Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Inn Deep - Glasgow

In doing my research for this short trip to Glasgow, I found several people bemoaning that Glasgow is rather short of decent craft beer venues, for a city of it's size.

However, I was able to identify two very decent sounding options (In addition to the two Brewdog bars, neither of which appealed to me, due to poor guest tap-lists on the week in question).

On my second afternoon in the City, I jumped on the metro at Buchanan St and rode it a few stops around to Kelvinbridge.
Out of the station and across the bridge, and I was standing in front of Inn Deep, which has a small street level corner entrance. The bar itself is located in a vaulted space on the floor below, with interior seating for perhaps 75, and some tables out on the footpath overlooking the river that seats another 30 or so.

Inn Deep has the feel of a small underground club, but the bar is superbly stocked a fine mix of around 20 UK craft beers, mostly on keg, with three cask beer as well.

The bar was doing a decent trade on this hot sunny Thursday afternoon, for both drinks and food. Service was prompt and friendly, and I spent a couple of very agreeable hours sampling halves and thirds up and down the menu.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Shilling Brewing Co - Glasgow

Located within a couple of hundred yards of Glasgow Central Station, in a magnificent old street corner bank building, sits Shilling Brewing Co.

The bar occupies an airy high-ceiling space with the bar at one end with the brewery behind and above on a mezzanine level.  There is seating for about 75, with plenty of standing room at the bar end, for what I imagine could be crowded weekend nights.

In the back corner is a handsome pizza oven, and they serve an imaginative range of meat and veggie pizzas, at reasonable prices.

The bar had 5 of Shilling's own beers, as well as 25 guest taps, from many of the leading UK craft breweries.

The service on a midweek evening was very good, and the beers were exceptional.

Several of the best features from the old bank have been left in place, including a wall of safety deposit boxes in the corner of the bar. In the basement, the gents and ladies toilets are both accessed via magnificent thick vault doors, which is a nice touch.

All in all, this is a fabulous bar, which I would happily frequent, if only I lived less that 400 miles away! 

Friday, 20 July 2018

Checkerspot Brewing - Baltimore

About a mile south of Downtown Baltimore, in the shadow of the Ravens Stadium, and about 15 minutes walk from Orioles Stadium at Camden Yards sits Checkerspot Brewing. This looks to me like a wonderful place to locate a brewery taproom! They have 8 x Ravens and 81 x Orioles regular season home games, all of which should drive decent footfall. 

The business is named after the Maryland State butterfly, which is suitably random!

I was there two weeks after they opened and they are operating a relatively modest retail space at the moment, but with plans to expand both outwards and upwards.

Future plans include a kitchen to serve hot food, but they already have a selection of decent cold snacks.

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours working my way through their excellent selection of 12 draft beers, which included a superb cask bitter! The beers were particularly impressive, considering that these were mostly "first production attempts" at each beer. I am very excited to see how good the beers will be in a few months time, when they have perfected the recipes!

I chatted with the owners and was very impressed with their ambitions and enthusiasm for the business. This is a Brewery and Taproom that seems certain to be destined for great things! 

Monument City Brewing - Baltimore

Located At Baltimore Highlands several miles east of the Downtown, Monument City is based in a very atmospheric old warehouse building, next door to an axe factory! Access to the taproom is at the back of the building, which required a detour around several other warehouse buildings, which confused my Uber driver.

On the plus side, this gives them plenty of space to expand the brewing capacity in future years, and also allows room for a huge taproom area, including a table tennis table. On the downside, the building has no air-conditioning, and is so large that it probably never will have, as the cost would be prohibitive. 

The upshot is that the taproom was uncomfortably hot on this July afternoon, and would very likely be rather cold in the winter months.

The beer choice was good, and I ordered a free-choice tasting flight.

In addition to the indoor seating there is a large outdoor patio area, with some tables protected from the sun.

This is a nice taproom, but I am somewhat concerned that their relatively remote location, combined with they lack of temperature control in the building, will cause them some challenges in the future.

Diamondback Brewing - Baltimore

Prior to my visit to Baltimore this summer, all that I knew about the City was learnt from The Wire, which many people regard as the greatest drama series in US television history. One of the significant story arcs from The Wire was the attempts to regenerate the decaying industrial waterfront of the Patapsco River.

