Our Beer Man’s Verdict
Although it’s not one of my regular haunts, the Caley Sample Room is a pub I enjoy visiting whenever I’m in the neighbourhood.
It’s a pleasant space with a relaxed atmosphere – unless there’s football or rugby on nearby – which, pretty much equally split into a bar and eating area, probably merits the term “gastropub”.
It was once home to the beer tasting room for the nearby Caledonian Brewery – hence the name – and, in keeping with that heritage, has been serving good beer for years now. The food is also impressive, ranging from quality pub staples like burgers to more sophisticated fayre.
On the Tuesday evening I visited, it was pretty quiet but soon filled up nicely with an after-work crowd who were either in for a beer or a bite to eat.
There’s a range of the usual suspects – including Belhaven Best, Guinness, Hoegaarden, Tennent’s and West – on keg and a carefully-curated range of bottles which includes modern British brewers like Buxton and Redchurch as well as the magnificent Belgian trappist Rochefort 10.
We decided to sample a couple of the cask offerings – opting first for the Black Isle Goldeneye and Highland Fitzroy (both £3.95). The Goldeneye was fine – sweet, malty and drinkable as usual – but I’m not a fan of the dimpled glass tankard, which left it lifeless towards the end. Highland are one of Scotland’s finest brewers, but I didn’t think the Fitzroy – a deep brown beer tricky to categorise, perhaps a bitter? – is one of their best. “Not a fan,” was the verdict from Murray.
Our next beers were both served again in the dreaded dimpled glasses and were carelessly poured – large thick heads foaming over the edge of the glasses. The Alechemy Rye O Rye (£3.95) was good – the rye lending a pleasing savoury bitterness. The Camden and Adnams South Town collaboration (also £3.95) was a fairly ordinary red ale – not a patch on Cromarty’s Red Rocker – which Murray declared was “alright – nothing more.”
The Dirty Stop Out – a smoked oat stout – from Welsh outfit Tiny Rebel was also on, and may have been a better bet.
We left after that to catch the football over a couple of beers – and a steak pie and beans for me – at nearby Diggers.
The Caley is a great venue – long, dark and atmospheric with a beautiful wooden beamed ceiling and a mixture of comfy sofas and tables – which has a deserved reputation for good beer and food.
Having visited a few times before, I know we just caught it on a bad day when the draught cask could have been more exciting – Cascadian Blonde from the excellent Tempest had just gone off – and the pints could certainly have been poured better. It’s a great place which remains one of the city’s best beer venues – and a must for a visit if you happen to be nearby.