Ale to the King.

Edinburgh's quality beer and ale review and culture site.

Archive for the tag “brewdog”

Pub Tour of Edinburgh: Discounts

Hail!

As the posters around Edinburgh, on the facebook event page and on this very site may have alerted you, there will a special offers afforded to us by several pubs on the route.

Those of you joining us on this journey into ale will be issued with Ale to the Kingcards that will prove to staff at participating pubs that you are entitled to these discounts.

I’ll print off enough for all who have signed up as definitely coming, so you won’t have to be sharing around.

Follow Ale to the King on twitter or share your beer experiences with us on untappd.

Join us for our first ever event in Edinburgh here.

Advertisements

Ten of the Best Edinburgh Ale Pubs

As the 2nd most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom, Ale to the King hasn’t quite managed to tackle every real ale pub and bar in the capital, but a damn good effort is being made.

Below are my favourite spots to go ale hunting at the moment, ranked from 10 to 1 (1 being, predictably, my absolute favourite).

10. Teuchters Landing

1c Dock Place, Leith
A cosy little establishment on the watery edge of Leith, Teuchters Landing seems both fairly modern and contemporary yet linked to the seafaring past of its area. This unique, squat little building houses one of Edinburgh’s best stocked bars, with 14 beers, both macro and micro brewed, on draught and more bottles in the fridge. It also boasts a particularly good selection of whiskys should you choose to chase that Deuchars IPA. A nice warm fire and comfy leather and wood furniture complete this assuredly professional establishment.

9. Blue Blazer

2 Spittal Street, Old Town
For a brief three months I used to live in this area, charmingly known as the ‘pubic triangle’ due to the abundance of strip clubs. Residing literally round the corner this became a well-visited and loved pub. This Pub of the Year winning, traditional ale house is splendidly decorated in the way a proper, old-fashioned, gentile,  boozer should be. On last visit there were six cask ales ready to be drunk in the numerous hideaways and alcoves in this relaxed, well-maintained place. Prepare to make some compromises in personal space; Blue Blazer is becoming alarmingly popular with the young, fashionable professional crowd post-work, especially given the area and craft beer’s increasing prominance.

8. Stockbrige Tap

2 Raeburn Place, Stockbridge
A place that was unusually full of Black Isle is alright in Ale to the King’s books. For an area so erudite and swish Stockbridge Tap brings a needed earthy not to the area, sitting across from Hector’s and thus proffering up something a little less considered, a little more down-to-earth and a little more honest. It has a charming atmosphere and proper pub games while serving up some of the finest quality drinks going. It also plays host to some cracking beer festivals, so make sure you get down to these when they’re on and join the locals in expanding one’s taste horizons.

7. Brauhaus

105 Lauriston Place, Old Town
Rammed to the rafters with dozens of ale varieties, the Brauhaus, situated at the edge of Old Town, near the Meadows, is in a ripe position to take advantage of the upcoming, arty, area it borders. The beer selection really is vast, albeit most of these are in bottles. The ramshackle, mashed-together aesthetic really speaks volumes of what you can drink here, from more common brews like Stewart’s Edinburgh Gold to £10 bottles of the finest Belgian beer, its all under this roof. While I wouldn’t describe it as particularly cosy, and there can be a horrendous draft if you sit too close to the door of this small place, the number of ales on offer make up for everything.

6. Bow Bar

80 West Bow, Old Town
It looks and feels like its as old as St. Giles itself, but was actually only renovated in the 1990s.  Much of the furniture and decoration here was actually reclaimed from other pubs as they were ‘modernised’ giving this place a lived-in yet spruced-up feel. There are always a great selection of craft beers on pump and its somewhere that’s innocuous enough to be frequented by mostly locals, despite its location in tourist-central. With knowledgeable staff its a great place to start an evening or while away an afternoon. A whole day if it takes you, they have a frankly punishing array of craft beer on at any one moment.