Diamondback Brewing are located at Locust Point, at the heart of a very smart development which combines re-purposed warehouse buildings surrounded with lots of new-build apartments and houses, constructed with similar materials. 

It looked to me like they are very well positioned indeed to leverage the large catchment area of wealthy City dwellers, and the taproom was quite busy when I arrived early on Wednesday evening.

The beer choice was reasonable, and I enjoyed a couple of very decent IPAs sitting outside on the patio, in the shadow of the huge old chimney stack, which is the landmark for the Brewery.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

On Rotation - Dallas

Just a couple of hundred yards from White Rock Alehouse in Lakewood Hills sits the On Rotation taproom.
Located in a strange little corner strip-mall situation, it doesn't appear very promising from the street, but great things await within!

It has a lived-in dive bar feel to it, but there are a ridiculous 40 draft taps lined up behind the small bar at the end!

The beer range included 8 of their own beers, of which three were extravagantly flavoured milkshake IPAs. The rest of the taps featured mainly Texas breweries, including a couple of interesting craft ciders from Bishop (which is must-visit on my to-do list for my next trip to Texas). All beers were available in taster measures.

There is no food served in On Rotation, but they are literally next door to an Italian restaurant which delivers to the bar.

Service was excellent and I hung out for for a very pleasant couple of hours chatting to Red behind the bar, along with a couple of local customers.

On Rotation is a no nonsense craft beer pub of epic proportions.

The fabulous combination and contrast of White Rock and On Rotation within such close proximity to one another, makes Lakewood Hills a wonderful place to spend a few hours.

White Rock Alehouse - Dallas

In the upmarket neighbourhood of Lakewood Hills in East Dallas are two outstanding nano breweries with attached taprooms. They are very different in feel, but each are superb in their own right!

The first location on my agenda was the White Rock Alehouse. This purpose built facility opened in late 2017 on a grand scale. It has seating indoors for about 120 people, mainly at restaurant style tables, although the large central island bar will seat at least 20 people alone. Outside there are two separate patio areas which seat an additional 100 or so.

The bar has 36 taps, and a highly impressive video wall displaying the beer details, as well as cycling through promotions etc. There were 6 White Rock beers on offer, complemented by a good selection of other breweries, both local and from further afield in the USA. Every beer was individually priced for 4oz, 8oz, 12oz and 16oz measures, and happy hour was in effect, providing a $1 discount on all pints. Note to all taprooms.....this is how to charge for your beers!!!!!

There is a full-service food menu, with a good combination of basic drinking snacks, as well as more upscale dining options.

This is probably the most upmarket taproom I have ever visited, and must have cost a small-fortune to build.

Nonetheless, it still has a welcoming feeling to it, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours, working my way through the menu, two tasters at a time.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Noble Rey Brewing - Dallas

Having visited the Farmers Market outpost the previous day, I was keen to visit the main Noble Rey brewery tap.

Having made three previous stops on the afternoon, and walked several miles in the 100 degree Texas July heat, I arrived at about 3.30pm, only to discover that they were closing an hour earlier than advertised, for a private party!

Oh well, I still had time to order a 4 beer, free-choice flight from the 20 taps available, and among them were a couple of terrific NEIPAs.

The taproom is an L-shaped room seating perhaps 50 people, with a couple of vintage arcade machines.

Although I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked here, it is a really nice facility.


Pegasus City Brewing - Dallas

A bit closer to civilisation than the previous two, Pegasus City taproom is not purpose built, but is a fenced-off area on the brewery floor. It is however, perhaps the finest example of the genre that I have visited to date!

There is trestle-table seating outside for about 20 and seating inside for a further 30, including some very comfy lawn chairs, a foosball table and a free-to-play pinball machine!

There were 9 beers on tap and my tasting flight was a free choice. The beers were all pretty good, but the thing that really blew me away was the popcorn which is made with their own Export Porter. Think Butterkist-style sweet, crunchy popcorn, but with a dark malt savoury note. Spectacular!

An impressive taproom with some nice quirky details, which makes it highly recommended for a visit!

Peticolas Brewing - Dallas

Hidden away in an unpromising looking industrial cul-de-sac, Peticolas doesn't look like much from the street, but inside is a superb facility laid out across three split levels, with the bar on the middle tier and a pool table at the top. Due to the layout, the taproom could comfortably seat perhaps 100 people.

