Beer Blog

Parma Violets hefeweizen heaven in Edinburgh

Water of LeithSome more pubs, an amazing beer made from sweets, by an up and coming cutting edge brewery and my overall verdict of the Scottish capital concludes this three part tour around Edinburgh.

Leith is well worth a look. You can get there on the bus and £4.00 buys you all day travel across Edinburgh. The one we took went through Stockbridge so we got off and had a nosey around. Art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and vendors of expensive pedal cycles sums up the place. My big regret was, we missed the Stockbridge tap (more research next time mate).

The shore, Leith is my sort of place, stood on the quayside on a sunny morning, looking out over the old docks, you can almost hear the Proclaimers in the background. There’s plenty of trendy bars and eateries alongside the water of Leith. I know this isn’t really a restaurant review, but Martin Wishart’s restaurant  is sublime, simply sublime, I had an excellent, and compatible, bottle of hand crafted Houston crystal (5%) with my Michelin starred lunch.

Malt & hopsWe dropped into The Malt and hops by chance, a small traditional pub on the quay that deserves a visit. A changing selection of eight real ales, a few keg lines, and as well as the ubiquitous massive range of whisky, there’s a gin bar in it’s own chiller with eight different brands. We chatted with the manager, also one of the organisers of the Leith jazz festival, he was passionate and knowledgable about his beers and they were on top form. The cheapest was their own brand of Lager at £2.70 but they were mostly around the £3.50 a pint mark for standard strength brews. Over two separate visits I had the citrussy Tryst brewery Carronade (4.2%) and Oakham ales Hare and the Hedgehog (3.9%), trade mark Oakham style with lemony and honey notes, that’s not too strong, unlike the face of the Green devil that glowered at me from one of the keg lines – I love you but you overcome me!

We had to have a look at Leith beer Co. a bit further up the quayside. Decent little place but it failed the trades descriptions act, it’s not a beer company at all, it’s a Bellhaven branded two meals for £10.99 place. They had a few craft type bottles and just two hand pulls, one had Harviestoun Schiehallion on and the other had the pump clip turned round. I tried the Schiehallion and Mrs C says the coffee is good.

If you walk back from The shore towards Leith walk the surroundings change from gentrified to, well, a bit dodgy, in a matter of two streets. There’s lots of boozers, especially around the ‘Fit ay the walk’, that’s the ‘Foot of the walk’ to non Scots. Being fairly well attuned to what’s around me and having read the complete works of Irvine Welsh there was no way I was chancing it in any of them. Right at the Fit ay the walk there is the eponymous Wetherspoon’s in what looks like a massive old bingo hall. Peering in through the door and into some of the other boozers I’m fairly sure I saw Begbie, if not, his very near relations and close friends. If you do visit any of these places, to blend in, I would recommend that you wear Herr Dassler’s three stripes or similar ‘leisure wear’.

Hard to say which was my favourite, The Guildford arms or Jeremiah’s tap room? Try both, they’re different and hard to compare. I really enjoyed a Saturday afternoon brace in Jeremiah’s, sat at the bar with a plate of nachos. Really friendly staff who kept dissappearing down some stairs under the barJeremiah's. This was another ‘Dug friendly’ pub and the chavvers who’d wandered a bit too far up Leith walk for a pint and some lunch with their charming children and the pit bull variant sat on the banquette alongside them appreciated this. There’s seven keg lines and three cask pumps, all behind the bar in tapped brewery style, along with the usual shiny suspects up front of house. I tried a Williams Caesar Augustus (4.1%), another sort of ale/lager cross over, a refreshing hop lift and I could drink this all day. Standout drink here, and of the weekend? Pilot beer Ultravilot unfined (5.3%). You can’t really appreciate anything else after this hefeweizen style Parma Violets flavoured heaven. The brewer says that there are twelve kilos of Parma Violets in the brew. Yes, twelve kilos of those sickly perfumed sweets that you bought in the corner shop as a kid, all unwrapped by hand, go into the brewing process to make about 900 litres. So there is potential for an Irn bru beer then?

We tried one in Ushers, eventually. We walked past it at least twice before we were pointed at the door in the wall and down some stairs. Massive range of beers, I think they’d twenty on, both cask and keg. A lot of their own brand, plus some other notable breweries, strong ales being the theme. The Ushers IPA was good. I don’t know whether it was because it’s not an afternoon/tea time pub or whether it was the two English Hooray Henrys sat at the bar getting louder and louder and further up their own what nots the more they had? Whatever, it was distinctly empty and lacking in both windows and atmosphere, although there’s a 410L brewery thing going on behind a glass viewing panel. Worth a visit for the beer which was spot on and the biggest range we found in Edinburgh, but take some friends with you.

On our way home, we called into The Doric on Market Street for pre train drinks. It’s just outside Waverley station and billed as the oldest gastro pub in Edinburgh? WaverleyThere were certainly a lot of people going upstairs to the restaurant. I had a pike inside and very nice it looked too. The pub itself is very traditional and there’s a decent range of Scottish craft bottle beer and three ales on hand pump. I tried an interesting Stewart’s Wai ora (4.5%).

Next door to The Doric is The Hebrides, an even more original, proper boozer that’s obviously not changed for years, which was when they last cleaned the gents. The Orkney Dark island was very soft and had promise but it wasn’t at it’s best and the most disinterested bar maid I’ve ever seen (definitely not local) didn’t help it. The most interesting part was the ladies which was sort of built in a corner of the pub, like a lean to, but inside, circa 1970’s at a guess and a real piece of social commentary. Sort out the beer and the bogs and this place could be a gem.

After four days, we left Edinburgh thinking; what a cool place, what a lot of friendly people, what a lot of excellent bars and beers, and when are we coming back? Best beer – Pilot beer Ultravilot. Best bar – hard to decide from The Guildford armsJeremiah’s tap room and Hollyrood 9a? But, if I have to choose one then it’s The Guildford arms. Really good to see lots of excellent Scottish home grown breweries represented. Shame our last Scottish pint was Macduff.

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