• • • Best Newcomer • • •


New breweries are usually forgiven a degree youthful recklessness, of playing fast and loose, and generally asking a little too much of their customers, employees and kit in the name of creativity and growth. Indeed, some would argue that a more casual approach to best practice is necessary to get a new brewery rolling. The winner of this year’s Best Newcomer award shows conclusively that this is not the case at all. 

Perhaps it’s partly a product of having been founded in the depths of lockdown, but Moonwake’s whole approach has been responsible, methodical, and precise right from the offset. Its inherent sensibleness manifests in everything it does, from the huge up-front investment in scalable kit, to the accessibility of its Leith taproom, right through to comprehensive employment policies that put much of the craft world to shame.

This level of professionalism is, of course, tied to commercial and creative ambition. Where most brewers will start out trying to do everything themselves, Moonwake’s founders Fin and Vinny hired professional sales and marketing staff right out of the gate. They contracted illustrators, graphic designers and photographers to build a brand that’s simple and distinctive, yet adaptable enough to stand the test of time. Having enjoyed something of a ringside seat to the brewery’s pre-launch lockdown prep, I sometimes wondered whether the whole thing might actually be some kind of post-modern art experiment; create a mature, medium-sized craft brewery that never actually sells a single pint.

PHOTO: Ashley Carter

My suspicions were of course unfounded, and once the pubs reopened, the beer duly began to flow. Much to the relief of everyone who had been rooting for Moonwake (including its neighbours in the burgeoning Leith Beer Mile) a few mis-steps in the first batch or two were corrected with ruthless speed, recipes were properly dialled in, and Moonwake’s beers quickly took their place among the most reliably excellent you’ll find among Edinburgh’s taps and bottleshop fridges.

Finn and Vinny’s overall approach to brewing is very much in line with Moonwake’s “precision brewed in Leith” marketing tag. The emphasis is on straightforward styles, brewed with care and expertise. Nothing is ridiculously strong, nothing is over-hopped and you won’t find a daft adjunct in sight – with nowhere to hide, the straightforward excellence of Moonwake’s brewing shines through across its no-nonsense core range.

While balance is always key, Moonwake’s first year has very much felt like an exploration of hop character. Hailing from New Zealand, Head Brewer Vinny, the creative force behind new recipes, has deployed the country’s native hops to great effect, giving its core lager a citrus, slightly floral top note, and leading to several superb specials, including single-hop IPAs showcasing Nelson Sauvin, Ekuanot and Vic Secret.

There’s also been a real focus on community, and Moonwake has quickly become central to the growing Leith beer scene, not least through its regular weekend market, featuring local food vendors and other craft products. Collaborations too have helped the brewery cement its position, through tie-ins with other Beer52 favourites such as Fierce And Ukraine’s VarVar.

Picking the best of any year’s fresh crop of breweries always runs the risk of making you (and them) a hostage to fortune. After all, there’s a lot that can go wrong, especially in the current climate. With Moonwake though, we’re confident that 2021/2022 has seen the birth of a real Scottish institution, and that the strong groundwork they’ve laid down will continue to pay out great beer and positive vibes for many years to come.

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