Drink:" A scrum at the bar

A sports bar Edinburgh-style: the best traditional beers, home- made pies and rugby on the TV screen
Edinburgh lags several measures behind Glasgow in terms of the hipness of its bars, but this doesn't bother anyone at Bert's. It prides itself on being traditional, and is one of the earliest examples of a sports bar. But though Sky Sports rules the television screen, it's not your typical football and lager venue. The preferred sport here is rugby and the speciality is real ale. People like my old friend Graham, born and brought up in a family of Edinburgh lawyers, with hardly a trace of a Scottish accent, rate Bert's as their favourite.

At weekends Graham lets younger sports fans have the run of the place, but sometimes he can't always resist returning on a Saturday when there's a match at Murrayfield, and the bar staff at Bert's take four times as much on the till as usual. At lunchtime Graham and his colleagues head here for a pint and a pie, for they consider that Bert's pies - filled with minced steak, haggis, chicken or chilli - to be the very best in town, and at pounds 1 a go, a bargain to boot.

But never mind the pies, it's the beers that attract the connoisseurs. There are five ales lined up all the time: Burton, Marstons Pedigree, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Deuchars IPA from the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, and Caledonian Brewery's 80/-. In addition there are two or three guest ales every month. Beers from the Tomintoul, Harviestoun and Orkney breweries always go down well. But anything from the Kent brewery Shepherd Neame is appreciated too - only when Scotland is playing at home and all eyes are on the TV screen, do Bert's customers display an unswerving partiality to their country. Even then they're probably more gentlemanly about it than most sports fanatics.

When the Rugby World Cup kicks off in October there will be three qualifying matches on Scotland's home ground. If Scotland go through there will be more matches at Murrayfield and ensuing scrums at Bert's. Graham and his gang can't help hoping it will be a busy autumn for the Edinburgh bar which most closely reflects their tastes.

Bert's, 27-31 William St, Edinburgh (0131 225 5748)

Captions: Bert's drinks

Caledonian 80/-

Edinburgh's Caledonian Brewery won the Camra Scottish Beer of the Year award in 1997 and 1998 for this "heavy", a malty Scottish brew that's darker and sweeter than an English bitter. It is russety brown, smoothly creamy with a soft, hoppy finish. The 80/- refers to a tax once levied on beers in Scotland according to the strength of the brew. Some Scottish-brewed beers are still called 60/-, 70/- or 80/- denoting their relative strengths. Caledonian's 80/- is 4.1 per cent ABV. Of the beers on draught all the time, this is Bert's biggest seller. They get through three 18-gallon barrels a week, all served in straight glasses.


Of the monthly changing roster of guest beers, anything from Shepherd Neame, the old-established, family-run Kent brewery "always goes down fantastically well".