Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#77. Clarks, 142 Dundas St, Edinburgh

After leaving Svea on our way home from the Newtown, Linus and I ventured north along Hanover (or whatever it is called past Heriot Row) until we reached Clarks. We found it to be delightfully unpretentious and old-school.

The beer selection was decent. I had a Farne Island, from Hadrian and Border Brewery, which their website describes as "an amber coloured bitter, [with] perfectly blended malt and hops makes this well-rounded beer balanced and refreshing." I have to agree.

Linus has taken up this habit of ordering Tennents. He's gone native.

#76. Newtown Bar, 26b Dublin St, Edinburgh

This was the first overtly gay-friendly bar that I have visited. I wondered what that big red ribbon in the window was all about. Since then, I have noticed a few other pubs and bars in the designated pink triangle of Edinburgh defined as the area bounded by Broughton (pronounced braw-TUN and not BROW-ton like we do back home) and Leith Walk.

The pub itself was okay. The layout was similar to many basement New Town pubs. The beer selection was mediocre, but that doesn't seem to dissuade many of Edinburgh's finest bald men from hanging out on the patio. I settled for a McEwans 80/- after it was determined their guest cask was empty.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

#75. Dirty Dicks, 159 Rose St, Edinburgh

Across the street from Scott's was the place to be on a cold, dark Sunday night. Dirty Dick's was full of people (couples, mostly) and atmosphere. Reggae was on the stereo, complimenting the well-executed pirate theme. The ceiling is dripping with artifacts, which reminded me a lot of Big Bad Johns from my hometown. My table was made from an old sewing machine, which is something we have seen a lot of around these parts. I drank a pint of Stewart's Edinburgh Gold.

Highly memorable.

#74. Scott's of Rose Street, 202 Rose St, Edinburgh

Last call had already been made when I arrived at 9:42 PM, upon whence I was informed that I had 15 to 20 minutes to drink up. So I ordered a half-pint of Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted blond beer, the only real cask ale on tap.

The pub itself was cozy, organic... but dominated by two televisions, and they provided the only soundtrack. They had a decent selection of wine on tap (!), but not too much in the beer department.

#73. Eighty Queen Street, 80 Queen St, Edinburgh

It is closed for refurbishment! Too bad, because I was excited to check it out given how close to home it is. Hopefully it will reopen soon and be awesome.

UPDATE: It is now a property management company.

Friday, November 25, 2011

#72. The Bank Bar, 1 South Bridge, Edinburgh

Situated right at the corner of the Royal Mile and South Bridge, I have walked by this bar on many occasions where one can usually find some tourists enjoying a Heineken while people-watching from the patio. The day of my visit was very cold, so nobody was venturing outside (except to smoke).

The interior has an upstairs that is perched atop the bar.

Unfortunately the beer selection was lacking any decent local cask ales.

#71. The Tron, 9 Hunter Sq, Edinburgh

With a name like The Tron, what could go wrong? Well, for starters... it's not a theme bar dedicated to the classic sci-fi film of the same name. It turns out that a tron is a medieval Scots word for a weighing machine used to conduct trade. This pub is in the spot where the old tron used to be, I guess.

The only palatable bar on tap was a Belhaven's Best. There is a downstairs, which I did not notice until on my way out.

Verdict: a tourist trap.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#70. The Alexander Graham Bell, 128 George St, Edinburgh

Too big and fancy to be just a pub, Alexander Graham Bell's is a huge bar with a good selection of real ales.

With St. Andrew's Day coming up next week, I opted for a seasonal Orkney Andrew's Ale, a good, solid beer. It's funny how St. Patrick's is so popular, but nobody really knows about the patron saint of Scotland.

Posters on the walls featured portraits and histories of some of Scotland's famous sons, of which there are many.

The clientele was a mix of all ages, with most everyone dressed up for an evening out (even if it was only Wednesday night). In particular, there were a lot of young women dressed provocatively in short, short skirts. Old or young, everyone is very comfortable with their friends, as if they have known each other all their lives. And maybe their parents knew each other, too. And their parents. Continuity breeds confidence, and the Scots have it in spades. It is okay to be Scottish. Sometimes it doesn't feel that way to be Canadian; if we do exist, we're built on a house of cards.

I am at Table 8. From here, their comfort with themselves and each other appears very deeply embedded in their DNA; the way their friends look, yes, but also how they smell and sound seems to resonate. I envy them.

#69. The Gordon Arms, 133 Rose St, Edinburgh

The Gordon Arms has a big empty space in the middle of the room, which I suppose is meant for people to stand in and watch TV. They were playing a UEFA Champions League match on the telly while I was there, but it was above and behind me so I couldn't watch. I could hear it well enough to recognize that Budweiser does a version of that horrible ad with the generic electric guitar riff over grainy sports footage that starts out slow but builds in tempo and crowd noise and mediocrity.... only here it is soccer rather than hockey. Along with being below the television, my seat was next to the door to the gent's toilet, which smelled belligerently of piss every time it was swung open by one of the few patrons.

