Archive for December 23rd, 2010


We stayed at Hot-el-apartments Canon Court, close to the Botanical gardens. Our two bedroom apartment was very comfortable for four, and it is convenient to be able to cook, have a fridge for drinks and breakfast and a TV with dvd player. There are several buses into central Edinburgh, but it is only fifteen or twenty minutes walk.

There are four real ale pubs in the area, two are two minutes away, the other two less than ten minutes. There is even an off licence with an incredible range of German beers if you want some alternatives to the Scottish maltiness. I’ll get back to that.

I wonder why it’s taken me thirty years to get back to Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city. The dark stone dominates, and it certainly has its share of churches. But the fresh snow softens the edges, and the sound of coral practices drift out of the doors.

I need to spend a week here. Museums, churches, pubs and breweries. Trying to comprehend the language. I once struggled my way through Trainspotting. The book, not the movie. That’s a challenge.

Many pubs are off limits to teenagers, others are packed with Christmas shoppers. I manage to pop into a few, but there are plenty more to try on a repeat visit.

As usual, the maps on ratebeer are good research tools, but I’d also like to recommend a guide book. Bob Steele wrote a very good guide to London pus a few years ago. Fresh this year is Edinburgh Pub Walks, which covers the city and its surroundings in a very comprehensive way, you’d probably need a month to get through all of them. I’ve said it before – CAMRA needs to wake up and do some more marketing of their publications – review copies to bloggers would be a wise place to start.

During a  lunchtime hour I visited two pubs, both recommended both for the beer range and for their beautiful interiors.

Tiles, has, well, tiles. An island bar, with everything from floor to ceiling covered with glazed tiles. Classy.

The beer is Houston Jock Frost. An hones British bitter, malty with a hint of yeast, subtle bitter finish. Nothing remotely seasonal about the flavour, but I suppose you ahve to do something to make your pump clip stand out.

The Abbotsford is close by, on a pedestrianized street. It has a classic island bar, lots of brass and mahogany. Tiles here, too, but in the ceiling. Polite service, a broad range of beers. Even hefeweisssen from the West brewery in Glasgow on tap. This is not overloaded with Christmas ornaments or tinned music. Just friendly chatter and laughs from people taking a break from their Christmas shopping.

I try a stout – Thick Black from Devon Ales. It is a very rich beer, for once the name describes the contents. Smoke, roasted grain, burned bread crust, pumpernickel. A bit of a sour edge drags it down a little, I am not convinced it is intended.

A stout at the Abbotsford

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I should have inserted a sound file here. This song was played loud and clear over and over again from the carrousel in front of the Scott memorial last week. At the same time the BBC presented the whole thing as a natural disaster. We are talking about an inch or so of snow per day, something I thought most countries in the Northern hemisphere could cope with.

The idea was to take my eldest and two of his mates away for the weekend. The ferries to Denmark and Germany were full, so I checked for cheap plane tickets, and Edinburgh turned up as an alternative. Less than two hours flight, even if it involved a few hours by train to Torp airport south of Oslo. The accommodation seemed to be good value for money, too.

We arrived fairly late on a Friday evening. There was a petrol station across the road offering snacks, the  £75 per night apartment had two bedrooms, a sitting room and a kitchen and it was warm and cozy. And my package from myBrewerytap.com was waiting. Two bottles broken, but the rest in fine shape.

It was not yet midnight GMT, so I decided to try the pub conveniently located just a hundred yards away, McLachlan’s.

It was by no means crowded, but the locals were rather friendly. I got the ususal comments about photographing my beer, so I was told to take a photo of Scott behind the bar instead.

Two cask ales on tap, bot from the local Stewart brewery.

Thrre Wise Men is their seasonal. A full malty beer, it has prunes and other dark fruit. Some hops in the finish, too, but too much on the sweet side for me.

Their Pentland IPA was mote like it. Nothing like an American IPA, but a proper well hopped bitter. It has some herbal notes, dryness in the finish, yet a smooth and highly drinkable session beer.

The others tried to drag me into the conversation, but it had been a long day, and you know the feeling when you arrive late at a party and the others have been drinking steadily for hours. I made my excuses.

McLachlans front

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