From the ‘inside’ (I’m a member of the advisory panel), I’m all too aware of how much effort Zephyr Adventures go to get things in order for us to have a great weekend. Regardless of that, the success of the event does depend massively on buy-in from the breweries who are approached for hospitality, hosting, and , of course, beer.
Last year’s event was held in Leeds, and although we did a really good job and a good time was had by all, I did come away feeling – harshly, perhaps – that we didn’t really capture the spirit of Leeds during the sessions. We hit the nail on the pub crawl, sure, but our seminar could have probably done with more ‘local’ insight. After all, as beer drinkers, we want to get ‘a taste of a place’, right?
Well, that’s what stands out in my mind, a few days after. Despite visiting Edinburgh previously, I now genuinely feel that I got that elusive ‘taste of a place’. From the peppery, deeply savoury Haggis that began life being ordered in a ‘when in Rome’ moment on the first day, only to end up craving the stuff on the train home (and since then), to the tasting panel hosted 90% by Scottish brewers, to the seminars themselves – a slice of Scottish History, wood-aging beers and the pure will and endeavour they take to create for our drinking pleasure. Slow beer indeed. The chance for us amateurs to speak to professionals, to be welcomed in by them, to soak up advice and be inspired. Traquair and BrewDog in the same room, two sides of the same coin.
It’s the quiet elegance of The Bow Bar, walking distance from my hotel room, and those beerpumps. The patina of dry heat in so many of the pubs, so unusual for Edinburgh yet ground out and tolerated by thirsty drinkers. Warm Beer; seeking out the pales and keg-chilled. The chatter, glitz and glamour of The Hanging Bat, the barmaid balancing on the bar above the heads of the Saturday night crowd, rubbing out names on the chalkboard as we don’t have pumpclips at The Bat. The Blade Runner feel of Holyrood 9a; beaming staff, cold glasses, future-noir setting. Taking a little walk to see some national inventory pubs (HP Mather, Cafe Royal, The Abbotsford). Marvelling at ceilings, tiles and glass.
Laughing. Genuinely laughing. Meeting new people, catching up with friends, and talking shop. There’s a lot to be said for talking shop, you know. Coming away from the weekend simultaneously hungover and energised, new writing ideas percolating, advice sought and taken, influences pocketed. Buzzwords, Hashtags, impromptu parody Twitter accounts.
Taste of a place? Yeah, I can tick that off. And wow, Edinburgh; don’t you just look stunning, no matter what the weather; your effortless grace provides the most attractive of drinking spots.
I’m no photographer, but I just love the beaming grin this young lady gave when I asked if I could be a craft beer wanker and take the obligatory font-shot, arty angle and all. Sums up the weekend, really.