Where to Drink in Glasgow, Scotland
The biggest city in Scotland is finally starting to get a bit more love. Long overshadowed by Edinburgh, the Scottish capital located about an hour to its east, Glasgow is currently coming into its own, with a growing reputation as one of the friendliest and most welcoming cities in Great Britain—as well as one of the most entertaining places to drink and eat. With direct trains from London taking just four and a half hours, it’s easy to make Glasgow part of any UK travel plan, especially when you consider its attractive combination of classic pubs and newer bars, to say nothing of its outstanding architecture and vibrant cultural life.
In terms of beer production, the city is still dominated by the massive Tennent’s brewery, which even fans of rare Pilsners will acknowledge as probably not ranking among the world’s worst large-production lagers. Originally founded in 1740, Tennent’s became part of C&C Group after it was sold off by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2009—a move which put Tennent’s under the same ownership as Vermont’s Woodchuck Hard Cider. You can see evidence of greater independence at the very cool Drygate brewery, a small-scale producer located inside Tennent’s massive Wellpark Brewery complex. It opened in 2014 as a joint venture between the local powerhouse and Williams Brothers, the Scottish craft brewing stalwarts.
The rest of the local brewing scene remains extremely varied. To start, you’ve got old-school, Bavarian-inspired lagers and Hefeweizens from West Beer, which now has two outlets of its own in town, as well as relatively wide distribution of beers like its excellent St. Mungo, a crisp take on Helles. On the other side of the coin (and the town), the Clockwork brewpub in the Southside, not far from the Mount Florida light rail station, enjoys a solid reputation for hoppy Pale Ales, while Jaw Brew cranks out modern styles on a 5-barrel system located well west of central Glasgow. Around town, you’re likely to find pints from both up-and-coming and established Scottish brands, including Fyne Ales, Fallen, Kelburn, Alechemy, Pilot, and BrewDog.
Of course, great beer Isn’t Scotland’s most famous liquid. Don’t be afraid of stopping into a charming pub that doesn’t have an impressive draft list, as even the most modest bars will often have several fine whiskies, often at great prices. If you do order a dram, expect it to be served neat.
With Glasgow’s recent growth, things aren’t likely to stay the same. In the near term, an updated beer tour and visitors center called the Tennent’s Story is set to open in spring 2018 at Wellpark. Another welcome new arrival is Ride Brewing, a craft producer now selling beer but currently finishing construction of a 100 percent disabled-accessible brewery and taproom—an inclusive, welcoming approach much like the extremely friendly atmosphere of Glasgow itself.
A must-visit growler shop and pub with plenty of covetable bottles and cans from the likes of Cloudwater, Tempest, and Beavertown, Grunting Growler is conveniently located near the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, allowing you to switch from a sophisticated cultural afternoon to hardcore sampling session.
Just steps from the Kelvinhall subway station and near the trendy university district, the bustling corner pub Three Judges offers nine cask ales, ciders, and craft brews, as well as excellent whiskies. Expect to chat with your neighbors at the bar or enjoy the occasional trad jazz concerts held here.
Belgian-focused brewpub SixºNorth is located 15 minutes by foot from the Kelvinhall subway station—and worth every step. Thirty taps offer house beers alongside guest beers and rarities, like the SixºNorth collab with Belgium’s De Ranke aged in Islay whisky barrels.
In 2017, one of Scotland’s largest independent breweries opened Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen, a multilevel brewpub and restaurant on trendy Ashton Lane serving house brews and guest drafts from the likes of Cromarty, Buxton, and Magic Rock, supplemented by beer-based cocktails (aka “hoptails”) and numerous boilermakers.
The Clyde is Glasgow’s major river, but the smaller River Kelvin offers the scenic backdrop for the outdoor tables at Inn Deep. House beers from Williams Brothers join guest drafts and some 70 bottles, as well as burgers and pizzas, with the related bottle shop Valhalla’s Goat located around the corner.
A high point for the curry-and-craft trend, Crossing the Rubicon pairs 18 taps from Drygate and other local heroes with tandoori chicken korma or ox-cheek bhuna, as well as Indian snacks, haggis naan, and house-made pickles.
Family run by the McDonaghs for over 17 years, The Bon Accord serves at least 10 cask ales and one draft cider from its Victorian-era bar. Over 400 whiskies are also available, including a 70-year-old Glenlivet. Plan on taking your time here—Glasgow pubs don’t get much better than this.
The city’s newest brewpub at press time, Shilling Brewing Co. occupies a beautiful former bank building from 1930. Come for the bustling atmosphere and 31 house and guest draft beers, stay for the gourmet thin-crust pizzas. Brewery tours are available Sundays at 1 p.m.
BrewDog’s original Glasgow location in Kelvingrove was recently matched by a second venue, Doghouse Merchant City. Expect plenty of seating, both indoors and out, with brisket, ribs, and other BBQ classics to pair with 25 taps of brews from the likes of Thistly Cross and Fierce Beer, plus BrewDog’s own creations. There’s also an on-site bottle shop.
Blackfriars, one of the best outlets for real ale in the Merchant City, mixes things up with bottles of Gueuze Boon and Siren’s Squealer dry-hopped raspberry sour ale, though cask remains the main draw. If you’re likely to find a Tryst Drovers 80/- or another classic Scottish style, it’s here.
Ground central for craft geekiness, Drygate has a modern decor of exposed brick, long wooden tables, and worn industrial concrete. Two on-site brewhouses crank out apple ales, gluten-free Pilsners, and other innovative brews to pair with black-pudding burgers and jerk sandwiches from the kitchen.
You’ll likely spot West taps elsewhere, but nothing beats a visit to the spacious brewpub on beautiful Glasgow Green. Relax with pretzels and pitchers of excellent German-style lagers and Weizens before a trip to the nearby People’s Palace museum and Winter Gardens greenhouse.
The Laurieston is a favorite dive on Glasgow’s Southside, across the River Clyde from downtown. Instagram some snaps of the remarkably unrestored ’60s décor, order a pint of anything by Fyne Ales, then prepare to get swept into conversation with the friendly locals. ■