Monday, 30 April 2012

Barrhead to the Paisley Beer Festival: 28th April 2012

Due to circumstances beyond my control I couldn't get to the Brewdog AGM in Aberdeen this weekend, but thankfully there was a more than acceptable alternative nearer home - the Paisley Beer Festival. I'd gone with a few friends from work on Friday night and had sampled a few of the newer beers, so come Saturday I was quite happy to walk from Barrhead into Paisley and then pick up a selection of whatever beers were left late on in the afternoon at the Festival.

View Paisley Beer Festival in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Glasgow Central to Barrhead

By a quirk of fate this was actually going to be a continuation of my North/East Ayrshire trek from last week which ended up at Barrhead train station. Today having started from the station I was able to head up to Kelburn Brewery which has been operating from a nearby industrial estate since 2002. They brew some nice, good quality ales (their newest Carte Noir is an excellent chocolatey Porter) and although I knew it wasn't going to be open on a Saturday, I went for a look around in any case. I actually walked past it the first time since there's only a small sign and a few empty casks indicating that the brewery actually exists - it's certainly a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the end product!

Heading back north towards Cross Stobs and Paisley I came across this - a drive-thru coffee 'shack' (which I assume is a converted petrol station) called Coffeze. I hadn't seen one before (hey this is Scotland and not the South-East) but the prices looked more appealing than Starbucks and they seem to be making good use of social media type marketing - good luck to them.

On the outskirts of Barrhead at the junction of Paisley Road and Grahamston Road is the Cross Stobs Inn.

This has a well respected family restaurant (R. Nicol at The Stobs) in the conservatory and a bar with a separate games room (2 pool tables - rare to see). There are 2 hand-pulls with only 1 in use today dispensing Kelburn Misty Law, but also WEST Munich Red and an SABMiller/Czech lager called Kozel on draught. I quite like the place with some nice lighting in the bar, a range of pump clips displayed (although I think I've only ever seen Kelburn beers on), brass fixtures, old pictures of Barrhead High Street and a prominent flyer for the Beer Festival.

Attached to the Inn is the Cross Stobs Wine Shop. Not surprisingly there is a large selection for those who prefer the grape to the grain, but there's also some deli goods (chocolates, oat cakes, biscuits) and a number of shelves and a fridge with some decent bottled beer. All the Fyne Ales were present along with Kelburn and Black Isle beers and I also spied a pilsner called Kingdom from Cambodia which I hadn't tried before - thus an easy purchasing decision was made.

Next it was a walk somewhat back on myself past an industrial estate (on one side) and a farm (on the other) to the main A736 Glasgow Road and the The Waterside Inn.

The last time I was here I got caught up in the middle of a wedding celebration - great fun, though seriously noisy, but today the place was very quiet after having seen off the lunchtime diners. There's a nice relaxed bar area, with lots of pictures of the Inn in days gone by, a real fire and then a separate restaurant with lots of specials and steak nights advertised. Kelburn Goldihops was on the single hand-pull but I allowed the manager to subtly direct me to the just available WEST St Mungo lager (at a decent price for a half compared to the brewery) - WEST certainly seem to be doing a very good job of getting their beer into Greater Glasgow pubs at the moment.

On leaving the Waterside I couldn't see any better way to walk into Paisley other than to follow the main Glasgow road to The Hurlet (a local hill), go past the Toby Carvery (busy compared to the Waterside, shame) and then walk along the busy dual carriageway to the Barrhead Road junction. Just up from here is the Abbey Inn, a Maclays pub, and very similar in tone & decor to another Maclay's establishment in Paisley that I'd been to a few weeks ago for a night out, the Canal Station.

This is very much a food and accommodation led establishment with a large conservatory restaurant, lots of meal deals etc... and quite OK for what it does, and thankfully from a beer point-of-view this time instead of Deuchars IPA there was at least Harviestoun's Bitter and Twisted - a significant improvement to the Canal House.

As I entered Paisley town centre I walked past the iconic red-sandstone Anchor Mills complex, built in 1886 but substantially redeveloped in the early 2000's. The company I work for used to be based in there, and when the Taggart people from STV were looking for a location in Paisley for filming they chose the distinctive Anchor Mills building and our 'high-tech' offices - it was a good piece of business for a weekend's filming time if only about 30 seconds of actual screen time.

I was now in the centre of Paisley and thought I could manage 1 more pub before setting off to the Beer Festival. The Last Post (JDW) close to Paisley Gilmour Street station probably has the best beer selection (and is a great building), The Wee Howf probably has the most eclectic clientèle, but I've always liked the Bull Inn, another Maclays pub, but with a lot more character than the other places (and obviously a different customer base).

