Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Note to the Reader

This blog is best read from back to front, starting with the first pub I visited. For the impatient reader, here are some of my greatest hits.

Where is he now? Inspired by the pubs I visited and the people I met during my year abroad, I decided to open my own brewery. In particular, our visit to Plockton was the impetus to my seriously considering the idea of opening a brewery in the hamlet of Wells near the historic site of Barkerville in British Columbia's northern Cariboo region. Eventually settling on Quesnel as the logical location, I bought a building and created the Barkerville Brewing Co, whose tasty craft beers tell one of the great stories in Canadian history.








Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Epilogue: Islay Inn, 1260 Argyle St, Glasgow

And we're done! After 370 different pubs in 362 days, spread across 12 different countries (and two continents), we spent the last few days of our year abroad in the birthplace of my beloved Grandpa Ovans. Glasgow is quite possibly our favourite city in all of Europe (though Budapest and Copenhagen are still in the running). Suck on that, Barcelona.

Curious to see what effect a year of no sunshine, no dogs, law school (for Meghan), and too much alcohol (for me) had on the two of us? Here we were at the start of our journey...

Before
 ...and at the end.

100
After
It looks like our eyes got smaller. Otherwise, we're good.

See you at the pub.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#370. The Arches, 253 Argyle St, Glasgow

We followed Grimes to Glasgow to see her in this hot and steamy venue. The show the previous evening in Edinburgh was better, but it was still fun. The beer selection was minimal, and I settled for Guinness.
Carol Anne, listen to me! Do not go into the light!
After the show was over.

As you can see, the venue is a set of interconnected barrel vaults or tunnels formed by the arches that hold up part of Glasgow Central Station. This alone makes The Arches a memorable experience. I think I visited the site in 1990 when it hosted the exhibit Glasgow's Glasgow as part of its year as European Capital of Culture.

Donna came with us!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#369. Liquid Rooms, 9A Victoria St, Edinburgh

We love Grimes, the stage name of 24 year old Canadian indie music darling Claire Boucher.

I wasn't expecting much of the Liquid Rooms, but it blew me away with its state of the art front-of-house consoles, air conditioning, sight lines, and acoustics. The beer selection wasn't that bad, either, with cold Guinness and Belhaven Best on tap.
I actually had the good fortune to meet Claire after the show. Here she is next to a guy from Aberdeen who had made the trip down to see her. Claire and I bonded over the fact we both have family in Chilliwack.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

#368. Montpeliers, 159-161 Bruntsfield Pl, Edinburgh


After venturing to the southern suburb of Morningside to see the movie Ted at the beautiful Dominion Cinema, Sean and I stopped in at this contemporary bar for a couple of pints. The beer selection was great, and I enjoyed an Innis & Gunn on tap followed by a Belhaven Best as a chaser.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

#367. Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh

Meghan and Julie waiting for his arrival.
I was once a fan of Knight Rider. I seem to recall watching it with my mom quite often. When we found out that David Hasselhoff was performing at the Fringe, we couldn't resist the post-modern irony of seeing an iconic, aging sex-symbol do shmaltzy versions of Broadway show tunes. Closing out the show with a stirring rendition of 500 Miles while wearing a kilt was a nice touch. We were won over and braved the queue to meet him and get his autograph.



We missed out the first time (he only signs for 20 minutes and the queue was too long), so we came back the next night, skipped the show, and went straight to the front of the lineup. We enjoyed a Magners Irish Cider in this outdoor patio.
Donna and The Hoff

Thursday, August 23, 2012

#366. Registry Bar, 2 India Buildings, Victoria St, Edinburgh


This place popped-up for the Fringe as part of the C Venues. It looked great from the outside, but was disappointing within.

#365. Burlington Bertie, 11-13 Tarvit St, Edinburgh

I don't think I could have picked a more appropriate place to hit the milestone. Not too flashy, not too dour, the Burlington Bertie is a stereotypical neighbourhood Scottish pub, featuring an eclectic mix of friendly locals from varying walks of life. Best of all, it has a jukebox with a fantastic selection.


Karen the Publican and me.









The publican was this lovely woman named Karen (pictured here) who was happy to chat about the history of the pub, and where the name comes from. She said that it has been called the Burlington Bertie since 1976.

While standing at the bar I got to talking with this friendly giant of a man about Irvine Welch and how Filth is his best book. I asked his opinion of the seedier neighbourhoods of Edinburgh, social housing, and the subtext of all Welch's novels. He wrote me this poem.
Christmastime valium and wine
Children indulging in petty crime
Mum's on the smack and dad's out his tree
Christmas is barry when you come from Niddrie
Barry is Scots for fantastic, and Niddrie is a suburb of Edinburgh with a history of problems with anti-social behaviour.


We shut the mother down. On the street at 3AM.
The guy with the Dropkick Murphys jacket was a Tollcross native named Dave. I struck up a conversation with him at the jukebox, and after establishing a shared love of the song Skin Deep by The Stranglers, we invited him to join us. He was pretty lucid for having just been thrown out of The Cuckoo's Nest for being drunk.