Sometimes I go out to visit a pub on my own, but bring along the large Moleskin writing pad that Meghan bought me for Christmas last year. I like the opportunity that a blank sheet of paper represents. I have always wanted one of those large, tilted draftsman's desks - not to draw, but to write on (or design software, or doodle).

My beer here is a Double Amber Export Ale, originally brewed by the defunct Campbell Hope & King but now made by the wondrous Caledonian. It was only £2.60 for a pint. Te-ooh Pounds Sixty-Pence, I kid you not. The beer is certainly cheap at the Gordon Arms, so I'm not sure why it was so empty.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#68. Thistle Street Bar, 39 Thistle St, Edinburgh

I drank a very distinctive Movember Foxtrot Whisky ale brewed by Williams Bros. in Alloa, Scotland. The beer was citrusy and sweet, like a good November moustache should be.

I am encouraging Linus to form a band while in Edinburgh and call it The Schemies. Or The Jakeys. We have recently both read Filth by Irvine Welsh, and we find ourselves talking like D.S. Bruce Robertson. Here is Linus mulling over the idea in his head while drinking a pint of Japanese lager.

Monday, November 21, 2011

#67. The Cambridge Bar, 20 Young St, Edinburgh

Okay, I've already visited this one before, but I felt it necessary to mention it again because Linus and I won second prize in the Monday night quiz. Competing as Team Canada Chav, we won the two rounds of questions on general knowledge, but were defeated by our inability to recognize any of the current crop of contestants on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

#66. The Black Cat, 168 Rose St, Edinburgh

A new pub, proudly opened in 2011, The Black Cat is a weird mix of chrome and wood, mirrors and art, schemies and professionals. We were just happy to find another pub open until 1:00 AM after our narrow escape from The Black Rose. After all, it was Saturday night. Yet somehow all the pubs seemed to be in a big old hurry to shutter their doors and kick the revelers out into the crowded cobblestone of this famous New Town street.

It's strange that they'll serve someone a full pint of beer at 12:59AM, then start hassling the same person to get out a mere one minute later. Off goes the music, and up comes the lights. That's fine, but please stop clang-ing that annoying bell. Note the hipster at the bar feverishly working against the clock to score that threesome he's always dreamed about.

Hey, we're on a themed pub crawl: pubs with Black in their name, on Rose Street!

Top marks to this pub for having Black Isle on tap. But they have to sell more of it; the pint I had was a bit skunky.

Meghan and I want to buy a compound in Mexico and build New Old New Town, which will be a reproduction of the Georgian tenement block, only made out of terracotta and adobe.

#65. The Black Rose Tavern, 49 Rose St, Edinburgh

Black roses are symbols of Irish nationalism and anarchy. The Black Rose pub seemed to lean more towards the latter, with a smattering of goth metal and a side dish of Hallowe'en. If you don't believe me, here's photo evidence.

They did play Lullaby by The Cure, which is always nice to hear and was well-timed given the discussion Meghan and I were having regarding the merits of male vocalists.

There wasn't much of a beer selection on tap, so I settled for a Deuchars. Meghan had a Strongbow. Quel surprise.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#64. Sandy Bell's, 25 Forrest Road, Edinburgh

A pub that fancies itself as a bit of a big deal in the local folk music scene, Sandy Bell's felt like an Irish pub. There was a small group of fiddlers sitting at a table in the back, playing traditional Irish folk tunes. I suspected the bartender was from Ireland rather than Scotland, as her slight frame, short black hair, and blue eyes reminded me more of Sinead O'Connor and less of Kelly Ellard. Indeed, she confirmed she was from the west coast of Ireland, just north of Kerry.

I drank an Ossian Pale Ale from the Inveralmond Brewery in Perth, Scotland. Here's a picture of the aforementioned bartender's head floating above my beer.

According to the brewery website, Ossian, Son of Fingal, was a legendary warrior from the 3rd century. His grave stone can be seen north west of Perth in the 'Sma Glen', of which Sir Walter Scott wrote.... "In this still glen, remote from men, Sleeps Ossian, in the narrow glen".

Available throughout the year, this superb golden ale continues to win awards. A pale, golden coloured brew with a full bodied fruity flavour with distinct nutty tomes and a hoppy, zesty, orange aroma, derived from First Gold and Cascade hops. Excellent brewing resulted in Ossian being judged the Champion Beer of Scotland.

It was okay. I followed it up with a Guinness.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

#63. Bramble Bar, 16A Queen St, Edinburgh

Blink and you'll walk right by the Bramble without noticing it. Hidden at cellar level along Queen Street, the Bramble is a chill-out lounge done right. The mood is perfect, with low levels of light and sound, and plenty of secluded alcoves to get cozy with your friends. However, this is not the place to get a beer. There were no taps, and Linus and I were relegated to bottles of lager from the continent. Svea tried the house specialty, which she found to be both quite strong and quite sour.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

#62. Star Bar, 1 Northumberland Pl, Edinburgh

Hidden away amidst the rows of Georgian tenement buildings of New Town is this gem. The Star Bar was not only playing Pink Floyd's The Wall in its entirety, but it had a jukebox, funky interior, foosball table (Linus beat me), and a large outdoor beer garden.

