After a couple of day's rest from my first foray to the Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival (EIBF) of 2013 it was time to head back to Edinburgh on the Saturday (my 4th weekend in a row to the Capital City, I was starting recognise some of the staff and passengers on the same train out of Queen Street). This time I hoped to take in the bars I'd missed on Wednesday as well as engage in a fairly lightning strike on the Scottish Real Ale Festival (SRAF) as there were only so many hours available in the afternoon.
View EIBF2 in a larger map
Outward transport was as follows:-
Train: Glasgow Queen St to Edinburgh Haymarket
On leaving Haymarket I decided that a walk out to the venue of the SRAF, the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, approx. a mile & a 1/2 south-west of the station would be a good idea before the full effects of a Scottish summer's sun unfolded (incredibly I say that without a hint of sarcasm this year). Thankfully one of the EIBF bars was pretty well on the way, The Caley Sample Room on Angle Park Terrace - I like it when these things work out.
The Caley had opened at 11:00am for the odd breakfast or coffee person, but it was completely empty when I reached it at just past 11:15am, although everything was spic-and-span on the lounge side of the bar and all the tables had been set for lunch on the dining side. They had held a Meet-the-Brewer event with Harbour Brewing from Cornwall as part of the EIBF on Wednesday so the hand-pulls and keg taps were still full of Harbour beers.
Morning was the not time to try some full-on barrel-aged 7%+ beers so I settled for a Harbour Antipodean Rye, a spicy rye ale with a blast of bitter hops in the finish - an nice beer, but it did seem to be served a tad too warm (I'll blame it on being the first drink of the day). The Harbour Pale Ale #5 was far better - a lovely bitter pale ale with some citra sweet grapefruit (almost pineappley) bitterness. I did manage to cage a couple of samples of both the Harbour Special B (aged in Appleton rum casks) and the Tiny Rebel Grand Regal Stout (Canadian Bourbon Barrel), many thanks to the barman for this, but both are definitely night-cap beers for me.
First beers of the day done (well before noon, gads!) I headed further along Slateford Road towards the Corn Exchange. When in this part of the city and with the wind in the right direction the scent from the Caledonian Brewery is fantastic - a full-on aroma of sweet toffee malt. And the building still looks fantastic as well.
Further along Slateford Road I came across what used to be the Slateford Maltings; these closed quite some time ago and instead there is now a gated entranceway to an almost fully enclosed 6-storey U-shaped apartment complex complete with tree-lined inner courtyard - it's a large, impressive structure which thankfully still retains a lot of its original shape & form.
A walk of only a few minutes more then took me to the Corn Exchange complex. I arrived just as the queue of thirsty drinkers had been let in; good timing on my part.
After a chat with Graeme from CAMRA Ayrshire (and fellow Laurieston Bar fan) I entered the spacious main hall of the Corn Exchange. There were still 125 beers available, not bad at all for a Saturday (they were also opening on the Sunday for the first time), but obviously a lot of the more interesting and/or newly released beers has disappeared. What was still fully available to Saturday attendees was the Golden Beer challenge - 8 golden beers from 8 different breweries all at 5% abv to be tried and rated as part of a blind tasting - a really good idea indeed (and won by Stewart Brewing - see the results on the SRAF Facebook page here)
There were also some more than decent beers with actual real names available - I tried my first ever beers from both Stonehaven's six°north (Old School, a lovely Belgian Wit) and also Windswept's APA (not bad, a bit too sweet & malty for me). However my favourite was probably Loch Ness's madNESS (One Hop Beyond), an initially well balanced amber ale which then finished with a real blast of bitter green hops (and the pump-clip showed a nice bit of imagination at work as well).
I think I stayed at the SRAF for only about an hour and a 1/2; it would have been very easy to stay for most of the afternoon but I had a number of pubs to visit before my late afternoon curfew. First of all I had to get the bus back into the city centre which (again thankfully) picks up almost opposite the Corn Exchange building. Although I managed to miss this by about 15 seconds, it was easy enough to catch it at the next stop around the corner due to the non-synchronisation of traffic lights around the Corn Exchange junction - phew! This dropped me off at Lothian Road and from here it was not exactly a hard decision to head to the sanctuary (ouch!) of Cloisters for lunch and more EIBF beer.
Cloisters were showcasing Scottish beers during EIBF and the day before they had held the launch of the newest Edinburgh area microbrewery, Top Out Brewery. I'd had their Staple at SRAF, a nice citrusy pale ale (maybe a tad sweet), but this gave me the chance to try their Smoked Porter and wow was this smoky, some bitter chocolate at the start but it was blitzed by the smoky malts and probably headed way out into deep fried smoked sausage supper territory - I quite liked it!