5. Dirty Dick’s

159 Rose Street, New Town
If you thought Brauhaus was a collection of oddities wait until you get a load of this place. The dimly lit pub is so crammed full of unusual items, trinkets and decorations it would be almost impossible for a patron to catalogue them all. Believe me, I’ve had some of the most intense games of drunken eye-spy in Dirty Dicks.  However its not just the unique interior which gives this place the thumbs up. There are regularly four cask beers, well poured by the attentive staff. Easily the best pub on Rose Street.

4. Roseleaf Bar Cafe

23/4 Sandport Place, Leith
Another Leith institution, the Roseleaf Cafe Bar is a welcoming place. Situated just by The Shore, its a fine starting point to start a journey round some of the other real ale pubs Leith has to offer. Something, as you might have gathered by now, that scores big points with Ale to the King is great staff who are happy to serve and advise with your purchases. The staff that have served Ale to the King in the past have been great here. They really know what they’re talking about and always seem happy to chat. There’s a very good selection of beers on tap, expanded upon by the numerous bottles behind the bar. If you’re a fan of Williams Brothers Brewery in particular, this place is for you. A vintage style place without the pretentiousness that often comes with it (and old comics as wallpaper in the toilets to boot!). The food here is nothing short of the best I’ve had in a pub.

3. Malt and Hops Freehouse malt and hops inside

45 Shore, Leith.
Hops hang from the ceiling, a reassuring layer of dust sprinkles the less-used corners and a satisfying beery mustiness fills the air in this proper old fashioned ale house. Much like the Blue Blazer, but turned up a notch and taken back a few years, this is something of a nostalgic blast from the past; it take me back to a time before craft beer wasn’t the coolest booze on the block and my fellow regulars were at least 30 years my senior and wore scratty green jumpers over checked shirts. The Malt and Hops Freehouse stands resolute against the tide of craft beer’s and the Shore’s rising popularity and mainstream attention. At last visit there were a very respectable six casks and the rotation is regular. This is a lovely, cosy, relaxing place to absorb an evening and enjoy the warm fire.

2. Brewdog BarBrewdog Edinburgh inside

143 Cowgate, Cowgate
The Cowgate area of Edinburgh is often undeservedly written off. But amongst the less than reputable drinking establishments, its home to two of the best rock and metal clubs in Edinburgh as well as the quite excellent rock and ale pub venue BannermansAle to the King has already given this place a review worthy of this place on the list, but in brief this exemplifies what it took to get the craft beer revolution into full swing. Offering a great range of Brewdog’s own beers as well as a great selection on others bottled and on tap, this cool bar has a modern, minimal style that is a far cry from the sedate, dank, remote pubs from craft beer’s history. Attracting a crowd that like to stay on top of the newest thing as well as veteran ale drinkers, Brewdog Bar is a refreshing place to spend a Saturday. Careful though, your quest to ‘try just one more’ may leave you crawling instead of walking back home. Or falling into drumkits at Bannermans. Take your pick.

1. Kay’s Bar

39 Jamaica Street, New Town.
Ale to the King has been to many pubs in the capital in a quest for the ultimate ale pub, but none has surpassed Kay’s Bar. This has everything an ale drinker would wish of a bar to a tee. A mighty seven ale pumps often stand ready to dispense barley-pop  and slake even the mightiest of thirsts. The atmosphere is at times  cramped, but the surroundings are so ship-shaped and resolutely, jovially British that this Victorian pub forces this to be nothing less than convivial. There is a games room stocked with games that, shock-horror, have all their pieces. There is a wonderfully warm fire. There are dogs running around your feet, always the friendly kind, looking to say hello. The patrons are uniformly friendly and chatty. There’s the staff, who know more about beer than the staff of anywhere I’ve been and are really nice characters (he’s called Fraser. You’ll know the one I’m talking about). And there’s that one thing that seasoned public house patrons will know; seasoned patrons who go to proper pubs and for whom stepping into a Weatherspoon’s, Varsity or Walkabout is an alien, unfortunate experience; a staircase you’re not sure if you’re allowed to go up or not. If you enjoy going out for a drink in Auld Reekie, you owe it to yourself to go to Kay’s Bar.

Follow Ale to the King on twitter or share your beer experiences with us on untappd.

