Blackfriars Bar & Kitchen
All bare floorboards and pine furniture, its fixtures a little worn and peeling, a signed picture of Terry Wogan above the optics, this bar (and basement live music venue) feels a bit 1990s. However, there is nothing dated about its beer. Five cask pumps serve ales from across the UK, including beers from Scottish micros that were new names to me, such as Mòr, Fallen and Tryst. The latter's pale Nelson Sauvin was excellent, stridently bitter and melon-y, but with none of the 'rotten fruit' flavours you sometimes get from the Nelson Sauvin hop.
Despite the slightly tongue-in-cheek billing - "The cool, sexy beers you should be drinking." - various chalkboards run through a bottled beer menu which has clearly been collated by someone who knows and loves great beer. All the star names of the modern craft scene are present: Odell's and Flying Dog from the US, Norwegians Nøgne Ø, as well as the best of the British new wave: Siren, Partizan, Kernel, Redchurch, Wild Beer etc. Throw in Weihenstephaner's dunkel and weissbeer on draught, and you have a bar where beer-lovers of all stripes could happily wile away a few hours.
• Pint from £3.30. 38 Bell Street, 0141 552 5924, blackfriarsglasgow.com
Don't be put off by the fact that people are eating, this is as much a bar as it is a restaurant. One where drinkers, I am assured, are always welcome. Which is a relief as, alongside its guest, craft-keg pump and a dedicated William Bros. tap, Meat Bar has a solid, 40+ bottled list, split pretty evenly between established Scottish (Fyne, Brewdog, Harviestoun etc.) and US (Brooklyn, Goose Island, Anchor) craft beer exponents.
A schooner - they don't serve halves, curiously - of Anarchy Brewing's unfined, unfiltered Urban Assault pale ale (£3), was beautiful, full of sharp, prickly, grapefruit and mango flavours. It was as dry and acerbic as Quentin Crisp and as tropical as the Man From Del Monte. It was just a pity I couldn't sit there all day. This dimly-lit basement space - light glinting off whisky bottles behind the bar; the music a palatable mix of Dylan, Doves, Velvet Underground - is the kind of cocooned bolt-hole where anyone would love to hideaway for a long misspent afternoon.
• Pint from £3.50. 142 West Regent Street, 0141 204 3605, themeatbar.co.uk
Incongruously located within Tennent's huge Wellpark brewery complex in Glasgow's East End, Drygate may be funded by sales of Scotland's biggest-selling fizzy pish, Tennent's lager, but be in no doubt: it is a craft beer nirvana. Launched in May, it is co-owned by Tennent's overlords, C&C Group, and junior partners, William Bros. Brewing, and the complex includes, variously, a microbrewery producing Drygate beers; a bar with 24 draught beers and a selection of over 200 bottles; a remarkable bottle shop; and space - hence the unwieldy tag-line, "an experiential brewery" - for everything from meet-the-brewer and beer appreciation events, to tutored brewing sessions on the Studio Kit, which allows members of the public to create their own beers.
However cynical you may be about C&C's motives for all this (a debate for another time), it is difficult not to be wowed by the vast choice at Drygate and disarmed by the geeky enthusiasm of the staff. After we had got chatting about the beers, the barman brought over a few tasters for me. Among those, a Roosters/Odell's collaboration, The Accomplice (loads of pine, ripe melon, citrus and barbed-wire bitterness) and Kernel's Amarillo rather puts Drygate's own Gladeye IPA in the shade. It was perfectly pleasant, but more of a zesty, sherberty West Coast pale than a true IPA, to my tastebuds. Drygate's beers are also available to takeaway at £1.90 a bottle.
As you can imagine, the keg-dominated bar (four cask pumps), is a who's who of the world's hottest brewers, from Italy's Birra del Borgo to Sierra Nevada, Bristol's Arbor to Sussex's Burning Sky. A few relative oddities, such as Harbour's dunkel bock, will please those who are jaded by hop-loaded, US-style beers. Prices can get silly - for instance, the Decadence Stout from London's (in my opinion, so-so micro) Weird Beard was £6.50-a-pint, but there is plenty of choice around £3.50-£4.50. If the beer range is difficult to argue with, then the space itself - and, indeed, the confusing messages it sends out - may be more divisive. It's very post-industrial: exposed air ducts, wire-cage partitions, views into the brewery, big communal tables, but done in a polished way (Aretha and Stevie Wonder on the stereo, swanky glassware, upmarket food). A lot of money has been spent smoothing out any rough edges. Initially, Drygate may look like a hastily knocked-together, grassroots endeavour, but, of course, this is pre-packaged hip, a clever simulation of a genuine independent, DIY micro. One which, judging by the steady traffic on a Thursday lunchtime, tourists will love. Is Drygate faking its street cred? To an extent, yes. Would I go again? Definitely.
