There is, of course, no shortage of wonderful pubs in Edinburgh serving fantastic beer.
During the Festival, they are joined in the multitude of live venues and performance spaces which appear in August by temporary bars which aim to cater for thirsty visitors, and locals.
Most are, to be honest, fairly uninspiring – bustling places to refuel between shows with a plastic tumbler of something fizzy or flat and over-priced. They aren’t the kind of places to go if you want decent beer.
This year, however, some tentative steps have been taken to address that.
Capitalising on the burgeoning promotion of craft beer, I found – amongst the plethora of places offering poor beer – a couple of pop-ups which offer a little more.
The Pleasance is one of the key venues during the Festival, with the courtyard a hugely popular spot for drinking and (minor) celebrity-spotting. There are a handful of well-established indoor and outdoor drinking places there already, but now it also boasts the Craft Ale Bar.
It’s not the easiest location to find, but – on a busy rainy afternoon – that’s a real blessing as it’s surprisingly quiet when I visit, and I even manage to grab a seat. It’s not the cosiest place, feeling a little austere – despite the posters and paintings on the walls – and very much like the reclaimed office it probably is.
But the beer selection – powered by Loanhead-based Stewart – is decent enough. A selection of their core beers – along with Thistly Cross and Grimbergen – are offered across three cask and four keg lines, with some bottles and cans.
The Dakota is okay, if unexciting: a malty, sweet brown ale. The Skeleton Blues is better – lots of tropical fruits, but pleasantly bitter and extremely drinkable, if a little thin. At £5 a pint, the draught beer is reasonable value for a Festival venue, and certainly more appealing than what else is on offer.
The Gilded Balloon has got in on the act too, with an outdoor bar in the Gilded Garden also billing itself as the Craft Ale Bar.
There are some beers from Inveralmond, some Thistly Cross cider and, interestingly, a couple of bespoke offerings.
The Gilded Gold (£2.40 a half) is a fairly standard blonde ale from Black Isle. The Edinburgh Festival from Stewart is billed as “NZ hopped”, but my half (£2.25) was a big disappointment with no hint of any NZ hopping which would have elevated it from a generic golden ale.
Both these venues may not be able to compete with the ambience or beer selection and quality of our permanent pubs but they are certainly offering liquid refreshment which is a little more appealing than most of the other pop-ups.