A Veritable Brewfest

The weekend just passed was the inaugural Edinburgh Independents Beer Festival. The premise? An 8 pub beer festival with each pub featuring a different brewer/ brewers. A simple concept but one that no doubt took a lot of work from its organisers Craft Centric (aka the guys between the new Hanging at Beer Bar). That it went without any major hiccups is amazing enough, but coupled with perhaps the best selection of  up and coming UK brewers' beers available at any one time (yes, that includes London) its an astounding feat. The fact that I almost didn't find out about it means I appreciated it all the more. 

My original plan was to get to a couple of the pubs; as an afternoon's drinking wasn't really on the cards. Somehow we ended up visiting all 8 pubs in the space of about 5 hours: no mean feat when it involved about 7 miles walking between them! What follows (after the map) is a short run-down of the pubs and beers enjoyed.

View Larger Map

Travelling south from Waverley the first pub encountered is the Holyrood 9A. This is decidedly a food pub, with all tables set for dining but you're more than welcome to take a seat and just get drinks. 10 keg beers and 4 cask beers on offer and a fantastic range. Camden were the beers in residence Thankfully they offer thirds so its possible to try a few. An opportunity to try both wheat beer styles was not to be sniffed at and the wheat and Gent;eman's Wit were both enjoyed, if a little yeastier than usual. The lemon and bergamot made a real change to the usual orange and corriander and if they were to bottle this I'd get a 12pack.

After that we headed down to studentville and to the Southern a pub with another decent menu and hosts of Magic Rock beers for the weekend. We grabbed a half of the new hopped imperial wit Clown Juice, every bit as refreshing as I'd hoped and no way I'd have pegged it at 7%. That's another excellent special release from Rich, Stu et al.

A brisk stroll across the meadows sees you in Cloisters, a pub I've enjoyed on numerous occasions. Unfortunately for me no new beers to try as its Bristol Beer Factory in residence here but thankfully that means I get to try the fantastic ultimate stout on cask. A gorgeous Foreign Extra stout with rich creamy mouthfeel, sweetness and lots of roast in the finish. Thumbs up from Daisy too.

The plan next was to go to dinner but due to some(un)fortunate navigational errors we ended up at the Caley. When in Rome...
I tried the fantastic new USPA, a northern Hemisphere variation on the superlative NZPA. I think the original just pipped this but I'm a sucker for those antipodean hops.

After dinner in Haymarket's Chop Chop we sauntered over to Stockbridge to the eponymous Stockbridge Tap where a beast of a beer was on. In fact two beasts Moor's JJJ IPA and Magic Rock's Bourbon Barrel bearded lady, a half of each was in order. The JJJ is a definite contender for beer of the weekend, roch Tropical hops and lip-smacking bitterness, it was a treat to find it as its largely export only since the evils of HSBD.

Up a fecker of a hill and a couple of excitable squirrels and we find ourselves at the Cambridge, home of Macclesfield's Red Willow for the weekend. We arrive as the new Soulless is launched on cask and keg. Its a Black IPA and another good one from Toby. Smokeless on cask "dry-hopped" with chipotle is also fantastic.

Feeling a bit beered out but with just two pubs remianing we push on to newcomer Red Squirrel on Lothian Road. Its heaving with a Friday night crowd but there's some bench space left. Alechemy Black IPA is a little disappointing, lower ABV than usual for a BIPA and lacking the body its consequently a little watery. Lovibonds 69 IPA more than makes up for the disappointment however and a great introduction to the brewery.

On the home stretch now and its along Grassmarket and up West Bow to the Bow Bar. This is a fantastic old boozer filled with railerphanelia and largely standing-room only. We finish off the day with a bang, Summer-Wine's Half Wit, Kernel IPA Summit and Hawkshead Brodies Prime (beefed up Brodies reserve in a Bladnoch cask).

We headed back to Holyrood 9A for the Sunday finishing party. Enjoyable thirds of 12 beers from the majority of the breweries from the weekend and some tasty snacks from the menu. We'll certainly be returning for a meal one day when the pub is less rammed. Unfortunately very few brewers made it to the final event but it was good to meet Chris and Bruce, the guys behind the weekend and James, brewer at Summer Wine.

A fantastic array of beers and a lot of hard work. Thanks guys! All of the pubs are fantastic too, each with their own individual feels but all sharing the theme of great beer. I'm already looking forward to how the guys will best the event next year. Look out for the announcement sometime in the next couple of months for the date.

More write ups at The Beer Cast, Hippo Beers & This masterpiece from Craig.

*The ever-handy weekly What's on Guide from Edinburgh Stalwarts The Beer Cast put me right.


  1. Sounds like fun and do like your map too!

    1. I did it mainly to work out how far we'd walked but thought it would be useful to show where the pubs are! The eagle eyed will spot another pub we visited...

  2. Steve, you have done well, take a bow! Having already tried the MR Barrel Aged Bearded Lady (which was sublime), I am reading enviously of Lovibonds 69 IPA and Moor's JJJ IPA. Do you know if the JJJ IPA was a one off? This post is a good resource for when I get myself to Edinburgh. Cheers

    1. Yes, I believe so. Its still brewed but apparently the majority is exported to Scandinavia where tax isn't as punitive as here. Great work from Chris and Bruce getting hold of it.

      Whenever you do head to Edinburgh be sure to check out the Beer Cast's weekly summary as that's how I found out about this!

  3. JJJ was the beer of the weekend for me as well, closely followed by Hawkshead Imperial Stout and Buxton Tsar. Having said that, one of the best things about the festival was the large range of more sessiony beers on offer - such as Hawkshead Lager, Bristol Bitter Californian, Moor Nor Hop - all new to me and all fantastic. Roll on next year!

    1. Yes, emjoyed the wide range of session strengthers on the Sunday afternoon. Missed out on the Hawkshead IS unfortunately and skipped Tsar as there's only so many big beers you can cram into a Friday evening!