In about six weeks I’ll be in Edinburgh for three days with more than fifty beer bloggers from the U.K. and across the Continent. I know, poor, poor, pitiful me. Just to make matters more so, while we beer bloggers are in Edinburgh, so are the Scottish Real Ale Festival and the Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival. Oh boy.
So to prepare, I thought I’d take a look at what exactly the mood will be in Edinburgh. Soused, you say? Quite likely. The beer bloggers’ first night there starts with a pub crawl, which coincides with giant tastings by both the SRAF and Independents. The festivals are thoughtfully providing pint or half-pint glasses, marked with a third and a half pint measures for those of us who prefer to taste the night away, versus those who are going to settle in, pint by pint. We beer bloggers will have five stops: the Bow Bar, the Cloisters, Holyrood 9A, Brew Dog, and the Hanging Bat. Brew Dog and Hanging Bat have been on my list for a while – it seems I can’t find a U.K. beer review that doesn’t mention them.
If we start at the Bow Bar, I’m in trouble – they stock literally hundreds of whiskies. I like single malt. A lot.
Beer and Dogs…here in the mid-Atlantic U.S., I’m flanked by Dogfish Head and Flying Dog breweries. The Flying Dog folks in particular show up at a lot of beer events, they’re very active locally and quite personable. However, both breweries tend to hop their beers to more bitterness than I care for (all together now: No Such Thing!). It sounds like I won’t have any trouble adding Brew Dog to the Dogpound. The Brew Dog craft line describes their 10 Heads High as “an Imperial Red Ale loaded with American hops”, and their Jack Hammer as having a “devastatingly bitter finish”. However, they do small series beers, and I am praying the currently listed Abstrakt 13 will somehow still be available come July: “Aged for over 14 months in barrels, AB:13 is an 11.3% Cherry Imperial Stout aged in ex Sherry whisky barrels. Cherry & Sherry…”. Oh, wow. Oh please, let me try some of that!
The Hanging Bat is an all U.K. craft beer pub. That will be a treat! There are more breweries opening in Scotland every month. Edinburgh alone used to have 40. I could probably be happy with an evening just exploring the Bat’s 6 cask lines and 14 keg lines. They serve nothing mainstream, everything independently owned. Yes, please, more of that. Besides, I was a big Batman fan as a kid, and these folks are bat-themed, down to the pump handles. Love it.
The Bow Bar doesn’t seem to have its own website, which is right odd in this day and age. Famously cosy, the Bow Bar has house and guest ales galore; daily changing cask ales; their steak pie is supposed to be pretty good. This has the reputation of being THE Edinburgh Beer Bar, where you think of the Scottish version of the “Cheers” theme song when you walk in.
The Cloisters – another one that doesn’t seem to have its own website – is another cozy pub with a great ale, cider, and lager collection (and yes, whisky), and the occasional tap takeover. Reviewers don’t seem to like the tap takeovers. I think that means they come often enough not to want their usual routine unsettled. The Cloisters staff keep board games behind the bar.
Holyrood 9A – besides having a pretty cool name: “…our premium, craft and rotating brews are our passion. Try 1/3 pint of any of them from just £1 and let us help you find your inner beer geek.” You gotta love a pub with a mission. And halleloo, they have their menu posted with a very pleasing selection of draft and bottle beers (and sticky toffee pudding! Sorry. there’s my inner Scot peeking out). Their house beers are Williams Brothers. Williams Draught and Blackball Stout – I’m there. Their food menu does honor to modern pub food, at least in the American model – burgers called “Chilli Death” and “The Mighty”, breakfasts that will plug those arteries once and for all (for instance, the Holyrood Breakfast: smoked back bacon, eggs, pork sausage, baked beans, haggis, black pudding, grilled mushroom, tomato, potato scone served with chunky toast and fresh orange juice) and some seriously overdone desserts (the Kitchen Sink, which includes “everything in from vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream with chocolate caramel and honeycomb chunks as well as some chocolate brownie topped off with some caramel, fruits of the forest and chocolate sauces: not for the faint hearted, best to share”). They have some very civilized looking sharing menus, for wine and for noshes, for those of us whose overindulgence days are (mostly) done – or who are just trying to survive five scrumptious pubs in one night.
Now, what will the combination of all the beer bloggers and attendees of two tasting festivals all out on the same evening be like? I can’t wait to find out. I also can’t wait to see who I meet, randomly and in the midst of mad tastings. I can imagine choosing to get left behind by our pub crawl group at some point – the difficult bit is that all five locations sound just so very pleasing, and none will be so far from the hotel that I can’t find my way back. The next morning is when things start really heating up…