Thursday, 15 December 2011


As per usual it's taken me far too long to get this blog up, but after being hassled by a friend I've finally collated my notes and memories together! Myself and Christine headed off to Edinburgh in late November for a long weekend of site seeing and of course beer drinking.
Our first experience almost tarnished the whole trip. Aimlessly walking about the old town looking for a good pub for lunch, tiredness got the better of us and so we stumbled in to the nearest place. As soon as our food arrived, we realised the error we'd made! And so the bar was set (albeit low) by The Castle Arms!

But we this wasn't going to a problem to beat, knowing that the Brew Dog bar was only a short walk away. Perfectly positioned just off from the Royal Mile on Cowgate we popped in the next day for a well earned drink after a days site seeing! At the time this was the first time I'd visited a Brew Dog bar and I was fairly intrigued as to what the experience would be. As you walk in you're instantly greeted with the bold statement "No Football! No shots! No Stella!" and that sums Brew Dog up pretty well. The bar's stripped back appearance was great leading to the cosy informal atmosphere and with Biffy Clyro's greatest hits playing in the background, we grabbed a beer. Christine was excited at the chance to reacquaint herself with Tokyo* 18.2% ABV having tasted it around the time of its original hype laden launch. I plumped for the rather disappointing Christmas Porter 6.2% ABV which tasted all too similar to its parent beer Alice Porter and for me offered no seasonal spiced notes that it promised.

We returned to the bar late one evening with the place bustling, full of people. The bar had taken on a completely different vibe, with the draft and guest beers having changed from the day before I tried the prototype beer Hops Kill ? 7.8% ABV as well as treating my self to a expensive bottle of Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout 7.5% ABV.Chatting away to people on other tables about their beers it was great to see the craft beer scene was so popular.

Two off the other fantastic pubs among several we visited both severed Ale in the traditional Scottish method, using tall founts. These use air pressure driven by a water engine to push the beer through the tap instead of the English hand pump method.

One of these; Thomson's was only a few doors down from where we were staying and had a great selection of beers and whiskeys on offer. The cosy wood clad bar based on the designs of the architect Alexander 'Greek' Thomson, was busy when we popped in one night. Offering an extensive array of single malt whiskies as well as Scottish ales from Arran, Fyne, Cairngorm and Caledonian (when we visited). Thomson's is a great pub, full of regulars and those stopping in on their way to Haymarket station!

Bow Bar
Blink and you'd miss Bow Bar hidden on  West Bow a small winding street below the famous Edinburgh Castle and Royal Mile. The single room bar had been voted Edinburgh's best Whiskey bar, but also gave great attention to its ales with 8 taps and well stocked international bottle list to match . Its walls adored with old Brewery Mirrors from Scotland's brewing past. The barman was highly knowledgeable about his whisky, helping and advising the group of tourists humming and haring over the 200 plus Malt's on offer. He also had great passion for the beer and spent a great while explaining the workings of the Scottish tall founts serving the ale. We popped in to Bow Bar several time during our stay in Edinburgh, trying several of the ever changing ales, including: Stewart’s Edinburgh No 3 4.3% ABV (a scotch ale), Darkstar Green Hopped IPA 6.5% ABV, Elland 1872 Porter 6.5% ABV & Fyne Highlander 4.8% ABV. If you're visiting Edinburgh I'd definitely recommend popping in for a wee dram and pint, you wont be disappointed.

The final pub that deserves a mention is The Cafe Royal, based in the New Town off the main shopping precinct Princes Street, The Cafe Royal is a pub like no other, upon entering I was taken aback at the grandeur of the fittings! With a spectacular ornate ceiling, chandeliers, stain glass windows, mirrors and large island bar, (although decked in rather early Christmas decorations). The main feature are the six pictures on the wall of the bar painted by John Eyre and manufactured as tiles by Doultons. Each show inventors, at the moment of their discovery. With 3 or 4 Scottish ales on offer and yet again a wide whisky selection, drinking in The Cafe Royal gives you an opportunity to enjoy a drink in decadence.  

We had a great trip to Edinburgh and managed to do an awful lot in a long weekend. The views from Arthur's Seat were spectacular and the Castle offered a great day out. It was also pleasing to get the chance to sample so many Scottish beers, it's great to see that Scottish pubs and restaurants are proud to sell their countries beers!