Feeling a bit shaky this morning. Another fateful weekday drinking trip, led astray by the incredible range of beer on offer in Edinburgh. The evening started off, as always, with cultured discussion, before gradually sliding downhill to the inevitable homeward stagger across the Meadows. It’s all the fault of the Independent Beer Festival – organised to showcase the city’s pubs and British brewing, but with the side-effect of a Friday morning spent staring blankly at the monitor, struggling to focus.
The point things started to go southwards was, unsurprisingly, when the best beer of the night appeared. Camden Town’s King Crimson – a 6.5% red IPA inoculated with wild yeast and aged in red wine barrels. It appeared at Cloisters as their festival premiere release (every pub has one this weekend), and sold out in 55 minutes. More tart than sour, it was like drinking chilled, hop-laced, red wine. Really interesting.
Strong, too. This is the inherent ‘problem’ with the modern wave of breweries – they love to ramp up the old abv’s at every opportunity. As the midweek drinker discovers to their cost, what begins with a beautifully balanced Hawkshead Bitter invariably ends with a Hawkshead Brodies Prime Bladnoch – an 8.5% imperial stout, smooth as anything. It slips down like a tonic, warming as it goes – nothing that fills you with glowing sweetness can be bad for you, surely?
It can, of course – and as the evening progresses, you reach the point of no return where the hangover is guaranteed. As the scrappy terriers in the Bow nip at each other, and the testicle-based anecdotes come one after the other (between you and me, never lean against the barrel table in the Blue Blazer – others have ‘leaned’ there previously), the senses become dulled, the consequences inevitable.
Still – today is Friday. Dust yourself down, hangover cure of choice to hand. More great beer is out there today – and on Saturday. And Sunday. There’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker. Get out there and find out why. If you overdo it – well, it’s the weekend tomorrow…
The Edinburgh Independents’ Beer Festival continues at eight pubs across the city until Sunday. Check out our preview for more details. On Saturday, I’ll be visiting each pub in turn over the course of the day, so check back later in the weekend for our pictorial tour of the city!