Bar gets a Games seal of approval

Canadian celebrations catch eye of Commonwealth delegates

• The calm before the storm: Bacchus, in Glasgow’s Merchant City, will operate as a base for Canadian fans during the Commonwealth Games.

THE rise in popularity of world beers in recent years has seen continental lagers become a regular sight in pubs across Scotland.

But while the popularity of European beers continues, one Glasgow bar has embraced something a little different.
“It started four years ago with a Canadian DJ who suggested doing a Canada day,” said Ross Ballantine, owner of Bacchus in Glasgow’s Merchant City.
“I pooh-poohed the idea but he went on about it and said we could do Canadian beers and food and Bloody Caesars, which is a Canadian cocktail.
“We could kit the place out with Canadian flags and show ice hockey.”
Convinced to give it a try, Ross sourced Canadian staple Labatt Blue and New Brunswick lager Moosehead from drinks supplier Dameck, brought in some Canadian food and turned the TV over to ice hockey.
And the Canadian expatriate community responded.
“I was gobsmacked on the Friday night the first year,” said Ross.
“It attracted Canadians from all over, from Edinburgh and Newcastle.”
Bacchus’ popularity with Canadians in Scotland and the north of England hasn’t gone unnoticed and with Glasgow expecting to host Canadian athletes, families and supporters for this year’s Commonwealth Games, the bar may find itself in the position of being something of a foreign consulate.
“A woman who works for the Commonwealth [Games] contacted us because she had Googled Bacchus,” said Ross.
“She said they would be interested in using Bacchus as a ‘Canada house’ for the term of the Games. I met with Canadian delegates in January and so that’s what they’re doing, so I’m expecting it to be very busy.”

• Bacchus hosted its first Canada Day celebration four years ago. This year the bar will stock up on Canadian beer and food ahead of an expected influx of Canadian expats and tourists.

Along with the Canadian beers, guests at Bacchus’ previous Canada Day celebrations have been treated to Canadian dish poutine, a combination of fries, gravy and cheese curds.
But for this year’s Commonwealth Games celebrations, customers will be offered a culinary crossover of foods.
“The late night food will have haggis tempura,” said Ross, who added that Glasgow late night favourite chips and curry sauce may make an appearance alongside the poutine.
“If they like chips, cheese and gravy they’ll like chips and curry sauce,” he said.
Canada won’t be the only cultural influence at Bacchus this summer, with the bar serving up international brands such as Erdinger, Estrella Damm and Birra Morretti alongside Scottish beers from the likes of the Arran Brewery and Glasgow’s German-influenced West brewery.
Although Canadians may flock to Bacchus for the Commonwealth Games, on this year’s Canada Day, which takes place in early July, expats may need to get their skates off and their football scarves on; the event will this year coincide with the World Cup.
“We’ll be full on for the World Cup,” said Ross, who expects draught sales to rise during the tournament and highlighted Jamaican lager Red Stripe as a brand he expects to prove popular with football fans this summer.
As a venue, Bacchus aims to avoid drinks promotions, but Ross said the bar will put together a “food oriented deal” to keep football fans fed.
“Themed half time is what we normally do; give away snacks at half time,” he said.
“We’ll work around the teams that are [playing].”
When it comes to serving beer Ross, who has over 30 years trade experience, 16 of those at Bacchus, doesn’t believe drinkers have changed much over the years.
“I think it’s similar to what it’s always been,” he said. “There are clientele who want certain things and as a city centre pub you need to cover a wide variety.”
And he reckoned having the right range is “definitely key” when it comes to pleasing customers.
“The big challenge is fridge space,” he said. “The fridge is determined by sales.
“But if someone asks for something new and then more people ask we’ll give it a shot.”