Thursday 11th October 2012
No visit to "The Capital of the Highlands" would be complete without a visit to the Blackfriars.
It is an unpretentious pub that has a very firm commitment to Scottish Real Ale.
It certainly has had a varied history and I can do no better than quote the sign on the outside of the pub which summarises this.
"Blackfriars – What's in a name. This property was built around 1793 and was used as a General Provisions Store and Coffee House up to 1867 when it became 'Frasers Temperance Hotel'. It traded as 'Frasers' until about 1930. From 1930 it traded as an Artisans bar named 'The Academy Bar' with the foundry opposite then in full production. Bought in 1964 by Scottish Brewers it continued to trade and was popular with patrons and artists of the old Empire Theatre under the name 'Abertarff' (a reference to the oldest house in Inverness – built in 1593). Of passing interested was that it was signed as 'The Rose & Thistle' in total error! – in 1986. Two weeks later it was renamed 'The Foundry' just in time to witness the closure of the foundry opposite. Now named 'Blackfriars' and with a hint of secret brews we offer you good food, live entertainment and a fine selection of real ales and quality beers, wines and spirits."
To supplement the above the "Scottish Brewers" referred to was actually "Scottish & Newcastle Breweries". It does however pose two questions. What are the "secret brews"? Also, despite the first line, why was it called "The Blackfriars", or more correctly "The Blackfriars Highland Pub"?
When I visited, Landlady Janette explained the she and husband Del had been running the pub for over six years and they deliberately pursued a policy of supporting Scottish breweries, although there are sometimes have beers from England.
As an example of their commitment, she explained that her husband was leaving the following day with a group of pub regulars to visit the Isle of Orkney and the Orkney brewery. Even from Inverness this was three nights away. I was impressed.
The pub itself is very welcoming with the walls covered with pump clips and old signs. Parts of the single room have wood panelling to about shoulder height. There is music every Saturday night and often on Friday nights. The styles are Rock, Blues, and Folk. Food is served from 11.00 to 21.00 (from opening time on Sunday) and has a number of Scottish specialities and includes fish and seafood.
On my visit there was the usual good selection of beers: Orkney Atlas Nimbus (5.0%); Orkney Raven Ale (3.8%); Strathaven Duchess Anne (3.9%); Cairngorm Black Gold (4.0%) and Caledonian Devil's Advocate (4.2%). The latter was a special and was described as a black lager. Well it didn't taste much like a lager to me, but was nice all the same.
Cider was well represented with three: Thistly Cross Traditional (4.4%); Thistly Cross Farmhouse (7.2%) and Thistly Cross Red Cider (4.0%). The last one is made with strawberries. They also make Ginger and Whisky variants.
I'd not heard of this cider maker before. They are based at South Belton near Dunbar, East Lothian and started in 2008. All of their ciders are matured for six months.
According to the blackboard the following were upcoming: Orkney Dark Island (4.6%); Highland Dark Munro (4.0%); Cromarty Happy Chappy (4.1%); Cairngorm Nessies Monster Mash (4.4%) and Caledonian Autumn Red (4.4%). All in all, a great pub with a beer selection that would be a winner anywhere, let alone in the real beer-starved Highlands.
The Blackfriars Highland Pub, 93-95 Academy Street, Inverness IV1 1LU
Open: Monday to Thursday 11.00-24.00; Friday 11.00-01.00; Saturday 11.00-00.30;
Sunday 13.00-21.00. The pub doesn't open on Sunday between November and February.
This pub is about five minutes walk from Inverness Railway station and is even less from the Bus station where the long distance buses arrive and depart. Town buses stop outside in Academy Street or Queensgate, about five minutes walk from the pub.