• Pint from £3.50. Drygate Brewery, 85 Drygate, 0141 212 8810, drygate.com
This traditional city-centre pub - dark green leather banquettes; pewter tankards dangling from a grand central bar - may appear to hold little attraction for buccaneering craft beer drinkers. But among the pub's seven immaculately kept real ales, you can generally find something tasty and exciting, as well as more sedate offerings from, for example, Thwaites and Cameron's. Specifically, the State regularly has Oakham beers on the bar. This Peterborough outfit was using big-hitting American hops back when the young upstarts at Kernel or Brewdog were still drinking Ribena, and Oakham's Citra - in perfect form on this visit - remains the definitive take on that hop. All gooseberry sharpness, lychee and scintillating bitterness, it is a modern classic. As well as its real ales (Alchemy and Green Jack were other interesting names on the board), the State is also a big whisky pub, and, therefore, a good stop-off if you would like to combine the two.
• Pint from £3. 148-148A Holland Street, 0141 332 2159
Pub purists will hate Munro's. I wasn't 100% sold on it myself, as a place. Just over a year old, this Maclay's Inns pub feels very much like a corporate pub company's idea of contemporary cool. But I can forgive a lot, in terms of self-consciously 'funky' design and blaring indie tunes, for the sake of good beer, and, in that regard, Munro's is persuasive. Kernel's Biére de Table (£4.40-a-pint, so not extortionate for Kernel), Fourpure's pils and Arbor's E-Bomb - a slightly grainy, citrusy summer refresher - were the pick, on this visit, from four craft keg and three cask lines. The bottled beer list is sound, if unsensational, with the odd bottle or two from Camden Town, Redchurch and Wild Beer adding a little spice to the mix, alongside more predictable inclusions from Brewdog, William Bros. and Brooklyn. The staff were super-keen to offer samples and advice, incidentally, and Munro's hosts irregular beer-related events, such as tap-takeovers and meet-the-brewer events.
As well as Munro's, Maclay Inns also owns the Three Judges, a much-loved, nine-pump West End real ale pub , and the recently refurbished Southside brewpub, Clockwork Beer Co.. The latter is but a javelin's throw from Hampden Park, which will host the track and field events during the Commonwealth Games.
• Pint from £3.20. 185 Great Western Road, 0141 332 0972, munrosglasgow.co.uk
The Squid & Whale
A busy, trendy bar and Mexican cantina - which explains the decorative cacti, less so its impressive soundtrack of niche electronica - the Squid & Whale is big on cocktails but also carries a serviceable craft beer range. In the fridges, you will find (but, of course) a large selection of William Bros. bottles, one Mexican craft beer, Red Pig (a bit like a Scottish 80 shilling-style beer, apparently), and others from the big US craft breweries, Brooklyn, Anchor, Founders, Sierra Nevada. This concentration on the more commonplace and easily-available names in modern craft beer does mean that the prices are, refreshingly, sane. The 7.2% hop-bomb that is Founder's Centennial IPA, full of ripe honeydew melon, peach and purse-lipped, wormwood bitterness was just £4.25.
• Bottles from £3.40. 372-374 Great Western Road, 0141 339 5070, squidwhale.com
Given the ubiquity of its beers in Glasgow's bars, you might wonder why Alloa's William Bros. felt the need to open one of their own. But they did, and, not unsurprisingly, Inn Deep is a cracker. Whether by accident or design, its fridges seem to contain not just the biggest names in craft beer, but, arguably, and more specifically, the best beers (Kernel's London Sour, Beavertown's Gamma Ray, Marble's Dobber), from each of those A1 micros. In the modern pantheon, these are iconic beers.