It's a long narrow place with great stained glass windows at the front, large book & whisky bottle cases, hops & twinkly lights at the bar, and of course, the ornamental Bull's Head at the centre of the bar. On hand-pull today were Deuchars IPA, Houston Peters Well and Kelburn Carte Blanche, but there was also a flyer for a free Caledonia Best tasting, so the Maclays-Tennents tie-up is starting already. Probably the most interesting feature of the place are the 3 snugs at the rear, great places to have a chat or a meal away from the noise of the main bar (although there are now TVs in a couple of them).

Finally I could now head along Paisley High Street to the magnificent Town Hall, location of the 25th Paisley Beer Festival.

Renfrewshire CAMRA organise this and this year they'd changed the rooms around with the Scottish beers now in the larger main hall, and the English beers in the smaller minor hall, which just shows the strength of Scottish brewing at the moment.

The theme for the English bar this year was Cumbria (which had definitely been expanded to the North of England) with the Hawkshead & Ulverston beers uniformly excellent and (unusually) all of the Theakston beers conditioned (for 39 days) in oak casks rather than the standard stainless steel. Opinion was varied on this, but I really liked the smoothness and slight vanilla flavour that it imparted to their beers. 'Journeyman Cooper' Jonathan Manby from Theakston also performed a cooperage demonstration and 'trial' - good fun, but there was no way I was volunteering to give it a go.

The Foreign bar was almost completely finished by the time I got to it at about 5pm on Saturday afternoon. I managed a half of the great Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbok beer, serious stuff at 7.4% and extremely tasty, but I think that just afterwards Radio Scotland star Ronnie from the 3 Judges was about to sell the last of the draught and bottled Foreign beers.

The festival staff had tapped 35-40 new casks on Friday night, so the cask beer choice, especially in the Scottish Bar, was still excellent - unusual, but very welcome for a beer festival Saturday with great beers from new breweries such as Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Scottish Borders still on (it's amazing how good the beers from these new breweries have become in such a short space in time). So it was a last few Scottish beers before my train home, including the Fyne Ales Davaar Blond - a superb bitter IPA to end my visit.
Main hall - Scottish Bar (thanks to the Renfrewshire Council staff for allowing me upstairs)

I think that was probably one the best beer festivals I've ever been to so well done to everyone involved - the choice of beer was impressive and in great condition, the 'craft' chocolate stall was an excellent idea and the staff were all pretty amazing. I'd not volunteered this year as I had last time (I couldn't be sure of my time), but will definitely do so again next year.

Return Transport:-
  Train: Paisley Gilmour Street to Glasgow Central

Monday, 23 April 2012

East Ayrshire by Train and Foot: 21st April 2012

The Northern part of East Ayrshire has a bit of a harsh/rough reputation but I've always found the pubs there to be more than welcoming (although I don't go down in the evening too often). Today I decided to go to a number of pubs close to the Glasgow - Kilmarnock train line and see how some of them had changed since I last visited (probably 3-4 years ago), although due to reasons of time and associated connections I couldn't manage Kilmarnock itself or the town of Kilmaurs just outside Kilmarnock.

View N. Ayrshire in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Stewarton (12 & 42 on the hour)

My first stop was the Millhouse Hotel (main web-site seems down) a distinctive stone-clad building with outside beer garden on the edge of Stewarton, but only a 5-minute or so walk from the train station.

I knew that the place had been up for sale for quite some time (a number of years I think), but it was now proclaiming 'Under New Management' and from talking to the friendly barmaid it seemed that this had only happened in the last few months. They'd built up a good reputation for real ale and thankfully that still seemed to be present - there were 3 hand pulls with 2 Arran beers on for £2.90/pint, Arran Blonde and Clyde Puffer (with Orkney Dark Island and Wylam Red Kite on next). I don't think I'd had the Puffer before on cask, a sort of cross between a traditional fruity 70/- and a darker porter - very nice and with a great design of Arran pump-clip.

There was a steady stream of people heading into the upper restaurant for lunch, but I stayed in the bar with its exposed stone walls (very Brewdog-like!), Arran pictures, barometers, spotlights and Sky TV (very un-Brewdog-like!).

The soup & sandwich deal for lunch was really good - only £5, with the spicy cajun chicken sandwiches probably making me almost unapproachable for the rest of the afternoon.

