Ale to the King.

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

Archive for the tag “stout”

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.

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Join us for our first ever event in Edinburgh here.

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Pub Review: The Leith Beer Co., the Shore, Edinburgh

Leith Beer Co. exteriorName: The Leith Beer Co.
Location: 58 The Shore, Edinburgh

Note: This is Ale to the King‘s review of The Leith Beer Co. on its opening night. As pubs do, The Leith Beer Co. may change and grow as it settles into itself.

Beer Selection: The leaflet that popped through the letter box promised “an eclectic draft and bottled drinks range”. True enough there was a good range of bottled beers available, both lagers and ales. You won’t immediately notice them, they’re tucked into the fridges behind the bar. I was actually left a little disappointed upon first arriving; before ordering you’re best to pop your head round the corner to the steps, where a massive blackboard displays all the beers they sell. There’s nothing Leith Beer Co. Beer Listhere that’s particularly new or unusal, but it does cover all the bases. And I do mean all.

That was a relief as I was a tad disappointed by the draft beers on offer. It was the standard range you’d find in any Edinburgh pub that didn’t specialise in ale. The pint of the week was the now ubiquitous Blue Moon from Coors. The only beer I’d not seen before was the Belhaven Black Stout, which was rather tasty, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t particularly regard Belhaven Best.

Atmosphere: Having never visited in its previous incarnation, The Waterline, its impossible for me to compare its atmosphere now to what it once was. On opening night The Leith Beer Co. was bright and airy, if rather subdued and quiet. A thirties crowd seems to frequent this place (with three groups of people talking about Zombies at once oddly).  You’ll easily find somewhere quiet where you can keep yourself to yourself.

Staff: Very helpful and quick to serve. They seem to know a thing or two about beer and are happy to advise and chat. There’s an encouraging air of professionalism here with this welcomeness as well.

Interior/Exterior: This may be hard to judge, since on a morning drive-by people were clearly still putting the finishing touches to the innards. As a result the whole place smelt strongly of B&Q.  It was a very strange experience, to the point it almost interferred with my bottle of Orkney Brewery Dark Isle.

The decoration is very stock, with generic prints of general old-timey-brewy-stuff on the walls and hung on canvas. The chairs are comfortable and the main material used is wood. I don’t know whether its the newness that makes it seem somewhat cheap, only time will tell on that matter.

I can see what they’re going for, a clash of rustic and industrial; the old-timey prints are nicely teamed with ultra-functional looking metal hanging lights, suspended from their most appealing flourish, the solid wooden-planked roof. The Leith Beer Co. seems to be straining for individuality against a tight leash imposed by its owner Belhaven.

There’s a pleasant area out front packed with pub benches where you can watch the ducks and swans on the Water of Leith.

Unfortunately it doesn’t do enough to warrant a near return, especially because its sat so near to three of the ten best ale pubs in Edinburgh.

With a greater range of beers this would have potential to grow into a welcome addition to the Shore, but sadly it falls below what’s already on offer at other pubs.

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Join us for our first ever event in Edinburgh here.

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.

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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: Bad King John

Beer: Bad King John
Brewery: Ridgeway Brewing
Type: Stout
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.0% Vol.
Show watched while reviewing: Top Gear

Ale to the King’s first review since Aledvent Calendbeer goes back to its English roots with Bad King John by Ridgeway Brewing. I was first attracted to this one because of the lovely old, old, old fashioned label modelled after the Bayeux Tapestry.

This is a beer that will confound your expectations. When pouring you’re confronted with an impenetrable wall of blackness by the beers colouring; honestly, its pitch black. The head, however, is surprisingly light for a beer of this colour, there is very little of it however and it doesn’t hang around for long.  Its also a very sticky beer that leaves very definite legs (if a wine term can be appropriated) that do, by contrast, hang around.

The nose is pretty malty and has the sweetness that comes with that giving a definite flavour of golden syrup and coca cola.

On the first sip however it has a very light taste, strangely so and quite oddly fruity, bringing to mind fresh apricots. The mid-taste subtly switches, however, to an opposite taste. Its roasted, almost burt, like a very well done roast chicken covered in the requisite and traditional herbs.

The after-taste is another roasted taste, but from a totally different, famously roasted item, that of rich, high quality coffee. Its really delicious and the viscosity of the beer really makes this not only cling to your mouth but is so thick it actually seems like its pushing it into the walls of your maw.

There’s a slight fizz showing not a great deal of yeast at work but this is a very nice beer, if not excellent, but the complexity and subtly are stand out qualities, especially in a stout.

