Saturday, 22 December 2012

Doing it for the kids

I guess you can’t buy soul.

I’ve been in some quite different bars this week.

I dropped into a relatively new place in the Merchant City, well hidden from passing trade. Brutti Compadres it’s called, whatever that means. It’s a glossy bar with low lighting, attractive staff and the blockbusting premium brands that consumers love.

I hated it, obviously.

But I am seduced by the recherché cachet of Riegeler Export, a beer I’ve only ever seen in one other place in Glasgow. I don’t know why. I didn’t think much of it when I lived in Germany, and I don’t think much of it now; and if you want a beer from Baden-Württemberg it’s much inferior to both its local rivals Fürstenberg and Rothaus.

Then it’s back to Rutherglen for the first day of operation of An Ruadh Gleann. It is absolutely heaving. I think everyone in Rutherglen is here, possibly including a large number of people who haven’t been out in their home town for years. Half a dozen or more Christmas ales with corny names are on offer, but the locals seem keener on the Stella and Kopparberg.

It’s too busy for me, so I retreat to the Victoria at the other end of town, which I have decided is my favourite. Here there is cold Tennent’s. And, as I discover, a secret stash of Sweetheart Stout for a regular who comes in and orders a can of “the stuff”, as if it were heroin. Despite my obsession with Sweetheart Stout, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone drinking it in a pub before. Someone other than me, someone I don’t know, I mean. He’s one of the guys playing cards in the big group occupying the two large tables behind me. In the corner the women’s darts team are having their Christmas get-together. I’ve stumbled on a bastion of women’s darts, something else I find endearing about this pub.

On Wednesday a surprise tweet alerted me to the opening of The Sparkle Horse. This was formerly a jakey pub called The Dowanhill which has been noted over the last year only for closing and reopening again. The pub is now run by Steven Clark, better known as Sci-Fi Steven of locally revered indie outfit Bis.

As might be expected, it’s one of those old-pub-converted-to-scenester-places. From the surroundings it’s not terribly different from how it was before. In an appealingly adolescent sort of way the major change is that all the walls have been painted black. The WEST St Mungo is much nicer than Riegeler, too.

I don’t imagine the Dowanhill played much David Bowie. The old Dowanhill regular doesn’t seem to mind it though, he’s stayed for a second pint. I see lots of plaid shirts. Pubs attract the customers that feel at home there, I suppose. Whereas in Edinburgh’s Hanging Bat the clientele are young prematurely balding men talking about Cantillon, here there are serious young women discussing the film that Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian has been working on.

When I was a scenester nobody had any money and we congregated in the cheapest old men’s boozers in town, not feeling welcome in the ancestors of Brutti Compadres. I suspect Sci-Fi Steven remembers that well enough and wants to offer offer today’s kids an alternative. Nobody’s ever going to get rich catering to the women’s darts team, or to students who huddle over a pint of snakebite all night waiting for the band. In their own way, both the Victoria and Sparkle Horse are real community pubs (The Sparkle Horse still needs to order in the Sweetheart Stout, though).


  1. I dream of walking into a pub and seeing Sweatheart Stout. Or Gold Label, but that occasionally still happens.

  2. I used to fairly regularly drink in a pub that sold Fowler’s Wee Heavy right up until the end in 2005.