Pub operator Fuller Thomson are in expansion mode. After the opening of Bruadar in Glasgow’s trendy Partick, they’ve just opened another place in Edinburgh – The Southern on South Clerk Street, not that far from their existing bar The Holyrood 9A.
I went along for the opening night because I can’t resist an excuse to go drinking in Edinburgh – well, what else are you going to do on a Monday night?
Dark wood, light paint, bar with rows of taps along the back wall – the Fuller Thomson style is getting easier to recognise. Formulaic as it is, it wouldn’t be enough to tempt me here on its own, but beer consultant Chris Mair has put together a beer list worth travelling for. From the revered Kernel of Bermondsey there was Export Stout and from Luckie, a semi-hobby brewery even smaller than The Kernel, whose beers are even more rarely seen on draught even in Scotland, a strong mild. Making its Edinburgh debut, the experimental Fyne Davaar IPA in pale and black versions, which London got before we did (pah!). All from the cask as God intended. For kegophiles there was Summer Wine Maelstrom, Hardknott Vitesse Noir and Brooklyn Sorachi Ace and some others that I've forgotten.
For food there are burgers – lots of them, much the same as can be got in the Holyrood 9A and Bruadar. I don’t really get why people are so obsessed with eating burgers all the time, but they are good burgers. Being the first night, the staff aren't quite up to speed yet, but that will doubtless improve.
Luckie’s Mild was almost completely flat, but had a solidly old-fashioned, chewy flavour to it. Kernel’s Export Stout, good though it is, struggled to live up to the massive hype it’s received. It’s packed with roastiness, acidity and sweetness, but I can’t help thinking it might be more drinkable with all three rolled back a tad.
When Craig said that Fyne Ales’ Davarra had been too bitter for him, I knew I was in for a treat. Davarra is the first of a three-part IPA project, coming in both pale and dark versions. The dark one is the same beer coloured with malt extract. I had planned to try both, but after drinking the pale one I couldn’t imagine how the dark one could possibly be any better. Another terrific beer with satisfying, long-lasting bitterness, perhaps a little on the sweet side but then maybe it's nice to have something to chew on between sips.
People are always saying things like “You can’t make hoppy beers with soft water” – “You can’t make hoppy beers in cask” – Fyne disprove the dogma again and again.
I’d have liked to stay and work my way through the other beers, but the train timetable makes going-home-time two hours earlier for me than it usually is in Glasgow. The Southern looks set to be a worthwhile addition to the already rich tapestry of Edinburgh drinking establishments. If a little lacking in character, the many more traditional pubs on the way back to Waverley Station can supply plenty of that. I think my next Edinburgh pub crawl will see me back here.