An American and an Englishman Walk into a Glaswegian Bar…

by Keith Savage · 10 comments

Glaswegians Watching a Football Game at the Horseshoe Bar

In honor of the internet blackout campaign in response to the SOPA and PIPA bills, I present to you a tale of (nearly) blacking out. Learn more about stopping SOPA and PIPA, and then contact your state congressmen.

It came together quickly, on the spur of the moment. In hindsight, most nights centered on the act of binge drinking usually do. You wake up the next morning smelling like flat Irn-Brü and kebab sauce, trying to piece together the previous night but generally just thankful that you did, in fact, wake up.

Such were my reluctant expectations as I sped from Scotland’s Isle of Mull south to Glasgow where I would meet fellow travel blogger and man of mishap, Mike Sowden, for a night on the town. His blog’s subtitle is “The Art of Unfortunate Travel,” and it’ll all make sense when you read posts like the time he challenged himself to hike the North York Moors and nearly died.

I just hoped it wasn’t contagious.

Meeting people for the first time after you’ve spent (in some cases) years conversing on the Web is always a bit awkward, but the more I travel and meet such folks the more normal it becomes. I waited on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Kelvingrove Park, soaking in the blue sky and sun and appreciating the city vibe after three weeks on lonely islands. When Mike strolled up carrying a backpack full of Yorkshire tea, I knew we’d get along just fine.

Anyone who’s familiar with getting blootered, wrecked, bladdered, hammered, or smashed knows the first thing you need to do is get some food in your stomach, preferably something bland and stabilizing that can fight the forthcoming rush of liquid mayhem. Naturally, we stopped at Mother India Café for an early dinner. Nothing says bland and unobtrusive like Indian food.

Next stop: BrewDog, right around the corner. BrewDog positions itself as the punk rockers of craft brewing, and they do a damn fine job of it. Their proprietary bars can be found in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Camden, and they’re making “beers” as strong as wine and cask-strength whisky. Beer as strong as whisky. That is punk rock. The bar itself has a carefully crafted brand image that I could live without, but the beers on the blackboard are exciting.

Our stomachs roiling with curry and hellish hot peppers, I order us a couple of “Hops Kill Nazis,” which I hope also kills acid reflux. Mike says beer makes him act funny – he’s more of a whisky drinker (uh oh!) – so I avoid a devilish 32% ABV beer called “Tactical Nuclear Penguin.” A less principled man may have taken the opportunity to see someone “act funny” that I just passed up. I’m still kicking myself.

We chat about travel and entrepreneurship, many of the same things we discuss on Twitter, Facebook, and Skype, but this time with the strange addition of facial features, vocal inflections, and body language. The “Hops Kill Nazis” is secretly powerful. That’s the only explanation for me thinking that human interaction is strangely amazing as we left.

We cut across Kelvingrove Park as clouds roll in and hide the sunset. I’m looking for a pub called Uisge Beatha that Sarah and I visited in 2006. We find it, only now it’s called Dram! and all the attractive kitsch and homey gloom have been replaced by lifeless out-of-the-box décor.


We order a couple whiskies anyway, and decide to sit outside as a slight drizzle descends. A couple hen parties swoop in as I tell a story lamenting my inherent laziness; am I in my cups already? Mike suggests that, based on what he just heard, I’m actually an incredibly hard worker, so I know he’s absolutely wrecked. Surly, too, as I took the picture above just as he’s about to punch me in the face with the dregs of his whisky triple.

Darkness descends and the ambience of Dram! is more than we can stomach. We decide to check out a recommendation from Jamie Milne, one of Glenfiddich’s brand ambassadors who I met in Craigellachie earlier in the year, and head over to the Ben Nevis pub. The path takes us back through Kelvingrove Park. At night. It’s a move I’ve recommended against several times on this very blog, but I figure no one’s going to jump two escapees from the nearby insane asylum. We were, after all, speaking in the convoluted and over-complicated dialect of H.P. Lovecraft and laughing maniacally. Like some twisted game of rock, paper, scissors, bald-faced insanity always beats petty violence.

Ben Nevis is a revelation of whisky. Beautiful bottles stand on blue glass shelves and angled wooden ledges. After water and lemonade (hey, we’re old), more whisky. The bar is standing room only, and a short man with an indecipherable Glaswegian accent continually butts into our conversation to ask if I’m American. I’ve never felt so novel. I confirm with him that, yes, I am indeed American and ask if he’d like to hear my John Wayne impression. Things start to get fuzzy.

The night comes to an end. God, it must be near dawn. We say our goodbyes on the street, promise to meet up again, that kind of thing. We will. There’s more analysis of Battlestar Galactica and Skyrim to conduct.

We shuffle our separate ways. Back at the Alamo I crash onto my bed and look at my phone. 9:30 PM.

DavidNo Gravatar September 29, 2012 at 1:04 PM

It’s always slightly odd to read an external account of a city you know so intimately. Especially when it involves a favourite pastime of yours: alcohol. If you do choose to return may I suggest partaking in a subcrawl. One subway. Fifteen stops. Fifteen pubs. One poor liver. Plus, the subway goes through some of the more colourful areas of the city. While there is a greater chance of casual ‘chibbage’ you do get to see the ‘real’ Glasgow.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 29, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Excellent idea – love it. Consider it done next time I’m in Glasgow.

Traveling TedNo Gravatar January 24, 2012 at 12:51 PM

I think you were resting up for this year’s Shetland Folk Music Fest!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 24, 2012 at 3:07 PM

That’s a good excuse! Except, I won’t be there this year. I promised myself that I would visit the Spirit of Speyside festival this year since I missed it last year.

MikeachimNo Gravatar January 18, 2012 at 5:15 PM

I can confirm or deny none of this, although it’s actually all true.

A few additional facts:

1) Keith is very funny in real life.
2) Although I’m MUCH funnier.
3) Neither of us were actually wrecked. I distinctly remember….well, I can recall a few flashes of…actually, no, we were both wrecked. Fair cop.
4) Didn’t last long enough. I’m not sure we got much further than “hello – so, YOU’RE [blog name]”. Next time, more hours, less whisky.
4) You, reading this? We actually didn’t talk about entrepreneurship or travel or any of that nonsense. We talked about YOU.
5) That picture of the wall lined with whisky bottles? Keith drank from *every single bottle”. I dared him. He spent $1,800 on whisky that night. I did what I could to stop him, though – by which I mean, I laughed harder and harder. But it was a *sympathetic* laugh, filled with warning. Did he listen? Did he hell.
6) See 4).

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 18, 2012 at 8:21 PM

Which 4)? After reading this post, one might reasonably assume you had a tipple or two before commenting. 🙂 Completely agree that we needed more time for conversation, but really – less whisky? I’m not sure that’s possible.

Katherine HerrimanNo Gravatar January 18, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Mike was holding out on us in York. He gave the distinct impression of being a teetotaller.

“human interaction is strangely amazing” – isn’t it though?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 18, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Only someone who works in a motorhome most of the time would share that thought with me. 🙂

Perhaps Mike had given up those strange ways by the time we hung out.

KenNo Gravatar January 18, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Early to bed, early to rise… Yeah?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 18, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Not so much, no.

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