Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A cycle around Lochwinnoch: 20th July 2013

I thought that if the last weekend of the Tour de France and the continuing fantastic weather couldn't make me go out on a bike for the first time this year, then nothing would. I therefore decided to head down to the North Ayrshire/Renfrewshire border to take a cycle on some of the quiet back roads and cycle paths around the Lochwinnoch & Castle Semple Loch area.

View Lochwinnoch in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Lochwinnoch (04, 34 on the hour)

It's a good 10-15 minutes walk from the train station at Lochwinnoch to the town itself and the Castle Semple Visitor Centre (part of the sprawling Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park). Even fairy early in the morning the car park was quite full, there were windsurfers & kayakers out on the Loch, and there was a mass of air & water-based wildlife waiting to pounce on anyone who came close to the lochside with a sandwich, burger, ice cream or really any sort of food at all.

RT Cycles from Glengarnock (07687 790889) operate the bike hire here in the summer; unless there's a lot of people it's really walk up and get a bike on the day. I have all the cycling kit (helmet, gel saddle, tyre pump, repair kit etc...) but what I don't have is the bike, pretty important though that may be! Instead for the 2 or 3 times that I go out for a cycle each year I'm happy to pay the hire charge, in this case £10 for the rest of the morning & all afternoon (4 hours+ today).

I got my hybrid bike, kitted up and headed off down National Cycle Route 7, which follows a disused train line from Johnstone all the way to Glengarnock. It's always surprising how you get back into the rhythmic 'zen' of these things; before long I had overshot my planned exit from the cycle path and needed to double back to the narrow road which took me over the railway line to Beith. The road into the centre of Beith was fairly steep and I was quite happy to stop and find my way into the somewhat hidden (and narrow) Main Street, location of the Masonic Arms.

For first thing in the afternoon the place was very busy, there wasn't really a space to be had at all at the long wooden bar on the left side of the single room (and there wasn't a chance of a bar photo without (accidentally) setting off the fire alarm). Instead I took a pint of Houston Killellan (the other hand-pull had nothing on it) and went to stand at one of the stand-up tables at the front. Both here and at the back of the pub were some great large Guinness prints and also lots of smaller pictures of old Beith and the surrounding area; I really quite liked all the interior decor, this was a good old fashioned locals pub.

There wasn't any food available in the pub, but there was a steady stream of people popping out to get pies or sausage rolls from the next door bakery; there was even a delivery service if you could stand the good natured ribbing from the owner of the shop for not providing a tip for this service. This was all making me somewhat hungry so I got back on the bike, crossed the busy A737 bypass to the east of Beith and headed on to the small village of Gateside, less than a mile outside Beith. Quite a bit before I got to my destination, The Gateside Inn, I could hear the sound of bagpipes and this was fairly worrying. As I feared the place had been booked for a wedding reception later in the day and so it was closed to the general public (and especially sweaty cyclists).

So Plan B it was. This meant a cycle through some fantastic (and narrow, and undulating) back roads to the east of Gateside until I reached the B776 road which connects Howwood to Uplawmoor across the hills. I went past the Greenacres Ice Rink which is used by many Scottish curlers including Rhona Martin, who played that gold medal stone at Salt Lake City in 2002. It wasn't open today (seasonal only, I guess); it would probably have needed half the National Grid to keep the ice solid.

Past the ice rink is a lovely expanse of water, the Barcraigs Reservoir, complete with lily fields, birdlife and a number of islands. Fishing is also permitted but it is 'By Permit Only'.

Not that much further along is the Bowfield Hotel & Country Club, a large white-washed collection of buildings set down a long driveway.

I checked with the helpful receptionist that they were still serving lunch and then went away to change my sodden shirt in the Gents. I did think about going to sit in the beer garden but it was in direct sunlight and way too warm (and there kids playing on various slides & toys), so I stayed in the fairly cavernous, high ceilinged & wooden-beamed almost lodge-like bar/lounge area. This had a number of larger bench seats at the back but the majority were tables of 4 arranged in the main area at the front. The small bar had Tennents & Guinness on draught, and there also bottles of Peroni, Sol or Budweiser in the fridge, not exactly exciting (to say the least), but the staff were friendly & chatty and more than helpful.

