Our Beer Man’s Verdict
In times of great change and uncertainty, it’s reassuring to know there are some unshakable certainties. Something solid to cling to.
A pet hate of mine is the cynical rebranding of the traditional Scottish boozer to attract a newer, younger clientele: “going craft”.
Done well with the right intentions – like the Hanging Bat on Lothian Road a few years ago – it’s undoubtedly a wonderful thing that transforms an unloved or unused venue into something new and exciting.
But done badly – like the Volly Arms on Leith Walk – and you have to wonder what the point is.
Gentrification has become a negative buzzword, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Some of the venues in the area around Morrison Street seem to be changing – some more successfully than others.
But, reassuringly, Thomson’s Bar remains untouched – resolutely defiant in the face of any trends or unwelcome influence.
That’s not damning it with faint praise. Thomson’s feels like it’s doing the important things well, and they combine to create a cracking traditional old-school Scottish boozer.
On the weekday evening I visit, there’s the easy buzz of warm conversation and the gentle clink of glasses. It’s a cosy and welcoming refuge.
The legendary pies – known to sell so quickly, pre-orders are often advised – are long gone, but the cask beer selection is dependably solid and, crucially, in perfect condition.
There’s no better place to start than Jarl, Fyne’s light, citrus delight – one of Scotland’s most consistently great beers. Another perfect pint – and just £3.60. The New World Order from Oakham (£3.80 a pint) is smooth and fruity with a pleasing bitterness, while the Summer Leaze (£3.20) from Bude Brewery in Cornwall is sweet, golden and inoffensive.
The selection of bottles is small – there’s some Leffe and Williams and in there – but the cask beer is the focus here. It’s not flashy, but there’s clearly real pride in serving up beer in the best possible condition.
It reminds me a little of the Bow Bar – without the range, and occasional beer-related surprises – with its focus on the fundamentals. It’s timeless and one of the best pubs of its type in the city – unfussy and dependable.
Address: 182-184 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EB