CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Pubs in Aberdeen

Previous Pint Pleasures - September 9, 2007

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The Grill, 213 Union Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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Under the Hammer, 11 North Silver Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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The Globe, 13-15 North Silver Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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Prince of Wales, 7 St Nicholas Lane, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

A few months ago on our way to and from the Orkney Islands, friends and I spent a couple of days in Aberdeen. The third largest city in Scotland, the "Granite City" dates from the 12th century and lies further north than Moscow. It is also known as the Oil Capital of Europe because it is the centre of the North Sea energy industry.

While in Aberdeen we visited a number of fine hostelries. The one that impressed me the most was the Grill. Situated on the main boulevard of Union Street across from the Music Hall, this pub possesses a rather dull and unimpressive exterior. But on this Saturday afternoon as we passed through the door we found ourselves in a bright hive of activity -- the place was packed! The room is long with the bar on one side running nearly the entire length and a wood carved archway two thirds of the way back. The Grill opened as a restaurant in 1870 and became a men-only pub in 1926, from which time it hasn't changed except for allowing entry to women. It is the Campaign for Real Ale's only Scottish pub interior of outstanding historic interest located north of Dundee.

The Grill features a selection of over 400 whiskies from around the world. A Tasting Deal offers 4 single malts, one from each Scottish region, for £7.75, and the Single Malt of the Week is £1.80 a nip. We tried two whiskies: Highland, and then Auld Reekie from Islay, which is a really good smoky malt. A plaque above the bar says "Great Whisky Bar of the World".

Of course, we also sampled the cask ales. When I spotted Bitter & Twisted (3.8%, Harviestoun Brewery, Alva, Scotland) I became very excited and insisted we all have a pint. My pint helped awaken me after a fitful sleep on the hard floor of an overnight ferry with a baby crying nearby. Like a double espresso it revived me so I could face the night ahead.

If you find yourself in Aberdeen and you like cask ales and single malts, whatever you do don't miss this place.

Later that evening we walked up North Silver Street to Under the Hammer. This downstairs bar, located close to the city auction rooms, was packed on this particular Saturday night. We squeezed into a special alcove under the stairs framed by a wide plaster archway and admired the paintings on the walls which were for sale. We all had pints of Ossian (4.1% ABV, Inveralmond Brewery, Perth, Scotland) and, on the first sip, there was a unanimous OOOOOOOHHH! from all of us. This is a highly original ale with lots of character, width, depth, height, and don't forget the diagonals. And the spheres -- I mean, we're talking 4-dimensional beer here. Like Workie Ticket and Adnams Regatta, this brew could inspire a novel or a film. It gives you something to chew on, something to mull over, something to keep in a special box. To put it simply, it's damn good! And suddenly we wondered why we were hiding in our substair alcove. We had great pints and we wanted the world to know. Perhaps this pub is really a stage. So were we the first or second act?

We were tempted to order another round, but we wanted to check out the live music at the Globe Inn directly next door. A band called the Steamers were playing this evening and their repertoire was great: lots of Clash, Sex Pistols, Green Day, Killers, Chuck Berry, Roxy Music, and more. There were 3 handpumps which featured 2 Greene King selections and one guest beer. We ordered pints of 80/- (4.1% ABV, Caledonian Brewing Co., Edinburgh, Scotland) which was a bit disappointing after the stunningly outstanding Ossian, but we decided to give it a chance. We found a seat at a table in the back and admired the musical instruments hanging on the walls: violins, trombones, sousaphones, accordions, cellos, mandolins, banjos, and there was even a player piano in the corner. And records on the walls as well -- remember those things? Round like CDs only with holes in the middle? The instruments and records were accompanied by pictures of musicians. And perched on a side table was, of course, a globe, just like the one I grew up with except perhaps a bit more modern. What a fun place this is! There's a nice garden in the back, too, but it closed for the night just as I stepped out to explore.

The Globe Inn features live music every week, and they offer ensuite accommodation as well.

The next day, after browsing through shops in the centrally located St Nicholas Centre, we wandered down a quiet alley and found the Prince of Wales. Another of Aberdeen's oldest pubs, it features 8 handpumps, of which 7 were currently in use. Marian and I started with pints of Adnams Explorer (4.3% ABV, Adnams Brewery, Southwold, Suffolk), which is very bitter with a hollow centre. Ali and Marian think it's brilliant but I was a little bit disappointed, especially as it's an Adnams brew. Perhaps it was my palate; perhaps I was just bleeding internally or something. It does have a nice solid wood base, perhaps of rosewood, and it would make a really nice table. Ali had a pint of Nectar (4.3% ABV, Caledonian Brewing Co., Edinburgh, Scotland), a good dry ale brewed with honey which lends a sweet character but not an actual sweet taste. The honey buzzes up your nose like a bee, only this is a much less painful experience.

My second pint was Prince of Wales Ale (4.2% ABV, Inveralmond Brewery, Perth, Scotland), which imparts very much that Ossian character but is a bit more conservative and gentle. I wish I knew what hops Inveralmond uses, because whatever they are they're definitely the brewery's signature. Like Ossian this ale is a pleasure to drink. I could even see myself downing a few of these with ol' Chuckie. Ali's second pint was Golden Brown (4.4% ABV, Hydes Brewery, West Manchester). This is like light toast made with nutty bread. It's definitely a good breakfast beer.

Considering we found 4 decent cask ales pubs in Aberdeen in less than 24 hours, I would say this is a good sign that Aberdeen is definitely worth visiting.