Monday, January 30, 2012

#127. Blind Poet, 32 West Nicolson St, Edinburgh

This pub might one day be elevated to "favourite" status, but for now I can say without reservation that this charming bar is definitely worth a look. Any pub that features Fyne Ales on tap scores bonus marks with me. I had an Avalanche.

Those are students from the University of Edinburgh working on a group project.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

#126. Robert The Bruce, 81-83 Buccleuch St, Dumfries

Another J.D. Wetherspoon pub, the building is certainly impressive.

Inside, the taps featured the awesome Traditional Scottish Ales Brewing Co. of Stirling. I had the opportunity to try their Double Espresso Wild Oatmeal Stout, and it was the closest thing to a perfect marriage of my two favourite beverages that one is likely to find in a beer. It was like a delicious bowl of porridge covered in brown sugar and washed down with a strong cup of joe.

#125. The Cavens Arms, 20 Buccleuch St, Dumfries

Tobi was our excellent driver during our foray into the south-west region of Scotland. Here he is not drinking (because he's driving, of course).

That's me on the right enjoying a fine McConnell's Irish Stout from Jarrow Brewery.

It was Sunday night, which means roast beef dinner at the pub. Food safe?


#124. The Globe Inn, 56 High St, Dumfries

It turns out that Dumfries is all about Robert Burns, as The Bard of Ayrshire lived here for a time.


Established in 1610, this pub has long been associated with Robbie Burns. In 1796, Burns wrote:
"... the Globe Tavern here, which these many years has been my Howff ...".
To which I retort, what the hell is a Howff? I suspect he meant house. Let's go inside, shall we?


Celtic was struggling with some team of amateurs from Falkirk, and the crowd of proddy bastards was firmly in support of the latter. Here I am engrossed in the footy.


The bar served a good selection of beers, and I sampled a Criffel IPA from Sulwath Brewers of strangely enough Kirkcudbright.


#123. Masonic Arms, 18 Castle St, Kirkcudbright

Kirkcudbright (pronounced "Kurt Cobain") is a self-proclaimed village of artists along the south-west coast of Scotland. The city itself is beautiful, as the buildings are all painted in strong, contrasting colours.


This pub was quite busy for a Sunday afternoon, as many locals were gathered to watch the final of the Australian Open. Here I am enjoying a half-pint of the Flying Scotsman Ale from Caledonian.


The surrounding area is where the cult film The Wicker Man was shot. I've always thought that Burning Man was a bit of a Wicker Man rip-off, so I hope to get down to Kirkcudbright for their festival this summer so I will be able to say quite condescendingly "yes, Burning Man, but have you been to Wicker Man?"


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

#122. Southsider, 3 - 7 West Richmond St, Edinburgh

I ordered a Cauld Reekie and they served me a Caledonian 80/-. I guess the bartender couldn't be arsed to actually pay attention to what I said. As for the pub itself, it seems to suffer from an identity crisis. Close to the University, but is it a student pub or an old man's pub, or a sports bar, or is it a gastro-pub, or is it about the music? I dunno, as I can barely remember being here in the first place.

Monday, January 23, 2012

#121. Cask & Barrel (Southside), 24-26 W Preston St, Edinburgh

In the neighbourhood of Newington is this sister pub of one of the biggest and best sports pubs in New Town. Like its older sister, it had a great selection of cask ales (eight in total). I enjoyed a Dark Moor from Kelburn, a magnificent ale.

They were showing steeplechase horse racing on the telly. Now there's something you don't see every day back home.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

#120. Bennets Bar, 8 Leven St, Edinburgh

Continuing my tour of Bruntsfield pubs, my next stop was this charming place with the unassuming exterior but awesome interior.

The guy on the right is actually a Zimbabwean-born professional rugby player who waits bar to supplement his income. The beer selection was good, with four cask ales on tap, including one of my favourite beers: Hobgoblin Ale from Wychwood Brewery.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

#119. The Golf Tavern, 30-31 Wrights Houses, Edinburgh

The oldest golf pub in the world, at the site of where golf was originally played (Brunstfield Links), this place is a total gem. Isn't it cute?

Here I am enjoying a half-pint of A Man's A Man Light Ale, 60/-, 3.4% abv, "for honest men", from Caledonian Brewery.

Linus drank tea, because he's not a fan of Robbie Burns, for whom this beer is named.

And here's the view from the front of the pub, which faces directly east across The Meadows.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#118. Rick's, 55A Frederick St, Edinburgh

There is something about the lounge at Rick's Boutique Hotel that feels like a movie set, or a front for something highly illegal and profitable.

Oh, my, look what they have on tap! I was very pleased to find Innis & Gunn amongst its surprisingly diverse set of beers.

Date night...?

A menu on the table proudly informed me that Rick's has been a part of "Edinburgh's dynamic cocktail scene" since the year 2000. The idea of a dynamic cocktail scene makes me laugh, for some reason.

#117. Rose & Crown, 170 Rose St, Edinburgh

The last pub on Rose Street to be visited, I had avoided the Rose & Crown until now because most nights it features a karaoke-style cover band blasting out the Fleetwood Mac covers from this cramped corner in the window.

Here is Jimmy the bartender, working out the chords to a Soundgarden tune. Jimmy was very friendly and knowledgeable on such diverse topics as heavy metal, whiskey, and motorcycle maintenance.

Charming as it is, the Rose & Crown is somewhat lacking in the cask ale department, with Deuchars IPA being the only option.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

#116. Brew Dog, 143 Cowgate, Edinburgh

The first thing you see upon entering this brewery of "beer for punks" is the following list of omissions:

No Football.
No Shots.
No Stella.

