EIBF launch – a night of collaboration

Posted by on Jul 9, 2013 in Beer Festivals | 3 Comments


The Edinburgh Independents’ Beer Festival is on us for another year, having metamorphosed from a beery long-weekend into a seven-day drinking extravaganza. Last time, I quite enjoyed scuttling from pub to pub in a single day, as beers came and went. It did end up being slightly confusing, but for those that shrugged the shoulders and went with it, you’d always find something interesting, whichever pub you happened to be in at whatever time. For the second running of EIBF though, the events have been staggered over the course of a whole week – which makes perfect sense, as it gives each participating pub their moment in the sun.

At the moment, that analogy more than holds true for Scotland, as the seldom-seen big yellow disc is blazing down with a rare ferocity. Walking through the Grassmarket yesterday, on the way to the EIBF launch, hordes of people were sprawled across the baking flagstones, or sat outside the string of pubs with their pre-packaged rowdiness. Funny how the continued obsession with turning George Street into ‘café culture’ space never seems to mention the Grassmarket, teeming with culture of every possible kind. Anyway, the destination for Day One of EIBF was the best pub in the city – the Bow Bar.

The Bow works beautifully as a warming bolt-hole during Edinburgh’s long, grey, winters; it’s very rare that you ever get the chance to venture inside when the sun is beaming down. It might be trite to refer to the Bow as ‘an oasis of cool’, but it was certainly quiet and still inside, as ever, as the t-shirted tourists wandered slowly past, staring upwards at the canyon-like Victoria Street. For the opening of the EIBF festival, the theme at the Bow seemed to revolve around collaboration – one of the brewing buzz-words of the moment, but one which brilliantly sums up the attitude of co-operation between British breweries.

First off, one of the longest round-trip collabs, as the chaps from Argyll’s Fyne Ales went all the way to Somerset to brew with the Wild Beer Company. The result was Cool as a Cucumber, a 2.9% cucumber and mint saison, served on keg. Now, I’d heard from those who were at FyneFest that this was one of those that you either love or hate (if only there was an analogy to describe that). Well; I thought it was incredible. I always, always talk about context – and on a blisteringly hot day, straight off the street, gulps of chilled cucumber beer hit the spot in every possible way. It was astonishing (and sold out first, of all the beers on offer).

After that, it was on to some of the other collaboration beers; highlights included the soft, mellow whisky edges of Elixir/Alechemy’s barrel-aged Coal Porter, which had been aged for four months, but at 5%abv had rounded out beautifully rather than been overpowered. Other winners were the punchy spiced orange of La Trappale, brewed by the Southwest alliance of Bristol Beer Factory, Arbor and Harbour, and the 7% Old Ale brewed by Thornbridge and Dark Star – hazy, sweet and very sticky, with huge amounts of honeysuckle and candied orange; an absolute belter.

However, as great as these beers were, it was the cucumber beer that brought it all home to me – beers with ingredients as unusual as that don’t work every time, but when they do, there are no losers whatsoever. It was a great idea to begin the festival with a night of collaborations; after all, the EIBF is all about getting everyone working together, and getting drinkers into the pubs to sample beer in its natural environment. Showcasing how inventive brewers can be when they join forces is a natural progression from this, and a great start to the week.

The Edinburgh Independents’ Beer Festival continues today (Tuesday the 9th) with Celt Beers revealing their wares in Scotland for the first time, in a Meet the Brewer event at the Holyrood 9A, and a London focus at the Stockbridge Tap, featuring beers from Beavertown and Weird Beard, matched with the Tap’s famed burgers. For more information on what’s happening when this week, check out the latest Edinburgh Beer Weekly.

For an alternative look at Fyne/Wild’s Cool as a Cucumber, and the limitless possibilities of low-abv beers, check out Leigh’s post at The Good Stuff.


  1. steve
    July 9, 2013

    i’m guessing even the strongest beers will have gone by thursday 🙁

  2. Richard
    July 9, 2013

    Possibly, but there will be other beers on in other pubs, of course. If you’re after the Cucumber beer specifically, it will be on cask in the Cambridge on Thursday, as part of the Wild Beer Co cheese-matching event

  3. steve
    July 9, 2013

    hopefully get a sample if they have it on early, if not apprently its being bottled

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