And They’re Off

Where better to restart the pub ticking game than in one called the Starting Gate?

It has been a gentle easing back into the world of pubs. In Scotland a more cautious approach to easing lockdown resulted in outdoor opening only on Monday 6th July. In the Renfrewshire branch area I have not managed to find any cask beer. The normally reliable Fox and Hounds at Houston was still having a refurb. Even the Spoons in Paisley has not yet reopened. In the event it was Habbie’s in Kilbarchan that was the pup’s first pub, though he has asked me to ensure that there will be many more to come. I promised to do my best.

No cask – unimpressed

Sensible opening hours of 2-8 to start with, there was plenty of Williams Joker IPA in the fridge to lubricate a pleasant afternoon. There must have been over 30 people there on a Monday afternoon, “more like a Friday” said gaffer Fraser, in between gently easing a group from double vodkas onto singles.

Way better than Doom Bar

My only other venture into the great outdoor pub was to the former Paisley Canal Street Station. Now renamed Telford’s it has a sizeable outside area that backs onto the old railway line, now a cycle path, while Canal Street station itself moved a couple of hundred yards westward. Beer was strictly limited. No cask (nor likely to be from a scan of the bar).

Some need more practice than others

I met pal Brian there on the bike as it was roughly equidistant for us both. He stuck to the Guinness, me to the Brewdog Punk IPA. For the second time in July the sun shone and for a couple of hours the world seemed a better place.

It has been a very difficult lockdown for my 86 year old Dad. Like many older people, the breakdown in routine has had a detrimental effect. My journey south was made a little easier by the fact that I had dusted down the 2020 Good Beer Guide. This is an annual publication that lists 4,500 of the best cask beer pubs in Britain. I may have mentioned it before.

Hence arriving at the Starting Gate in the Wolverhampton suburb of Penn. From the name I had guessed it was a former bookies but in fact it is located in old bank premises. The newly installed plastic screen in front of the bar bears a passing resemblance to the inch thick bulletproof glass the owners had removed from its days as a bank. My taste buds welcomed the Citra like an old friend.

The empty looking building next door had a characterful clock. Gensign is not the maker’s name but is short for General Signals and Time Co, a company that procured clocks for the British Rail network.

Opening time

My other tick was the Queen’s Head in beer friendly Stourbridge, a Black Country Ales house. From no cask in Renfrewshire, here I was faced with a dozen handpumps on the bar.

The choice was simple though and the Salopian Oracle lived up to expectations. It’s a rather striking free-standing building on the outskirts of town.

I may be wrong but signing in to aid track and trace seemed optional here, which surely defeats the purpose? I’ve since been to a couple where it wasn’t asked for at all. Pint for pint Stourbridge is a match for any town and the friendly Queen’s Head would be on anyone’s circuit.

Some Scottish pubs are opening indoors today. There is hope.

18 thoughts on “And They’re Off

  1. Nice one Pubmeister – great to see you back on the road GBG ticking. Very impressive cask ale range at that last pub – certainly inspires post-lockdown hope. 🙂

    Perhaps less surprising than it should be – my first post lockdown visit (as yet unblogged) also did not have any evidence of track and trace sign in – not that I noticed anyway – and I wasn’t asked.

    Can’t help thinking with the dire possibility of a winter return of the pandemic in the report for the government – track and trace is likely to feature much more strictly before long…but it would be nice to think it is not going to be needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t get it – countries that have done well have had much more rigorous test, track and trace systems. The way it’s being done in England makes it more likely that some places will have to close again with local spikes etc. I have lost track of your blogs – have you stopped posting via Twitter?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I confess I assumed that Garden Hermit had taken the ferry over to the Isle of Wight and got lost in 1955 there. It’s good to have him back, even if he’s never been away. Southern pub blogging lacks representation.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Great to have you back. Two good pubs there.

    A Guide to the best real ale, you say. Sounds a great idea.

    The biggest culprit for “optional Track and Trace” is Spoons. In five of them so far (FIVE !) I’ve had to ask for or track down the siip of paper. On the upside, I’ve restocked on pens and pencils.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m surprised to see anywhere being brave enough to have that many beers on, surely they’re going to struggle to keep quality up at this time of year in normal times, never mind with a presumably large % reduction in custom.

    As the forecast sounds quite pleasant, a quick trip up to Aberdeen tomorrow to see what the latest normal looks like is on the cards. Quite a few places seemingly not willing to risk things as yet, so perhaps trade will spread out over the remaining outlets enough to give them sufficient income.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you’ll post your thoughts on the Beer & Pub Forum. I’d guess the average BrewDog punter a bit more willing to risk entry. Or are you still beer gardens ? Not many of those in Aberdeen.


      1. More than you might expect, half of the city centre has been closed off/pedestrianised and most of the space seems to be getting used bybeer tents. Had mates posting from the Queen Vic after its 10AM opening this morning. Will figure it out tomorrow.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I like their pubs but think Black Country Ales put too many on at the best of times. Maybe they are pins. Not many open in Glasgow yet. Maybe half a dozen that usually do cask. Hope Aberdeen is better.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheers. Been a busy time with Dad issues so was glad to sink a couple of good beers. Now all I need to do is catch up on yours and everyone’s blog. No doubt the Blues recent form is a recurring theme!


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