During my recent trip to the UK, I made an effort to sample beers that I haven’t seen in the USA or in New York specifically. Here are some of the hilights:
Cider in London
While in London I enjoyed a lot more cider than I had initially thought I would have. It’s quite popular and was available at ever pub and restaurant we went to. What surprised me is that it’s often served over ice. I’m not a fan of that, because the ice melts and dilutes the cider. Most of the time, the bar tender or server will ask if you want ice, so that only happened to me once, with a Wyld Wood Westons Organic Cider.
We visited the Sherlock Holmes pub with Steve Bowen and @RedDalek. I was quite shocked that someone had mounted their poor bloodhound on the wall, but then I realized that it was the Hound of the Baskervilles! The pub contains memorabilia from Sherlock Holmes movies and television series.
Photo credit: RPM
We got to visit The Mayflower, the pub that is said to be where the ship of the same name set sail for America.
While there I had a Joseph Holt Maplemoon, which I think was the beer highlight of London for me. The maple flavor was just enough that you could really enjoy it but it didn’t overpower the beer.
On a day trip to Bath, I had some (nonalcoholic) ginger beer. I see Reed’s extra ginger brew sometimes in the United States, but most American soft drinks are packed with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Fentimans was very gingery and almost too spicy.
During our visit to the British Museum, I noticed this fascinating piece of beer history:
Cask Ales in Edinburgh
While in Scotland, I tried to always pick a beer from the cask selection, something not often seen in the United States.
When we arrived in Edinburgh, it was cold and rainy. We had lunch at the Halfway House, a small pub on the oddly named Fleshmarket Close. I had a smoked haddock and cheese pot pie and Adam had stovies – corned beef hash to us Yanks.
I had my first cask ale, a Highland Dark Munro. I enjoy darker beers, and this one had a very pleasant flavor of well roasted malt and just a hint of chocolate/coffee. It was definitely appropriate for the weather and a hearty lunch.
That night we visited The Last Drop, a picturesque pub on Grassmarket, famous for being the site of the last ever public hanging in Scotland.
The inside of it was cinematic. The building is hundreds of years old, and the tavern has seen a lot of history. It was crowded even fairly early in the evening and we got a table facing the bar. I enjoyed watching the crowd and looking at the different taps and trying to make sense of the scotch whiskey list. The way the pub was lit, it seemed to suggest candlelight and a glowing fireplace although there were only modern, electric lights. I had another pot pie, but this one was made with steak and ale. I’m not generally a steak and potatoes kind of woman, but it was fantastic. I had a pint of Caledonian ale, the same used in the pie I was eating. It was a very satisfying meal.
On the way home we stopped at Bow Bar, where I was happily surprised to see Brooklyn Lager and Goose Island representing the United States on their bottle list.
The next day I have to admit we were ugly Americans and had lunch at Filling Station but I did have a chuckle at this description of Brooklyn Lager:
We made up for it though with dinner at The White Hart Inn, a pub whose cellar dates back to 1516.
We had a drink outside before heading in for a dinner.
Later on we made our way to Brew Dog, passing a night club offering £1 drinks:
But we were greeted with this amazing sight when we arrived:
Brew Dog had a laid back atmosphere with a larger selection of bottles than beers on tap, most of which were IPA’s:
Photo credit: @BrewDogEdin
I had the Dogma, which was very rich and pleasantly medium bodied. There were hints of honey and dark malt. Definitely a beer to savor.
We couldn’t leave though, without trying the infamous Tactical Nuclear Penguin.
It was £5 for a shot (or dram as they say in Scotland) and was served in the glass pictured above. TNP smelled really good at first, like a caramel stout with dark fruit. But when I tilted the glass to drink some, I got a slight burning sensation in my nostrils like I was at a gas station. Technically it’s an imperial stout, and I could see that. It also tasted like a very strong port wine, and had a strong alcohol aftertaste. It wasn’t great, but I’m glad I tried it for the novelty.
One of the things Adam particularly liked about Edinburgh was the churches that had been renovated into pubs.
At Cloisters, I tried a Tempest Cresta Black, which was a pretty decent stout, but a little thin for my tastes.
We had dinner at the Guildford Arms which had been highly recommended to us. It’s a beautiful place, and was built in a very ornate style to try and combat the prevailing notion that pubs were a bane on society. The food was very good. I had the traditional Fish and Chips with an Edinburgh Gold. Edinburgh Gold was light but much too fruity for my taste. I felt like I was drinking a jar of perfume at times. We ordered dessert because we were having such a nice evening. I had an Orkney Dark Island which was nice on it’s own, but much to bitter to be paired with my profiterole. I pushed it aside and sipped it when I was finished.
On our last day in Edinburgh, we had lunch at Teuchters a cozy pub on William Street.
This was where we found (in our humble opinions anyway) the Holy Grail of Scottish beers – Innis & Gunn on tap:
We had dinner at The Canon’s Gait. The restaurant is decorated with famous quotations painted on the walls, like “If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?” The food was good, and I was boring and ordered a Magner’s, but the honey and ice cream parfait I had for dessert was really terrific.
Our final stop in Edinburgh was The Blue Blazer to meetup with some Daylight Atheism readers.
I tried two really good beers on cask there, Trade Winds and Blathan.
Trade Winds was the only wheat beer I had in the UK, and I enjoyed it immensely. I was interested because it was described as including elderflower, and I love St. Germain elderflower liqueur and champagne cocktails, so why not try that flavor in a beer? It was light and fruity with some nice malt tastes.
Blathan was a challenge to order, mainly because the name is Gaelic and not pronounced how it’s spelled. But it was worth the confusion my labored Long Island accent produced to the bar tender’s Scottish ears. It was crisp, fruity and not too bitter. Very refreshing.
Photo Credit: Craige Moore
Blathan? Blath? Bath? Blan? That one!
I had lots of fun on my trip, and want to give a shout out to /r/beer for recommending many of the fine establishments we visited in Edinburgh. Also I really enjoyed the Daylight Atheism meetups, thanks to everyone who came out!