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


Previous Pint Pleasures - June 22, 2008

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Old Blackfriars, 52 Castle Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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Tilted Wig, 55-56 Castle Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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Archibald Simpson, 5 Castle Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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Frankenstein Pub, 504 Union Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Last summer I passed through the Granite City of Aberdeen twice, once on my way to Orkney and again on my way back. The first visit was relatively short, allowing me and my friends Ali and Marion some time between train and ferry to check out some of the pubs.

Our first stop was one of Aberdeen's oldest pubs, Old Blackfriars, located on Castlegate square. Blackfriars, as the locals call it, was named after a 14th century order of monks who owned land nearby. A CAMRA award winner, the pub is split-level with brick and stone details, nice stained glass, and pump clips hanging from the ceiling. There is a long list of pub games available, and the food looks quite interesting.

I had a pint of Ossian (4.1% ABV, Inveralmond Brewery Ltd., Inveralmond, Perthshire). It has a pilsner-style hoppiness suggesting possibly a touch of Czech hops in the mix. This was a great reviving pint after a daylong journey from Sheffield via Doncaster, York, Durham, Newcastle, Dundee, and Edinburgh. And somehow I felt like we'd ended up in Prague. All I could say was "Na zdraví!"

Marion had a pint of Lia Fail (4.7% ABV, Inveralmond Brewery Ltd., Inveralmond, Perthshire), which is a nice bitter malt, rounded but not cloying. Oh no, Lia doesn't cloy at all. A hophead like myself could easily drink a whole pint of this. Ali's pint was Moonbeam Rider (4.7% ABV, Inveralmond Brewery Ltd., Inveralmond, Perthshire), a fruity brew with a nice subtle woody barky scent that rises in the back of the throat. It's like an exotic potpourri burning away on a wood stove.

Our next stop, the Tilted Wig, was very close by. Named for the courts directly opposite, this traditional pub has a legal theme to its decor and seems to have a solid base of regulars. We sat at a table underneath a picture of a gentleman in a wig who seemed overly earnest in regards to his pint. Glancing at Ali's perfectly bald pate situated directly under the abundantly wigged solicitor made me realise our motley trio didn't appear very judicial. Considering how windblown my curly mop was at that point, I imagined it tilting slightly toward the Courthouse in respect.

Ali had a pint of Courage Directors (4.8% ABV, John Smith Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire), which is always a classic. Marian had a pint of Theakstons XB (4.8% ABV, T.R. Theakston Ltd., Ripon, North Yorkshire) which was nice as well. After my 4:30am awakening I felt as if I had jet lag, so I decided to stick with the lower ABVs. So I had a pint of Cumberland (4% ABV, Jennings Bros., Cockermouth, Cumbria) which is always a trusted friend, even here in the north of Scotland. The three of us had fish and chips as well, which was fairly standard but decent.

We had time for one more pint, so we headed over to the local Wetherspoon's pub, Archibald Simpson. Housed in a former bank building this pub, named after the architect who built it along with a good deal of Aberdeen, sits on the site of the 18th century New Inn, where Dr Samuel Johnson, his biographer James Boswell, and blood circulation discoverer William Harvey all stayed. After 80 years the New Inn was torn down and the North Scotland Banking Company was erected in its place, making it a prime future property for JD Wetherspoon's.

Inside the pub the high ornate ceilings reminded me of the Centurian in Newcastle Central Rail Station, through which we had passed earlier in the day. For our last pint before catching the ferry I dangerously chose Lifeboat (4.0% ABV, Titanic Brewery, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire). This is a good solid bitter with a polished dark wood character, like wood from a rainforest in Africa or Indonesia. I was reminded olfactorily of the African wood carvings of giraffes and baboons I still have from my childhood. I suppose it was a bit bold of me to select a Titanic brew just before a 7-hour ferry trip across the North Sea, but I comforted myself with the fact that it was a Lifeboat.

Ali had a pint of Blaven (5% ABV, Isle of Skye Brewing Co., Uig, Isle of Skye). This, too, has a unique character, almost far Eastern. It's quite pleasant but the taste warns of its high alcohol. Marion opted for a pint of Mad Dog (4.4% ABV, Elgood & Sons Ltd, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire). This tastes of burnt caramel and suggests it would be good over ice cream. Sadly the time passed too quickly and we had a ferry to catch, so we had to desert the last few sips of our pints.

A week later on our journey back from Orkney we spent a longer time in Aberdeen and visited some fine pubs I've already ed. But our Saturday night started out with a pub we decided to try only because we were curious about the name. The Frankenstein, which announces "Since 1818" on the front door, is a dark modern and oh-so-trendy city pub -- actually more of a bar than a pub. There is Frankenstein decor everywhere, from pictures of Mary Shelley to photos of Boris Karloff, and no end to the Frankenstein gimmicks for sale. There is really nothing decent to drink, and the prices are well out of line. My first impression was of patronised irritation when the young barmaid seemed to think I was thick, deaf, or spoke very poor English because I took so long ordering. The fact was I couldn't see a thing I wanted to drink.

We decided to put up with bottles of imported beer which we drink quickly, appalled at the price of over 3 quid for a 330ml bottle. And this was not a part of town where pubs are particularly expensive. All I can say about the Frankenstein pub is you can 'ave it, Boris!