A reminder of what the Aberdeen & Grampian section of the Beer Guide looks like.

Spoiler alert : I did Oldmeldrum

Two to do towards the Tayside border next.

Look at WhatPub and you’ll see there’s not a huge difference between the GBG and WhatPub. Hopefully that means Scottish pubs only put on real ale if they’ve the right cellar, the interest and the custom for it, eh ?


The 747 towards Montrose dropped me on the side of the A92 at the top of Johnshaven.  I hadn’t realised there wasn’t a bell and you had to say something like “Excuse me awfully, could you stop just here please ?“.  Luckily the buses have good brakes.

I’d lost the blue skies from Stonehaven; I think Montrose opted out of sunshine allowances in the 1300s. But the descent was picturesque, giving you the impression you were walking through people’s back yards on the way down to the little harbour.


At the bottom, you have empty fishing nets, and total peace.  Rarer than you think.

Craft beer enters through that gap

In my quest to bring you more information than you could ever want on these places I visit for you, here’s a population analysis for Johnshaven.

Unexplained population fall of 20 in last 5 years

Two pubs, a shop, no people.


Despite evidence of recent pirate activity, the only people I saw in the street were an army of blokes repairing the harbour road.  For what reason, I know not.  Anyway, they stopped me getting to a loo that was probably closed, so I was pleased the Ship was just opening.

It’s a giant thin thing, three entrances, none of them particularly inviting. And as I stood outside an apparently closed pub, memories of a certain elusive Shropshire tick came to mind.

Not easily mistaken for the entrance to Brunning & Price

But then I saw a light, and that third door on the corner creaked open.

Potential for mass confusion

Wow.  And where to start.

I guess “long-standing Landlady” and “step back in time” spring to mind.

My sort of pub, even if I was the only customer.

Are you on a walk ?”  I pretended I was, just in case the only alternative reason for me to be there was tax collection.

One beer is plenty

The lone beer, Head East from Strathbraan, was decent enough, if a bit sharp.

But I could have sat there all day and enjoyed a soundtrack of Depeche Mode (“Just Can’t Get Enough“) and a ticking clock.


Stone walls, red velvet seating, and Quince Chips (What !). Why had no-one told me about this place when they were wittering on about dull brewery taps in Ellon ?

All it needs is Old Boys

My bus back was at 12.40, the clock said 12.25.  Except it didn’t.  It was one of those backward clocks, wasn’t it ?  5 minutes running up that hill to the bus stop, just like in the Kate Bush song, just to see it pull away as I panted to the top.

Half an hour is a long time to kill in Johnshaven , particularly when workmen are blocking the road to the public loos.


  1. Love these “step back in time” pubs you describe, and this one looks particularly nice.

    Just the fact that they’ve only got one ale on is a bit of a step back in time these days, I suppose– do you reckon they’re doing well to even justify the one, given their customer base?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Rural Scottish pubs, particularly the hotels in tourist areas, often seem to have just the one beer on, and it’s more likely to be a local Scottish beer than the Doom Bar or London Pride you might get in a hotel bar in England.

      Scottish readers (I have one I know) may advise, but I guess there’s JUST enough turnover for one pump, even if it comes from English golfers or tourists !

      Liked by 2 people

      1. A lot of the smaller Scottish brewers have managed to convince bars to put in cask by supplying in pins. So only 36 pints to sell, 2 a week and you’re quality should be fine. More difficult to sell a full cask quickly enough.
        You could alwways have popped into the Anchor for a half pint of Doom Bar waiting for your bus.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You did mention that. The influence of small brewers is quite interesting. Completely different in our coastal resorts where it’s six handpumps or nothing.

        Now you mention it, I did peek in and saw the Doom Bar, which would normally be enough. But you’ll know you have to be disciplined, Scott ;-o


      3. Actually, what is interesting from your frequent comment about bars only getting into the guide if they sell lots of different beers, is that from your Whatpub map the bars with one beer are in, those with multiple lines aren’t.
        Most of these small village pubs you’re in are also going to be free houses, so more chance for the micros to snap up outlets.


      4. There you go, I knew you’d have some perspective, Scott. Yes, it was noticeable that some Greene King pubs which insist on imposing four or five pumps on us weren’t in the GBG up there.

        NB What percentage of pubs with real ale in them are in the Guide in your branch ? A third ? Half ?


      5. Slightly less than a third, about 150 pubs with real ale and just under 50 GBG (including Nothern Isles). Nobody is completely sure how many outlets there are at any time on Orkney, it takes days to get around all the islands; unless you have your own boat.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. “I guess there’s JUST enough turnover for one pump, even if it comes from English golfers or tourists!” Lot of truth in that. Capt. Flint’s in Lerwick (ex-GBG) puts cask on in the summer for the tourists, who are wont to drift in and ask for “the local beer”. All the locals drink Tennents.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Not been there yet. The new demographic feature is a welcome addition. Look forward to future socio-political material. I imagine more than one pump would be suicidal.


    1. I thought some video camera footage from the location would be of interest, or a summary of last week’s milk bills ? You decide.

      I only found that as Wiki didn’t have population stats so I had to dig.

      Surprised the Ship is a newbie; it’s the sort of pub you assume has been in the Guide for decades.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I should have congratulated the Landlady on her debut then. Wonder what she’d have said.

        “Had to bribe local CAMRA with free sandwiches at the branch meeting”, “Only went in when we dropped the Cloudwater”, “It’s a long-service award”. Joking, Scott, joking.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. “A reminder of what the Aberdeen & Grampian section of the Beer Guide looks like.”

    I won’t comment on ‘Fochabers’ at the top left, except to say I’m guessing pub tickers will have a difficult time there. 😉

    “The 747 towards Montrose dropped me on the side of the A92 at the top of Johnshaven. ”

    747? Blimey. I hope they gave you a parachute.

    “Luckily the buses have good brakes.”

    Ooops. My mistake. Didn’t see the (invisible) period between the first seven and the four. 🙂

    “Craft beer enters through that gap”

    By mini submersible for even greater stealth.

    “Two pubs, a shop, no people.”

    No doubt scared off by the Skull and Crossbones.

    “Not easily mistaken for the entrance to Brunning & Price”

    (slow golf clap)

    “Potential for mass confusion”

    I’ll say!

    “and enjoyed a soundtrack of Depeche Mode (“Just Can’t Get Enough“)”

    I think some Don McLean would have been more serendipitous. 🙂

    “It was one of those backward clocks, wasn’t it ?”

    Two words; smart phone. 🙂



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