Is it Friday already? The Festival has two days to run and at Tron Kirk, in the Royal Mile, old friends and something new. We can expect Black Diamond Express - railroad blues on the slide; Ben Prestage is back with swamp and delta blues; Grooveyard brings soul and Jazz grooves, whilst Seaside Skiffle, expect blues and country from the 50's.
Three Jazz Giants collaborate in The Queen's Hall as Martin Taylor Great Guitars. At the Jazz Bar - well, Jazz of course, the Pal Nyberg Quartet - a contemporary slant in the bop tradition. Other acts can be found in the Edinburgh Festival program.
Now, something made me think of Charlie Parker. A story worth telling. "Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art."
There is a brewer who would also say that there is no boundary line to brewing and inventive recipes. His name - Steve Stewart. I stumbled on Steve and Stewart Brewing whilst reporting on the Strathaven Brewery. To tell this story I felt drawn to Alfred's Seat, or perhaps the Pentland Hills Regional Park .... I needed space to grasp all that Steve has achieved. Head for the City Bypass and set the Sat Nav for Edinburgh Ikea. In reality you can set EH20 9LZ Loanhead. Here is Stewart Brewing, in the Bilston Glen Industrial Estate, Edinburgh Southside.
Steve is a serious brewer. Having studied at the famous Heriot-Watt University, gaining his masters in brewing, Bass took him on board for several years before Ireland and the States beckoned. But studying brewing is one thing, building your own brewery is another. Returning to Edinburgh in 2002, that is exactly what Steve was planning. Starting trial recipes using his mini-micro brewery, a number of trial brews proved successful. It never fails to amaze me how many first recipes often prove to be the best and most enduring, unless ...... you are only sixteen years of age! I digress!
Stewart Brewing has lived up to its ideals, producing five permanent cask beers, up to ten cask specials, six permanent bottles and over thirteen bottle specials ..... all of which gives great recipe scope for their craft-kitchen and other expansion plans, including the Natural Selection Brewing programme, which is a joint project between Steve's old University (Heriot-Watt), with students studying for their MSc in Brewing and Distilling and using the Brewery facilities for trial beers.
The Craft-Kitchen 'brew-your-own' concept has great potential, from small parties to large corporate events with personalised labels to-boot! Recently 'Hot Rum Cow' an epic Rye IPA produced a 'spicy, citrous, idiosyncratic' brew. There is barely room to mention taster evenings, brewery tours, Beer wagons, rent a cask, online shop and showcasing beers as evident at the forthcoming Edinburgh Festival - it is more room that Steve needs! Perhaps a 30 barrel plant will solve the problem! I just need another page!
Award time! Edinburgh Gold 4.8% was SIBA's Supreme Champion Beer of Scotland in 2010. Holyrood 5.0% has been named World's best Golden/Pale for two years running. Radical Road 6.4% has been crowned Champion Bottled Conditioned Beer of Scotland at the Scottish Real Ale Festival.
This is my perfect hop-head brew - floral, orangey, sweet, with a distinctive bite and great balance, It is good that I can look down on Radical Road, from my perch high up on Alfred's seat, a reminder that there's no boundary line to brewing ..... Thanks Steve, oh and thanks Charlie!
"Perhaps it may turn out a sang - Perhaps turn out a sermon"! Robbie Burns, in an epistle to a friend, would have welcomed day seven at Edinburgh's Jazz and Blues Festival.
Today Tron KIrk is hosting the Fapy Lapertin Trio - Celebrated gypsy guitarist and friends, Ben Prestige makes his 'swamp & delta' blues debut, and James Brown is Annie, the Scottish Funk Band. In the Jazz Bar for late gigs, The Troubles - pure Jazz from NZ, and a late Jam Session completes the evening. Over in The Queen's Hall, that beautifully converted Grade-A listed church, (South of the City Centre), can be found 30 Years of Blues N Trouble .... still causing trouble after thirty years of rocking in Scotland. Other acts can be found on the Edinburgh Festival Program.
Scott is rocking off to Musselborough not to join their festival, but to join the A1 to Dunbar, some thirty miles east from The Queens's Hall. Here, to visit Britain's oldest working brewery.
Dunbar, in East Lothian features historic buildings, spectacular landscapes, rugged coastlines, harbours and distinctive red sandstone buildings - oh, and the birth place of John Muir, the founder of modern conservation - that's the tourist board bit done! The Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar, has also contributed to conservation in maintaining their original water wells, built in the 18th Century. Water quality is important, and wells have been in existence since around the time of the Reformation. 1719 shows the earliest documented evidence of the Belhaven Brewery, with a John Johnstone taking ownership of the site in 1719. From 1815 came the Dudgeon family and the 'shilling' terminology came into use to categorise beers; be a loose' indicator of strengths, and to create value.
