Today saw the start of the Scottish Traditional Beer Festival at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on George St. The event runs until Saturday 10th June, so you will have to be quick if you wish to pay a visit. It’s open noon until 11pm tomorrow and Saturday: it costs just ¬£4 to enter (¬£5 tomorrow evening). For this price though you receive a glass and a programme of the event. Over 120 beers are available for drinking, and they seemed to cost about ¬£2.40 - ¬£2.60 for a pint or ¬£1.20 - ¬£1.40 for a half pint.
Well I arrived just after 5pm today and paid my entry fee. For this their was the choice of a pint glass or half pint glass; you then ascend the Assembly Rooms steps into the Beer Festivals dedicated room. The centre of the room, under the majestic roof light, are a fair number of circular tables with accompanying seats. To the left and right of the room are long bars holding an array of beer barrels and pumps - all clearly labelled. If you’re not an expert on real ale its difficult to choose which beer to drink, but the tasting notes in the programme should help you decide or, as we found, the persons serving at the bar will try and guide you. If you’re still not sure all bar attendants seemed happy to pour you a little free sample - so that’s a nice touch. Just don’t lose your glass, as that is in effect your ticket, and without a glass you won’t have anything to drink the beer with!
I totally enjoyed my trip to the Scottish Traditional Beer Festival. Between the two of us we drank:-
- Roisin: A clear, berry coloured beer with a hint of raspberry. From the Williams brothers in Alloa and one suitable for the ladies.
- Scapa Special: I asked the bartender for something a little like IPA, that I drink a fair amount of, and he produced this. It was a nice pint and went down well.
- Dragonfly: Apparently this was beer of the festival in May 2004. This is brewed from Pale Malt and was another really nice pint
- Peelwalls cider: A really nice cider, although it could have done being served with ice, as it soon warmed up in the venue. It would be easy to drink one too many of these!
But with 120 beers/ciders to choose from the choice really is yours and I’m sure you can discover something genuinely different and hugely enjoyable.
There are a few shops set up in the beer festival hall selling postcards, beer posters or t-shirts. There is also a stand to join CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), who have organised this great beer festival. Food is basic baguettes at ¬£2.20 or crisps at 50p. This could be better, especially as the festival includes some evening entertainment in the room, which might persuade people to spend their evening here. The highlight for me was undoubtedly the home brewery stand where an enthusiastic group of three gentleman talked us through each of their home brews and gave us tastes of each. One was a porter (very dark, roasted malt) that was great to taste and I picked up hints of chocolate and toffee in its flavour. If you visit the beer festival make sure you drop by this stall and grab some sample beer and a chat on the home brewing process. They advertised the Scottish Craft Brewers website at their stall.
The beer festival was very busy when we left about 7pm and with Edinburgh’s glorious sunshine it had begun to get very hot inside. The circular tables would be better replaced with the traditional long tables found in German beer halls I think, so that more persons could be seated; this would surely encourage people to stay longer at the Festival. However this really is a fantastic event that is totally worth a visit, especially to experience beers not available in the mainstream.