Saturday, 31 December 2011

Golden Pint Awards 2011

[Image by Rob, I might have a glass of beer]

Although I've only been blogging for a few months I thought I'd still have some fun and try my hand at the Beer Blogger's end-of-year list. Also as the little-grey-cells decrease in number and activity it'll help me remember a bit about the year, so here are my very subjective Best-Of during the past year.

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer:
Thornbridge Evenlode (cask) - Port Street Beer House, Manchester

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer:
Brewdog Hello My Name is Ingrid

Best Overseas Draught Beer:
Mikkeller Not Just Another Wit - CASK, London

Best Overseas Bottled Beer:
Schneider Tap4 Mein Grünes (liked it more than the TapX)

Best Overall Beer:
Thornbridge Evenlode

Best Pumpclip or Label:
Loch Lomond Brewery - The West Highland Way

Best UK Brewery:
Fyne Ales

Best Overseas Brewery:
Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn

Pub/Bar of the Year:
Port Street Beer House, Manchester for range & quality of cask/keg beers and great staff
Laurieston Bar, Glasgow as the most 'comfortable' pub to enjoy a beer (and they now do cask Fyne Ales - well done, Rob)

Beer Festival of the Year:
London Brewers Alliance Showcase

Supermarket of the Year:
Booths - on holiday in Lancashire in May

Independent Retailer of the Year:
Dunnottar Wine & Spirits, Stonehaven

Online Retailer of the Year:
AleselA - the best packaging for beer bottles I've seen

Best Beer Blog or Website:
In general Glasgow Bars and a Crane for the inside pictures of Glasgow pubs, but The Beer Monkey's Wetherspoon's pub crawl had me in stitches.

Best Beer Twitterer:
@GuestBeerGuide - Tasting Notes & tweets of the month roundup

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year:
Chicken & Veg soup with Pennvael Amber at The Corbie Inn, 10th Dec. 2011

In 2012 I’d Most Like To…
Go to the Munich Oktoberfest

Happy New Year to everyone!

Friday, 30 December 2011

In and around Stonehaven: 29th December 2011

I was in the East Coast of Scotland for New Year to visit family and friends and took the opportunity to visit a few pubs and beer shops in Stonehaven, a place I'd never stopped in before.

View Stonehaven in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train : Broughty Ferry to Laurencekirk
             Laurencekirk to Stonehaven
  Bus : Stonehaven to Roadside of Catterline (113 McColls Buses)

The first part of the journey began with a definite surprise - I could actually take the train from somewhere close to my parent's house - Broughty Ferry train station, rather than head into Dundee. The occasional service to Aberdeen had only recently changed to stop at The Ferry and being able to take the train from there definitely helped from a timing point-of-view. {end trainspotting dialog}

Since it was effectively en-route to Stonehaven I left the train at Laurencekirk Station and headed to the nearby Industrial Estate to see if Burnside Brewery was open - unfortunately not, closed over the Christmas holiday period as I had guessed. Oh well - I hoped to at least be able to pick up some of their beers in Stonehaven.

After a warming Cafe Mocha at Muffins Coffee Shop in Laurencekirk High Street I got onto the next train north to Stonehaven. It's a bit of walk from the train station to the town centre and harbourside, not a problem when going downhill into the town, but a good 15 minutes hike uphill when returning. I managed to get my local bus from just off the town square and was dropped off on the main A92 road at Roadside of Catterline about 5 miles south of Stonehaven. From here it was a 20 minute walk (in the only rain shower of the day) to the coastal village/hamlet of Catterline and the Creel Inn, perched on the cliff-top above a shingle beach.

Inside it's a large place with a separate restaurant area (for those who pre-book), a bar area (including dart board - I like dart boards!) and a fair number of additional tables in the bar area. There's lots of farming and nautical paraphernalia dotted along the walls (including some interesting sea-shells) and also displayed are a large number of original seascapes for sale (from ~£499 from what I could see).

The beer selection was typically seasonal - Williams Brothers Yule Smile, Stewart 3 Wise Men and Taylor's Landlord. I chose the Yule Smile and it was malty and sweet - masses of molasses sugar me thinks. Thankfully I managed to get in just before the visiting hordes of lunchtime diners arrived and my lunchtime 2 course special (£12.95 for soup, seafood duo and coffee) was served really promptly - a great non-turkey meal.

