A few weeks back, I took a leisurely stroll
and sup through a half dozen of Glasgow's better pubs in order to take a totally unscientific snapshot of the range and quality of the beer being served in my native city. It was an extremely enjoyable experience which confirmed to me that the city contains some lovely pubs serving some lovely beers.
I had intended to repeat the experience in other cities in the new year and blog about what I saw and found. One of the cities that I intended to visit and do a 'Day in the Life of'' was Edinburgh. However, a spot of mandatory Christmas shopping with Mrs Monkey brings me through to Scotland's capital and whilst I'm there it would be a travesty if I didn't pop my head into, and have a beer in, some of Edinburgh's better regarded pubs and report back.
The last time I was in Edinburgh specifically to sample the beer on offer was a random Tuesday in August,and to be honest, in terms of the beer choice available, I was disappointed with what was on offer. Almost every pub I was in had a choice which seemed limited to beers from Edinburgh Brewers, Caledonian and Stewart's. In my opinion, Stewart's produce beers that are marginally better than Caledonian but both aren't exactly known for beer that is exciting or adventurous and I have to say that they generally aren't to my taste and hence I tend to avoid ordering them if I see any of their pumpclips.
I say that Caledonian don't produce beers that are adventurous but who could forget their 'Mexican Bandit' which was available at this year's Great British Beer Festival? It was basically a light golden ale with lime juice added. I had a taste of it at the GBBF and it was the closest to a cask lager and lime that I have ever had the misfortune to pass my lips. It wasn't nice at all and easily one of the worst beers I tasted at Earl's Court.
Hopefully, today's visit to Edinburgh's pubs would be a different and I would be in luck in discovering a diverse selection of tasty and refreshing beer.
However, the first pub I popped into, The Abbotsford, was to be a taster of what was to follow. This Rose St pub is listed in Camra's Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors and the ornate plasterwork and mahogany bar really is lovely but, unfortunately the beers on offer didn't match the surroundings. On the 5 handpumps were something that I would be seeing a lot of today - Beer from Stewart's Brewery and Caledonian. Four of the five pumps were from these breweries and my heart sank at the boring nature of the selection. The only alternative was Tryst's Carronade and it was this I went for.
Beer quickly downed, I headed along towards what is often claimed to be an Edinburgh beer drinkers heaven, The Guildford. It was absolutely packed with Christmas shoppers and getting to the bar seemed to take ages. The beer range was an improvement on the Abbotsford with 10 pumps covering some Scottish Brewers such as Fyne Ales, Harviestoun, Orkney as well as English staples Greene King and Wadworth. The ubiquitous Stewart's brewery also made an appearance. My choice was a pint of Fyne Ales Avalanche and I don't need to go into any great depth about the excellent brewery that is Fyne Ales. My thoughts are well documented in previous blogposts and suffice to say that Fyne Ales are a cracking brewery and Avalanche is a cracking beer.
|nice pie at the Cask and Barrel|
The third pub was the Cask and Barrel and the beer range was again dominated by the Edinburgh two and disappointing. Half of the beers available were from Caledonian and Stewart's and this was getting depressingly familiar. A lovely ornate pub with a stunning collection of mirrored memorabilia of beer times past being let down by the restricted and all too predictable beer selection. The other beers offered up a bland choice of Young's, Strathaven and a house beer that, I believe, comes from Caledonian. It's not as if that particular brewery isn't well represented already at the bar. The only saving grace was the gorgeous Highland Brewing Co's Orkney Best and a delicious Scotch Pie with lashings of HP sauce and white pepper.
Yum Yum Yum.
Pint finished and brown sauce wiped from my chin, I head back out into the cold early evening winter chill and frantic frenzy of the Christmas rush and make my way to my final pub destination with my only festive wish being that surely my luck would change in the Bow Bar and I would be offered an alternative selection to the limited choice in the other pubs.
|The Bow Bar|
No such luck, I'm afraid.
Again, Stewart's and Caldonian dominated with the majority of pumps carrying their products. The other pumps had Timmy T's Landlord and a couple of Cairngorm beers. Fortunately, their bottle choice is a bit more diverse and I went for a bottle of Orkney Porter which at least took the edge off my disappointment at the day's fairly restricted beer choice.
I know it was only a flying visit and I may have just picked a day when Edinburgh's Brewers seemed to dominate the choice available but it still left me a bit let down. Just like my last visit, the range was restricted by an over reliance of what I consider fairly dull lowest common denominator product that doesn't excite or fill me with passion. I know that it is totally understandable that Edinburgh pubs support their local brewers and carry their product but within reason. In some of the pubs I was in the big two had the majority of pumps available. That must surely stifle the drinker's choice and limit their enjoyment. It did for me.
Despite this, Edinburgh is still a great place to have a day out in some lovely pubs. Just don't expect the widest variety of brewers and beers available. Maybe the opening of Brewdog's Edinburgh pub in Spring next year may put a rocket up the rectum of an Edinburgh beer and pub scene that has got lazy in their ways and are currently punching below their weight.
Let's hope so.