For the detail-oriented out there, I will admit that of the 365 pubs counted so far:
Therefore, I plan to visit at least five more pubs before my 365 days have elapsed. And yes, it was a leap-year... but somehow 366 Pubs in 366 Days doesn't quite have the same ring to it. And not all of them were "pubs" in the traditional sense: some were bars, theatres, clubs, cocktail bars, lounges, restaurants with a lounge, etc. The common theme is that all of them were places that people in the community go to meet, commiserate, debate, be entertained, and share stories of love and adventure, all the while enjoying a glass of their favourite beverage.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

#364. Drinkies, 39 Queen St, Edinburgh

Drinkies is the white-fronted place on the right.
All told, we figure we've probably spent at least one full day of our year in Edinburgh waiting to cross Queen Street. At Frederick and Queen is this hole in the wall I didn't actually realize was a drinking establishment until fairly recently. (I thought it was a wine shop.) Much like Snoopy's doghouse, or the TARDIS on Dr. Who, Drinkies defies the laws of physics by being dramatically larger within than it appears from without. The interior is spread over two floors, complete with interesting art, a wheel-chair accessible washroom, and comfortable furnishings.




















I was served by the owner, who recently sold the establishment. He was attempting to drain the inventory before month's end, so the only remaining beer on tap was the Italian lager Peroni, which is too bad as they used to stock a couple of decent kegs. After three years as owner/operator of Drinkies Wine Bar, he was moving to a beach in Gambia to escape the dismal weather. Born in India to Scottish parents, he was raised abroad in the sunshine until returning to Glasgow at age 12. He opined that the Scots are all depressed due to the lack of sunshine, and they drink so much in order to self-medicate.

Aye to that.

#363. Anderson's Bar, 161 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh


Anderson's is, I think, what people here mean when they say "old man bar". It has cheap beer on tap and oodles of suspicious looks are directed at non-regulars such as myself. I ordered a Belhaven Best, as they didn't have any of that cask ale stuff I like on tap.

Despite the absence of the smartphone set, a sign proudly announces they offer free Wi-Fi, but it is password protected and I can't be arsed to enter into one of those awkward conversations with the bartender where I can't understand her brogue and have to keep asking her to repeat herself and end up looking stupid.



#362. Cloisters, 26 Brougham St, Edinburgh

Throw me in jail with Pussy Riot if you must, but I think the world would be a better place if every house of worship was converted to a pub.
Note the chalk board that details the cask selection. They are serious about their ales here at Cloisters. On the advice of the bartender, I went with the Navigator Ale, but I can't recall who the brewery was. (And my eyesight is shiite, so I couldn't read the chalk board from my seat at the bar.)
This beautiful wrought-iron staircase leads downstairs to the toilets.

#361. Ventoux, 2 Brougham St, Edinburgh


Deuchars is the only cask ale on tap, so I went with the old reliable bottle of Innis & Gunn. Bicycles are mounted on the walls, but it seems to work here, unlike Cabaret Voltaire. The aquarium is a nice touch, as are the big comfy chairs. The patio is popular with the locals.

Monday, August 20, 2012

#360. Abbatoir, Bristo Square, Edinburgh

The real party at the Udderbelly is in this backstage bar that is off-limits to anyone without a performer pass. Fortunately, I know people.


Unfortunately, there was no sign of Hugh Grant (sighted here the evening before), nor Robert Smith (hey, a guy can dream, can't he?). Also unfortunate was the crap beer selection. I think I had a Staropramen, but couldn't even finish it.

#359. Dagda Bar, 93-95 Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh


Wow, what an unexpected surprise. A fantastic beer selection, friendly staff, and no unnecessary music. The Dagda is a cozy, quaint, first-rate neighbourhood pub. There were at least four local cask ales on tap, and I sampled three quarters of them: an Alechemy IPA, Tempest blonde ale, and Citra from Tryst Brewery of Falkirk.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

#358. Foresters Arms, 40 Portobello High St, Edinburgh



Michael and I were both impressed by the cleanliness of this place, and its unpretentious ambiance. The beer selection was not as good as its neighbour, but the McEwan's Export is always a decent pint. Unfortunately, they closed at 11:00 (maybe only on Sundays?) and there were no other pubs open along the High Street. Thus ends my Portobello pub crawl.

#357. Three Monkeys, 87 Portobello High St, Edinburgh


My first time on public transit in Edinburgh takes me to the seaside suburb of Portobello, a trip made necessary by the fact I am running out of pubs in the city centre that are within walking distance.


I'm here to hang with my friend Michael, pictured above just before he gets up to buy us another round. (He somehow always manages to buy more of the drinks than me...) I really enjoyed the 5 AM Saint from Brew Dog that was on tap - it is much better served from the keg than it is from the bottle.