Saturday, 6 July 2013

Independence Weekend in Edinburgh: 6th July 2013

It was to be another Saturday in Edinburgh to watch the deciding British Lions rugby game against Australia in Teuchters and what a difference from last week. A stunning display from the Lions in the 2nd half meant that there were more than a few celebratory pints of Fyne Ales Jarl to be had. Afterwards I decided that heading out into Edinburgh to try a few beers with an (even slightly tenuous) US theme (since it was the Fourth of July weekend) would be a good thing to try and also to celebrate the Lions win.

View Edinburgh 4th July in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Edinburgh Haymarket

On the Sunday of this sporting weekend a certain Andy Murray was about to play for the Wimbledon men's singles championship. Eden Brewery St Andrews had got into the spirit (or beer) of things and had produced a beer which owner Paul Miller was busy successfully selling at the Farmers' Market on Castle Terrace.

And the beer - it may not have been the full Grand Slam on Sunday for Andy but it was certainly the most important part of it and it capped a great weekend for British sport. I think I'll keep the beer for some dreich day later in the year to remind me of the events of early July 2013.

By now I was seriously needing some food and so decided go for some Tex-Mex at Illegal Jacks on Lothian Road; I'd heard some very good things about it.

It's a sort of go-up-and-get-your-own-meal type of place. So armed with the paper menu I went up and got a burrito with Spanish rice & Monterey Jack cheese, had it filled with shredded chicken breast and then topped with mild salsa - it's a nice nice way to do things to your own preference (tacos, chilli and fajitas are also possible). And as suggested by the menu I didn't need a knife & fork at all when it came to eating it - you just nibble away and unwrap it slowly. It was really very, very good, but I think the next time I try it I'll probably fast for 24 hours beforehand - it certainly is filling.

I didn't fancy a BrewDog Punk IPA or 5AM Saint (even though I'm an Equity Punk) & definitely not a Corona, so for some reason I decided on on a Elderflower Thistly Cross Cider - this had a great floral aroma, but was way, way too sweet for me, a 'normal' cider would probably have been a better idea. I could probably have done with a Siesta after that but instead decided to try to find a relatively new bar/restaurant called Timberyard on Lady Lawson Street, just off the West Port. This took me a bit of time to find since the entrance is fairly low-key, a small door-way leading to a long, long indoor bar with lots of tables, seats and high windows - it used to be a collection of disused warehouses but it's obviously had a lot of money spent on it.

I was hoping to try the Pale Ale they had brewed recently with Alechemy Brewing, but they're saving that for the opening of their 'Yard Bar' unsurprisingly located in the Yard outside. Instead I took a bottle of London-based brewery Partizan Pale Ale Galaxy, a very bitter pale ale, was given a pretty cool pewter tankard for it and also a bottle of chilled/filtered tap water, and went to sit in the sunshine in corner of the yard (or Yard).

The Yard is a serious suntrap, anything more than about 30 minutes in there and I would have been looking for a hat to borrow, but as the tall plants grow I assume there will be a bit more shade. The staff are friendly and chatty, the barman was good enough to show me how the development of the Yard Bar was going (it should be ready in a week or 2 when the fridge is put in), but boy were they super-attentive at times - almost 'hovering' as people were finishing their meals. So an impressive place, a tad pricy (it was £5.50 for that Partizan beer; if I hadn't been given the chilled water for free I would have been somewhat grumpy) but worth going to for something slightly different.

I headed back out to Lothian Road and had almost steeled myself not to go into The Hanging Bat when I was 'pulled' inside by this sign.

A took a 1/2 of the Siren Sound Wave (a really dry, lovely tropical pale ale) brewed in the UK by the renowned ex-Evil Twin (amongst others) brewer Ryan Witter-Merithew (tenuous US link) and went outside to see what the secret Bat Beer Garden was like.

It's a nice sheltered outside space, perhaps a tad cramped, but there are quite a few seats & kegs to sit on and a carpeting of artificial grass (easy to maintain). I got chatting away to a group of fellow beer enthusiasts with whom I had some FyneFest experiences in common and I eventually recognised one of them as @RJBayley from (mostly) his facial hair and his twitter profile - it's always good to meet beer people. Rob's also a big horror film buff and is trying to persuade The Hanging Bat that a beer and horror film night (tentatively titled 'Beer, Blood & Beyond') would be a good idea - Fyne Ales Zombier or Alesmith Evil Dead Red anyone !?

It was only a short walk further up Lothian Road before I came to the Brauhaus, which for some reason I'd never been into before (probably because there are just far too many pubs in Edinburgh).

They have a nice selection of bottled beer, although mostly (unsurprisingly) German and Belgian, with a more limited US stock, but I was happy enough to take a Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale and went to sit in one of the large sofas near the windows. It's a fairly small place with a few of these sofas and a number of bar stools (I was almost expecting it to morph into a somewhat more cavernous Bierhalle at the back) but since it was fairly quiet today it was a good place to relax, check out all the beer bottles around the walls and the masses of football flags on the ceiling. It's definitely a place where you can catch the Bundesliga games during the fußball season.

One of the main reasons that the Brauhaus was quiet was that it was a lovely summer's day outside and, as per normal, this meant that the Meadows was packed. This time there were a couple of cricket matches going on - a more than civilised way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

At the far eastern end of the Meadows is the Southern, a Fuller-Thomson bar I'd previously been in for the Edinburgh Independents Beer Festival last year (and am likely to visit again for this year's EIBF). They had been putting on some kegged and bottled US beers for Independence Weekend and I'd hoped to find the Flying Dog Easy IPA, but it had already sold out (probably on the Fourth of July).

Instead I took a 1/2 of Brooklyn's Summer Ale (a nice orangey ale, but it seemed to heading towards an almost slightly-alcoholic breakfast drink) and relaxed in the cool surroundings at the long central bench table opposite the bar full of shiny taps - my favourite place.

The final place I wanted to visit today was fairly new, Jake's Place on Market Street (near to the rear exit of Waverley Station). It's part of the Beds & Bars chain and as such is situated on one side of their St Christopher's Inn/Hostel (where you have to go to if you need to answer a call of nature).

They've tried to create a place which provides rare & exclusive American & Scottish craft beer and whiskies, soft drinks, US/Scottish 'fastish'-food and that's about it; perfect as far as I'm concerned, but it'll be interesting to see how this concept plays out. The bar area is fairly small, a few bar stools, more tables and chairs at the back and there's a lot of candles, corrugated iron and re-cycled material about the place. The bar itself is pleasingly symmetrical with both the cask Scottish beers (which pretty well ran out when I was there) and the US draught beers being dispensed from large oak barrels previously in use at Harviestoun Brewery - a nice touch.

They have an exclusive tie-up with Fordham and Old Dominion (the beer for the 2 brands is brewed at the same US brewery), providing both draught and bottled beers. I tried a couple of the Old Dominion beers whilst I was in - the Beach House was a decent bitter pilsner and the Double D (not be confused with Double Diamond, working wonders) was a very smooth, quite sweet double IPA - pretty lethal on a warm late afternoon. They also have a great selection of bottled (& canned) US beer in the large fridges; I had an Anchor Bock Beer and really enjoyed the dark, brittle bitterness of it.

So now I have a possible dilemma before getting the train at Waverley - the more traditional Half Way House or the US/Scottish concept of Jake's Place - it's really great to have the choice.

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

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