I had to go to Edinburgh this weekend to pick up a couple of items and thought I could combine this with one of my favourite short walks, a clamber up Arthur's Seat, and also look to see if there were a couple of interesting beers at the 30 Days of IPA event which was happening in a number of pubs around Edinburgh way during April.
View Edinburgh - South Side in a larger map
Outward travel was as follows:-
Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverley
It's easy enough to get to Arthur's Seat - take the rear (south) exit from Waverley Station, cross the Royal Mile, go past the Pleasance buildings, continue onto Dalkieth Road until the Commonwealth Pool and then hike a left turn into Holyrood Park and Queen's Drive until the crag of Arthur's Seat looms above you.
The easiest ascent is from the Dunsapie Loch (east) side - it's a part grassy, part muddy path with some steps and rocks at the end, but straight forward enough. Today it only took about 20 minutes from the Loch, but the exertion was enough for me to have sweated most of the previous night's beers out of my system (thankfully I had a change of T-shirt). The 360 degree view is just superb, even on on fairly hazy day like today, with views out to the Forth Bridges, across to Fife, Berwick Law and out along the Pentland Hills.
I went for the slightly steeper decent via the spiralling set of cut steps in the west side of the crag which took me back to the Commonwealth Pool area with only a short walk to West Preston Street to quench my thirst at the Cask and Barrel (South Side).
It's a sister pub of the original Cask and Barrel in Broughton Street and has only been open a few years but it really has the look of place which has been around for quite some time with all the great brewery mirrors, stained glass and olde framed beer advertisements. This afternoon the bar area was busy with the TVs showing Celtic's SPL Championship winning rout of Kilmarnock (so I couldn't get too many pictures). There are 8 hand-pulls with Tempest, Tryst, Fyne Ales, Moorhouse's and Highland (amongst others) available today but since I'd just had the Tempest Unforgiven in Glasgow the previous evening I went instead for the Highland Orkney Best - a great light, refreshing, lemony-flavoured low abv (only 3.6%) pint which knocks spots off its Belhaven namesake. The 2 staff were great as well, really polite & chatty and happy to let me take away a couple of Tryst Hop Trial beers (Stella & Cascade) from the fridge - it really was a pleasure to be in the place.
On leaving the Cask and Barrel I walked up Clerk Street towards the City Centre and was struck by the number of pubs displaying the availability of 'Cask Ales' or should I say 'Award Winning Cask Ales' - The Abbey, McEwans Ale House, the Greenmantle and that's not even counting the soon to be re-furbished The Southern - it really is good to have that choice.
When I reached West Nicolson Street I turned left and found a couple of pubs in the Counting House building at the end of the street - The Blind Poet and The Pear Tree House.
I decided to try the Pear Tree and was impressed by the inside - a rectangular island bar, wood paneling, lots of comfy sofas and views out to the huge beer garden - this must be a definite sun-trap during the summer time.
They had some balloons out and a display board up for 30 Days of IPA with the location of all the breweries involved, some information on the beers available and some general IPA information - it was all pretty informative and well done. I was hoping they might have had Caledonian's Deuchars Imperial Pale Ale available - a souped-up version of the standard Deuchars IPA at a higher abv and made with some American hops but it was not on at that time - a definite shame. Instead they had Tryst Raj IPA, Knops IPA and Worthington White Shield (with the latter being a batch specifically made for the 30 Days of IPA event). I had tried White Shield a number of times in bottled format and always thought it was a bit bland and too carbonated, but on cask it was wonderfully smooth, a great balance of bitterness and malt flavours - very good indeed and I'm really glad I caught it. Let's hope Molson-Coors leave it well alone for years to come.
I could really only manage a couple of further pubs this afternoon so next it was a walk up to the Royal Mile (dodging the families coming out of the Gruffalo Live event at the Festival Theatre) and into the stream of Easter Weekend tourists - it was seriously busy. I walked with the flow of people down the High Street into Canongate until the eponymous The Canons' Gait.
It's part of the same group that has the Guilford Arms and the Abbotsford and during the day it unashamedly goes for the tourist market with good food deals on display and the possibility of tea/coffee and cake far(ish) away from the maddening crowd. It's a bright modern, minimalistic place inside, however there are up to 6 handpulls with a more than decent choice (including detailed tasting notes) and also Tempest Long White Cloud on keg and Weihenstephaner in bottles - not bad for a tourist trap! I went for the Cromarty Brewed Awakening, a great coffee porter and let the efficient staff go about their business of serving the customers.
Finally I needed to get to a bar slightly closer to the Station and walked down to the parallel running Holyrood Road to The Holyrood 9A.
It's a Fuller Thomson place as per Bruadar in Glasgow and Drouthy's in Dundee so have the standard 4 cask ales and 15 or so kegged beers (with a number of changing guests). Today there was 'only' Tempest Citra and Black Isle Yellowhammer on cask (how times change), but the kegged guest lineup was impressive, albeit heavy on the alcohol and the wallet - Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, Nøgne Ø Imperial Porter, Brewdog Hardcore IPA and Hardknott Queboid. I had half of the latter and it was pretty good, with the Belgian yeast definitely getting through, but I think the barmaid must have poured away most of a pint to get me a fairly full glass.
There's definitely something Tardis-like about the place with high ceilings and just a general feeling of spaciousness. There's a pretty big lounge-style side room and a busy rear restaurant, but the front is nice and relaxed with papers available (and no TV that I could see). It's certainly the most impressive Fuller Thomson establishment that I've been to and, from a beer geek point-of-view, you have to say we are definitely lucky that they seem to be making so called 'craft' beer such an integral part of their bars.
Train: Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street
Also see the Beercast's Guide to Edinburgh Pubs here