Elsewhere, across three cask and eight keg lines, real geeks (with money to burn!), will be thrilled by obscure imports from the likes of Sweden's Omnipollo, Austrian's Bevog and Germany's BrauKunstKeller - all of which were hovering around £4-a-half. I settled instead, for William Bros. own Joker IPA which, whilst it delivers all the bracing bitterness you expect, lacked the true multi-layered tropical fruit complexity of the best new wave IPAs. Incidentally, Inn Deep itself is a cool space. Built into an arch beneath Kelvinbridge, it has a riverside terrace area that feeds into Kelvingrove Park.
• Pint from £2.90. 445 Great Western Rd, Kelvinbridge, 0141 357 1075, inndeep.com
If less discriminating mates have dragged you into the noisy, neon-flashing cluster of restaurants and bars around Ashton Lane, Brel Bar may prove a lifesaver. As the name suggests, Brel originally majored on Belgian beers and it retains a core of gems from Belgium and Germany. For instance, Rochefort 10, Tripel Karmeleit, Chouffe IPA, Paulaner and Schofferhoffer's hefeweizen. However, that range has since expanded to include a cask pump rotating beers from Glasgow brewery, Kelburn, Joker IPA on keg, and a modest but high-quality range of US/UK craft beers. Thornbridge's legendary Jaipur and Halcyon were two nice surprises. Kelburn's Pivo Estivo couldn't quite compete with those, but I could have happily downed several pints of this easy-drinking pale (lemony-sour, lingering bitterness).
Dimly-lit, all glazed brick and dark wooden panelling, Brel feels like a boozy, no-frills, no-nonsense late-night drinking den of the type I love. That was heightened by a thumping soundtrack of rockabilly and primitive rock 'n' roll (the bartender in the Cramps t-shirt clearly had control of Spotify). Yet, out back, it has a large and lovely beer garden, where the atmosphere could not be more serene. On a warm summer's night, it is the perfect place to escape the crowds.
• Pint from £3.40. Ashton Lane, 0141 342 4966, brelbar.com
In Finnieston, craft drinkers would likely gravitate to the local outpost of the Brewdog chain. However, if you are looking for an experience unique to Glasgow, the 78 is a far more interesting option. A vegan cafe-bar - and, on Thursday nights, a reggae and dancehall hotspot - it serves vegan-friendly and often organic beers from William Bros. (12 bottles and three weekly rotating cask beers), Sam Smiths and Scottish brewery Black Isle. Be warned, though, such eco-friendly drinking does not come cheap. £5.05 for a bottle of Black Isle's fine, but far from mind-blowing organic blonde, isn't so much steep as vertical.
• Pint from £3.30. 10-14 Kelvinhaugh Street, 0141 576 5018, the78cafebar.com
Amid the beautiful parklands and grand buildings of Glasgow Green (a short cab ride or leisurely walk from the city-centre), you will find West, a Bavarian-style bierkeller, brewery and restaurant. All of its beers - five of which were available on this visit - are brewed in accordance with the German Purity Law of 1516, the reinheitsgebot, and West concentrates on central European beer styles: various lagers (such as the helles/pils hybrid, St Mungo, or its unfiltered Wild West), hefeweizen, dunkel and malty, Viennese-style red beers. Although, its GPA, an American chinook-hopped kölsch, is an interesting deviation. I sampled a half of West Berlin, a Berliner Weisse-style wheat beer. Sharp and acidic at first giving way to a distinctive sweet banana flavour, it was decent drinking - if a little meek compared to the growing band of 'London sour' tributes to this Berlin style.
On a sunny lunchtime, West was clearly gearing-up for a very busy day, as drinkers spilled out on to the (ironically, in this huge park), astroturfed terrace. They had even put Post Office-style barriers up to, presumably, manage the expected queue at the bar. However, despite that popularity, I do have a couple of criticisms. Primarily, the bottled beer choice at West is negligible. Understandably, it wants to showcase its own beers, but given the number of serious beer fans who must come here, that seems a little narrow-minded. A specialist selection of great German and Czech beers would only add to West's appeal. Secondly, the practice of charging more for two halves than a pint (eg. Hefeweizen, £2.05 half, pint £3.80), is not acceptable. Whatever the excuse.
• Pint from £3.50. Templeton Building, Glasgow Green, 0141 550 0135, westbeer.com
• Accommodation in Glasgow was provided by the Arthouse Hotel, one of the ABode Group's townhouse properties (129 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 2SZ, 0141 221 6789, thearthouseglasgow.co.uk). Rooms from £79 B&B. Travel between Manchester and Glasgow was provided by First TransPennine Express.