars that hem the Merchant City, Blackfriars is popular and lively, at home as either a drinkery, gig venue or gastro-pub (although this can get on the pricey side of a student loan). With a rotating range of five pumps plus a large variety of world bottled beers, Blackfriars has everything the discerning city-centre drinker could wish for.

The Bon Accord
153 North Street.

The Bon Accord is credited with introducing ale to Glasgow, and since then has wet the throats of thousands of locals, visitors and everything in between. If you want character with your tipple look no further; old pictures exemplify the pub’s historic roots, while the leering stag’s head, last seen with a Partick Thistle scarf wrapped around its neck, is just plain weird. The wise drinker will take advantage of arguably the best quality pint and chaser in Glasgow; over 230 whiskies coupled with five revolving beers mean there is plenty of selection for those who want it. A Glaswegian legend, this is one of the finest ale pubs in Scotland; the table put aside especially for football journalists post-match just adds to the allure.

The Clockwork Brewing Company
1133-1135 Cathcart Road, Mount Florida.

A beaut of a pub worth the more extensive travel, the Clockwork Brewing Co is one of the few brewery bars in Glasgow and probably the best. Along with the brewery’s own quality output, the five guest ales and a large variety of bottled beers allow for plenty of tipple choice, while the bar is split into distinct areas of atmosphere and look. Parking up a seat with your drink and staring down into the working brewery makes for one of the best drinking spots in the city, an arsey circle of life if you will, and the food is not bad either.


Worthy Mentions:

The Horseshoe Bar – Once featuring the longest bar-counter in Europe, the Horseshoe is a relic of past city centre drinking holes. The beer isn’t what it could be, but the mosaic floor is worth a look for shoe-gazers.

Brewdog Glasgow – Good beer selection, especially from America, but by far the priciest bar on this list with a distinctly poser attitude. One to be seen in.

WEST Brewery – The brewery bar for WEST, this specialises in Glaswegian re-creations of continental European style lagers. Top nosh, but at a price.

The Black Sparrow – A reasonable selection of bottled ales and draft lagers, but the food here is outstanding. The burgers are the best in Glasgow.

The Crystal Palace – The most characterful of the countless Wetherspoon pubs in Glasgow, but cheap and cheerful with a decent selection of ale; just don’t expect it to be kept particularly well.


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