The Summer of 2012 may not be remembered too fondly here in Edinburgh. Record levels of rain have soaked into the city and the people, causing flooding and an atmosphere of dour glumness. The tram debacle continues with no end in sight, as entire sections of roads are uprooted at a time, seemingly without reason. Usual summer sounds like gentle birdsong have been replaced by jackhammers, the beeping of reversing rubble lorries, and the incessant drumming of raindrops on hoods and umbrellas.
But, despite all this, there is one small section of the community that will look back on these last few weeks as being hugely memorable –
ducksbeer fans. As our Edinburgh Beer Weekly posts attest, scarcely more than a handful of days go past without some kind of fantastic event in the city. With new breweries arriving on the scene, more bars and pubs opening than ever before – and now festivals and takeovers happening every week – there’s never been a better time to escape the misery in a pint or three.*
Illustrating that perfectly is the upcoming Edinburgh Independents Beer Festival – which begins in the city this Thursday. Surely the most ambitious event of its kind ever attempted, essentially it boils down to the equivalent of eight tap takeovers occurring simultaneously over four days. Featuring around a dozen of England’s most progressive breweries – as well as a few from north of the border – the festival will see some of the best beer from the UK made available in the best pubs of Edinburgh – what’s not to like?
So, who’s taking part? Details have been drip-fed from the official Twitter account for several weeks, but piecing things together (like one of those old-school Cluedo-style puzzles) leads us to this list of the bars, and the (approximate) breweries they will be hosting:-
Bow Bar – Summer Wine
Caley Sample Room – Hawkshead
Cambridge Bar – Buxton / RedWillow
Cloisters – Bristol Beer Factory
Holyrood 9A – Dark Star / Camden
Red Squirrel – Lovibonds / Redchurch
Stockbridge Tap – Moor Beer Co
Southern Bar – Magic Rock
As this preview goes to press, that’s our rough guess of what will be where. There is, however, a kicker – each of the pubs involved will also be premiering a one-off rare or unusual cask (or keg) from a different brewery to their core takeover range. So, for example, alongside the cracking Moor Beer Company, at 5pm on Friday the Stockbridge Tap will be unveiling Magic Rock’s Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady. Moor’s Special (Old Freddie Walker similarly barrel-aged) will in turn be released on Saturday at 2pm at the Caley Sample Room.
If that’s got you thinking you’d rather swim across the Meadows than attempt a mega-strength beer stagnated in a bourbon barrel – don’t worry, there’s plenty on offer for you as well. Some of England’s most inventive cask breweries will be showcasing their session beers – and many have never had their full ranges here in Scotland before. Bristol Beer Factory at Cloisters is a great matchup – as is Hawkshead at the Caley. Dark Star’s world-beating Hophead will be popping up at the Red Squirrel, too.
The truth is, nobody really knows how this will pan out (not least Chris and Bruce of Craft Centric, the organisers). What they hope is that it will get people talking about great beer, get people moving around Edinburgh’s great pubs – and it will foster that co-operation between three of the city’s best independent pub chains. Whether your thing is Kernel on keg or Buxton on cask, there’s going to be an explosion of great beer from Thursday afternoon. Bumble from pub to pub as the mood takes you, or refresh twitter on your phone every two minutes to check the new releases – either way, let the rain fall and the trams wait. There’s beer to be drunk.
Each participating pub in the festival will have a card you can pick up. Get this stamped at each of the venues, and you can enter a prize draw at the end of the weekend. The festival begins on Thursday afternoon and runs to Sunday – when there’ll be a party at the Holyrood 9A, with representatives from pretty much every brewery involved.
If you’re unfamiliar with Edinburgh, each pub will also have maps of where all the others are, to help in your cross-town wanderings – but you can check out our Google Map of where they are. For details on the beer releases, keep an eye out for the Twitter hashtag #EdIndBeerFest – and follow @thebeercast as we make our way around. We’ll have a full report on the Friday, and then on Saturday will be visiting every pub in a single afternoon. Someone has to do it, after all…
*The BeerCast reminds you to drink responsibly etc etc
EDIT – the official preview is now up on Craft Centric’s website, which includes all the final destinations for the breweries – and details of the times for the rare beer launches > link