After getting on the return bus and heading back to Stonehaven I went looking for a couple of wine/beer shops which I'd heard good reports of. The first of these The Liquor Store had a good selection of Scottish and North of England beers, but also a decent Belgian selection as well - I bought bottles of some Mallinsons & Naylors beers which I'd never tried before. In the other shop (just up the same street) Dunnottar Wines & Spirits I managed to find some Windsor and Eton beers (which I'd never seen outside London) and a great selection of US 'craft' beer.

I bought all the Windsor and Eton beers which I hadn't previously tried and also a couple of US IPAs. I also found Burnside's bottle conditioned M-PIRE, but was told I could only buy these in cases of 12 due to licensing issues - a pain since I wasn't going to be able to fit that many in my rucksack! The guys working there were really knowledgeable and into their beer - a great shop to browse in and definitely recommended. It was surprising but good to see 2 such shops stocking such an unusual and different choice of beer, especially in the same town. I left the 'beer street' with my rucksack seriously laden down with bottled beer.

I then went in search of a couple of ales before my train back. The real ale pubs are all down by the harbourside and require a walk over the Carron Water and then follow the shore. In the bay a number of wet-suited guys were attempting to catch the waves - real dedication in the freezing cold surf of the North Sea.

First stop for a beer was the Marine Hotel

It's owned by the same people as the Creel Inn above and a similar dedication to real ale is obvious. On today were Highland Dark Munro & Island Hopping (quite superb), Inveralmond Dunnottar Castle, Taylor's Landlord & the aforementioned Williams Yule Smile - a really great choice. As impressive (if not more) is the bottled selection - bottles from Timmermans, Cantillon, and Lindemans were all present as well as St Mungo from WEST in Glasgow. The bar area is small, but it's modern and well lit by a number of LED downlighters, highlighting the handpulls, fonts, decorative pump-clips and old-style paper currency. It would be a really great place to while away a few hours before and after the Bells at Hogmanay.

On the same street is the Ship Inn

It's perhaps a bit more traditional (and dark!) compared to The Marine, but still a nice place to have a few drinks (there were a lot of whiskies available) although there were only the 2 hand-pulls in use today offering Inveralmond Thrappledouser and Houston Barochan. I really liked the old fashioned diving helmet on show above the bar as well as the brewery mirrors and other nic-nacs (especially the sailing knots).

All told it was a most enjoyable visit to some great pubs and beer shops. I'll definitely be marking the Stonehaven Beer Festival down in the calander as a great excuse to return in 2012.

Return transport:-
  Train : Stonehaven to Broughty Ferry

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Great Corby to Carlisle: 20th December 2011

I'd spent the previous evening at the Opening Day launch of a great new 'Craft Beer Bar' in Glasgow, Bruadar (see here and here for reviews), and must admit to being slightly the worse for wear the morning after. However it was either stay in bed and feel sorry for myself or make use of the day's holiday, get out into the fresh air and try a couple of beers later in the day. Actually it had turned out to be a really decent winter's day and so I decided that I could probably manage a longer trip out from Glasgow than normal and visit Carlisle and a couple of surrounding villages in the north of England.

View Carlisle in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train : Glasgow Central to Carlisle
             Carlisle to Wetheral (Newcastle train)

The train station at Wetheral is immediately before the viaduct over the River Eden to Great Corby. The footbridge was closed for a time last year but has now re-opened and is totally safe (although there's definitely a bit of vertigo involved in crossing it!).

I was hoping to try some beer from a fairly new microbrewery in Great Corby, Cumberland Breweries, and I'd e-mailed them to ask where their beer was likely to be found. They'd given me a couple of possibilities which was great of them and (by luck) I'd already tried their Corby Blonde (really nice with some citrusy bitterness) at a JD Wetherspoon's in Carlisle whilst waiting for the train to Wetheral. Unfortunately there was building work going on in the brewery itself so I couldn't have a closer look around, but I still managed to get a couple of decent shots of the outside. They work out of an old blacksmiths with the arch supposedly dating back to 1833.

The Queen Inn just across the green from the brewery has been closed for over 6 months, due to a combination of loss of trade when the footbridge was closed and poor health of the previous owners - a real shame. The only other pub in the village is the Corby Bridge Inn which unfortunately didn't seem to be open until 4pm.

Walking back across the viaduct to Wetheral I wanted to try a couple of the local pubs. The first, just down from the station, was the Crown Hotel with its associated Walton's Bar (ground floor, left hand side).

The bar's quite nice with lots of seating areas, wooden beams and is (obviously) dog friendly. On hand-pull were Hobgoblin, Geltsdale Golden Ale and Cumberland Breweries Corby Ale - hooray! Having said that the Corby Ale wan't that great - it was an OKish session bitter but perhaps the condition of it was slightly out.