I walked back to the train station via Stewarton main street - there was a decent Deli on the corner of the main cross street (Borlands), but the only other place to get some interesting beer was likely to be the large Sainsburys just down from the station.

I got back on the train for the short journey to Dunlop and emerged into some serious hail and driving rain (the first of the year - not too bad!). I headed down the main street to what looked like a row of cottages, but hidden in there was a tiny pub called the Auld Hoose. Unfortunately my luck was out since there was a small notice on the door indicating 'Pub open today at 4pm' - a definite shame as it seemed like a great old-fashioned place.

After a few choice words to myself I decided that I wasn't getting any drier and so re-traced my steps back towards the centre of the village. Thankfully the only other pub within 5 miles, the Village Inn, was open.

This is another place which has also recently changed hands and the new owner has decided to experiment with and promote a real ale - today it was Houston's APA (American Pale Ale), a quite decent citrusy golden ale, but really needing a lot more hops and body to be classed as an APA. Only the bar was open this afternoon with the small space pretty busy with people sheltering from the rain and watching the Scottish football on the TV. Inside the place has some exposed brick work, a couple of brewery mirrors and a lot of hand-written signs and the banter between the locals got pretty 'earthy' at times, but nothing too serious. I took a quick look around as I left and the place has a decent lounge with a pool table and a restaurant which needs a bit (probably quite a lot) of work done to it, but it's an OK place to stop for a real ale and a packet of bacon flavour fries.

Next I had a short wait for the bus to Lugton. I got off at the junction of the main A736 road and the site of the old Lugton Inn. This was an Inn for over a century and also housed a small brewery from 1995-2000, but went out of business quite suddenly and then the whole place burned down in 2005. I only went there once, met the owner who was a 'bit of a character', and tried the Lugton Gold lager which I remember as being very sweet. I also remember having one of the chewiest steaks ever, which eventually had to be re-cooked at least twice, and which probably contributed to my one and only visit.
(Before the fire - sometime in the last century! Apologies to whomever concerned - I couldn't find out who took this photo)

(Now - 2012)

Across the road is the Canny Man (it was previously the Paraffin Lamp), now operated by the same people who have the Piersland House in Troon - both are really classy places.

There's a great beer garden/patio and kids play area outside, a number of separate partially walled-off dining areas, a nice long bar with comfy seats and great, well-trained staff in bright, modern surroundings. The only thing that seemed a bit strange was that they don't do food between 2:30-5:00pm on Saturdays (but do on Sundays) - a number of people were turned away just after 3:00pm.

Like the Piersland they have a decent selection of ales with Orkney Dark Island, Arran Blonde (with the old style of pump-clip) and the house ale Canny Man from Houston on today - although I suspect the latter might well have been a re-badged Peters Well.

Since I'd managed to make all my connections to Lugton there was now no choice but to walk up to Uplawmoor (technically in Renfrewshire, not Ayrshire, but I didn't think I'd need my passport) irrespective of the weather. There was no way I could walk up the main A736 road so my best option was to try a number of the farm roads and then head into Uplawmoor from an easterly direction. This actually proved to be fairly straightforward with the farm roads being narrow, but well maintained and completely traffic free. On a fairly dreich day like today there wasn't too much to see apart from the farm fields (it's not a 'real' moor like Eaglesham) so I just put my head down and walked the 3 miles or so until the Uplawmoor Hotel (another place which had previously been up for sale - don't know if it still is).

The lounge bar was pretty busy on a late Saturday afternoon with a fair amount of families in for an early meal. The staff were smartly dressed, mostly very, very young (and quiet), but still capable of pouring a decent pint of Kelburn Red Smiddy (the other choice was Houston Killellan), which seemed a lot maltier than on some of the previous occasions that I'd tried it, really nice. The last time I was in the Uplawmoor Hotel was probably about 7-8 years ago and I don't think it's really changed too much in the interim with the same copper bar-top, tartan decor, background music from The Carpenters and notices up for the Neilston Show in a couple of weeks time.

The heavens opened again as I was about to leave and so I waited for my bus under the canopy at the entrance of the Hotel taking in the great display of tulips.

The bus dropped me off in the centre of Barrhead and it was a short walk to Barrhead Station and the connection to Glasgow Central. I had hoped to visit the Cross Stobs Inn and the adjoining Cross Stobs Wine bottle shop just up from the Station but I'll leave that for another time.

