WHO: Scott Anderson, 43, of Groveland; John Mather, 61, of Groton; Gary Sannicandro, 43, of Hopkinton; Dave McCormick, 31, of Wayland; and Chris Hughes, 44, of Westford.
WHEN: Three days in November.
WHY: After going there for business for several years, Anderson, Sannicandro, and Mather, who grew up in Scotland and is now a US citizen, developed a friendship with Scottish colleague Bill Smith, who lives in Edinburgh. "Two years ago we decided to go strictly for pleasure, and it's become a yearly thing," Anderson said.
HOPS AND HISTORY: "John plans out the cultural things, and I do research on pubs and brewery tours," Anderson said. "I used 'The Good Beer Guide,' which lists breweries and all the pubs that serve real ale, beer with live yeast and no artificial carbonation." The men base themselves at Holyrood apartHOTEL in Edinburgh. "It's a fantastic place at the end of the Royal Mile, which is the central street that runs from the Palace of Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle in the central part of the medieval section."
HARPOON LINK: The trio hit the ground running with a tour at local start-up Stewart Brewing. "It was started by Steve Stewart, who once apprenticed at Harpoon in Boston," Anderson said. "He's within 15 minutes of central Edinburgh. We made an appointment to visit. He's on a real budget, but he's won a lot of awards."
SINGULAR SENSATION: At the invitation of Smith, they visited the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh. "Bill is a big single-malt fan and a member," Anderson said. "The club is in this beautiful neoclassical building. They have all their own casks and a restaurant that serves traditional Scottish gourmet food. They have a full menu of single malts from all over Scotland, with all the different flavor profiles."
SETTLING IN: A day trip took them to Stirling Castle. "It's one of the country's largest and most important castles. It's where Braveheart had his famous battle and where Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned." They had lunch and ale at the historic Settle Inn in Stirling, popped into a few other pubs along the way, and later that day toured the Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, home of The Famous Grouse.
INSIDE OUT: At the Edinburgh restaurant Stac Polly, Anderson ordered a gourmet version of haggis, the traditional dish made of sheep organs, oatmeal, and spices and cooked in the animal's stomach. "They put it in phyllo dough and deep fried it and put it on a bed of raspberry reduction. It was just fabulous." Another standout meal was at the Cloisters. "It's a gastropub, a traditional pub with good food."
GO HIBS: Smith took the Americans to a local soccer game, a cultural eye-opener. "Edinburgh has two teams, the Hibernians, which are Catholic, and the Hearts, Protestant. The rivalry is very intense. On the day of the match, police were out in force in all the pubs; you can't wear club colors in pubs. Coming into the stadium they separate the fans onto two roads. I have to say I was shocked. It's like the Red Sox versus the Yankees times 10. We were for the Hibs, the home team." They ended the night, as always, at Whistlebinkies. "They have excellent live rock music, and they're open until 3."
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