City guide: Edinburgh
Words: Sarah Marks
Friday 08 June 2018
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Beer52 is very proud to call Edinburgh home, and very fortunate to be based in one of the UK’s great beer cities. As well as hosting several highly respected and historically important breweries, the city also has an exciting raft of new home-grown beers, from the likes of Pilot, Campervan, Bellhaven and Barney’s.
The city itself is quite unlike anywhere else – a cultural and architectural gem anchored to Scotland’s east coast by a majestic castle-topped glacial ridge, running down to the old town to the south, and the genteel new town and the sea to the north. Visit in August and you’ll find the Edinburgh Festivals – most notably the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest multi-arts festival – in full swing and the city transformed into a riot of colour and noise.
But Edinburgh’s not just a summer city; beer lovers will find plenty to keep them entertained year-round, thanks to a thriving bar scene. While Edinburgh has been recognised for the international quality of its cocktail bars for around a decade, the past few years have also seen the emergence of some world-class beer bars, from traditional cask-focused pubs to hip craft emporia, and several excellent bottleshops.
Finally, it may surprise some visitors to learn there’s more to Scottish food than haggis and deep-fried confectionary. Much more. With a plethora of delicious options ranging all the way from Michelin-starred restaurants to unpretentious family bistros, you can ‘fill yer boots’ every night in Edinburgh and never get bored.
65 Henderson Street
265 Leith Walk
23 Elm Row
These awesome family-run bars pride themselves on making you feel at home away from home and, with perfect Swedish hospitality, staff here never fail to charm. Boasting a consistently impressive selection of craft beers and some of the best Swedish food on offer in the city, it’s definitely worth making time to visit any (or all) of these funky east-side bars. Skål!
New to the city, but already a popular CAMRA hangout, this quirky wee pub in Leith has six cask pulls and ten keg taps as well as a whole host of bottles, cans and delicious wines to keep idle hands occupied. As first runner up in CAMRA’s Edinburgh and South-East Scotland Cider Pub of the Year 2018, Steel Coulson demonstrates a real devotion to proper brewing that extends to all aspects of the taproom. In association with its sister business, Dawkins Ales, these guys even offer a 50p discount for CAMRA members on all Dawkins Ales and Steel Coulson pints. What more could you ask for?
This family-owned, southside gem has been supplying Edinburgh with the best in brewing equipment and ingredients for over 35 years. Any homebrewer can’t help but feel like a child in a sweet shop exploring this Aladdin’s cave of brewing goodies. Drawing on their copious funds of knowledge, these guys also run the Edinburgh BrewSchool where even beginners can learn all about the alchemy and art of homebrewing.
Living up to the bustling connotations of its name, Peter Sherry’s Bonnington bottle shop is an independent treasure trove of beery goodness. Staff here are famously friendly and knowledgeable, which is a good thing because you’re going to need someone to guide you through the 700+ beers and 500+ wines on offer. If that wasn’t enough, with the only Kegerator in Scotland, The Beerhive also offers its customers the opportunity to take home beer that’s been freshly bottled in-store.
Established in 2012, The Hanging Bat has become a sort of nervecentre in the Edinburgh craft beer world. Very different from CAMRA sweethearts like The Stockbridge Tap, but with the same dedication, they cater to the next generation of craft beer lovers, ditching the pint completely and offering contemporary BBQ fare from their cherished smoker. As well as curating an extensive selection of draught and bottled beers, they regularly work with students from the Heriot Watt Brewing and Distilling degree course to create unique beers with their Sabco Magic Brew 50l brewkit.
On the northern outskirts of the New Town, with its grand Georgian facades, lies 6° North, a chic Belgian-style beer hall with a clean industrial interior that conveys its commitment to stripping away the superfluous and doing things properly. 40 taps and an absolute cornucopia of bottled beers mean that you could easily while away an evening here. A strong focus on food pairings have led to an impressive tapas style menu with its roots firmly in Belgian gastronomy and a profound respect for the beer.