How can you not love these guys? I suspect these Nos are a warning shot across the bow of any unsuspecting Lager Boys and their accompanying Labia Brigade that may inadvertently stumble over from next door.

Brew Dog have made quite a name for themselves through an innovative branding strategy that includes selling extremely strong beer. To fund their growth, they undertook a private round of equity financing by selling shares in the company online to their customers, rewarding subscribers with a lifetime discount on their product. Pure marketing genius that I expect to see copied by the likes of Phillips back home.

As for the beer, the pub offers a huge choice of craft-brewed ales. I asked for the strongest, and for £3.50 I was served a dixie-cup sized portion of the Paradox Imperial Stout, 15% abv, as pictured.

If this is beer for punks, it occurs to me that my book is "programming for punks." I was never a fan of punk as a facile outlet for anarchy, violence-as-fashion, and gobbing on television, but there is something about the intellectual left-wing angst of bands like Gang of Four that led me to embrace the punk aesthetic.

#115. Three Sisters, 139 Cowgate, Edinburgh

Reputed to be the largest pub in Edinburgh, Three Sisters has a massive patio that alone is licensed to seat 1,000 patrons.

Coupled with the two indoor floors that each hold 1,000, you have room for 3,000 douchebags on any given Friday night while the uni is in session.

Primarily responsible for the rejuvenation of Cowgate as an entertainment destination, the Three Sisters must be applauded for running a very successful business. This pub could be amazing, but with nary a cask ale on tap (I had to settle for an extra cold Guinness), it seems to only care about the bottom line.

Rugby was on the telly, which strangely enough was the first time I had ever encountered that in an Edinburgh pub. Glasgow Warriors were playing, and "despite their heroics" lost to the team from Leinster (Dublin). There seems something particularly Scottish about the idea of losing heroically.

Friday, January 13, 2012

#114. Maggie Dicksons, 92 Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Part of the Grassmarket strip of pubs, there's not much to say about Maggie Dicksons, the pub named after an intriguing story of a woman who cheated death.

I drank a Caledonia Best from Wellpark Brewery and ate a veggie curry that tasted like the cook opened a can onto a plate of rice and nuked it until the steam had fogged the microwave window.

#113. Bow Bar, 80 West Bow, Edinburgh

Not to be mean, but the Bow Bar is a bit full of itself. I don't care how many different people have told me this is the best pub in Edinburgh -- even people from Leeds who have never been to Edinburgh will tell you that. That doesn't mean the pub needs to act like it!

Get off your high horse, Bow Bar. And get me a pint of Avalanche from Fyne Ales, please! Thank you. You may now resume being quite excellent.

It is located on an absolutely gorgeous Old Town street-scape.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#111. The Barrels Ale House, 59 Bridge End, Berwick Upon Tweed

Check out the view as you cross from Tweedmouth into Berwick.

The first thing you find along Bridge End is this traditional ale house.

The place was busy, and when I entered the room fell quiet. "Am I interrupting a private party?" I asked. This was met with laughter, and more laughs when I ordered the 6.8% Sublime Stout from Fyne Ales of Scotland. Apparently I had interrupted a story one of the regulars was telling about how his friend was drinking this potent beer the night before and found he couldn't make his way home without assistance.


This place rocks. Maybe it was because I had spent a day walking in the footsteps of my ancestors, but I felt very much at home here, with Bob, Josie, Paul, Dave... all salt of the earth. Simon the bartender was wearing a tourist t-shirt from Victoria! We talked at length about how much he loves Canada's west coast, but how he and his wife almost ended up a statistic when they attempted to walk the 21 km Juan de Fuca trail in one day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

#110. Prince of Wales, Mill Hill, Leeds

"Under New Management" the sign proudly announces as you near this well-located pub in the city center. This establishment is apparently quite popular with Leeds United fans on game day.

I guess Leeds United has seen better days.

I drank my best beer of today's travels at the Prince of Wales: a Treacle Stout from Ossett Brewery. This is at least the second excellent beer I've sampled from this West Yorkshire brewery. Currently a seasonal, they need to put this complex black ale with the coffee flavour into permanent rotation.

#109. Vesper Gate, Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds

Part of the Sizzling Pubs chain, the parking lot of the Vesper Gate backs onto one of my ancestral homes, making this the historical local!

Vesper Lodge (above) was the home of my great-grandfather, Capt. Charles Phipps John ("Jack") Ovans, O.B.E. (1874-1952), and his wife Cicely Catherine Wilson (1877-1943). I wonder if they ever had a tipple at the Vesper Gate? Jack was apparently a bit of a religious man, so quite possibly no. If not, his descendents are certainly making up for his sins against barley.

Speaking of which, I had one of my favourite beers, a Yorkshire Terrier from York Brewery. It's like Yorkshire Pudding in a glass. When in Rome...

#108. West End House, 26 Abbey Rd, Leeds

I am on a pilgrimage to visit the house my Grandpa Ovans called home as a boy. Along the way, I felt it necessary to stop for some refreshment at this classic.

The interior was very nice. I sat in a bay window with a view out over Abbey Road. No sign of the Beatles, however.

Feeling very much like a Yorkshire man, I drank a Yorkshire Pride, brewed by Acorn of Barnsley, England. It was quite aromatic and yummy.

#107. The Brewery Tap, 18-24 New Station St, Leeds

Holy crap I'm in Leeds! And it has an honest-to-goodness real on-premise brewpub. I've seen Leeds Brewery product before, but now I got to enjoy it firsthand.

On the advice of the bartender, I had an Eager Owl, which they describe as "an amber brown session ale, pale and chocolate malts give refined notes to this smooth and satisfying beer." It went very well with my fish and chips.