I ♥ The Eighties

Way back in the mists of time, when what is now the Scottish Parliament was an abandoned brewery and pubs still reeked of baccy, I was a fresh-faced art student determined to drink my way around Edinburgh in as cost effective a fashion as possible.
Back then, spending an evening in the pub was actually a reasonably cheap night out and drinking options were far more limited than today, so when you found a beer that worked for you, chances are you would be drinking a whole lot more of it before kicking out time.
Most pubs would offer Deuchars, Guinness, Belhaven Best, a range of interchangeable lagers and if you were lucky an eighty shilling.
I would tend to gravitate towards the 80/- (possibly because it was always among the cheapest offerings at the bar) and nine times out of ten this would mean a pint of Caley.
Sadly, Caledonian Eighty Shilling has since rebranded itself as “Edinburgh Castle” and is nowhere near as ubiquitous as it was twenty years ago. Malty, session strength beers, with only a delicate hop character are far from fashionable these days: To my shame, there have been times when a customer has asked for something of that ilk and I’ve had nothing to offer among the several hundred beers in the shop.
Thank heavens then for Dalkeith’s very own Crossborders brewery who are keeping the malty flame alive, with their own 80/-, The Heavy.
Over Christmas the Heavy was promoted to part of Crossborders core range, a move which should see it available at a lot more pubs and offies in 2019.
It’s a very attractive beer; A deep, burnished, amber red colour with a proper head of delicate off-white foam. Rather fruity on the nose, with aromas of dried peel, quince, earl grey and ginger nuts. The palate is medium weight, clean and superbly balanced; With sweet caramel notes, mild bitterness and a definite (but not at all unpleasant) metallic zing of acidity on the finish.
At a smidgen over 4% it is eminently boshable and a 33cl tin should set you back about £2.50.
I’m writing this on Burns night and I can attest that a mild, fruity beer like this is precisely what is needed to wash down a salty, fatty dish like haggis (handy that)

Cheers!

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TELL ME WHY.

With Heather’s departure  the shop will be a man down for the next couple of months. To keep our sanity and to let us maintain the same quality of service, I’ve made the (frankly easy) decision to close the shop on Mondays.

 

So, from the 4th of March, we will try to stick to the following hours.

  • Monday. Closed
  • Tuesday. 12-9
  • Wednesday. 12-9
  • Thursday. 12-9
  • Friday. 11-9
  • Saturday. 11-9
  • Sunday, 1-7

 

Hopefully, this is a temporary measure. We will return to being open the full week once Brexit has been cancelled and we can get back to something resembling sanity.

Fingers crossed, in April we’ll be interviewing folk for the Assistant Managers position.

(either that, or booze retail as we know it is utterly screwed and we’ll put the business up for sale)

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So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, Goodbye.

 

If any of you guys are regulars from way back, you might have noticed that I have been absent from the shop floor for large stretches of the last couple of years. Front of house duties and, to be honest, all day to day areas of shop management have largely fallen on Heather.
She has done sterling work as the “face” of Cornelius and behind the scenes she has managed to reinvigorate and refresh our wine rang, bag us a couple of high rolling new accounts and is largely responsible for our calendar of tastings.
But all good things come to an end and, as I’m sure you probably guessed by now, I’m very much afraid that Heather is leaving us at the end of the month.
Although we are very sad to see her go, the silver lining is that she has managed to escape the world of booze retail altogether and is headed for a glittering career in law: Bizarrely enough, she is going to the Procurator Fiscal’s office to become a solicitor. Which means that though we obviously want to see plenty of her, I kind of hope its not in a professional capacity.