Review: K-9 Cruiser – Aledvent Calendbeer 18

Beer: K-9 Cruiser
Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery
Type: Special Stout
Served: Bottled
Alc: 7.4% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 18 

The Flying Dog Brewery certainly know how to make distinctive labels for their bottles. Often a downright barmy looking beast is shown doing somthing that isn’t altogether sane. Their K-9 Cruiser is certainly no different to that with its beserk snowboarding canine.

Its a beer as powerful as its label as well. Its got a lovely deep oak colour that looks like its going to promise a lot. it certainly delivers. The nose is sweet, like treacle and thats a sweetness that carries on through the beer.

On the sip you’ll notice its really lively on the tongue as all the finest beers seem to be from these little unconventional craft breweries. The alcohol is also extra punchy because of this, and it’d be fairly potent by itself.

This is combined with a malty, sweet syrup on the fore-taste which leads through to a marvellously chewy experience. there’s a lot of caramel here along with the syrup and deep notes that are almost impossible to define for this reviewer; I’d have to liken it to the sweetness of potato roasted in goose fat.

this is followed by a very malty, sticky aftertaste that clings to the mouth, more so than most beers. It really gets inbetween your teeth and sticks to the palate to leave a very, very powerful sensation of marmite.

A delightful beer, and one that at this strength will definitely put you in the festive spirit!

Review: Milk Stout – Aledvent Calendbeer 12

Beer: Milk Stout
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Type: Stout
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.0% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer: 12

Well this is a stretch, but for Christmas you might send or receive a charity package to a third world country. Often, this will be in the form of you buying a cow for a village. Cows produce milk, so Ale to the King brings you Milk Stout by Left Hand Brewing Company as its 12th Aledvent Calendbeer.

In colour it’s pitch black with a incredibly light brown head that dissipates quickly.

The nose has the typical coffee notes as most stouts but there’s that hint of black, industrial rubber that’s appeared on stouts before.

On the foretaste you’re going to find that coffee again, but its going to be tempered with slight spices and rum on the foretaste, similar to the more overtly rummy Innis and Gunn Rum Cask.

This merges into a very peppary mid-taste and, appropriately enough, notes of full-cream milk. The milk lasts into the after-taste but seems to recede before coming to the fore after a while. You really only get a subtle hint before it seems to pop out at you. The mid to after-taste is also mixed with a sticky taste of a deep honey, the kind that seems nearly a deep red in colour.

Its a very punchy beer that delivers a real blow to the taste-buds. Its not a wrecking ball of a beer like some stouts, but its certainly not delicate. In all its a well-rounded beer, quite warming at this time of year, with a nice combination of subtle notes. However these come together to create an impact that outweighs the sum of its parts. A good choice if you’re after something to warm your innards this cold festive season.

Review: There is No Santa – Aledvent Calendbeer 6

Beer: There is No Santa
Brewery: Brewdog
Type: Stout (spiced)
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.7% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 6

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit already, but we’re still some way off yet. That’s a bit of an unfestive attitude, but then that’s probably because today’s Aledvent Calendbeer is There is No Santa from Brewdog.

The nose is fantastic and offers up a wealth of flavours that, obviously, have been crafted to smell Christmassy. There’s a punchy aroma of spices, distinct cinnamon, orange zest and red wine which has clearly been engineered to deliberately smell like mulled wine. It certainly delivers, but the sweetness and spices combined with a certain sticky smell equally give off the scent of moist Christmas cake.

When you taste it there’s a moderate fizz but it lasts a remarkably long time to begin with and crackles all the way through the sip and along the tongue. I’m not sure if this extended fizz has anything to do with the following but the taste is less rewarding than the nose. They’ve clearly ploughed so many Christmassy things into the beer its like the brew has got some kind of personality disorder. The taste is really messy and undefined. Its not that bad, but its not that good. Its a damn sight more interesting that the likes of John Smith’s or Stones but the flavours become muddy; a case of too many chefs.

There’s certainly some white chocolate (at the cheaper end of the spectrum) in there and you do get the standard stout after-taste of licorice, albeit a little sweeter than one would expect. The spices and ginger (the latter of which doesn’t register) included in the recipe renders this a much more saccharine stout. Stout usually has a rather dark, heavy taste, whereas this is quite light, and to be fair does have a rather fun quality due to the fizz and sugar. In fact, it manifests as flat cola if anything, all the way through to the licorice with a hint of spiced cider in the midtaste.

You’ve got to work hard to find the flavours though, and drinking fine ale should never be hard work. To find the nuggets of gold you’re going to have to dig through quite a bit of murkiness and that’s a shame given its a Brewdog beer.

So in that regard, it rather suites its name.

Bah humbug!

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