Walking past the village green I next came to the Wheatsheaf Inn. There were 3 ales on hand-pull here as well, Thwaites Wainwright, Corby Ale and their own Wheatsheaf House Ale from Geltsdale - slighter better than the Corby Ale IMHO. The House Ale was on at only £2.50 a pint and they were also doing a beer 'platter' of 1/3 pint of all 3 beers for £2.50 - pretty good value! I really quite liked the place - real fire burning, lots of pump-clips above the bar, decent food selection and would have stayed longer it I didn't have to go for the bus (only 1 an hour back into Carlisle).

The bus back to Carlisle was delayed (by horses on the road - different) but eventually dropped me off on the main A69 road into Carlisle from the east, past a huge industrial estate and an out-of-town Tesco's. From there it was a bit of a walk into the Bocherby area of Carlisle and the Magpie Inn.
* There's definitely a trend for whitewashed buildings around Carlisle way!

It's recently had a fair amount of money spent on it by its owners Oakwell Brewery so whilst now looking quite refurbished and complete, still has the original fireplaces, beams and brickwork. What I hadn't realised was that there was a full-scale bowling green at the back of the building - unusual to say the least.

At this time of the day the large main lounge was closed and only the smaller snug was open, so I found a table and started talking to the locals who were interested in how I'd found the place and where I'd been (obviously one guy found my conversation less than scintillating, but I blame the fact that he was the closest to the fire!).

There were 3 hand-pulls at the bar, but only one pump-clip, and when I inquired about the beer choice the barmaid said 'There's only the 1 beer from all the taps at the moment', so Oakwell Barnsley Bitter it was. This was all of £1.80 (extraordinary value), and was just as a Yorksire Bitter should be - a dry maltiness, but then a definite bitter after-taste, all really well balanced - easily the beer of the day and superb. Interestingly enough I was given a choice of glass - straight or tankard, so initially went with the straight glass since I don't like the 'olde-fashioned' dimpled mug (which is what I assumed the alternative was), but instead I noted that it really was a 'straight' tankard, so went with that for my next pint. It's not likely to have enhanced the taste of the Barnsley Bitter, but it certainly looked the part.

At times (especially during some of the weather in 2011) I have wondered if I should just sit in a couple of the pubs in Glasgow and drink the great choice of real ale (and/or craft beer) that's available nowadays, but when you find a pub like the Magpie Inn and a beer like Barnsley Bitter then it really does make all the effort worthwhile.

Return transport:-
  Bus : Wetheral Green to Carlisle A69 Junction (75 Reays Buses)
  Train : Carlisle to Glasgow Central

Monday, 19 December 2011

Castlecary to Falkirk: 17th December 2011

By one of those strange quirks of fate I was heading towards Falkirk again this weekend - this time from the west via the Forth & Clyde Canal and Castlecary.

View Castlecary in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Bus: Glasgow Buchanan St to Castlecary (X37 First in Scotland)

Castlecary is not the easiest place to get to by public transport - it's in the middle of a railway dead-zone between Croy/Cumbernauld and Falkirk. I'd normally walk from one of these stations, but the canal's a bit boring between Croy & Castlecary and the alternative is the mass of roundabouts/flyovers in Cumbernauld - fine if you know all the paths, but I don't - so bus it was.

The Castlecary Hotel is a large place - with the main hotel, function rooms, formal restaurant and cottage-style accommodation across the road I assume it's targeting the Marriages and other Functions market.

The attached pub is called the Poachers Lounge and it's a large place split into 3 different areas - a lounge area, a really nice wee snug (mostly used by locals, I'm guessing), and a separate screened off dining area. I liked all the long bench-type seats, the separating screens, the wooden beams and the whisky bottles/cases & books as decor - it all looks fairly organic and evolving.

Their cask selection was pretty good today - Jorvik Blond, Kelburn Red Smiddy and they also have Tryst Bottleneck One as their house beer - it's a great Tryst pale'n'hoppy session beer, fairly similar to the Carronade IPA. Food wise today I had the soup'n'sandwich deal (as is getting to be normal) - £4.40 and great value. The staff were really helpful - I asked for the WiFi key and they must have spent 5 minutes getting it - not surprising since it was about 20 characters long and not at all obvious!