Return Transport:-
  Train: Stewarton to Dunlop
  Bus: Dunlop to Lugton (Stagecoach West, 337)
  Bus: Uplawmoor to Barrhead (Hendersons Coaches, 395)
  Train: Barrhead to Glasgow Central

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Balerno, Currie, Livingston Cricket Club and Alechemy Brewing: 14th April 2012

I always like to go to different places (it's just natural human curiosity I guess) so I was more than happy that this weekend I could try a couple of pubs & places that were new to me in Mid/West-Lothian (Currie & Balerno) and then follow this with a new beer festival, being organised by Livingston Cricket Club and brought to my attention on Twitter by James Davies from the very new Alechemy Brewing (beer people are great!).

View Livingston in a larger map

The nearest train station to the Cricket Club is Livingston South on the Glasgow Central-Shotts-Edinburgh line, however the connection to Curriehill (for Currie & Balerno) from Glasgow Central wasn't particular good, so this meant a fast train from Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Haymarket and then a connection back out to Curriehill was the most sensible choice. Actually this worked out really well since I was able to make a quick dash to Appellation Wines for a few bottled beers and also try a new Thornbridge beer, Frank As Apollo (a nice & hoppy take on a 'traditional' bitter and winner of the Thornbridge/Nicholson's home brew challenge) in the Haymarket Bar.

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Edinburgh Haymarket
            Haymarket to Curriehall (30 on the hour)
  Bus: Currie to Balerno (Lothian Buses 44)

  Train: Curriehill to Livingston South (45 on the hour)

The train station at Curriehill is no more than a halt just outside the town so to get to Balerno required a 5 minutes walk up to the main A70 Lanark Road followed by a bus which dropped me off just past Balerno High Street. A Farmer's Market was just being taken down on the pedestrianised High Street and opposite this was the well kept Grey Horse Inn (nice modern web-site).

This is a really cracking village pub - a very busy lounge (full of shoppers recuperating after the Farmer's Market) with Sky TV, a quieter bar/snug and an associated award winning Chinese restaurant next door. They were somewhat rushed off their feet this lunchtime, but still managed to make me feel welcome and chat about the beers. They have 5 hand-pulls, 2 permanent - Deuchars and Old Speckled Hen (what a pale shadow of the 5.2% beer of yore) and 3 guests, today Houston Challenger, Broughton Spring Ale and Belhaven Fruit Beer - perhaps a pretty safe choice but not at all bad. I've tried the Fruit Beer from bottle a couple of times and would have to agree with the Scottish Beer Guide in that it's not too impressive, but on cask it's far better - definitely some raspberry & blackberry flavour and a lot more body.

I ordered a baked tattie with tuna-mayo for lunch, quite OK, but the salad that came with was great - nice sharp dressing and lots of bean-sprouts gave it a definite crunchy texture. The bar/snug itself has a nice old fashioned air (cosy comes to mind) with lots of Burns pictures, books, pump-clips above the bar, a couple of small dogs wandering about and some banter back and forward between the locals and the owners. I almost (absent mindedly) managed to escape without paying (the owner said she would have had to don her speed skates to catch me) but eventually paid-up and walked the short distance from the High Street to join the Water of Leith Walkway starting just across from the Currie rugby ground.

It was a short but pleasant walk up the Walkway to Currie passing some small weirs, lots of tree cover, bridges and riverside houses - I must come back at some point and walk all the way into Edinburgh.

I left the Walkway in the centre of Currie and headed up to The Riccarton Arms on the main road (handy hint - don't try to use the 2 doors at the front as I did, they're only open in summer!).

It was proclaiming 'Under New Management' and inside there certainly seemed to have been some money spent on the place. The bar is in the centre of the main room with tables, chairs and TVs on both sidee and a separate restaurant further on into the building. The TVs were showing the FA Cup Semi-Final and I arrived just in time to see Liverpool take the lead late in the game and hold on for the win - hooray! There were only 2 hand-pulls on today with Deuchars (well this is Edinburgh) and Caledonians's latest monthly, Raspberry Fool. Since this was obviously going to be a Fruit Beer day I had to give it a go - it was certainly sweet with a berry aroma and a lot more raspberry in the taste, but I'd hoped for a bit more tartness and it wasn't there. Both this and the Belhaven Fruit beer were quite acceptable (I like Fruit Beers) but I still prefer the Williams Brothers Roisin - it's just got that hint of tartness/sourness that the other 2 don't have.