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: The Main Event

In Ale to the King’s concluding piece on Brew at the Bog Festival 2012, we bring ourselves to the main event, the festival experience itself.

Arriving around 10PM on the Friday we pitched our tent after a back and forth trying to locate where the entrance to the field actually was. Being the initial Brew at the Bog the campsite understandably small, taking up a very restrained area at the rear of the field. As already discussed this successfully encouraged more of a festival feeling despite the expanse of empty grass. However this did mean those wanting an earlier bedtime were kept awake by those partying until 6AM. It may have been something unique to allow more space, leading for a quieter night for those who wished it, a rarity in festivals.

I’ve only lived in Scotland for about a year and a half, but the weekend of the 4th and 5th seemed unseasonably cold for even this country. However even this had its upside; we’d noted the Brewdog beers that would be on offer and brought the ones that weren’t – the icy weather provided out tent with a fine beer cooler.

However in the morning campers were able to appreciate the lovely view across the Moray Firth as they enjoyed their breakfasts. After that there was some time before the festival kicked off at midday. That’s some time to kill before the entertainment starts, so unless you’re into the camping experience and start times are similar next year, Ale to the King would recommend coming on the Saturday morning itself.

The day kicked off on the second, Go North stage, with He Slept on 57 delivering a crowd engaging performance that really suited the venue. A band I’d never heard of, but a pleasant surprise that was very enjoyable and the whole musical day took this theme. Small bands, who clearly brought some of their following with them, but largely unheard of, delivering great music that fitted enormously well with the festival.

On the culinary front there was your standard festival fare; tasty churros with hot choc-sauce dip, lovely, greasy Aberdeen Angus steak burgers (these were especially delicious), excellent, quality fish and chips that ranks amongst the best I’ve eaten and the Tea Posy. This was a charming caravan converted into a retro-50s cafe with a beautiful spread of cakes out front that really went down with will a pint of icy Punk IPA.

As the day wore on the happy, contained and relaxed mood was maintained by both the bands and the exceptionally professional and friendly staff who performed sterlingly in the bitterly cold conditions. And cold it was, if its similar conditions next year remember to bring many, many, many layers. It would have been nice to have had significantly more indoor and outdoor heaters provided, fingers crossed for next year. Once the third jumper was on under the coat however there was something quite fun about drinking Zeitgeist Black Lager in a freezing, fairy-lit room to the sounds of acoustic folk.

There was a varied crowd in attendance, from ale fans, festival lovers, hipsters and party animals that made for a really interesting and enjoyable mileau.

Under the beautiful setting sun and fug of more than enough great beer I realised that this inaugural festival was already doing a great many thing right; if this is anything to go by next year’s will be even more cracking that this one.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: The Beers

Brew at the Bog, a festival who’s beer is supplied almost exclusively by Brewdog? This is something Ale to the King couldn’t say no to!

Ale to the King believes that beer is best viewed in the context in which it exists, be that history, whether its from bottle, draft or pimped-out carton, environment its drunk in, distance from birthplace… the list is almost endless. So Brewdog beer served at an inaugural festival that bears much of their branding in the Highlands was a special context indeed.

The beer selection looked great, with pre-festival reports of Punk IPA, 5AM Saint, Zeitgeist Black Lager, 77 Lager and the IPA is Dead range (Citra, Bramling Cross, Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin). Sadly, upon arrival the IPA is Dead range was nowhere to be seen and bar staff weren’t sure what had happened to it. A shame, since I was really looking forward to trying those I have yet to have the pleasure of, but the beers offered were still something to get excited about!

The weather was incredibly cold, the wind and chill blasting in from the Moray Firth, bringing with it flakes of white from the snowcapped mountains. The first beer I tried, and my general go-to grog, was the Punk IPAThe cold really pervaded all the beers, blasting them ice-cold. Using Ale to the King’s previous review as a control, the iciness of the Punk IPA on pump really brought out the tropical flavours, totally overriding the citrus notes. It also boosted the sweetness in the after-taste, leaving the mouth feeling like it was coated in glycerine. Certainly odd but for a different, exciting tasting experience I’d really recommend throwing a can or two in the freezer and drinking at sub-zero temperatures.