There were 16 beers on draft, and my 6 beer tasting flight was a free choice from across the entire range. 

There was no food available, but there were menus from local restaurants that could be ordered in.

Service was excellent, and I appreciated the atmosphere of the place.

Texas Ale Project - Dallas

Northwest of downtown Dallas in a more industrial rather than residential area, are four taprooms in relatively close proximity, the first of which is the Texas Ale Project. 

This is a shiny, purpose built brewery building, with a small glass taproom in the front corner, with views into the brewery as well as out into the yard.

Inside there is seating for only about 30, with shaded outdoor seating for a similar number again.  

There were only 9 beers on draft, any of which could form part of a flight. Several of the beers were excellent and the service was very friendly. No food is available.

This was probably the least impressive of the four taprooms I visited on Sunday afternoon, but it was still delightful, which says a lot about why I find taprooms so compelling!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Four Corners Brewing - Dallas

Four Corners Brewing is located about a 15 minute walk from Downtown Dallas, the other side of the main I30 Freeway.

This is an impressive purpose-built brewery on a substantial scale, with a large taproom in the building next door.

As seems to be a common theme with Dallas taprooms, they also have lots of outdoor seating, although the heat was still blistering when I arrived at around 7pm on Saturday evening.

The bar seats at least 120 people, and it was busy but not packed. There is a separate food counter in the corner, with a decent menu of pub grub.

The beer selection was decent, And I was able to choose my own 4-beer tasting flight, which was appreciated.

This was another impressive operation, although perhaps not quite as atmospheric as the taprooms located in historic buildings that I visiting earlier in the day.

FOOTNOTE : Just 48 hours after my visit, Four Corners sold out to Constellation Brands! (owners of Corona and other pseudo-beers). They are now on my boycott-list, but I will leave this blog-post up for historical purposes.

Noble Rey at Farmers Market - Dallas

On the edge of the Deep Ellum district in Downtown Dallas is the Farmers Market, which is a very impressive selection of artisanal food, drink and craft stalls, in a deliciously airconditioned old warehouse building.

Among the stalls is an outpost of Nobel Rey Brewing (I will be visiting the main taproom on the other side of Town today).

Although limited by space, they still had a good mix of 12 draft beers, and I sat at the bar chatting to the barman for pleasant hour, whilst drinking two excellent Pales.

One nice feature of this bar is that they give you option of a plastic glass, which you can then take with you as you wander around the interesting food and craft stalls.

Whilst not perhaps worth a trip in its own right, the bar represented a welcome place to cool off and get refreshed on a blistering hot July Saturday afternoon. 

Brain Dead Brewing - Dallas

Brain Dead Brewing is located on Main Street in Deep Ellum, surrounded by loads of other cool bars, restaurants, clubs etc.

It has a great street corner location, with a decent sized front patio area, which would be perfect if it wasn't mid-summer and at least 40 degrees C in the afternoon sun!

I arrived at about 4pm Saturday afternoon and the taproom was busy, but I managed to grab a seat at the bar, and got to work on the 40 draft beers on offer!

Brain Dead have a couple of flight options available (5 x 4oz and 13 x 4 oz respectively, but both are pre-selected beers with no substitutes permitted). I understand why bars do this, but I prefer it when they don't. I would rather pay a little more for my tasting flight, and get to choose my own beers.

They were doing a good trade with both beer and food, and I hung out for about 90 minutes, before braving the late-afternoon heat once more. 

This was another impressive and thriving business that I would happily return to.

Deep Ellum Brewing - Dallas

The Deep Ellum district of East-Central Dallas is a very interesting collection of old industrial buildings now converted into restaurants, bars, clubs and music venues. It has apparently been the entertainment centre for Central Dallas for decades and its fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the years.

It is currently the home of two excellent taprooms, the first of which is Deep Ellum Brewing.

I arrived at about 3pm, with a large crowd inside watching the Russia v Croatia World Cup QF, and an equally large crowd outside in the baking hot yard watching a live band. I lasted all of five minutes outside in the sun, before retreating back to the aircon.

The beer selection was decent, although I only stuck around for one drink, before moving on in search of a bit of peace and quiet and somewhere to sit!

There were plenty of staff, delivering decent looking food from the full-service menu.

All in all, a really thriving taproom. I would like to have visited on a quieter day, but maybe I am just getting too old for packed pubs!