I took a Peroni and a glass of tap water and it wasn't long before lunch arrived - penne pasta with chorizo in tomato sauce, which I needed to re-stock on the carbohydrates.

The hotel is very much set-up for weddings & parties (there was an 18th on today) and people looking for a bit of tranquillity out in the countryside, but still within a short drive of the big cities. I was also intrigued by some of the posters I'd seen around Paisley-way for the newly re-furbished gym & leisure centre and so managed to cage a brief tour from one of the leisure staff. The whole set-up is seriously impressive - air-conditioned, totally hi-tech cardio & resistance machines with a swimming pool, steam room and squash courts, but it's probably a bit too far out of Glasgow for me.

After the Bowfield there was a nice downhill stretch to the village of Howwood (although there was one nasty hair-pin bend just before the main road), and just off the junction of the main road towards Johnstone I came to the Howwood Inn.

It's certainly been extensively refurbished from the somewhat shabby place that I remember quite a few years back. The bar area on the right is brightly lit & modern with a couple of bar stools, and it's all nicely tiled with the exposed wooden flooring having come up really well. Without thinking too much I took a 1/2 of Heverlee on draught; I've seen this a fair few times now and never tried it so this was as good a time as any. It's been almost 'stealth launched' and marketed by the C&C Group who own Magners & Tennents, but it's supposedly based on a recipe from the Norbertine monks at Park Abbey in Leuven. The interesting thing to know would be where it is actually brewed, but it's not easy to find out. This suggests it is actually brewed in Belgium, but since Heverlee is a district of Leuven, HQ of the mighty AB InBev (from whom C&C acquired Tennents and the Wellpark Brewery), it might be brewed under contract there, but it might just as easily be brewed at Wellpark. The Heverlee wasn't actually too bad, quite a decent smooth, almost creamy mouthfeel, with some bitterness, but I also noticed Brooklyn Lager, Blue Moon and a couple of different Timmermans fruit beers in the fridge - not too bad a selection.

They were serving food outside on the tables by the road, in the lounge and in the large dining area out the back and it seemed the staff were more than capable of handling this dispersed seating. The lounge has lots of comfy sofas, old pictures of Howwood and there's this large clock hanging almost over the front door (which doesn't seem to tell the correct time, argh...).

I left the Howwood Inn and headed back over the A737 and onto Cycle Route 7 again. From all around here there are views of the Folly/Temple/Gazebo on the top of Kenmure Hill; I'd seen it when I'd first travelled to Ayrshire for a job interview close on 20 years ago and I'd always wanted to take an up close look at it. It was built in ~1760, is octagonal in construction (as per a Knights Templar or Masonic cross), but its original use or purpose has been lost in the mists of time, with local folklore suggesting that it could have been a house for a sickly child, a watch tower, or a vantage point for the gentry to take their refreshments on a sunny day.

I chained the bike to a small tree and then clambered up the grassy hill. There wasn't any real paths that I could see, and although I had to take care to miss both the wild thistles & nettles (socks up as high as possible) and the fresh cow pats, it was fairly straightforward going. The Folly was somewhat smaller, but higher than I'd imagined it would be, probably originally on 2 levels, but there were no sign of steps or ramps left for today's visitors. The views south down the Black Cart Water and then to out to Castle Semple Loch were certainly impressive enough to warrant the climb today (and I'm assuming in earlier times).

I managed to retrieve my bike without too much of a problem and headed through the Castle Semple Estate back to Cycle Route 7. A little further on I took the more scenic diversion along the bank of Castle Semple Loch which was now busy with both fellow cyclists and pedestrians out enjoying the sun, but it wasn't that long before I was back at the Visitor Centre. I handed the bike back in pretty well one piece (and retrieved my Driving License (which I'd totally forgotten about), thanks for that) and set out to the far end of Lochwinnoch High Street to find one of the best pubs around, the Brown Bull, complete with distinctive signs of the male bovine hanging outside.

