I go to Edinburgh fairly often for sporting events (rugby, cricket), "the culture" (gigs, museums, The Festival) and also for beer. There really are a lot of decent real ale pubs (and craft beer bars - did I really say that ?) in Edinburgh. It's not really possible go through them all in a day (not even close), so I normally have to plan for a certain area of the city. Today I decided to go the New Town and then walk down to Newhaven and Leith on the shore of the River Forth.
View Edinburgh - New Town in a larger map
Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Haymarket
The main reason for the New Town today was the beer festival at The Stockbridge Tap. I remember when the place was a Bert's Bar (similar to the one in William St) with an OK choice of beer, but now it's owned by the same people who have Cloisters and The Bow Bar and the choice is normally very good.
After the hike up and down the roads/lanes from Haymarket, The Stockbridge Tap was a welcoming sight at a busy corner of Raeburn Place.
There was a nice relaxed atmosphere to the place, the staff were smart and chatty and most of the tables taken in the front of the bar. As well as selling cask real ale it was also selling kegged 'craft' beer - I really don't have a problem with that so long as it's a good quality, tasty alcoholic beverage. On cask for the festival today were a Wheat Beer from Highland, Cheers from Roosters, Infamy from Empire, Moramer from Deeside and Hawkshead Bitter- a really good choice (although I was too early for the Magic Rock beers - sigh). After the excellent Highland Wheat Beer I tried the Brave New World on keg from Tempest - it was tasty but just far too fizzy - it kept frothing over the top of the glass. For food I'd been following their twitter feed and I knew exactly what I wanted for lunch - Sausages and Mash with Black Isle Vanilla Porter gravy - and it was outstanding - easily worth a picture on its own.
When in Edinburgh I normally try to go to at least one pub I've never been to and this time it was The St. Vincent, 2 minutes from The Tap. It's one of those strange places where you have to go downstairs to enter, but you can sit at tables almost level with the outside pavement - so it's a basement bar, but you're not really below ground - confusing.
It's fairly spacious inside, with the bar staff attentive and chatty - there was even an offer of a Tunnocks Tea Cake, which I declined. Beer wise there was Knops IPA and Musselburgh Broke - great - I'd been trying to find the IPA on cask for a while, but it was definitely a bit lower down the hop scale compared to the Brave New World at The Stockbridge Tap - nice pint though.
Afterwards I started off for the riverside. I walked past The Botanic Gardens, Heriots rugby ground (playing away this week) and some seriously expensive houses before I reached the shoreline. I thought I might have a look in The Old Chain Pier, but it was closed and up for lease, definitely a shame since the views across the Forth are absolutely stunning.
Not too far further along was The Starbank Inn - a Belhaven/GK pub.
I'm not sure if it was a Belhaven/GK pub the last time I visited (probably 5 years or so ago), but again (as per The Waverley, Callander), my memories are of a far better beer range than now - currently 4x Belhaven/GK, 4x guests. I still had an OKish pint of Blonde Bombshell from TSA (although it did seem very similar to their own Lomond Gold), so I'll limit any repetitive moaning.
Now it was a somewhat longer walk along the newly developed Leith dockyard area (and the really incredible amount of new condo-style apartments going up there) to the Malt and Hops.
Walking in I was struck by how little the place has changed. Still quite dark, tables at the back, dangling bunches of hops, papers, leaflets etc... However (shockingly) the masses of pump-clips on the ceiling had gone, with only a small amount left at the bar - what a shame (due to theft, I guess). I remember being there one time when they were about to put on Wychwood Hobgoblin, no-one could find the pump-clip on the ceiling (even for the reward of a free pint), but I saved the day with a torn-out advert (what's the matter lagerboy etc...) from my What's Brewing newsletter - no free pint though! Today the pump-clips were displaying beer from Tryst (Antonine Amber), Highgate (IPA), Stewart and also Blue Bear (White Boar) which I certainly had not seen before.
After finishing my pint, rather than walk back to the city centre up Leith Walk, I decided to wimp out and take the bus back up to Princes Street to have time to try the new Brewdog beer, Hops Kill Nazis. It was a good, spicy, strong amber beer - shame about the name.
Bus: Leith to Princes Street (22, Lothian)
Train: Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street