This means that I am going to pull my finger out and start getting hands on in the shop again. Expect to see a lot more of me in the coming weeks. The shop will probably start getting emptier, dustier and soundtracked by old Yo La Tengo albums.
Although, we cant possibly replace Heather, we will obviously try. There are a lot of talented folks out there, I can think of half a dozen off the top of my head that I would love to offer the position to and maybe one of them would be dumb enough to accept.
The problem (and I really don’t want to be a downer about this) is Br**it.
I want a proper, full time assistant manager, someone I can entrust the shop to, but I just don’t think its wise to take on another full time member of staff, when its entirely possible, that due to racism and idiocy, the business might no longer be viable after March 29th.
So we will just play it by ear.
Miles and myself will run the shop through March and April, (we might have to be closed Mondays- will update) and in May we should have an idea how post-Br**it booze retail is going to work. If people are still drinking and (crucially) we can still get booze to them, then we can start interviewing folk.
If, however it all goes a bit “Mad Max” then the job requirements might change dramatically.
So yeah, for at least two months, that is one job loss that can DEFINITELY be chalked up to Br**it.
Apologies for going off on a tangent. Lets end this blog by paying tribute to Heather, whoever follows her has mighty big shoes to fill. Some of you might be heading down to her farewell bash at Little Fitzroy (sold out-sorry) where she has some STUNNING booze lined up for you. if you are reading this and your in the trade, you might well spot her at the two big tastings on Tuesday. Say hi if your sober enough, she’ll (probably) be happy to chat.
Cheers!
James

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Blind Drunk

 

If the past two years has taught us anything, it’s that as human beings, we are full of irrational prejudice (apologies if that sentence is a bit inflammatory, depressing and lacking in yuletide spirit) This is as true in matters of taste, as it is in (slightly) more important matters like love, religion, politics and social division.

There are many things I rail against without any particularly good reason: Too much/any garnish on a soup or a martini, cheap French wine that pretends to be Aussie, expensive Aussie wine that pretends to be French, overly sweet breakfast cereal, American biscuits, liqueurs that market themselves as gins, beers that clearly base their branding on that of a more successful brewery, etc. If offered any of these I would have to battle my deep-seated bias before I could assess them fairly.

This is why all beer and wine judging is done blind, it really is the easiest way to let the drinks speak for themselves. Strangely, it has taken me the best part of two decades to extend this principal to our public, in-store tastings.

I suppose, as a sales tactic it sucks (depriving the consumer of any knowledge about a products origin isn’t the most obvious marketing ploy), but when embarked upon as nothing more than a fun little social experiment the results were really interesting.

We started with two beers, that are among the most popular examples of their respective styles: Punk IPA by Brewdog and Saison Dupont.

Customers were simply handed a glass of unnamed beer with as little ceremony as possible and asked what they thought they were drinking. The first thing to note about their responses is how broadly accurate they were. Almost everybody said “it’s an IPA” or, “it’s something Belgian” and although only a couple of people hit the nail on the head, many made really educated guesses.

This may be partly because Punk has slightly bent the public’s perception as to what an IPA is: limiting it to that creamy, supremely balanced, slightly fruity and not too bitter, alcohol delivery service. Likewise, the Saison Dupont is surely something of a classic, with many much younger breweries trying (and failing) to replicate it’s distinctive, bready, earthy and zesty character.

It’s also worth noting, that of the hundred or so folk who took part, the wildest, least accurate guesses came from brewers and other industry insiders, who all fell into the trap of other-thinking, other-analysing and ignoring their gut instincts

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All Grain, No Pain.

 

Rob Hill of the Swannay brewery way up in Orkney, may be Scotland’s most consistently excellent brewer, but few people would call him innovative. He specialises in moderately hopped, traditional beers of the kind that your dad would recognise. (He brews a world class mild, for instance) These are nearly always the best drinks in their category and I urge you to give them a go, especially if you see them on cask.
Last year, he let his son Lewis come up with a range of more contemporary beers to compliment the existing range. These were to be canned and act as a bridge between Swannay’s traditional offerings and the more hop-forward, experimental styles that are currently in vogue.
The third of these was released just at the start of winter and is the second of the brewery’s beers to highlight the quality of Orkney’s native grain.
Bere or in Viking, Bygg is the local barley and (according to Wikipedia) Britain’s oldest cereal in cultivation. One reason for it’s peculiar success in Orkney is it’s very rapid growth rate (summers in Orkney are not known for their length)

The Swannay Bygg is one of only a handful of beers to utilise this unique grain and it’s bloody delicious.
It’s an attractive amber/walnut colour, with some slight haze and a moderately creamy head. the nose is quite fruity, with suggestions of toffee and Ready Brek. The palate also has a fair sweetness, with flavours of spiced, dried fruit. It might be just because I’m writing this on Boxing Day, but it has more than a hint of stale panettone. (this is a good thing) The finish is clean with a gentle bitterness and the 5% abv is just enough to roast your chestnuts.

