Book Review: Edinburgh Pub Walks by Bob Steel

epw1I get cranky. Especially when I have had a cold since Thursday and couldn’t get out on the snowshoes this weekend as planned. Heck, I really could not maintain much of a level of consciousness given the fever here, the aches there and the surreal effect of cold medication. Not prime time for the beer fan. So, it’s a good thing we have books for these drier stretches. I got this one in the mail a few months ago. Been wondering when I would post about it. I really should post more reviews of CAMRA’s excellent books but when this rare review copy came, I noticed my street address was off by about 127 front doors. Some guy two tenths of a mile away must have a great collection.

Anyway, I love this book. Why? Well, for one thing I am familiar with some walks covered having family that live on a few of the streets named upon the maps. I have spent some time there. I even dodged an indignant but well emptied bottle flung from a terrace far far above one Saturday at Hibs when Georgie Best was a no show and my father decided to leave early. But those connections to the town aren’t what makes this book work for me. No, its the maps themselves that draw you in. Bright, well laid out and placed smartly on the page they offer clear instruction by the clever use of colour leaving no real need for a table explaining what means what. Then there are the photos which make you want to crawl right though into that place in Prestonpans or the other on Rose Street. [Sadly, it appears that the Rose Street Brewery, where I spent a few happy days in 1986, is not more or at least not worth mentioning.] And then there are the walking tours. I don’t know of any North American pub guide based on this idea but it is an excellent one. Implicitly moderate or perhaps otherwise sensible, the 25 routes provide more information than a traveler might ever require and maybe even enough to keep a local well occupied.

The book seems to have been backed by the combination of CAMRA and Caledonian Brewery which might lead one to worry that a fix was in. Not a chance as there is every indication of as ecumenical an approach to mentioning tap offerings as you might wish. Well worth the investment for anyone there in Edinburgh or planning to be.

A Treasure Trove of Tiny Teutonic Glassware

I am a lucky man. I was almost into a nap after a failed morning of showshoeing followed by some throwing around of embarrassingly light weights when the family poured back into the house with many purchases – including a collection of tiny German beer glasses bought at a charity second hand shop. Most are 200 ml with one 300 ml from Franz of Rastatt that sits before me filled with Bernardus Abt 12. They are lovely things. The stemmed Dortmunder Union glass is particularly sweet. Each one cost only around 99 cents and apparently there are more, though the rest suffer from chips and scratches.

The funny thing is, of course, that I am not all that keen on German beers as a general thing. Yet whenever I get these tiny glasses with their heavily embossed brightly painted branding it’s like your first glimpse of your stuffed socking on Christmas Day. There is a delicacy about them. The glass is thin. The art work is thoughtful, larded with crests and Gothic script. And then there is this thing that I am going to call “hand feel” – the pleasure of the physical design. There is that one with the stem but others are slightly scalloped on the vertical. The rest give a subtle nod to the needs of the hand whether as a slender cylinder or a gentle widening then tapering that just fits.

Clearly someone packed it in. These could have been consigned by an executor or an abandoned spouse. The glass I use now may have been once untouchable, sitting in an cabinet behind glass. Mine now. I do as I wish with them.

Friday Bullets For The Day Of Mr Interesting

A big day. An idea I have helped frame has turned into a 26 person meeting. Yesterday, too, I had to report on work to a multi-level meeting with about as many people. I sat next to someone who crossed borders to get there and who has a profession utterly different from mine. But we chatted about stuff that help frame a big idea. I don’t know how my path got set out as it has but every since I started spending my time in big meetings about ideas that become neat things I have liked my job more. It reminds me of playing with Lego.

  • Willie Mays! I still have Willie Mays baseball cards that I bought in grade one. I think I always like Willie Mays because of how close his name was to Oor Wullie.
  • Is there a “difference between the public square and the common room of a private club”?
  • Onions actually slinging low.
  • “…40 per cent of Canadians think they are worse off now than they were before…” Worse off? Certainly not improved. Chretien created the changes we will still live by. National discourse certainly lessened by the bear of little imagination.
  • Extreme Shepherding!!!
  • Vintage base ball breaks out in Hamilton. Need to speak to those people.

Gotta go. Gotta go play with the Lego of the mind.

Evan Rail Ensured My New Glarus Mules Were Happy

Does that make sense? My co-workers have family in Wisconsin which means I get a share in New Glarus mixed cases once in a while. Moon Man Pale Ale. Me happy. To keep them happy in return – because only a fool does not want to keep that deal going – I share some of my beer travel findings and have been pleased to hear that a beer like Hennepin or a timely biere de garde is well received. To keep them really happy, hitting good beer folk up for tips when they travel is clever and, as they just were traveling in Prague, it means a plea from me goes to Evan and, in return, I get treats from Prague including this nice glass and bottle as well as a couple of Primator 16s.

Ain’t life great? Thanks Evan. Life lesson for today: treat your mules well and they will treat you well.

Speaking Of Collapses, What Did You Think Of That?

The funniest thing? At the beginning of the game, TSN had a camera in the living room of the Prime Minister’s house, the whole family gathered as it on a stage dressed in various reddish sweaters. Yet, during the five goal third period collapse, the camera never when back to their grim response to once and future evil empire slicing the hopes and dreams out of our lads. Only a neutered press statement generically praising all medal winners as if this were pre-school t-ball. Too bad. One might have hoped for a touch of classic conservative give up at a moment like that, complaining on the one hand, whining of the other but never getting it right. Or do they have to go off and figure out how to blame the Liberals for this, too?

Vlad will be pleased his “instructions to immediately redress the intolerable situation” were heeded.


Ontario: Fryfogel’s Tavern, Near New Hamburg, Perth Co.


Ever since I opened my copy of Julia Robert’s In Mixed Company, a history of the taverns of Upper Canada from the 1780s to the 1850s, I have wondered how many of our Upper Canadian pioneer taverns there might be left out there. Well, I passed one today – the Fryfogel Tavern – and thought I would get out of the car and have a look around.








Fryfogel’s Tavern, more graciously called an inn on the official road side sign, has sat by the road between Kitchener and Goderich for 166 years, though it has not apparently acted as a tavern for most of that time. You will recall from last summer’s posts on Ontario’s history that the land to the west of Lake Ontario starts opening up and breweries start opening up in the 1820s and 30s. The Canada Company’s plan of settlement of the area is discussed here and the way of life at the time of 1830s settlement of the district can be found in this letter from an original settler, John Stewart. Each source mentions Mr Fryfogle or Fryfogel when his tavern was a log cabin. Roberts indicates that the later 1840s form of the tavern is in the Georgian style and that this was the template for taverns for much of the pre-Confederation period:

The Georgian style worked well to project an image of prosperity and comfort, particularly in the practical sense that it enabled different activities to go on in the house at the same time.

Owned by the county’s historical foundation, it well kept but something of a shame that it is not in use though that seems to be in the plans. Next to it to the west sits the site of the 1828 cabin that preceded it as the home of the family. To the east runs Tavern Brook. The original owners are buried across the road.