It's a lovely traditional pub, all wood and low beams, a smallish bar on the right side with a number of barstools, and then tables, chairs and longer benches at the front and also tucked away in various nooks & crannies on the left and at the back. There's also a more than decent beer choice - today Fyne Ales Rune & Maverick, Tryst Sherpa Porter and Caley Deuchars IPA, with sightings of Cromarty & Scottish Borders beers in recent times.

I changed my shirt (again) and then took a pint of the lovely bitter Rune (for re-hydration purposes) and walked out to the beer garden at the very back of the pub (as recommended by the Real Ale Radler, Mr @GuestBeerGuide). This is really quite stunning - first of all a canopy area with a number of opposing bench seats, some hanging baskets, a few old signs, an (almost) discarded hand-pull and some other bric-a-brac, which then leads to a riot of colourful flowers, pot-plants, rock-gardens and trees in the beer garden itself - it's almost sub-tropical and quite unexpected.

I went to sit at one of the outside tables beside the empty casks and the wood store, but the place is such a sun-trap that it was way too hot without some shade, so I moved to just the edge of the canopy area.

I decided I didn't have time to make the next train so that just meant another pint of Rune was required (really lovely stuff). To be honest it was difficult to move from the beer garden of the Brown Bull, but when I did manage it I initially forgot my sunglasses (one of the staff reminded me, many thanks), but I did at least catch the next train after the 15 minute walk back to the station.

Return travel:-
  Train: Lochwinnoch to Glasgow Central(10, 40 on the hour)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival 2013 Crawl #2: 13th July 2013

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!

Return transport:-
  Bus: Corn Exchange to Lothian Road (35, Lothian Buses)
  Bus: Stockbridge to Princes Street (29, Lothian Buses)
  Train: Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen St

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival 2013 Crawl #1: 10th July 2013

Last year's Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival (EIBF) was a resounding success - it was great fun walking around these different pubs having some superb and (in a number of cases) very rare beers. Somehow I managed all 8 venues last year, but this time with 10 official EIBF pubs/bars + 3 others holding associated events I decided that visiting all of these in a single day would be seriously detrimental to health of my liver. So for the first of 2 visits to Edinburgh this week I'd planned to start off in the Vintage in Leith, and then it would be back up the centre of town for the Brodie's Beers #Haggisbasher and the Natural Selection Origin Beer Launch. I seldom drink at all on a school night, but with the next few days off work all these beery events in Edinburgh seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

View EIBF 1 in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Edinburgh Waverley
  Bus: Top of Leith Walk to the Shore (16, Lothian Buses)

This time on arriving at Waverley Station I was able leave from the Calton Road entrance to get a bus from outside the St James Shopping Centre straight down to Leith; fast & easy compared to my journey last weekend along Princes Street. The Vintage is located at the corner of cobbled Henderson Street & Giles Street just up from the start of The Shore, and has only been open for a couple of months - the signage is a bit low key at the moment (possible deliberately so), but it's a nice sandstone building.

It's a venture masterminded by Darren Blackburn (who used to be the manager at the Caley Sample Room) with Williams Brothers stalwart Richard McLelland as Business Manager and other beery help from the Williams Brothers people. From a dining point-of-view they are very much focused on charcuterie, with an amazing & diverse selection of cured, salted & smoked meat dishes available as well as lots of veggie and seafood options - these can be eaten almost tapas-style with bread & chutneys or from the À la Carte menu. There are a good number of tables from the middle of the room back down to the rear, and it is from there that you can see and (more importantly) smell the aromas from the open kitchen as the chefs prepare the food for you (not that you can smell the chefs, of course!). Today I was really only in for the beer, but I definitely must give this type of food a go the next time I'm in Leith. At the front there is a lovely long shiny bar with a number of bar stools and there is a sofa or 2 & a couple of bench-style tables for those looking for non-food seating.