When I left the Castlecary Hotel I wan't at all sure what effect the construction of the new M80 extension had had to the paths and cycleways around Castlecary. Thankfully it wasn't a problem - I was able to walk under the Castlecary Arches and along the road towards Bonnybridge without any obstructions.

On the road into Bonnybridge are the Allandale Cottages, originally built to house the workers from a nearby brickworks. There are 46 of these in a row - I caught these just as the winter sun was illuminating the upper sections of the cottages - a great contrast to the dark brick-work of the lower parts.

I joined up with the Forth & Clyde Canal at the Underwood Lockhouse, an Indian Restaurant on the canalside - different to say the least!

I didn't go in (unusual for me to miss out on a curry house and a drinking establishment) but headed onwards to Falkirk. After the Underwood the canal became more tree-lined and was frozen over in large places.

It was then a good walk (the first for a few weeks), past Bonnybridge and almost into Camelon until I came to the Falkirk Wheel, a simply fantastic piece of modern engineering and architecture. It's designed to carry canal narrow boats to/from the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal which is ~80 foot above it, and from a purely engineering point-of-view I'm sure there could have been a simpler solution, but instead it's something visually stunning and quite unique.

A twitter colleague let me know about this - Tryst Wheel Ale (although it's a re-packaged Tryst Drover's 80/-), and I went into the visitor centre to buy a bottle.
The place was packed - there were a number of trips on the canal about to start for kids and the disabled, great to see and well done to all involved.

After the Falkirk Wheel I kept to the Forth & Clyde Canal and walked along to the Union Inn - it was here that the 2 canals were originally connected via a number of locks. It's a distinctive whitewashed building set apart from others. There's no real ale, but it was busy, full of people of all ages, had a great open fire and seemed to be thriving community pub.

Next I headed to Falkirk High Street where I managed to fight my through the crowds and find the (almost) hidden arched entrance & alleyway to the Wheatsheaf Inn, a former CAMRA Forth Valley pub of the year.

It's a fairly small place and today it was full of Christmas shoppers and really busy, but the service was still impressive (actually it was outstanding). I blagged the last free table and savoured 2 superb real ales - the very smooth, best bitter-like Marston Moor Merriemaker and the more citrusy Oakham Bishop's Farewell, both in great condition. As well as great beer and great staff, the Wheatsheaf also has a number of superb brewery mirrors - the McEwans mirror must be close on 2 metres in length and it's always interesting to see these brewery associated antiques.

Return transport:-
  Train: Falkirk High to Glasgow Queen St

Monday, 12 December 2011

Corbie Inn/Kinneil Brew Hoose to Falkirk: 10th December 2011

I'd heard good reports about a new pub in Bo'ness in West-Lothian, the Corbie Inn, which has only been open for a couple of months - a largish cask range, decent food and nice decor (I must be getting old - I'll soon be mentioning soft furnishings!). That's always great to see, but in addition there now seems to be a small microbrewey called the Kinneil Brew Hoose in a separate out-house behind the pub. Since they were due to 'out' their first brew this weekend I decided a visit to the pub and (weather permitting) a walk to Falkirk via Grangemouth seemed a good idea.

View Bo'ness in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Linlithgow
  Bus: Linlithgow Cross to Bo'ness Bus Station (46 First in Scotland East)

A slight covering of snow and freezing fog had made the east of Scotland look really festive (if somewhat Baltic) today. This was Linlithgow Loch in the morning waiting for the bus.

From the 'bus station' at Bo'ness it was only a couple of hundred yards or so west along the shoreline past the railway track of the Bo'ness & Kinneil preservation railway to the Corbie Inn. I'd been to Bo'ness a few times (mostly for the BRAAS Beer Festival) and I think I'd noted the site of the Corbie Inn before. The transformation to the bright, modern Corbie Inn is quite impressive.

Inside it's just as welcoming (and new - that helps!). At the moment there's only a combined bar/dining area, but a separate restaurant is planned in the New Year. There were 6 beers on hand-pull, mostly from Scottish micros (Tryst, Inveralmond, Stewart, Kelburn), but also a token beer from south of the border as well (Rudgate Honey Stout). The prices for the beer and the home-cooked food were certainly great value to my Glasgow city centre mindset.

I found what I was looking for straight away - the Pennvael Amber from the Kinneil Brew Hoose (the name's a Pictish derivation from Kinneil, the Bo'ness local area). I had assumed it would be a fairly standard Scottish-style 70/- and initially it was. But then a definite load of bitter hops kicked in - surprising and very welcome.