Brewing throughout both world wars, Dudgeon's avoided closure and amalgamation, before Belhaven Bill came on the scene in the 1950's - a famous trademark fisherman who is still around! 1972 saw the family dynasty end as automation under new ownership led to successful flotation in 1996. The brewery records a barrel capacity of approximately 30,000 per year in 1992 with potential to exceed 100,000 barrels to-date, with cask ale and exports on the increase.
In 2005, Belhaven entered the Greene King stable and in 1991 Belhaven Best 3.2% (Keg) was born, pioneering a new concept in beer drinking in Scotland, dispensed using a nitro/Co2 mix - yes, nitrokeg! One other offspring, Best Extra Cold 3.2% (Keg) was delivered successfully in 1998, a chilled brother, in time for global warming perhaps! Six draught beers and several guest ales later and five bottled beers of which two, St Andrews Ale and 80 Shilling have made it into bottles, it is time to get animated over the 80 Shilling 'Red' 4.2%, once described as 'The Burgundy of Scotland'. Belhaven IPA 3.8% - as anticipated, clean, crisp and hoppy. St Andrews Ale 4.9% gets serious, as does winning the Open!
We could get excited over the Belhaven Black 4.2% Scottish Stout, triple malted with locally grown barley. In fact, let's do so and savour this hugely delicious full bodied stout. There are dark chocolate and liquorice notes, aromas of rich roasted coffee, so well balanced that an Oyster could navigate the rim, before falling victim as a perfect accompaniment!
We started with The Baird, thus, if there are any left, we must return with The Baird ..... It strikes "Chords that vibrate sweetest pleasure - Thrill the deepest notes of woe". I shall lament the leaving of Belhaven, but return I must! Clasping one, perhaps three bottles of Robert Burns Ale 4.2% - Always dark, often sweet, the toffee and malt a bygone treat.
Yes, the games are on and there are many bars with screens - but today, in Edinburgh, we have blues brews and jazz with razzmatazz and a rondo of beers to complement a City vibrant with music for every taste. Edinburgh is also about Edinburgh Castle, Dynamic Earth, Camera Obscura, and the Royal Yacht Brittania - places to wind down a city where space is not a problem.
On Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile sits an historic 17th Century Church - Tron Kirk, the summer home only for club gigs; live music will play from 12 noon until 11-30pm. Today it is hosting: Conol Fowkes on Jazz Piano; American ragtime pianist Stephanie Trick; electric blues band Main Street Blues; the celebrated gypsy guitarist and friends Fapy Lapertin ... other acts can be found on the Edinburgh Festival Programme.
In-keeping with a City flourishing with the arts, just a mile from the Old Town down the Slateford Road, the Caledonian Brewery with a 140 year old history has a 'beer brand in tune with Edinburgh culture'; sponsoring both the Fringe and the Caledonian Pipe Band.
'Like the castle or Arthur's Seat, the Victorian brewery's chimney stack is an instantly recognisable feature of the Edinburgh skyline' something, Certified Beer Sommelier and Operations Manager, Craid Steven is unlikely to forget. Craig uses one of the last remaining direct-fired coppers that is still in use in Britain. The coppers go back to 1869 when the brewery was built and one of the three originals was destroyed in a fire in 1998. A local company hand-built an exact replica and at the same time a new kegging plant, yeast room, settling tanks and a cask-racking system was installed.
Now, we could also mention Scottish & Newcastles involvement with the Caley, but, it's dry and thirsty in Edinburgh, so time to indulge in Caledonian's award winning regular ales. Brewed with local barley and mineral-rich well water, we have; Deuchers IPA 3.8% (Too famous for words! Well, a British Champion in 2002!); Flying Scotsman 4.0% (Full flavoured premium bitter); Golden XPA 4.3% (An added strength Deuchers!), and Caledonian 80/- 4.1% (A malty tawny beer - loaded with hops and malts.)
The four seasons are well represented, as are the monthly guest beers .... Caledonian deliver at every level for every occasion. Yet, we musn't forget the games are on, so I am turning to July's Commonwealth Gold 3.9%. A quintessential mix of local malts, Australian, New Zealand and English hops, all of which deliver a mouthwatering citrus-flavoured hop character, with a mild smooth malt finish - a gold beer that must surely be in the medals!
For Scott, the Old Town awaits. It is inconceivable that Atonga Zimba from Ghana is not playing today - remember him? Not just a competent musician - but a man who reminds us that " In Heaven There is no Beer"! His rendition "No Beer in Heaven" was 'fermented' in 2004 and a great hit in Ghana!
Zimba knows best - me thinks!
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