Despite being famously difficult to find, this long-standing basement bar really shouldn’t be missed. As one of Edinburgh’s oldest and most respected venues of its kind, perhaps it should come as no surprise that huge drinks industry names like Ryan Chetiyawardana and Iain Griffiths have passed through here. Expect innovative flavour-pairings, very low lighting and a wholehearted dedication to all things hip-hop.
Sitting quietly on the slope of a steep side-street just off the Cowgate is Salt Horse, a highly regarded wee beer bar and bottle shop that boasts a killer Old Town location without the swarms of tourists. Their impressive beer selection is complemented by tasty burgers from resident chefs Meat:Stack. Although they may be small, they pack a big punch. These guys are particularly well known for their tasting sessions and events so keep an eye on their social media for the latest.
If seasonal Scottish fare is what you’re after, look no further than Tom Kitchin’s chic gastro pub in pretty Stockbridge. As befits one of Edinburgh’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, meals aren’t particularly cheap here, but accolades like their Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand 2017 testify to the quality of the food. Kitchin demonstrates his commitment to showcasing local produce across the menu, so expect to pair your scran with beers from Scottish breweries like Harviestoun and Campervan.
A fairly recent addition to the city, The Fat Pony focuses on producing small plates with big flavours that are designed to pair with their impressive collection of wines. Although it styles itself as a wine bar, its beer and cocktail menus have been treated with the same level of attention to detail so you needn’t feel restricted while you’re there.
This cosy Mexican street-food joint hosts a particularly impressive agave selection as well as the city’s most sought after Mexican tapas. Not at all surprisingly, this tiny venue is always rammed, but you shouldn’t let that put you off. Head across the road to its sister bar, The Bon Vivant, and staff will notify you when a table becomes free. Plus, in addition to being famous for its delicious range of wacky frozen margaritas, it also offers BYOB if you buy from the neighbouring bottleshop, The Bon Vivant’s Companion.
Hidden away behind the most unassuming of shopfronts, The Edinburgh Food Studio is the crowd-funded success story of Ben Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella. Having both graduated from Italy’s prestigious University of Gastronomic Sciences, and with Reade’s experience in research and development at Copenhagen’s Nordic Food Lab, this place has food research at its heart.
A little slice of Greece in the heart of Edinburgh, if Spitaki looks a little rustic and unassuming, it’s only because the focus of this family-run restaurant is firmly on the food. With fresh ingredients and a clear commitment to authenticity, everything on the menu is a must-try, and definitely works best on a big table filled with family, friends and laughter (as long as you’re all prepared to share). The grilled meats are great if you’re a carnivore but – as you might expect – there are also plenty of excellent vegetarian options on show.
An eclectic mix of exhibitions are housed inside what can only be described as a gilded, neo-gothic palace of a gallery. Aside from the great halls of more conventional portraiture, anyone with a fascination for the macabre should look out for the collection of death masks on the first floor. Here you’ll come face to face, quite literally, with the likes of Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Johnson, and the infamous local murderer William Hare.
Food, drinks and live music come together at this award winning outdoor market every Saturday 12pm-10pm. Dogs are welcome, as are kids until 8pm, with the whole thing feeling more like a chilled barbecue with friends than an open market. But don’t worry, unlike most barbecues, The Pitt doesn’t let Scotland’s signature rubbish weather get in the way of a good thing; fire pits and plenty of sheltered spots keep the party going come rain or shine.
Tucked away on a quiet residential street in Miss Jean Brodie’s Morningside, the Dominion retains its air of romance by remaining one of the city’s best kept secrets. Why not sip on some bubbly and enjoy table service from plush recliners as old Hollywood luxury seduces you in this iconic independent cinema.
With one of the largest collections of pathological artefacts in the UK, housed inside one of Scotland’s oldest museums, Surgeons Hall is absolutely packed with weird and wonderful things. Here you’ll find a myriad of jars with bits of bodies floating menacingly in them as well as archaic examples of medical tools that may well give you nightmares. It’s a great place to spend a rainy afternoon and particularly good for kids, but fair warning, its probably not for those of you of a squeamish disposition.
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