I ordered lunch and chatted to the staff about the Wild Beer/Fyne Ales collaboration beer, Cool as a Cucumber, which I'd had during FyneFest. The comments on twitter were suggesting that it went incredibly well with a shot of Botanist Islay gin, and the staff agreed with some knowing nods of their heads; obviously lethal stuff (I'm not sure if it's a blessing that I really dislike gin or not!). Lunch was one of Cloisters' celebrated salads, this time Chicken & Chorizo with chunky chips - with the Top Out Smoked Porter this is definite contender for Food & Beer pairing of the year so far.
Again it would have been easy to stay in Cloisters for an hour (or 2 or 3), but I needed to start walking back down Lothian Road towards some of the other EIBF pubs. First off was EIBF Central, The Hanging Bat.
I thought they were due to have a hands-on brewing demonstration in the afternoon, but it had been cancelled (although the Meet-the-Brewer with Redchurch & Summer Wine was still happening later on in the afternoon). This was probably just as well since it 'forced' me to choose only a single beer from their great selection and I went for Saison 14 from Weird Beard Brewing, a lovely light, dry & hoppy Saison. The 14 supposedly comes from when the original homebrew beer scored 14/50 in a national competition, i.e. almost 'undrinkable'. That certainly wasn't the case for the beer I had today, I'd have given it 41/50!
The next EIBF bar on my list was The Cambridge Bar, so this meant a walk to the west-end of Princes Street and then down Charlotte Street until the relative quiet of Young Street (it's amazing how much quieter things become just one additional street further away from Rose Street and George Street).
Even mid-afternoon the place was fairly busy with people having a late lunch, so most of the tables both at the bar area and further in towards the dining area were taken, but they do have a number of standing tables around the beam supports which I quite like. The Cambridge Bar was showcasing Wild Beer Company beers so I took a half of the Redwood, one of the most red-wine tasting beers I think I've ever had with an almost red wine vinegar sour after-taste. It was quite OK for a 1/2 but I don't think I could really have much more of it than that.
On leaving the Cambridge I headed into the lanes, lush foliage, mews apartments and steep steps of Stockbridge, probably one of the most affluent parts of the the city.
Located at the very start of busy Raeburn Place is the Stockbridge Tap.
They were showcasing Beavertown, Weird Beard and Tiny Rebel beers as well as having some of their standards from Scottish breweries and a very nice selection it was indeed.
I started off with the Tiny Rebel Cwtch, a slightly maltier & more fruity version of the Flux that I'd had on Wednesday; Cwtch is Welsh for 'Affectionate Hug' and I could well believe that on a cold night a pint of this would be like a 'hug in a glass'. Next I steeled myself to try the Beavertown Bloody 'Ell, a Blood Orange IPA at 7.9%. It seemed as if an orange tree had died to make this beer since there was so much orange aroma & taste, a blast of dry citrus & some red berries and then more orange in the finish - it was very nice indeed (and did I say it was orangey ?). And finally I tried the Beavertown 8-Ball, a murky rye beer with a dry citrus after-taste. Beavertown, Weird Beard & Tiny Rebel are certainly making some good beers and these were a more than acceptable way to while a hour or so away in the fabulous front room of the Stockbridge Tap.
I didn't really fancy the 30 degree climb back up Gloucester Street so took the bus from almost outside the Tap to Princes Street. This allowed me to walk through Princes Street Gardens and it's not too that often that I stop and think how fortunate it is to have a 'green space' on the other side of a main shopping street, complete with great views of a World Heritage Site (i.e. Edinburgh Castle).
I was then able to walk through the massed throng populating the Grassmarket...
... until reaching my final EIBF destination, the wonderful single-roomed traditional alehouse of The Bow Bar.
As always the beer selection in the Bow was pretty impressive, both on the magnificent Aitken tall fonts and the keg taps.
The most striking pump-clip/label was that of the Buxton/To Øl collaboration beer Sky Mountain (or Himmelbjerget), which took over 3 of the keg taps and which 'purported' to display a graph & pie-chart of the dreaming activity of the Danish people - bizzare & quite different to say the least. This was another sour beer, but with lots of bright, zesty citrus bitterness and a tart after-taste, very refreshing indeed on a hot summer's day. I managed to chat with a few other untappd users in the Bow about the EIBF - it was more than evident that everyone was having a great time and the talk was all about the great beers and where they'd had them.
And that was it - EIBF was done for me for another year. My beer of EIBF was probably the Kernel Imperial Brown Stout that I'd had in the Southern on Wednesday, but there really were so many amazing beers to try. Thanks again to A New Wave and all the pubs & bars that I visited - I had a blast!
Bus: Corn Exchange to Lothian Road (35, Lothian Buses)
Bus: Stockbridge to Princes Street (29, Lothian Buses)
Train: Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen St