Wednesday, 25 June 2014

You’re having a G-raf

This is going to be – is – another busy week. For the first time in over 25 years Glasgow CAMRA is running a beer festival – the Glasgow Real Ale Festival (G-RAF) opens on Thursday at the Briggait, the city’s former fish market. Significant support has come from Renfrewshire CAMRA who have been running the Paisley Beer Festival for almost as long and know what they're doing.

Glasgow has not one, but two new breweries. Drygate has had plenty of coverage, but, surprisingly, the first to get commercial beer (brewed on their own kit) to market is the much smaller outfit Jaw Brew, based in Hillington. Owner Mark Hazell will have his beer at the G-RAF on Thursday. But Drygate won’t: even though their on-site brewery is now in production, business has been so good that they have run out of the initial stocks of Williams Bros-brewed beer, and their first few brews are going into restocking their own bar.

The preliminary G-RAF list had Drygate’s core beers on it, but it could have been predicted that at least two of them were non-starters: Bearface lager would take far too long to be ready, and it is doubtful if Outaspace Apple Ale can be put in a cask with live yeast at all. It contains about 35% unfermented apple juice which would immediately start fermenting out – if the cask didn’t blow its shive first.

Maclays’ newest city-centre venture “The Raven” opened today, promising both craft beer AND cask ale (sigh…) along with slow-smoked meat. While vegetarians may be praying for the pulled-pork-and-brisket fad to end, it certainly seems to be more of a beer-oriented venue than the office-girls-n-pinot-grigio format Maclays chose for The Hope a couple of streets away – it’s worth noting that the latter has recently done a U-turn and started selling cask ale, after saying at the start that it wouldn’t (Told you so).

Re-opening after refurbishment tomorrow is the Clockwork Beer Co on the south side, also Maclays-owned. I don’t know much about what’s changed, but I have heard the Clockwork will be adding WEST beer to their newly “craftified” range. This is interesting because, until a few weeks ago, that would have put it in the position of selling all three Glasgow-brewed lager brands: WEST, Tennent’s and their own Clockwork lager. Now that Drygate is open, it means there’s still no pub that sells all of the city’s lagers!

While I’m on the subject of Maclays, the veteran cellarman at the legendary real ale pub The Three Judges, Ronnie Anderson, has retired. Ronnie knows more about beer than just about anyone in Glasgow – by a considerable margin – and on his watch the Judges specialised in beers from English microbreweries. Generally there would be at least one brewery represented on the bar that I’d never heard of before. It’s to be hoped the Judges will maintain the same standards without Ronnie, but they are some damn big shoes to fill.