Next it was a walk down the hill to Curriehill train station for the less than 15 minute journey to Livingston South. I managed to get somewhat lost in my search for Livingston Cricket Club but only because I keyed in the wrong address (Murieston Road instead of Valley) into my GPS system, but there were so many paths between the housing estates that this only hindered my arrival by a few minutes. The Club itself looked a bit of a pre-fab construction but it was certainly busy enough with food (burgers, hot-dogs etc...) being cooked in large tents on the grounds.

I arrived during mid-afternoon and the place was packed with a good mixture of people of all ages - great to see. It was £5 for entry (with 1 pint included) and then £2 for a 'ticket' for a pint, so that would have helped getting people through the door, as would the fact that the Grand National was being shown on the TV. There must have been ~10 beers from Broughton (I missed the Dark Dunter, still to be tapped), 5-6 from Stewart (including the nice & cloudy Forth Mist wheat beer) and all of the great Knops Beers available - not a bad selection at all. James from Alechemy Brewing was working behind the bar and had brought along 2 of his own brand spanking new beers, which I had thought he might just do, and I was really, really happy to see them. The Alechemy beers were Cairnpapple IPA, an initially quite sweet golden ale with some citrus bitterness, but which perhaps needed a bit of additional aroma up-front, and Five Sisters (named after the 5 oil-shale 'bings' feature nearby), an amber ale with some malt and chocolate sweetness and then a real bitter hop kick at the end (from masses of Chinook hops) - this was really impressive. He's definitely not brewing 'brown, boring bitters' with both of his beers proving really popular & seeming likely to be among the first to run out (I came back for another Five Sisters later on).

We got chatting away and quite amazingly enough James volunteered to take me to the brewery premises, gammy leg and all (as I said - beer people are great). It's only a couple of minutes away from the Cricket Club in the midst of an industrial estate in Livingston with (at present) very little to mark itself from the surrounding buildings except a small Alechemy sign.

Inside the place is really quite large with lots of room for expansion (it's certainly bigger than Loch Lomond Brewery & Angus Ales where I've been to recently). The brewing kit is all brand new stainless steel, with a mash tun, fermenting vessels, and conditioning tanks taking up one corner of the premises. The cold store is just being built, with the filled casks of beer quite happy to settle at the current ambient temperature this springtime and there is also a teensy pilot plant for some experimental brews.

Upstairs (on the mezzanine level - cool!) there's the office, a lot of malt and bags & bags of hops (especially Chinook & Citra) but it's about as organised as I've seen seen a brewery to be. His bottling equipment is currently with Dave from DemonBrew and James also mentioned the help and advice he'd had from Dave and from John McGarva at Tryst Brewery (and especially from his Father!).

James used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, has some seriously technical knowledge about yeast cultures and has ploughed everything into this business when moving back up to Scotland from Loughborough. As I've said before I am in awe of the some of the beer people I've visited recently - it really takes vision, some guts, not to mention a lot of hard work (James mentioned 100+ hour weeks recently) to get his type of venture up and running from nothing, so here's hoping the 'Official Launch' of the beers at Cloisters this Wednesday (see the Beercast for more details) goes really well. In addition all of his beers including the Cockleroy Black IPA (and possibly a special) should be available at the Scottish Real Ale Festival in June.

Return Transport:
  Train: Livingston South to Glasgow Central (15 (express) & 57 (very slow) on the hour, not Sundays)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Edinburgh South Side and 30 Days of IPA: 7th April 2012

I had to go to Edinburgh this weekend to pick up a couple of items and thought I could combine this with one of my favourite short walks, a clamber up Arthur's Seat, and also look to see if there were a couple of interesting beers at the 30 Days of IPA event which was happening in a number of pubs around Edinburgh way during April.

View Edinburgh - South Side in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverley

It's easy enough to get to Arthur's Seat - take the rear (south) exit from Waverley Station, cross the Royal Mile, go past the Pleasance buildings, continue onto Dalkieth Road until the Commonwealth Pool and then hike a left turn into Holyrood Park and Queen's Drive until the crag of Arthur's Seat looms above you.

The easiest ascent is from the Dunsapie Loch (east) side - it's a part grassy, part muddy path with some steps and rocks at the end, but straight forward enough. Today it only took about 20 minutes from the Loch, but the exertion was enough for me to have sweated most of the previous night's beers out of my system (thankfully I had a change of T-shirt). The 360 degree view is just superb, even on on fairly hazy day like today, with views out to the Forth Bridges, across to Fife, Berwick Law and out along the Pentland Hills.

I went for the slightly steeper decent via the spiralling set of cut steps in the west side of the crag which took me back to the Commonwealth Pool area with only a short walk to West Preston Street to quench my thirst at the Cask and Barrel (South Side).

