Ale to the King.

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

Archive for the tag “zeitgeist”

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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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.

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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.

Aledvent Calendbeer selection 2

If you haven’t been keeping up, Ale to the King has been counting down to Christmas in the best way it can think of.  While many go for the common or garden advent calendar with chocolate and others prefer the more traditional advent candle, Ale to the King has created the Aledvent Calendbeer. A carefully chosen beer that reflects Christmas in one way or another (no matter how tenuous the link!) will be decapitated, drunk and deliberated over until the big day itself.

Selection 1 consisted of Christmas Ale by Goose Island, Paradox Isle of Arran by Brewdog, Black Lager by Zeitgeist, Finch by Natural Selection Brewing, Samuel Smith’s India Ale by Samuel Smith Old Brewery and There is No Santa by Brewdog.

But that was just Selection 1 and as 007 once said, you’ve had your six.

So, without further ado Ale to the King presents you with Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 2:

If you want to drink along with Ale to the King and compare notes, then you will need:

  • Hefeweizen by Stewart Brewing
  • Winter Ale by The Brooklyn Brewery
  • India Pale Ale by Knops Beer Company
  • Hop Trials – Nelson Sauvin by Tryst
  • St. Mungo by West Brewery

If you’ve not been able to keep up with the Aledvent Calendbeer  then now’s a great time to get on board and even make up for lost time by having a second beer a day from Selection 1!

So charge your glasses and raise it in honour of the ever approaching jolly Saint Nick. Because Christmas is a time for treating yourself as well!

What did you think of the Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 1? Disagree with Ale to the King‘s verdict on There’s No Santa or the praise heaped upon Goose Island’s Christmas Ale? Please, do sound off in the comments below!

Review: Black Lager – Aledvent Calendbeer 3

Beer: Black Lager
Brewery: Zeitgeist
Type: Black lager
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.9% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 3

Christmas is coming and with that the mandatory Christmas parties and get togethers.  And the go-to supply to fuel these? Usually several crates of lager. So, with that in mind, here’s Ale to the King’s first lager review; Zeitgeist’s Black Lager.

Now this reviewer is going to have to be frank and honest before the review goes further: I generally turn tale and run from anything that describes itself as a lager. This probably stems from my days of drinking well below the legal age limit and only hanging out in your standard chain pubs. Only serving your most bog-standard of brews I always found myself preferring the bitters or ciders on offer. Industrialized, more common lagers like Stella Artois  or Fosters just taste to me like gone off fizzy milk.

Needless to say at the aforementioned Christmas parties I bring my own.

Right, with that disclaimer out of the way, the Black Lager has a decent amount of character. Its got a pith black colour and whatever head lasts for more than a moment is a solid, finely bubbled white lending a very attractive appearance.

The first taste is mildly of black forest gateaux. You get the dark, ripe, cherries, and the light mixture of thick cream and chocolate. The whole flavour shoots round the mouth nicely and zips up the sides of your teeth.

Darkly fruity is a prevalent tone of the lager but there’s a hint of eldeberry mixed in around the middle of the taste.

The after-taste reveals prunes and figs which begin to dominate the flavour which reflects in the nose, which contains raisins and prunes. But in there there’s also definite Demerara sugar.

Then, just as things are subsiding, there’s the taste of that smell of a new car before you’re left with a very bready sensations on the roof of the mouth.

Its a nice, fizzy lager, worth a go if only for one experience but the overall expedience is a little flat and hollow. Its got a good amount of layers for a lager, but then its downfall is exactly that; its a lager.

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