A solid cask-forward offering that is a staple of the Edinburgh scene, but perhaps to be avoided if there’s any football of note on - unless you want watch more than one game at a time without getting a seat...The pub opened in late 2010 as a "Southside" version to it’s Broughton Street big brother as part of Grange Inns.
Situated on a side street a few minutes walk away from The Southern and (laughable) Clerks Bar there are two entrances, once to a smaller alcove behind the main bar area and one right into the main pub featuring a horseshoe island bar with 8 Angram casks and around 10 keg lines. There’s normally room to stand without holding your glass, barrell-cum-tables dotted around with tables along the perimeter beneath a hodge-podge or traditional Brewing mirrors and around 10 TVs - one of which is locked to the Horse Racing!
Since opening amongst drinkers and brewers in Scotland said that there is no better cellar for cask beer in Edinburgh than CBSS - due to the length of time each cask is given to vent in optimal conditions (I’d dare say if the cellar is half the size of the upstairs they’ll have more than enough room to do that!) and each staff member trained to take particular care, even for a CAMRA recognised establishment, to ensure an impeccable pint. Examples of this are often "one off" casks and an infamous tap takeover of Brodie’s Beers casks from London only being on offer in CBSS.
Most of the time of the 8 cask lines, 3 are taken by Deuchars, Orkney Best and Stewarts 80 with the remainder of the Guest lines a consistent rotation of Scottish stalwarts like Highland, Cromarty, Ayr, Loch Lomon, Trysy and Alechemy with the occassional English brewery such as Ilkley or Darkstar making a welcome appearance.
Downsides are that most of the beers on cask are light in colour and ABV, rarely more than one porter or stout on at a time backed with a set keg selection - Tennents being order of the day. Staropramen and Erdinger as well as two ciders and Guinness.
The bottle selection on my most recent visit was also lacking, although stocking De Molen only one was available as well as lacking in the advertised Saison Du Pont and an unknown Kriek and Framboise (I’d guess Lindemans or Bellevue). However, they did have Orval bottled from 18 months ago which was on fire.
Price wise very few beers are over £4 by the pint and bottles little more than this, so mark up is very reasonable across the board. Most evenings you should be able to find a pew, I’d advise checking downstairs to the right/behind the bar if you’re stuck - especially if there’s any sport on. The horse racing TV and two bookies on the corner of the street are an indication of some of the clientele, but more of the amiable banter variety than anything else.
It’s out of the way of the main town, but if you’re strolling up Arthur’s Seat a visit here and The Southern isn’t a bad shout with Dagda and The Reeverie also nearby. Certainly worth a visit for the condition of their cask offerings at the very least. Last visited, Saturday 30th Jan 2015
I went with two Americans ages 22 and 26. The barman would not accept their state-issued drivers licenses as IDs and said it was illegal to do so. The IDs were accepted in many other pubs without comment so either the barman was a liar or the other places decided to break the law. The Cask and Barrel was full of old men drinking and did not seem like a good place anyway. I recommend that you avoid it, especially if you are a young foreigner. Based on my experience, I think they may be anti-American.
My favourite place on my last trip to Edinburgh. No food, just beer and plenty of space, with lots of tables to sit at. 8 cask ales on, all well-chosen and in good condition, friendly service. Combined with a visit to the Southern, the Great Grog bottle shop and the Dagda Bar makes for a great afternoon.