22 November 2013

Drouthy neebors

It's the last lap of west Edinburgh pubs today, starting with a cheeky half pint of Nicholson's Porter grabbed at The Haymarket during a brief lull in EBCU proceedings. This is brewed by St Austell and is more ruby or brown than black. It drinks very easily, slipping down leaving a trail of dry roast and light chocolate, its gentleness belying a not inconsiderable 5% ABV.

Just up the street from The Haymarket is Thomson's Bar, an old-fashioned pub with a reputation for well-kept ales. I trooped in behind the chairman of CAMRA, so it would want to have. Oakham Green Hop Harvest was on the bar and one does not pass a new Oakham beer. Sadly this 3.6% ABV golden ale is a bit dull. There's some honey complexity but none of the big hop bang expected from a fresh hop beer, and especially from Oakham, an English brewery with no fear of the hop sack. I followed it with Tryst Carronade: another golden one, vaguely sweet but with nothing much else going on. Perhaps I should have just opted for the Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack everyone else was drinking.

Heading down towards the Caledonian Brewery, though apparently unconnected to it, is the Caley Sample Room, a wide oblong barroom with comfy leather couches and a well-chosen array of local and national beers. We made three visits here over the weekend, the first being when I mistook it for the Sample Cellar in the brewery: they shouldn't have places with such similar names so close to each other. Anyway, while Reuben figured out my error I caned a pint of A Bad Day At The Office by Alechemy. I liked it, with its assertive waxy bitterness and a mineral smoothness for ease of drinking, a feature especially appreciated when you realise, two mouthfuls in, that you're supposed to be somewhere else.

Later we followed the crowd to the brightly lit confines of The Digger's (right) where I had a rather tasty Kelburn Jaguar, all juicy summer fruit sweetness, and then it was back to the Caley.

Looking at my notes, I don't think I had a bad beer at the Caley: from the clean fresh peach and apricot of red-gold Mariana Trench by Weird Beard to the intriguing honey and pepper blend in Highland Pale Ale. The full and fruity Fresh by Wild Beer Co was a particular highlight, hitting the Belgian IPA flavour profile in all the right places, and one of my top beers of the whole weekend was the one I went out on: Alechemy's Black Aye PA: dark red with a powerful burst of mandarin and grapefruit, followed by just a whisper of sticky treacle in the finish.

It was a pleasant surprise to find a couple of lagers from West in Glasgow. Well, semi-pleasant. 4 was on tap in Ryrie's at Haymarket station and is a corker: gently carbonated for an ultra-smooth drinkability, with just its intense sweetness meaning it might not be to everyone's taste. For me it was a perfect reset button after several heavy ales. Its stablemate St Mungo (left) let the side down, however, being sweeter still and with the signature buttery off flavour of wonky lager. Not undrinkable by any means, but nor was it the crisp lager experience I was after.

I found the St Mungo at The Cloisters which we got to late on the Friday when it was already quite busy. Also on the bar was Highland's A9, yet another golden job: nicely spicy though a bit too heavy and sticky for my liking. The same goes for Boggart Sundial, biscuity lager malts laid on too thickly, saved but only just by a crunchy green veg bitterness at the end. An award for the name goes to Elixir's Get It India pale ale, though no marks for taste as this is another butterbomb, drowning its hops in the sickly gloop.

I blinked a couple of times when I noticed Benedictine Groove on the bottle blackboard at The Cloisters. It's also from Elixir and the USP is the inclusion of "tablet and tonic wine". Buckfast beer! It had to be tried. And it's surprisingly decent. I'm guessing it's the wine which contributes the warming plumminess, and there's a lovely chocolate character too, creating an overall effect similar to English old ale or ruby porter: a balanced and complex winter beer, much mellower than one might expect, given what went into it.

All that was left was a couple of cheery halves at the airport Wetherspoon (Broughton Old Jock and Schiehallion, if you must know) and then home. Three days was enough to scratch the surface of Edinburgh, but I'm well aware that there's plenty more in the Scottish capital to be enjoyed beerwise.


  1. Glad you made a trip to the Caley Sample Room. I lived 4 doors up from it last summer, and whittled a large chunk of my summer's earnings on the education in cask ale I got there. Great city for beer and bars, glad to hear you enjoyed it.