Thursday, 5 November 2015

Scotch Ale Trail - Glasgow edition

Will Self recently wrote a nice little article on ‘The joy of doing the same thing over and over again’ in which he recounts a story of whenever he visits Melbourne he always eat at a Japanese restaurant on the edge of Chinatown, and always has the same thing. Then followed up with the fact he’s only been to Melbourne twice and ‘it just so happens I ate in the same restaurant on each occasion'. Nevertheless this was sufficient for me to confidently predict I will at some point in the future eat there again, and moreover for me to also feel distinctly cosy about the prospect.’

Which pretty much sums up how I feel about Nice and Sleazy’s; although I’ve only visited Glasgow twice, each time has been punctuated with a lunchtime visit here, accompanied by a White Russian, a routine I’m already very happy to be in, and one I would hope to continue on subsequent visits to a city that already has a fond place in my heart.

Alongside our three pound a pop milk-based cocktails (you can also get a black Russian for the same bargain basement price, alongside cheap jugs of Williams Jester IPA) we stayed to try out the new Meathammer burger menu; a decision which proved a remarkably sound addition to the old routine.

I tackled the Grinder - a Stilton burger dripping with lashings of garlic butter that would certainly preclude any app based dates after eating, the only hot thing being my fiery garlic breath (tasted great, though). The Ewing was swayed by the Worldeater – a umami bomb of mature cheddar, Parma ham, caramelised red onions. dill pickle, tomato and bacon relish and parmesan crisp - recently voted by critics as Glasgow’s best burger and fully deserving of its plaudits.

Nice N Sleazy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Our second Brewdog visit of the trip was to the Glasgow branch, conveniently opposite Kelvingrove and is possibly my favourite of the ones visited so far, being light and airy and having  a lovely view across the park to the museum.

Scottish brews on tap were lacking – there was a Oskar Blues tap takeover but the Ewing though her favourite Ten Fidy stout might be a bit much for mid-afternoon – but I was happy to try their Candy Kaiser, a new northern German style retro altbier, that Brewdog describe thus: 'we’ve dialled down the dry-hops to zero, but cranked up the malt to create massive aromas. Toasty, toffee and floral notes duke it out for supremacy in the headspace of your glass'. While the Ewing finally got her chilled bottle of Pumpkin Head, heady with autumnal spices.

Brew Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

King Tuts, like Sleazy’s, was on my Glasgow must do list after my teenage pen pal – the lead singer with Bis, no less – sent me a flyer advertising their gig there in the mid-90s. For years it remained a mythical nirvana until, over a decade later, I finally made it north of the border and dragged the Ewing to sit in the, very real, gloom and drink fizzy lager to a soundtrack of my teenage angst. This year she had already vetoed a return trip, but after looking for the next spot to stop for a drink and realising we were practically outside, it seemed fate had intervened.

Something else that had also intervened since our last visit was craft, that five letter word that meant the range of beers on offer was no longer limited to Tennents and Wife Beater; indeed they now even have their own lager breweed for them by West. 

Alongside a tankard of the house Tut’s we also tried the Gladeye Rye IPA brewed by Drygate and, in a moment of notoriety that almost matched the time I ate the first ever hotdog off the warming rollers at Cineworld High Wycombe, we got to sample the very first pint dispensed through the new tap. A very timely taster as our next stop was the Drygate microbrewery proper, to see how the magic was made.

King Tut's Wah Wah Hut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Drygate /The Vintage (yes, one name would be much easier) is multi-faceted microbrewery/event space/ bar/ restaurant that has opened on the site of the Tennent’s plant (aka the Wellpark Brewery that was originally known as  Drygate), a ten minute walk to the West of the city centre. Lager lovers despair not, the Tennent’s site still operates as a multi-barrel multinational operation next door, providing over a third of Scotland’s fizzy yellow stuff as well as distributing beers such as Sweetheart Stout and Caledonia Best across the globe.

Save for the sparkly lights all seemed deathly quiet outside, even for a Wednesday evening, so it was a cheering surprise to find the open plan /restaurant bar area buzzing. We were greeted warmly, both by the staff and the thick malty fug that hung in the air, before choosing to sit on communal drinking benches by the bar, which also afforded us a view of the beer-making action happening in the next door.

Things started sensibly (after an afternoon spent mostly drinking in bars and snoozing in the Kelvingrove) and promisingly with schooners of Outaspace, their apple ale. The latter being particularly curious, especially as it is one of their core beers, being a kind of lager/cider hybrid that would be particularly welcome in the warmer summer months, if such a phenomena makes it to G31.

After that things became hazier when, realising that the beer list was packed full of local cask and keg brews that we had barely made a start on (not to mention such delights as Buxton’s Wyoming Sheep Ranch), we decided the best idea would be to order two flights….

Now the headache has finally subsided I can confirm this was in fact the correct decision, meaning that we got to try such brews as ‘unfiltered Tennent’s straight from the tank (who thought the familiar brew could get hipster points – still tastes of piss, though) Cromarty's Rogue Wave pale ale and a couple of fine dark beers, a Red Eye Flight porter from Tempest and William Brothers Black Ball stout. 

Surprise of the night, however, was a wildcard picked by the Ewing of the Thistly Cross elderflower cider. Initially I was upset that this apple-based interloper had sullied our range of hop based libations, but on sampling it I can confirm that it was a very fine variation. A tipple to which the cliché ‘dangerously drinkable’ could have been designed. So good that I (who?- TE) have even created a hybrid version at home using cloudy Strongbow and homemade elderflower cordial. Best served in pint glasses over ice with a Nurofen chaser.

The Ewing's haddock risotto topped with a gooey poached egg and peppery watercress was comfort food at it's finest; a mixture of salt and smoke and buttery yolk that reminded her of her Mum's 'yellow fish, mash and peas'.

I went with the classic Bearface Lager beer battered fish and chips with side helpings of very good minted mushy peas and home made tartare sauce. Very rich but very nicely done and, being predominantly deep fried, the perfect accompaniment to soak up all the beer.

The Ewing was lured by the special of panna cotta – a surprisingly chocolate-less choice, in the end she just couldn’t resist the charm of our lovely waiter Alasdair, whose Scottish lilt made clementine jelly sound far more enticing than it has any right to.

Alongside the layers of wobbly cream and fruity stuff the whole thing was topped off by a wonderfully boozy topping of Pedro Jimenez syrup, a charming pudding with the promise of Christmas and only missing that classic Scottish accompaniment to everything, a shortbread finger to dunk.

My dessert, the freshly made doughnuts served with tonka bean and white pepper caramel was ambrosial. Cold beer and hot doughnuts may already be a classic, but this dish provided a real life When Harry Met Sally moment as I shovelled the hot fluffy orbs mouthwards, leaving a little more than a scattering of sugar and a trail of moans in my wake. (vom - TE)

If I haven’t already used far too many superlatives, pounding head aside, Vintage was the venue of the trip for me. Great staff (with even greater beards) a fantastic selection of cheap and plentiful beer from both their own kit and beyond; and some cracking cooking coming out the kitchen. In fact it's no exaggeration to say that Drygate might be my new favourite place; it's just a shame its 383 miles from my house (yes, I did Google it...).

The Vintage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

And so we headed eastwards, back to Auld Reekie, yet another venue added to our lists of must visits for the next time. Who said routine was the enemy?

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