It's a sister pub of the original Cask and Barrel in Broughton Street and has only been open a few years but it really has the look of place which has been around for quite some time with all the great brewery mirrors, stained glass and olde framed beer advertisements. This afternoon the bar area was busy with the TVs showing Celtic's SPL Championship winning rout of Kilmarnock (so I couldn't get too many pictures). There are 8 hand-pulls with Tempest, Tryst, Fyne Ales, Moorhouse's and Highland (amongst others) available today but since I'd just had the Tempest Unforgiven in Glasgow the previous evening I went instead for the Highland Orkney Best - a great light, refreshing, lemony-flavoured low abv (only 3.6%) pint which knocks spots off its Belhaven namesake. The 2 staff were great as well, really polite & chatty and happy to let me take away a couple of Tryst Hop Trial beers (Stella & Cascade) from the fridge - it really was a pleasure to be in the place.

On leaving the Cask and Barrel I walked up Clerk Street towards the City Centre and was struck by the number of pubs displaying the availability of 'Cask Ales' or should I say 'Award Winning Cask Ales' - The Abbey, McEwans Ale House, the Greenmantle and that's not even counting the soon to be re-furbished The Southern - it really is good to have that choice.

When I reached West Nicolson Street I turned left and found a couple of pubs in the Counting House building at the end of the street - The Blind Poet and The Pear Tree House.

I decided to try the Pear Tree and was impressed by the inside - a rectangular island bar, wood paneling, lots of comfy sofas and views out to the huge beer garden - this must be a definite sun-trap during the summer time.

They had some balloons out and a display board up for 30 Days of IPA with the location of all the breweries involved, some information on the beers available and some general IPA information - it was all pretty informative and well done. I was hoping they might have had Caledonian's Deuchars Imperial Pale Ale available - a souped-up version of the standard Deuchars IPA at a higher abv and made with some American hops but it was not on at that time - a definite shame. Instead they had Tryst Raj IPA, Knops IPA and Worthington White Shield (with the latter being a batch specifically made for the 30 Days of IPA event). I had tried White Shield a number of times in bottled format and always thought it was a bit bland and too carbonated, but on cask it was wonderfully smooth, a great balance of bitterness and malt flavours - very good indeed and I'm really glad I caught it. Let's hope Molson-Coors leave it well alone for years to come.

I could really only manage a couple of further pubs this afternoon so next it was a walk up to the Royal Mile (dodging the families coming out of the Gruffalo Live event at the Festival Theatre) and into the stream of Easter Weekend tourists - it was seriously busy. I walked with the flow of people down the High Street into Canongate until the eponymous The Canons' Gait.

It's part of the same group that has the Guilford Arms and the Abbotsford and during the day it unashamedly goes for the tourist market with good food deals on display and the possibility of tea/coffee and cake far(ish) away from the maddening crowd. It's a bright modern, minimalistic place inside, however there are up to 6 handpulls with a more than decent choice (including detailed tasting notes) and also Tempest Long White Cloud on keg and Weihenstephaner in bottles - not bad for a tourist trap! I went for the Cromarty Brewed Awakening, a great coffee porter and let the efficient staff go about their business of serving the customers.

Finally I needed to get to a bar slightly closer to the Station and walked down to the parallel running Holyrood Road to The Holyrood 9A.

It's a Fuller Thomson place as per Bruadar in Glasgow and Drouthy's in Dundee so have the standard 4 cask ales and 15 or so kegged beers (with a number of changing guests). Today there was 'only' Tempest Citra and Black Isle Yellowhammer on cask (how times change), but the kegged guest lineup was impressive, albeit heavy on the alcohol and the wallet - Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, Nøgne Ø Imperial Porter, Brewdog Hardcore IPA and Hardknott Queboid. I had half of the latter and it was pretty good, with the Belgian yeast definitely getting through, but I think the barmaid must have poured away most of a pint to get me a fairly full glass.

There's definitely something Tardis-like about the place with high ceilings and just a general feeling of spaciousness. There's a pretty big lounge-style side room and a busy rear restaurant, but the front is nice and relaxed with papers available (and no TV that I could see). It's certainly the most impressive Fuller Thomson establishment that I've been to and, from a beer geek point-of-view, you have to say we are definitely lucky that they seem to be making so called 'craft' beer such an integral part of their bars.

Return travel:-
  Train: Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street

Also see the Beercast's Guide to Edinburgh Pubs here