The 5AM Saint on pump was similarly altered by the temperatures (I really felt sorry for the bar staff, clutching freezing cans and plastic cups all day). Compared to how it normally comes it was especially sharp and mouth-clenchingly tart. Unusually it took on a very bitter quality on the mid-taste and there was a great, new prickliness to the after-taste. Another one to put in the freezer for a taste experiment.

The 77 Lager was, predictably, unaltered by the cold. Being a lager its naturally served cold; not this cold mind, which lowered the flavour intensity somewhat and really brought out a quality of fine mineral water.

The Zeitgeist Black Lager felt extra carbonated and left a pleasurable tingle on the lips that turned prickly in the cold air. Despite this extra fizz the Zeitgeist Black Lager brought out a unique and overwhelming peppery flavour. A serious twist on an already intriguing beer and another worth experimenting with.

So despite the lack of the IPA is Dead range the beverages on offer at Brew at the Bog were a brilliant, very interesting lot that really changed in the conditions the festival afforded. Unless the beer storage and delivery are changed next year, prepare your tastebuds for an intriguing and surprising journey.

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: Bogbain Farm/Brew at the Bog Venue

Continuing Ale to the King’s coverage of Brew in the Bog festival we turn our eyes to the venue itself.

Bogbain Farm is just south of Inverness, a good three hour drive from Edinburgh (obeying speed limits).

However, what a drive it is; its almost worth the excursion itself when you get across the Forth Bridge, past the dual carriageways (why are there no motorways in Scotland?) and hit Cairngorms National Park.
Before long you’re cruising through some spectacular countryside of snow-capped mountains and mirror-like lochs.

Make sure you check your petrol guage before setting off however, there was a slightly hairy moment when I underestimated how lacking in filling stations some areas of Scotland are.

Also take care when you hit the A9. This stretch is known for lunatics and we encountered our fair share along here.

Arriving at the farm, the camping area was located at the furthest end of the field. Here the cold weather works for the venue. Since campers were allowed to drive right up to the camping area the hardness of the ground prevented the field turning into a boggy, tyre-tracked sludge.

The camp-site was surprisingly small, but then this was the inaugural event, thus was never going to attract the numbers of, say, Wickerman Festival. This had both its merits and flaws. On the meritorious side it kept everyone together and created a more friendly, communal feeling amongst the small number of campers. Had it the run of the whole field then no doubt everyone would have spread out separately and it just wouldn’t have had that special ‘festival’ feeling.

However, that inability to spread out also meant those who would have preferred a quieter experience and got to bed/rise earlier were penned in with those who preferred to party until daybreak.  If you’re coming next year and prefer to wake a little earlier make sure you bring some earplugs.

Something everyone appreciated though, regardless of party-disposition, was the view. Stretching out across the horizon was a gorgeous scene of the Moray Firth. Make sure The campsite viewyou face your tent away from this to avoid an incredibly chilly, draughty night!

As for the performance and, more pertinent/important to Ale to the King, ale serving area, the building and surrounding grounds seemed very appropriate. Being a farm it felt suitably earthy and unpretentious for something that was supplied exclusively by Brewdog, yet had a slightly left-of-field feeling which fit the beverages  equally well. Ale to the King believes all craft beer should be considered within the context of that around it, and there’ll be more talk of that in tomorrow’s post on the beers, but in brief, it worked very well.

As a venue to partake in proper beer it offered something really unique that I’d highly recommend. Outwardly it was very scenic, a large, pretty farmhouse and barns with charmingly decorated disused farm equipment dotted about. Inside was the small The Bothy stage which played host to some great acoustic acts and was, crucially, warm! Decorated with a ornate accordions, fairy lights, tables and chairs and a stuffed otter, it was a great place to relax with a Zeitgeist Black Lager.

The second stage, Go North, was a mid-size white-walled barn. From the roof hung ropes of those old-fashioned fairy lights which are essentially painted lightbulbs. The whole thing was very charming, if bitterly cold.