There are 10 keg taps (5 mostly Williams Brothers staples & 5 guests) and also 3 cask hand-pulls, one of which will always be an Elixir beer and today it was the Fremantle Doctor; the aroma of the Aussie citrus hops was almost matched by the taste, a lovely bitter pale ale. The EIBF beers were all listed in a clip-board flyer complete with always handy tasting notes and I decided that it would only be polite to start a tab and go through quite a few of them.

I started with the the Kernel Red Wine Aged Pale Ale; here the slight upfront bitterness of the pale ale was blitzed by masses of red wine, but it did settle down a bit as the drink warmed up. I continued onto the EIBF Collaboration Saison by Black Jack, Marble & Quantum; this was spicy with lots of mango & tropical fruits and a nice alcohol hit, and then finally a Steam Lager by Redwell which I thought had a very similar dry taste to WEST's Munich Red. Bizarrely enough an ex-WEST brewer now living in Germany just happened to be having lunch in the Vintage and it was interesting to have a chat with him about the state of German brewing (I don't think he's too impressed).

I paid my tab, thought about walking all the way up Leith Walk again, but decided that the bus was the better option. This took me back up to Calton Road, and I then walked under the far end of Waverley Station up to the Royal Mile, and then down St Marys Lane to The Holyrood 9A.

This was a most welcome oasis of cool air & tranquillity, with the main bar area fairly quiet when I walked in, but it certainly started to fill up as the afternoon wore on.

The Celt Experience guys whom I'd met a couple of weeks ago in Glasgow had gone through a Meet-the-Brewer the day before, so all the Celt Ogham speciality bottles were available (and are quite fantastic), but I also spied this interesting beer - Celt 613 Années, a red biére de garde (literally a 'beer for keeping') brewed in collaboration with French brewery Page 24. It's named after a Welsh/French alliance which happened 613 years ago when it seems everyone allied with France (or more specifically against the English). This was malty, sweet, spicy, definitely earthy with a bitter charcoal-like after-taste and lots of alcohol - very good indeed.

By then I needed some food to soak up all this beer (even though I hadn't touched a pint glass) so went for one of their blackened chicken burgers with straight fries - the garlic mayonnaise on this was lovely on this and seemed to contrast with the earthiness of the 613 Années quite well.

Time, however, was moving on and I just had enough of it to walk down The Pleasance, stop at Great Grog for a couple of bottled beers (I just can't help myself if I'm nearby), and then head across Preston Street to the Cask and Barrel (Southside) for the start of the Brodie's Beers #Haggisbasher.

The Cask and Barrel (Southside) is Edinburgh CAMRA's current pub-of-the-year and even in a city of great pubs it's easy to see why - a sweeping centre island bar, masses of mirrors & beer related signs, no distraction from the beer by any substantial food, and friendly staff who know what they're doing. The Brodie's Beers were just coming on as I arrived and if it wasn't for the all the surrounding Scottish beer & spirit décor (OK - and the accents) I could almost imagine myself being in East London.

I did manage of a number of these Brodie's Beers (the Citra is pretty damn close to Fyne Ales Jarl for sheer refreshing grapefruit drinkability), but the interesting one was the London Blueberry Sour aged in Bordeaux Casks. It was certainly sour, but the blueberries had given it a great fruity body & taste, which then signed off with a more acidic bite - a really fantastic sour. One of the Brodie's brewers (sorry - missed the name) was around to chat and Quality Control the state of the beer (he was a Heriott Watt graduate and used to work in the Cask & Barrel, hence the choice of the pub), but even he couldn't believe the great condition of the beers. Über Brodie's fan @CAGarvie was also present resplendent in pink bowler hat and pink Brodie's T-shirt - sunglasses were almost required indoors for this sight.

Once again the clock was ticking and I needed to head back towards the city-centre. However just around the corner from the Cask and Barrel (probably all of 30 seconds) was another EIBF pub/bar, the Southern.

