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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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.


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.


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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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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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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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Blush With Success

There have been rumours circling around Leith’s Pilot brewery for the best part of two years now. Although it remains a small local brewery, it has a large and growing fanbase due to the quality of the beer and a canny online presence.

There is no shortage of demand, but sadly even from the start they could never brew enough to meet that demand.

So, of course there has been constant chatter of expansion or relocation (or a buyout -yikes!) Until one of these things happens this means that you rarely see their stuff outside of the capitals better pubs.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise when they released a brace of imperial saisons on the unsuspecting public at the arse end of the Summer. Bottled Pilot beer being an annual event (if you’re lucky) and saison being a style they had never attempted before, this seemed a bit of a gamble at best and a waste of their talents and time if they ballsed it up.

Just to life hard on themselves, they have fermented the beer with either white grapes, red grapes or honey. Of the three initial releases, I was immediately taken by the Blush (red grape) as being the most interesting and closest to their stated aim of bridging the gap between sparkling wine and beer.

It’s a very pretty beer; a hazy, muddy ruby with a decent sized head, managing to look like both a pink champagne and a fancier alcopop. It has a very assertive nose and although the brewery was vague about where it sourced the grape juice, I thought I could pick out the fusty, bruised raspberry character of Grenache.

The palate is reasonably full bodied, with initial flavours of summer pudding and boiled sweets, giving way to drier, yeastier notes of herbs and bread. The finish is surprisingly light and delicate for such a complex beer, in fact it’s almost neckable.

It’s a rather brilliant beer, but I doubt it will succeed in winning over many prosecco drinkers. It simply isn’t very wine-like at all. If I had it blind, my first guess would be that somebody had mixed a shandy with equal parts Flanders red, cider and lemonade.

I had major reservations about this stuff, it just seemed a bit “gimmicky” and at 10-11% abv, about twice as strong as I like my saison. But I have had three bottles of it already (not just now- earlier in the week) and it gets better with every glass.

It costs a tenner for a 75cl bottle which includes a donation to the Pilot charity* foundation.



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Hello Wine!


Whether it is viewed as an ancient pagan feast or gaudy American import, I’m sure I’m not alone in finding Halloween a deeply embarassing festival. Despite having two children who inisist I construct elaborate Minecraft-themed costumes and working in an industry where I have to grudgingly serve the occasional party goer, I usually manage to avoid the worst of the late October nonsense.

However, this year I feel we should have a wee Halloween bash, primarily because Heather is going to spend the the next week in Romania on a wee buying trip. Which means that she’ll be able to tell us all about the differences between Fetească Albă and Tămâioasă Românească . At the moment we only have half a dozen different Romanian wines, but they are among our best sellers and uniformally brilliant. We’ve got a bunch more arriving in the next few days and I have no idea what Heather will manage to bring back with her, but you can be sure we will have enough of a range to host a bloody good dinner.

So join us at the Walnut on the last Sunday of October for an evening of SpoOOOoky wine, excellent food and moderately informed chat.

Tickets are £35, which gets you two courses, seven wines and some cheese.

Either pop into the shop, or click HERE to purchase yours.

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When I started in the booze trade back in the mid-nineties, there was a truism that said that there were “Wine Nations & Beer Nations; but there was nowhere that managed to master both”


Utter bollocks, even back then and If there is one shining example of just how wrong it is, surely it’s Germany.

German booze might lack the variety of it’s neighbours, but the things Germany produces are honed to absolute perfection. Indisputably the finest Riesling in the world all comes from Germany, some of it sweet- yes, but a lot of the younger outfits are producing, poised, mineral, zesty whites as dry as a chablis.

Fancy, (maybe overpriced?) tinned, experimental beers have largely passed Germany by, instead German brewers continue to focus on producing the BEST DAMN BEER IN THE WORLD (don’t @me)

So come join us in The Walnut at the end of September for an evening of all things Germanic: Yes, there will be Riesling, but also Laaager, Spatburgunder, Rauchbier, Dopplebock and some stuff we haven’t finalised yet.

Tickets cost £35 for two courses & cheese alongside four wines and three beers.

And are available in the shop or this button HERE



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Okay, I’m having trouble writing this and I think you guys might have trouble reading it, but have you seen the evil shit that has been going down over in the States?

Godwin’s law has been well and truly shafted and “The West” is currently being led by a corrupt, senile, fascist, paedophile* who makes Mussolini look like Gladstone. The most remarkable thing about the current inhabitant of the White House is his ability to find ever lower depths to sink to.

In early July it became apparent that the White House was not only separating children from their parents (at the Southern border, natch) but it was also systematically destroying their papers and selling “orphans” through profit driven Christian evangelical agencies run by relatives of the administration.

If this isn’t your line in the sand, then I really don’t know what to say to you. Every human impulse is to reach out and try to alleviate some of the suffering caused by this confederacy of twunts. If (like myself) you want to help, but can only face doing the bare minimum, how about cracking open a bottle of our latest beer?

The Childcatcher was brewed for us by our friends at Campervan Brewing in Leith and Fallen Brewing in Stirling.

It’s bloody good beer (we would say that) the tins are full of a robust, malty, nutty foamy sweet golden ale and the bottles contain a light, sessionable IPA

All profits on the sale of these beers go to @RAICESTEXAS . I was tempted to donate the money to UK based charities, (after all we’re guilty of similar crimes, if not on the same scale)

But after a few moments thinking about it I thought it best to throw the cash towards the people who are dealing with these crimes over the pond. @RAICESTEXAS are currently arranging legal representation for the children and toddlers (!) currently being dragged before immigration courts.

We’ve had a bit of a break from doing these fundraising beers, partly because the way things are headed it sometime feels like arseing around with novelty beers seems somewhat pathetic given what we’re up against. But, hiding your head in your hands is exactly how this sort of evil manages to establish itself as the new norm. I can’t claim any credit for the resulting beer, because I was messing around in Denmark when it was all coming together, so can I take this opportunity to thank my colleague Heather for sorting it all out, Stan at Stink Designs for providing a label and the guys at Fallen and Campervan for brewing some awesome beer.

The beer is being launched on the 12th July to coincide with his latest visit to Scotland. It costs £3/33cl and is available through The Beer Hive in Cannonmills, Beer Zoo in Portobello and Cornelius on Easter Road.

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