This pub was a recommendation from Chris at the Rose Street Brewery, and true to his word, I never would have found it otherwise. Here's a picture of the unassuming exterior.

Update: we visited again as a family on December 1, 2011 and enjoyed a rousing game of Monopoly.


Verdict: one of my favourite Edinburgh pubs.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#61. Element, 110-114 Rose St, Edinburgh

Not typically counted as one of the Rose Street pubs, Element is an upscale lounge with a swank vibe and low ceilings.

Not a cask marque pub, the beer selection was lacking. They did have four kinds of roasted nuts available, which Meghan and I thoroughly enjoyed while drinking a Strongbow and Belhaven's Best, respectively.

#60. Captains Bar, 4 South College, Edinburgh

While waiting for Meghan's Thursday afternoon class to end, I waited in this pub just south of the Old College. I sat next to a group of mostly balding authors who were meeting to discuss marketing strategies for their work.

Besides its convenient location, the pub is an intimate live music venue. I drank a half-pint of the McEwan's 70/-. According to the McEwan's website, this 3.7% beer is a rich, smooth and creamy ale with a subtle hop aroma.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

#59. Greyfriars Bobby's Bar, 30-34 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh

I want to live on a street named Candlemaker Row! Greyfriars Bobby is named for the famous dog, and the pub has a fantastic location in Old Town just across George IV Bridge.

This was my first trip to the Greyfriars Bobby's Bar since we moved to Edinburgh in September, but my third overall. I first visited this pub in 1990 when I was in Scotland for a week as a delegate to the annual International Computer Music Conference.

Spread out over three levels, I sat in the corner of the lowest floor and worked out whether or not I wanted to buy the Roxy Theatre back home. The music was horrible (pitch-corrected, lyrically vapid hip-hop), but failed to ruin the experience for me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

#58. Black Bull, 12 Grassmarket, Edinburgh

I set out from the White Hart in search of a Grassmarket pub that wasn't quite as loud, hot, nor crowded. A few doors down I found the Black Bull, which was quite a treat. Here it is from the outside during the daylight hours...

...and here is what it looks like inside shortly before last call.


Good times. Edinburgh is like the Disneyland of pub crawls.

#57. The White Hart Inn, 34 Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Purported to be the oldest pub in Edinburgh, dating back to 1516...

...on this evening it was certainly the most crowded pub in Edinburgh.

Here is Toby explaining the Eurozone debt crisis to Meghan.

#56. Robertson's 37 Bar, 37 Rose St, Edinburgh

The bar had a funny cross-section of older couples on dates, and men there to watch the MMA action on the big screen.


I love it when a pub has a jukebox. Here I am at the controls.


We made three selections: Cars by Gary Numan; Waterfront by Simple Minds; and Fortunate Son by CCR. But the selections were so far behind that we left before we even got to hear them. I hope the patrons liked our choices!

Our second Rose Street pub in a row, we jokingly thought about attempting the infamous Rose Street crawl. But instead our friends said to meet us on Grassmarket, so away we went.

#55. The Abbotsford, 3-5 Rose St, Edinburgh

Guy Fawkes Day in Edinburgh!

The sister pub of the Guildford Arms, the Abbotsford has a super cosy interior, friendly atmosphere, and an island bar that fills the center of a rectangular room. We were thinking how awesome it would be if this pub were at Haultain Corners back home. We were also wondering who even knows how to make these elaborate bars any more, with tons of wood-turned detail.

Here we are at the end of the bar. Check out the Guinness drinker next to us. I should cross-post this pic to Look at this F*cking Hipster.

The pub featured a nice lineup of Fyne Ales, including Avalanche.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

#54. Rose Street Brewery, 55-57 Rose St, Edinburgh

Chris the bartender (pictured here), wins the award for friendliest person from Edinburgh. Hands down. He actually talked to us and asked us questions, and didn't just try to avoid making eye contact with us like so many of the people who live and work here.

He talked with us about Hibs Football, local beer, traveling, other pubs, my blog, how he was hired for his smile, how if you drink here as a regular you get your own coaster... anything. All the while I enjoyed quite a nice beer by the name of Misty Law by Kelburn Brewery. Linus had his first Caledonian 80, which he quite enjoyed.

Here's a funny picture I found on the Interwebs of the outside of the pub.

A great first visit to the Rose Street Brewery, and definitely will not be our last.

#53. Milnes, 35 Hanover Street, Edinburgh

We have passed by this pub on many occasions, as Hanover is our main route to/from Old Town and the University. Milnes is a large venue, with entrances on both Hanover and Rose streets. The beer selection was middling, with Houston the lone cask ale of any significance. Houston, we have a problem: your beer is mediocre. I had their Peter's Well, while Linus had a Texas.