There are always plenty of beer events in Edinburgh – as any regular reader of this website will know. Only a small proportion of them take place in Leith, however – which is a surprise, given how many great pubs you can find there. It’s also something of a shame, as Leith has a reputation for what Morningside types would no doubt term ‘interesting characters’. Friends of ours, for example, recently saw a woman crouched on the pavement looking through her handbag, which contained a large quantity of raw meat (although who hasn’t left the house in a hurry and picked up the wrong bag?).
A couple of sunny evenings ago – and it’s always sunny in Leith – we made the trip up there to Nobles Café Bar, and a Black Isle Brewery takeover. These type of events were once pretty rare, but have rapidly become the default beer/pub event. It stands to reason, as the brewer gets the full range of their wares showcased, regular punters can still find their favourite, and tickers get the new rates. The only losers (although hopefully they win in financial terms) are the pub management, who have to change about a dozen casks/kegs in an evening, and generally work up a sweat.
Everyone in Nobles was perspiring on Tuesday – due to the astonishing early-spring weather, the place was rammed. They aren’t known for hosting events such as this – or maybe the numbers of thirsty Leithers were underestimated – but it looked as if emergency bar staff had to be summoned to deal with the two deep queue. This says something for Black Isle – who, as we posted recently are really on a high at the moment, and obviously have an eager fanbase.
Nobles is a cracking bar – it looks great, both inside and out, and the staff (even when clearly stressed) are very friendly. We arrived about an hour before the event started, and went straight for the house beer – Nobles IPA. Brewed for them by Black Isle, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) it to be an unfined, dry-hopped, cask Goldeneye. Hazy and with a thick head, it has the sweet biscuity malt characteristic of Black Isle beer, with some orange citrus on the finish, as the results of the dry-hopping come out through the aftertaste.
Next up, another tweaker – organic Red Kite served nitrogenated on keg. This is one I really wanted to try, as Scottish malty nitro offerings are usually fairly awful. Mentioning no names, of course, but Black Isle’s version (codenamed ‘Better’) was a revelation. It tasted like cool chocolate cream. The bubbles give it that mouthfeel, of course – but as opposed to all the others out there – the beer actually tasted of something. Demerara sugar, toffee, fruit, weetabix and cocoa. Yet, all those dark, ‘portery’ flavours served cool and gassed to the max were highly refreshing.
We finished on an experiment – a side by side tasting of Goldeneye and Unfined Goldeneye whisky cask. It’s always interesting to roll the dice on the same beer served on different dispense (although last time, at the legendary Magic Rock takeover of the Stockbridge Tap I was so far gone I can hardly remember the obvious differences – in fact, it may have just been one beer I was drinking, it only looked like there were two). Having more of my faculties this time around, we put them up against each other.
A huge difference, of course. Kegged Goldeneye is clear as a bell and properly golden in colour. It has a bittersweet, biscuity malt backbone that verges into the metallic on the finish. The newcomer (which, incidentally, was a one-off) was hazy orange, with a soft, woody flavour. Almost like a whisky milkshake, it was mild and oaky, with that whisky edge building into the aftertaste. This replaced the classic biscuity finish of the regular Goldeneye, and gave the beer a completely different feel. A quick straw poll found two votes on our table for each version…
Thanks to Nobles for hosting the event, and of course to Black Isle for the beers. Nobles Café Bar is on 44a Constitution Street – the number 16 goes right past, and stops outside. Stay tuned for our next tap takeover, as there are at least three happening in Edinburgh during April. Follow our Twitter feed to keep up to date.