It took me a few minutes to drain a 33cl can (£2.70-£3, available throughout Edinburgh) but I sure would love to find a pub that had it on cask so I could take my time over a few pints.

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Vino et Vinyl

Popping corks and spinning discs!

In the old past, we’ve proposed some pretty specious not to say spurious reasons for tastings, but this one really takes the biscuit. If you will believe it, we are going to attempt to pair not wine and food but wine and music, pressings of grapes and vinyl if you will. The particular relevance and appropriateness of the pairings may well turn out to be quite wobbly, but please don’t come over all tremulous and please do go ahead and rest assured of two things: both the tunes and the plonk will be only of the soundest, highest fidelity quality.

So: Six, perhaps seven wines and six perhaps seven long-playing sides (plus cheese, certainly edible and possibly audible) for just £19. (Cheaper than the average cost of an LP these downloading days.)

Click HERE to grab yourself a ticket

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LES FAB FOUR

As we hurtle into a scary, angry and ever more insular 2019, lets have one last bash just before we leap head first into the merde at the end of March.

We have booked the Walnut on Sunday 10th Feb and we hope you can join us for a wee celebration of the grapes that form the foundation of France’s greatest export.

Bordeaux is very obviously the heart of the wine industry in France (and by extension- the world) That industry is based around the cultivation and fermentation of a quartet of grapes that, in isolation make some excellent wine, but when paired together acheive something sublime.

SAUVIGNON BLANC. SEMILLON. CABERNET. MERLOT

So, we’ll have a quick run through some of our favourite Bordeaux-ish blends from around the world. Ben will cook us up something special (like he always does) and we will all get very slightly pished.

Tickets cost £35. For that you get seven glasses of wine, two courses and cheese.

You can pick them up HERE or in the shop.

Cheers!

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PLEASE MAY WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION (and your tinned tomatoes)

It’s turned right nippy out and the nights are drawing right in. We’re all a little bit skint and wondering whether we should get the kids that video game they’ve been droning on about.

Frankly, winter 2018 sucks and 2019 looks like it’ll be worse.

Well, its time to start counting your blessings. For one, if you’re reading this, it probably means you have some money to spend on booze.

If you were planning on visiting us over the next couple of weeks, maybe you should consider trading down from the Burgundy or Claret and picking up one of those Portuguese or Romanian wines I’m always banging on about. Then spend the money saved on a donation to the Foodbank.

We will be taking your donations for the next month (fortunately we are right next door to a discount supermarket) so feel free to hand us your tinned goods when you next pop in for your Gamma Ray fix.

The Trussel Trust website keeps you updated of what is needed locally, but we also have this nifty little advent calendar to us as a guide as to what to donate.

If you needed any further incentive, why not join us on the evening of Friday 7th December. We will be joined by the ever wonderful Niall, who will be running through a selection of his favourite stouts. There will also be pastries        (but no pastry stouts)

Any donations received on the night will be rewarded with a little special something from under the counter      (don’t know what yet, but it’ll be tasty)

 

 

 

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STOP PRESS

Just a quickie.

After the spectacular success of last weeks Natural Wine tasting, we have decided to squeeze another little soiree in before the yuletide season hits us like a layer of white dung*

The very vague theme of this evening will be Christmas essentials- so think Burgundy, Sherry, Fizz etc.

We can squeeze a dozen or so of you guys into Little Fitzroy just down the road, and again Catherine will provide copious amounts of cheese.

 

Things kick off at 7pm on Sunday 25th November

Tickets cost £19 and are available over the counter in the shop (or by DM/Phone/email)

*This is in addition to our big end of year piss up at The Walnut (details here)

 

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DING! DONG!

The moon is bright,

The spirit’s up.

Time for our end of year blow out.

Good food, good booze, good chat on the first Sunday of December

We’ll use the same format as last year: The three of us will each choose our three favourite bottles- a red, a white and a wildcard. You enjoy the awesome food at The Walnut and we’ll try not to spill wine on you as we all get gently sozzled.

Tickets cost £40, for that you get NINE drinks (all top shelf, fancy stuff) two courses and cheese.

Tickets are available in the shop or HERE

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