I ordered some of the chicken and vegetable soup and got talking with the landlady Gail. The brewer, Stuart Simpson, wasn't around but (without any prompting on my part) she volunteered to give him a call - really nice of her. When it came the soup was great, thick and really spicy. 99 times out of 100 I need masses of pepper in my soup, but not this time - supposedly this is normal for the soup of the day and I really started to like both the place and the chef.

At this point Stuart the brewer arrived, and asked me if I wanted to have a look around the brewery - great - and we must have spent the best part of an hour chatting away (I must admit I'm sometimes quite amazed at the generosity and helpfulness of brewing people!). Stuart's Kinneil Brew Hoose has been 3 years in the making and is pretty compact and bijou (only ~2 BBL), but has all equipment necessary to make great cask ale. Access to the brewery is through a door in the corridor leading to the ladies toilets - only the corridor mind, not the toilets themselves!

Stuart explained the reason for the bitterness of the Pennvael Amber - a significant amount of Saaz hops are used as he deliberately didn't want a standard 'boring bitter' type ale. As well as the Pennvael Amber he's hoping for a golden summer beer and, more interestingly, a non-hop based gruit beer, based on local herbs - great to see the inventiveness. Whilst he was showing me around the place, Stuart was also at the brewery to check on the condition of the beer. He thought the beer wasn't producing a 'perfect' head, and was trying out a couple test changes - one with additional yeast and another with additional priming sugar - not really required as far as I was concerned, but he's such a perfectionist that he absolutely had to get it 100% right - damned impressive.

He'll be targeting the cask-only market at the moment (no bottles) and delivering within ~30 miles of Bo'ness if at all possible, all of which means Edinburgh and the mass of pubs (new and old) which currently sell cask ale are within range. There will be an official launch of the beer and the brewery in mid-January and here's hoping it goes well - he's certainly put a lot of time and a lot of effort into the fledgling business.

When I left the Corbie Inn I had a partial-walk, partial-bus journey to Grangemouth. After the Kinneil Estate (Museum, Mansion, Roman Fortlet and park gardens) which overlooks the main road just out from Bo'ness, there's only the huge number of petrochemical works until you get to the centre of Grangemouth - these are really, really, really big and must cover the coastline and the mud/salt flats up to the Forth for 3-4 miles.

The bus dropped me off in Grangemouth almost at the front door of the Earl of Zetland - a JD Wetherspoon's church conversion (original name - The Free Church of Zetland (Shetland))

I always like church conversions - they seem to force the Wetherspoons people slightly out of their corporate monoculture to work around the church features - here the organ pipes are used to great effect.

I was hoping for a decent Christmas beer at the Earl of Zetland, but both the Highgate Stocking Filler and the TSA Turkey Stuffing were 'Coming Soon', so I had to make do with a TSA Festive Blond - not too much winter spice in this one.

It was then a pretty straight road back into Falkirk. The route took me past Falkirk FC Stadium - Falkirk were playing Hamilton today and the place seemed to be fairly busy.

When I reached Falkirk I sought out Behind the Wall. It's both a trendy restaurant/wine-bar and also a self-styled 'Ale and Whisky House' upstairs. Rather than fighting my way through the wine-bar I made use of the sneaky wee back door around the alley way to get to the Ale House.

Inside it's a bit of a cavern with lots of wall mounted TVs in addition to a huge projected screen - all tuned to the football results. On hand-pull were Ruddles (GK), Herok & Howell’s Tantallon Sunrise (GK/Belhaven) and Eglesbrech Ochil Mist. The last of these is pretty confusing (at least to me and to the barmaid when I asked). It seems to be a throw-back to their own beer brewed on the on-premises microbrewery, but that (supposedly) closed down a few years ago. Barney's Beers are now (also supposedly) brewed on that equipment, but there were definitely no Barney's Beers to be seen anywhere on the premises. So the Ochil Mist is a bit a mystery - I'd be interested to know if anyone has any information about it. It wasn't great today, perhaps a bit yeasty, but I had the same beer 6 months or so ago and it was a nice, well balanced amber ale - whoever brews it should definitely keep on doing so.

Return transport:-
  Train: Falkirk High to Glasgow Queen Street

Monday, 5 December 2011

Prestoungrange Gothenburg to Portobello: 2nd December 2011

I always seem to find myself with a couple of days of annual leave from work to take in December. In days gone by you could choose to get paid for working the extra days or carry them over to the next year, but in today's financial climate it's a use 'em or lose 'em situation. Today I decided to use one of 'em and travel to Edinburgh for some Christmas shopping and a walk between some pubs just outside Edinburgh on the East Lothian coast.