The main bar itself was something of a treat. Inside the larger, more exposed wooden barn, the beer was ice cold, no doubt helped by the weather but the staff remained friendly and were very pleased to help and even offer advice on what brew would suit one’s palate. Looming over this was a massive wagon (or some other farming contraption this writer is too ill-educated to have identified otherwise).

Beside this was, amusingly a sandpit, replete with toys to play with and the straw-lined floor made the whole area utterly unique. Just outside this was the grassy courtyard, surrounded by an overhanging roof that allows one to stand outside yet be sheltered from the elements should the sun raise its head.

Its an utterly charming, interesting, and with all the odd bits and pieces around, intriguing place to drink craft beer; if there’s another ale-filled event here in the future, festival or otherwise, Ale to the King has no reservations in recommending this as a great, unique place to enjoy yourself.

Brew at the Bog Special: The Spirited Dog

Ale to the King is a big and unashamed fan of Brewdog. These Fraserburgh latter-day pioneers of beer have arrived on the market like a like a bull made of sledgehammers in a china-cabinet. I wouldn’t be afraid to say this company are one of the driving forces that helped reinvent the craft beer scene as fashionable, edgy and sexy.

Its with little surprise the company have rapidly gone from strength to strength since the first time I became aware of them. Unusually it wasn’t in the local off-license or supermarket I saw their wares, but on tele, being drunk in Prince’s Street Gardens by Oz Clarke, James May, James Watt and Martin Dickie on the fantastic Oz and James Drink to Britain (please bring it back!).

Since this relatively early following of them I’ve seen their range grow in size yet impressively maintain its quality, their stock appear in more and more establishments, to opening their own bars all over the British isles. And yet somehow, they still maintain their spirit of small, feisty, rebelliousness.

So their next move comes as something unexpected. In these financially hard times putting their names behind a brand new festival may seem foolhardy, especially on something which is traditionally quite costly for something that often lasts only a day or two; without doubt the biggest events like Download and Glastonbury, with ticket prices over £200, will be feeling the pinch at the moment. Had Brew at the Bog been a shambling mess or worse, an unattended failure, Brewdog’s name would have gone down with it. The heavy branding no doubt adds an instant recognition, but with that comes a risk. As it turns out, it was a wise move. The organisers clearly knew what they were doing.

But then, come to think of it, that’s a characteristically Brewdog thing to do.

Its this kind of spirit that embodies the craft beer scene at the moment; defiant, revering innovation and bravery over reserve and safety, self-assured and with plenty of cochonnes. Craft beer is a link to our shared British history; one we should all be proud of as a symbol of determination and innovation, and its this determination and innovation which it needs to grow, like Brewdog, from strength to strength.

Brew at the Bog Special: Intro

Ale to the King is a relative newcomer to the festival scene, having only tackled the mighty metal worship of Download and the wonderful Wickerman Festival before. During my inaugural five days of camping and music at the former however, I knew straight away that I would be a big fan of festivals, and the latter confirmed it wouldn’t matter if they were big or small. So the drive from Edinburgh to Bogbain Farm, just outside of Inverness, was filled with no small amount of excitement as I made my way up to the very first Brew at the Bog Festival.

I’ll be covering various aspects of the festival, mainly on Ale to the King with other coverage on Culture Bomb.

But first, time for a Brewdog; its like going through my notes on a sensory level. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Bar Review: Brewdog Bar, Cowgate, Edinburgh

by Louise Boyd

Name
: Brewdog Bar Edinburgh
Location: 143 Cowgate, Edinburgh

It seems only right that my guest post for AletotheKing features the very spot where my love affair with ale first began.

Beers Selection: The selection of beer is vast – not just encompassing Brewdog’s own impressive array of quirky, experimental brews – but the fridges are also brimming with tasty beer and cider offerings from far and wide. There’s always something new to try on tap too, with special limited edition Brewdog incarnations and other guest beers on tap – it’s a great place to sample something out of the ordinary.

My personal favourites include the fruity, easy drinking Punk IPA for summertime refreshment or the blacker than treacle Rip Tide stout (it’s strong stuff mind!).

