Every man must have something to tick. Having completed the 92 League Grounds at the Riverside in ’99, and realising the number of Chinese takeaways was infinite, I toyed with driving all the “A” and “B” roads before sanity prevailed and I settled on the Beer Guide pubs.
I only seriously got into this “Do all the pubs in the CURRENT Beer Guide” lark a decade or so ago, when I started getting the % of pubs done up above the 60% mark, and began completing sections like Isle of Man, Greater Manchester and Tyne & Wear within the year.
As Mr BRAPA will know, the problem with doing the current Beer Guide, rather than the one from 1987, is the number of new entries, approximately 8,377 new micropubs (or was that breweries) in 2017 alone. In crude terms, I need to visit nearly 500 pubs each year before I make much progress in upping that percentage towards 100.
So it was with some incredulity that I heard last year about the man who had done all the pubs in the 2015 Guide by the end of 2015.
Clearly I needed to meet Duncan (the Pubmeister) for tips, including ones on pulling your own pint when a pub is unexpectedly closed for a wedding/wake/barmitzvah.
The only problem was, he’s seemingly at home less than I am. As I was conquering Coatbridge, he was enjoying seeing his beloved Reading avoid the horrors of promotion to the Premiership at Wembley.
Thrillingly, I managed to meet him a few yards from home at a new tick, the Trust Inn at Kilbarchan, a few minutes walk from Miliken Park.
Despite there being just one other old boy drinking Tennents at the bar, we still nearly managed to not recognise each other.
I pretended to console Duncan on the play-off result, but his only concern was that Premiership away fans would be missing out on the pubby joys of Berkshire’s finest town next season. Fear not Duncan, I believe Huddersfield has a Spoons.
The Trust is a pleasant village local with comfortable seating and some decently priced beers. Thwaites today, but a barrel change was underway. Real ale is a rarity round here to the west of Glasgow.
I think we talked about Maesteg and moths for half an hour (take that, BRAPA), before taking a pre-emptive punt on Habbies, the other village pub. Another friendly Punch local with a more sporty feel, it had the late afternoon custom and some local(ish) beer.
Again, some decent cool cask; again, some inane banter about Coatbridge tower blocks (honest) and junior football.
A sensible ticker on “quaffing duty” would have moved on after a half, but I succumbed to that bottle of Caesar Augustus, because sometimes you have to.
Alarmingly, Duncan seemed to be able to match my drinking pace, and I lacked the necessary interrogative powers to find out “how he did it“. It seems that planning and discipline over 30-odd years, rather than time travel and a spare liver, have helped him to reach the goal.
Kilbarchan is a gorgeous weavers village, so I did the tourist bit.
By that point I’d established with Duncan’s counsel that my next target, Callum’s in Johnstone, was a basic local I’d previously enjoyed as “Coanes” a decade ago. There’s a habit in Scotland of changing pub names when owners move on. The renowned “Babbity Bowster” used to be called “Hamish McAlpine”, apparently.
A pleasant walk alongside Miliken Park (the first time that’s ever been written) on National Cycleway 7 confirmed that Duncan is one of those blokes who keep fit by making sure they get to the pub on time.
Callum’s is just a fantastic boozer, somewhere between Staggs and the Laurieston in feel, and absolute heaving at 5 o’clock. But with a few quieter rooms at the back.
At last, a decent collection of Scottish beers.
I need to go back here and take some notes, or wait for BRAPA to do it. There were some real characters (a.k.a. professional drinkers), and one of the most explicit examples of discounted cask I’ve seen. One pump was dispensing a decent Red McGregor for £2, while Old Peculier had been priced at a quid a pint to clear. As long as you know why it’s cheap, I’ve no problem with that.
The cask was selling like hotcakes.
While writing this up I wondered where my notes were. Then I realised I hadn’t taken any. That’s the mark of the best pub crawls, where you’re too busy talking rubbish to write. Unfortunately, this crawl didn’t end at Callum’s, but this post does.