Sunday, 17 November 2013

Event: Barney's Brewery Beer Festival, Summerhall

As a Yorkshire Lass, it's not really unusual that I like a beer. My dad is a fan of ales and stouts, so I grew up sampling those (none of your lager lark), and when I passed for old enough to be in a pub, I was introduced to the joys of cheap bitter. As a whippersnapper, I'd get a pint of bitter and blackcurrant (either John or Sam Smiths, or a Tetleys) and a bag of crisps for under £2, which was a rather bargainous deal. The thing is, I'm not really a beer aficionado. I know that I don't like lager, and that I can manage half a pint of stout before feeling slightly full and sick, but aside from that, I'm often a bit in the dark. Seeing as there's a rather marvellous independent beer shop near my flat, it's a shame that I'm not adventurous, but I find myself sticking with two or three that I know I like rather than branching out.

When I received a newsletter from Summerhall, outlining their upcoming events, the Barney's Beer Festival seemed a rather good way of finding out more about beer, and a particularly pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Summerhall is a really interesting building. As the old Edinburgh University "Dick Vet" Vetinary Medicine school, it has a slightly creepy feel (I blame the stained blue Lino in the teaching rooms) despite its beautiful Victorian entrance hall. As well as being home to Barney's brewery (there was a brewery on the site before the Dick Vet, so it's nice that one has returned) it hosts special events, free exhibitions, and sports a rather reasonably priced bar and restaurant. Having somehow not been in, I was looking forward to a wander round.
Our tickets included a rather snazzy branded schooner glass (2/3 pint), a guide to the beers on offer - a great idea for people like me who are a bit unsure of what they like - and a token for a free sample of Barney's.
The bar. I loved the keg display - and the very reasonable prices!
The bar seemed as good a place as any to begin. First up, two of the Barney's specials - an Eteaket Lapsang Porter for me (5%) and a Capital Porter for Mr F (4.2%). I plumped for mine purely because of the tea connection. It was slightly smokey, rich and bitter - lovely to start with, but I did struggle a bit towards the end of the glass as the bitterness began to be a bit much for me. I am not sure I'm a porter girl. 
The dark Lapsang Porter
Whilst supping our drinks, we had a wander round. As well as the main room, which sported a bar in the corner, lots of wooden benches, and a stage at the front, there were a couple of smaller rooms explaining the brewing process.
A friendly lady from the Brewery was on hand to give out samples of what the beer tastes like at each process, and to talk us through it (short version: it tastes disgusting, and it's a lot more complicated than I thought).

We managed to time our return to the main hall with the beginnings of the music. First up came a digereedoo player (verdict: odd, even for Edinburgh). Another beer was needed. And a burger.  
Front - my Thornbridge Sequoia (4.5%). Back - Mr F's Dark Star Original (5%)
I really enjoyed this one - much more my cup of tea. Or pint of beer. Whatever. It was much smoother than the porter - more drinkable, and considerably less bitter. Turns out that I am an Amber Ale kind of lady.

About halfway through these drinks a really good saxophone band started - fronted by Barney himself.
After half an hour or so of enjoying the music, we had to toddle off home, which was a shame - I really enjoyed the atmosphere once the music started (and we'd managed to bag a seat by that point!). It was a shame that the beers came in fixed sizes (as a comparative newbie, I would have rather had a bigger variety of half pints than the schooner size on offer) and the lack of seating made the afternoon a bit lacking in atmosphere at times, but I'm looking forward to getting a few friends together to go to an evening session when they do their May 2014 event.


  1. Every time I read this blog, I ad something to my 'to go' or 'to eat' list. This one is both 'to go' an 'to drink'. Looks amazing. Thanks!!

  2. This makes me wish I still drank!