View Lothian coast in a larger map

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

My first stop was Prestonpans, scene of the first battle of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 (the battle site is a bit out of town), and also an impressive ruined Tower and Market Cross, just down from the train station. The 'Cross' is quite distinctive, albeit it's more of a monument with cross at the centre (complete with Unicorn and heraldic cartouche), and is supposed to be the oldest of its type still on its original site.

The Market Cross was also used as the centrepiece of a lot of Prestonpan's Fowler's Ales labels and pump-clips, which took me to my first port of call - the Prestoungrange Gothenburg, more commonly known as The Goth, on the High Street facing the shoreline (although it now seems as if it does actually trade under The Goth name).

The Goth has an extensive history - see here for more details, but suffice to say that it was initially run under Gothenburg semi-temperance lines (hence the name) back in 1908, was taken over by various brewery companies and then closed for a period of time, then restored and re-fitted in the early 2000's to be a community and arts centre pub, complete with a microbrewery - a great development. The microbrewery was called Fowler's Ales after the last brewery in Prestonpans and brewed beers based on some of Fowler's historical recipes. Sad to say the head brewer passed away recently, but Scottish Craft Brewer Dave Whyte is now operating DemonBrew on the same equipment. He's still brewing the Gothenburg Porter (really, really nice & check-out the pump-clip image) and also a number of his own brews - Demon Pale, Demon Black and Summer Storm (a wheat beer), all of which are served slightly cooler than the CAMRA 'norm' - not a problem as far as I'm concerned. Dave couldn't be around to show me the brewing kit during my visit but there were enough windows to get an idea of the size of the operation and what happens.

The Goth is really impressive inside - a large island bar, murals on the ceiling, old brewing paraphernalia and other original features. There's also a restaurant, art gallery and meeting rooms upstairs. The toilets are also about as good as it gets (no pics though!).

Since it was just past St Andrew's Day I had the special - Haggis, Neaps & Tatties, and this kept me going until well into the next day.

Across the road from The Goth on the beach wall there's a mural of Prestonpans through the ages - a bit worse the wear due to the North Sea storms, but still pretty distinctive.

It had now turned out to be a bright (if cold & crisp) day as I started to walk back along the East Lothian coast. Just out of town past the Prestoungrange mining museum are a couple of pubs/restaurants - the Levenhall Arms and Mrs Forman's (newly renovated).

I went into the Levenhall Arms as I'd done on a couple of previous occasions, but I'd have to say it was looking bit dingy. However the young lad behind the bar was quite happy to chat about the state of the weather for a while, and the Elland Brewery Beyond the Pale was outstanding - really nice and hoppy.

I'm guessing that some of the lunchtime business has been going next door to Mrs Forman's - it's certainly setup to be more of a foody enterprise, although a number of cask ales were advertised (which I didn't see).

It was then a walk past Musselburgh race course and the raised beach area around Loretto School to the Volunteer Arms or Staggs. It's been owned by the same family for over 150 years (original owner, I. G. Stagg) and has won numerous CAMRA and other pub/beer awards.

The craic and the beer here have always been great - skip the ubiquitous Deuchars and there was Fyne Ales Jarl, Highland Orkney IPA, Hadrian Ouseburn Porter and Tempest Into the Light - about as good as it gets! I had the Into the Light and it was great - crisp and almost pils-like. This really is a great, old fashioned boozer.

Forcing myself out of Staggs after only 1 beer I then walked towards Joppa & Porobello and the stunning Portobello beach and promenade.

I'd been hoping for a beer at Dalriada, but it was closed - I'd missed the lunchtime service and it was shut until the evening - 'null points' for my research!

I therefore had a quick look at nearby places on BeerInTheEvening and decided to walk further along the promenade to what was the Old Pier but is now The ESPY

It's a trendy place - sofas, low slung chairs, cappuccinos etc..., but quite nice to spend an hour or so.

They do something a bit strange with some of the pump-clips here - the Darkstar Espresso was fine and normal, but the picture of the JW Lees Hopmeister was tiny - and had a Caledonian logo above it - it's almost homemade and very confusing! You can see some of these on the ceiling above the bar.

After soaking up the warmth for a while I caught the bus from Portobello High Street to Easter Road and got off at the beer haven that is Cornelius off-license - a good way to the end the day.

Return transport:-
  Bus : Portobello to Easter Road (26 - First Lothian)
  Train : Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen St