Monday, 2 April 2012

A spring Sunday

A few weeks ago a friend saw something in a charity shop and thought of me – some old-fashioned Keferloher Maßkrüge, those grey stoneware beer mugs once ubiquitous in Bavaria, though these days they have been displaced by glass in all but the quietest backwaters of the state. I nipped down to see what was on offer. If genuine originals turn up in this country they tend to be very touristy and recent, so I wasn't expecting much, but it’s always worthwhile having a look. I found two interesting and bought them for the princely sum of £3 each – one from the town of Landshut near Munich, and one branded Paulaner Salvator.

The Landshut one is my favourite of the pair. It’s executed in the most basic blue-on-grey salt glaze technique that they used before full-colour screen printing came into vogue, and is pretty rough in texture. At a guess I’d say it dates from the 1960s or earlier. The Salvator mug is clearly much newer, as it’s in colour. The old Salvator logo is used though, so this can’t be any later than the 70s or 80s.

I’m a firm believer in using these things rather than having them on the shelf, so I took one out with me on the first sunny Sunday that came along.

The Clockwork Beer Co on the south side has recently acquired a new brewer, Declan McCaffrey who has previously been at BrewDog and Offbeat. I have wanted to like the Clockwork, as it’s not far from my flat and has a beer garden (a rarity in Glasgow), but the beer had been less than good there for several years, not bad in itself but far too often served oxidised and in poor condition. It was a matter of some disappointment to me because I remembered how good the intensely bitter Red Alt and the sulphury Lager had been when Robin and Gay Graham were in charge back in the day.

The difference in the beer is spectacular. Last time I was in and had a chewy, spicy Red Alt. Today I tried the Amber Ale, an uncomplicated beer. I am crap at guessing hops, but it seems to me like they've started putting Cascades in it. I'm looking forward to this summer and the Clockwork being a place one can wholeheartedly recommend once more.

Then it’s onto the Glasgow City Inter-Brewpub Link Route (or Cathcart Road as it’s also known), up and down the hills, across the bridge over the West Coast Main Line and the new motorway, and through the Gorbals.

If your idea of the Gorbals is something like this:

… this is what it looks like now:

Just a brief pootle across Glasgow Green now separates us from the second biggest lager brewery in the city, WEST.

In the grand scheme of things this is one of my favourite local haunts. The tap room is handsome and stylish and the beer garden is the finest in Glasgow. But there are two things I don’t like. Firstly, the staff insist on sloshing the beer into glasses as if it were Tennent’s, so you end up with an overcarbonated beer with a rubbish head. Second is the practice of serving beer only in plastic glasses if it’s to be taken outside. Whether this is forced on them by the licensing board, or to stop people nicking the branded glasses, I don’t know, but the Bavarians wouldn’t put up with it and we shouldn’t have to either.

The Keferloher solves both problems. Get a pint in a plastic beaker and pour it into the Keferloher. The excess carbonation gets knocked out of the beer, and you don’t have to drink out of plastic. The unfiltered version of St Mungo lager, Wild West, develops a splendid chewiness when treated like this. I always think beer tastes best in the open air drunk from one of these.

Someday I may bring this mug home to Landshut, but it will get a few outings in Scotland first.

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