Thursday, 16 April 2015

Boozy Travel: The Best Beer & Bars in Edinburgh

If you're a regular reader of Vinspire (and you damn well should be!) then you'll know that back in September I went on a self professed 'pilgrimage' to Bruges; essentially my 'Beer Mecca'.

For my next trip, I really wanted an all expenses paid trip to the US of A, to document a 'Craft Beer Pilgrimage'. Laura decided that this wasn't in the Vinspire budget this month and that she'd send me in the Autumn instead...

So, I decided to head north of the border, to bonnie wee Scotland, to sample the local brews, bars, whisky and haggis (note: I don't like haggis). Me and Adele have been meaning to go for a while, so it was a win-win!

We chose a beautiful, sunny weekend in April - my birthday weekend to be precise, and booked first class on the train in advance for £100 return each, and a room at the Radisson Blu, slap bang in the middle of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh Old Town.

This city is beautiful, and the architecture is stunning. We were graced with blue skies, warm weather, and very friendly locals. So, here's what we found Edinburgh had to offer those of us who like to imbibe!


The Hanging Bat

A great selection of craft beers from guest breweries and their own on-site brewery, impressively encased behind glass for all to see in all its glory.

I was particularly happy to see New Zealand brewery Tuatara represented on keg as they are truly spectacular.

I was spoilt for choice, so went for a flight of craft beers, which included a glass to keep. I could've allowed that to be honest, but it's a nice gimmick for some people. The food here ain't bad either!

The Three Sisters

If anyone has been here, they'll be thinking 'what the hell has he mentioned this place for'? True, it is a bit of a slosh-house, but they have beers from local brewery Drygate on draught, and the place had a great atmosphere, despite it being FULL of stag and hen parties, all adorned in sashes and fancy dress, parading their bits around in kilts and hitting each other with inflatable willies.

The other reason I mention this place is the brilliant outdoor area, really made great use of here; with a massive outside bar, street food stalls and a big screen for sport. I really enjoyed it, but I was pretty 'sloshed'. Don't worry, I wasn't wearing a kilt...


Obviously no trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to a Brewdog bar, to drink some Brewdog beer. Very friendly, 20 year old security guards three times my size greeted us, and sang me Happy Birthday. A bit weird.

The bar is a Brewdog bar. It's got Brewdog beer, but most importantly, its got Brewdog training. I had an Electric India (kinda a Saison), and Adele opted for a trusty Punk IPA. Pretty standard. Still good.

The Scotch Whisky Experience

When in Rome, as they say. It's a given that a trip to Scotland will at some point involve drinking whisky. Luckily, Adele's parents bought us tickets to the Whisky Experience, so naturally we did the Gold tour which included 5 tasters, and a glass to keep (theme emerging?).

The tour started with a little trip through how whisky is made, including the ingredients, mash, fermentation, distillation and ageing. An interesting little introduction that wastes no time, nor does it dumb things down too much.

Swiftly moving on to a guided part of the experience, we were crowded into a room and introduced to our guide. A master of knowledge, and the spirit he advocates, he was friendly, funny and informative.

We were guided on which regions create which styles of whisky, and I favoured the Highlands - caramel, citrus, vanilla etc. Mmmmm... Adele, strangely, went for Islay. I knew this was wrong for her, but hey, I ain't arguing with the woman...

We walked through the collection of malts Diageo have acquired, an incredibly impressive collection of every rare whisky I can imagine, and then thousands I can't. A beautiful room. We learnt how to smell and taste our Whisky, and there were the obvious mixed reactions from around the room.

We then went on to the bar, and we were poured our other 4 with a little water on the side.

The Whisky Experience was just that... an experience. Personally, whisky just isn't for me... or Adele; we just don't get it, but were far too polite so sat and tried to drink as much as we could. Give me Gin any day... Sorry Hugo... ;-)

Craft Beer

There were plenty of beers to sample in Scotland, although most you've already heard of. Here are 3 I particularly remember:

Innis & Gunn Lager - I'm not a fan of the Innis & Gunn range really, but their Lager is something else. Really crisp and floral, it's not like any lager I've ever had, and I really enjoyed it.

Drygate Gladeye IPA - A slightly flat-yet-drinkable IPA, probably the fault of dispense or glassware than beer. It didn't really have the hop character I'd expect from a keg craft IPA, but had some pleasant fruit and malt.

Alechemy Rye O' Rye Pale Ale - Warming, rich Rye with a smooth palate. This cask was crystal clear and really very very good! Spicy, rich and warm!

Overall, Edinburgh has a lot to offer those of us who enjoy our drink. There's some cracking nightlife, and enough going on to get you through the day. I was a little disappointed there wasn't more Craft Beer, or Gin... I bloody love Gin.

Anyways, great city, great company, great birthday. Oh, and my horse won the Grand National! 

SlĂ inte Mhath! (Cheers!)

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