Here there were a couple of interesting beers available - Adnams Jack Brand-'branded' Clump Sagin (Rye IPA), a quite light rye IPA, but it was very smooth, with a nice bitter after-taste, and then there was the monster that was the Kernel Imperial Brown Stout aged in Glen Garioch casks. This was incredibly smooth, almost milk chocolate stout-like, then there was an intense hit of fairly sweet whisky liqueur (almost Bailey's-like), which thankfully toned down enough to allow the nutty broon ale to just about come through in the finish. I really liked this, but at 10.3% abv it was seriously lethal stuff.

Still pretty stunned from the Kernel Brown Stout, I drowned about 1/2 a litre of water on my walk back up Nicolson Street and then managed to find the steps down from College Street into the depths of the Cowgate with Bannerman's Bar just on my right hand side. With a reputation more for live music than beer I hadn't been in for a good few years.

I assume the Natural Selection Origin launch had just happened since everyone had migrated towards the low ceilinged bar. There were cask, keg & bottled variants of this year's beer available, so I took 1/2 of the cask and 1/2 of the keg (purely for comparison purposes only). There was no doubt this was a rye beer, there was definitely quite a bit of yeasty murkiness in there, but there was also a lot of peppery spiciness and a good bitter kick at the end from the galaxy hops - I quite liked it. Interestingly I actually preferred the keg variant, I think the slight keg fizz helped cut through the rye a bit more. There were quite a few of this year's 'student' brewers milling about looking as pleased as punch (or at least a beer) and it was good to chat with them and find out that the keg variant was completely unfiltered & unpasteurised, with just a just a slight CO2 fizz added - nicely done guys!

From Bannerman's I had only a short stagger west along the Cowgate to BrewDog Edinburgh; I think all the outside murals are new from the last time I visited.

BrewDog were playing host to Brodie's Beers #Haggisbasher part 2, having had some collaborative brewing history with James Brodie a couple months ago (the lovely sour Brodie's v Brewdog Berliner Weiße). There were a good 7 Brodie's Beers on the guest taps (all cask of course, ha - if only!). I went for a London Sour Fruits Of The Forest and boy was this sour, far more so than the Blueberry Sour at the Cask and Barrel - the sweeter berry fruit flavours just about came through as the kegged beer warmed up.

If I'd had a bit more sense I'd have stayed for one of 2 more of the Brodie's Beers (I'm not likely to often get the chance to try a Brett IPA again), but instead I decided to try to get to another of the EIBF pubs. I walked to the end of the Cowgate, through the Grassmarket and up the steps between Kings Stables Road and Castle Terrace - there are so many of these short cuts in Edinburgh.

This got me back onto Lothian Road and I headed to the Red Squirrel, my 3rd Fuller Thomson bar of the day.

They were showcasing the non-Scottish beers, but I didn't find anything too interesting that I hadn't had before on the blackboard. However they were just lulling me into a false sense of (in)security and the friendly staff pointed in the direction of Tiny Rebel Flux; a quite a sweet, dark fruit flavoured brew with a nice bitter after-taste - it was like an old fashioned 70/- with a clean, bitter bite - good stuff.

By now it was time to head to my last stop of the day just slightly further up Lothian Road, the Shortlist Magazine Pints & Pistachios 2013 Nominated The Hanging Bat (it certainly got my vote).

This was holding Brodie's Beers #Haggisbasher part 3 and I tried the the Blueberry Sour on keg (there was not that much between the cask and keg versions, fruit beers go pretty well on keg), and then the Oyster Tea Stout as a night-cap with lots of tannin & chocolate - good stuff indeed. Here it was good to meet fellow beer enthusiast @Stravale and relax for a few minutes in the recently opened 'Secret Bat Beer Garden'.

All told a great day out in Edinburgh - thanks especially to Brodie's Beers for coming through from London and for A New Wave and the pubs & bars for putting on such a great event.

Return transport:-
  Train: Edinburgh Haymarket to Glasgow Queen St