Atmosphere: It took some time for Rob to convince me to accompany him to the Brewdog bar, I mean it’s on the Cowgate for goodness sake. But this funky little place is a far cry from the raucous hen and stag venues which surround it.

After a boozy afternoon in the Sheep’s Heid we stumbled in here for that all important ‘one for the road’, and I must say despite my reservations I was very pleasantly surprised.

Staff: The bar staff are laid back, approachable and confident in their beer knowledge.

Décor: Gone are the sticky carpets of the previous miserable karaoke dive and in its place are cool greys, metal, bricks and big, comfy leather sofas.

The best thing about Brewdog bar, aside from the amazing range of beer, are the little extras which make the bar somewhere you want to hang out with friends. From the board games to beer books to chalk boards offering friendly advice – ‘Don’t remember the song? Play air guitar!’

Louise Boyd runs the brilliant food blog Hungry WeaselYou can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Punk IPA

Beer: Punk IPA
Brewery: Brewdog
Type: India Pale Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5.6% Vol.
Film watched while reviewing: Total Recall

This is a powerhouse of a beer. Punk IPA isn’t weak, weighing in at a respectable 5.6% and has a Hell of a nose. As soon as I poured it into my dimple mug I was hit by an immediate kick of overwhelming elderflower with a slight hint of flour. It also comes with a pungent citrus flavour that lights up the nostrils.

The colour is gorgeous, a bright golden hue like sunshine topped with a bright white, thick, foamy head.

The first element of the sip doesn’t have a great deal to it. There’s a slight lime and grapefruit flavour. Its on the midtaste however where things really kick into gear. The grapefruit becomes ultra-bitter, along with the lime and other tropical fruit flavours, but the kind of fruits that come in sugary sweeties. These really cling to the sides of the mouth.

The after-taste to finish has the highest level of carbonation of what is a very lightly carbonated drink. The flavours die down and stay at a nice level, hovering at a level most other beers never reach the punch of at their height; and boy does it linger. It won’t dislodge from your maw any time soon.

This is a fantastic beer and one of Ale to the King‘s all time favourites. Its a very singular experience, pure, driven and powerful, like watching Crank or listening to a Motorhead album, and thus it delivers exhilaration few can match.

When in doubt, when you can, go for Punk IPA.

Pub Review: Victoria Bar, Leith, Edinburgh

Name: Victoria Bar
Location:  265 Leith Walk, Edinburgh

Beers Selection: Not great, limited to a mainstream selection, albeit one that wants to project an image of alternativeness.  The usual faux-alternate brands are here; Amstel, Hefferveisen, Weissbrau, Duechers, Guiness. The house wines, both red and white are good but the bar lacks rotational, guest, or frankly, any great beers. In Edinbugh this kind of establishment should at least have something by Brewdog or Black Isle  if it wants to market itself as a quality drinking hole but it falls down badly here.

Atmosphere: In this case Victoria Bar  is marvellous. This place has a stunning atmosphere. Very bubbly as the place is whenever Ale to the King been , it has a lot of different facets. There seems to be a few age groups here, from the more mature students to the bulk of the crowd which is mid-twenties to people into their early 30s. Everyone has the same mentality though; lively yet unobtrusive.

Staff
: Unfailingly friendly. These people seem to be always pleasant, swift and immediate. They have a relaxed manner which is more than welcoming. Its a homely, fashionable youthful crew.

Decor: What can Ale to the King say other than very, very good? The front/bar end of the establishment has an old world charm about it with very nice old fashioned windows. This is mixed with a Victoriana-cum-70s aesthetic, if that makes any sense.
There’s a small area just to the right behind the bar that’s covered in beautifully lit, charmingly done fairy lights. Sadly right next to them is the toilets.

Up a couple of stairs is a lovely area where sofas wrap the back wall. This is nicely complemented by rope lights  lining these; cheesy yes, but in its own way charming. The roof, strewn with fairy lights, add something extra.  The place has a low-lit sexy atmosphere.

Victoria is a fine bar, the decor, the atmoshere, the ambience. It would be brilliant if they had a better range of good beer.

A good hang out.

Post Navigation