No matter how much I’m sad to be missing out on London Beer City, I can’t wait for my visit to ‘The Most Punderful Time of the Year’ – The Edinburgh Fringe. Like me, you may also be going to Edinburgh this August. And, like me, you may also want to know the best craft beer pubs and bars in any city you visit. Having spent a heck of a lot of time in Edinburgh over the past few years, I’ve been looking into just that. So, in no particular order, here are seven bars that I urge you to visit during The Fringe. Or for that matter, anytime you’re in Edinburgh. They all have great beer and, like any good pub, will be a place where awesome memories are created.
(Photo – Andrew Usher and Co.)
The name may sound like a stuffy accountants, but Andrew Usher and Co. is the closest thing to an American dive bar that Edinburgh has. The theatrical lighting is the thing that strikes you first. The second, is the big row of casks staring at you from the other side of the room. An imposing yet smile-raising decoration that harks back to the history of the bar’s name. This is not a case of style over substance though. Cask and keg beers from around the world, with a distinctively Scottish backbone, are a welcome respite from the hordes of leaflet zombies that descend upon Edinburgh streets, or the Scottish summer weather (the only two things that can even begin to put a dampener on The Fringe!).
Where – 32b West Nicolson Street
Go Here If You’re Seeing A Show At – Udderbelly – Teviot, Gilded Balloon – Teviot
(Photo – The Hanging Bat)
This multi-level beer emporium was once described to me by a friend as, “where all those hipsters go.” If by, “where all those hipsters go” he meant, “has 14 kegs taps, 6 casks lines and constantly stocks beers from some of the best breweries in the UK and beyond – so obviously draws in a very handsome and interesting crowd.” Then yes, he was right. This is where the hipsters go. And although it may be a bit detached from The Fringe epicentre, schooners of superb suds and an awesome range of BBQ scran (made using a smoker) make it very worth your while heading towards Lothian Road.
Where – 133 Lothian Road
Go Here If You’re Seeing A Show At – EICC, Assembly Rooms
5. and 4. Red Squirrel and OX184
(Photo – Red Squirrel)
(Photo – OX184)
Usually sporting brews from the likes of Fyne, Tempest and Beavertown as their hero beers, OX184 and Red Squirrel are sister bars set either side of the Royal Mile, and part of the FullerThomson chain. Hence the reason I’m putting them together. But don’t let that c-word put you off visiting. Chain doesn’t have to mean boring, bland, copy and paste humdrum. Quite the opposite in this case. Each of these venues has its own unique beer-first experience, with a common theme of quality shining through. Red Squirrel on Lothian Road has sit-down, relax and eat something delicious with your beer vibes. Whilst OX184 on Cowgate has a party atmosphere in the air. Choose Red Squirrel for lazy afternoons. Choose OX184 for the rambunctious shenanigans of the evening . Either way, you’ve probably found one of your favourite bars in Edinburgh.
Red Squirrel -21 Lothian Road
OX184 – 184-186 Cowgate
Go Here If You’re Seeing A Show At –
Red Squirrel – EICC, Assembly Rooms
OX184 – The Caves, Cabaret Voltaire, Three Sisters
(Photo – Six Degrees North – Edinburgh)
With bars in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Stonehaven (where the brewery is based), it was only a matter of time before Six Degrees North opened up a place in Edinburgh. Specialising in all things Belgian beer (as well as the cheese, meat and bread to go with it), if you know your geuze from your gose – this is the place for you. At time of writing, they’ve got breweries such as Westmalle, Rodenbach, De La Senne and Dupont on draught, alongside the brewery’s own fantastic Belgian-inspired range and a supporting cast of the likes of Tempest, Wylam and Pilot for those less Belgian-inclined. Expect the big guns to be brought out for festival time as well, as sister bars are known to get many an amazing rarity in from Belgium.
Where – 24 Howe Street
Go Here If You’re Seeing A Show At – The Stand, Hanover Tap
2. Salt Horse
(Photo – Salt Horse)
Rocking the continental beer cafe feel, Salt Horse embraces the smaller-sized venue and makes it work to great effect. Plonk this bar in Amsterdam, Prague or Berlin – and the locals would flock to it. Centred between The Royal Mile and Cowgate, Salt Horse prides itself on its beer and food selection, with the current scran selection being Middle Eastern cuisine at time of writing. When someone says “the best things come in small packages”, they’re usually trying to be nice about something that isn’t quite up to scratch. But what Salt Horse lacks in size, it makes up for in continental atmosphere, a beer garden, 12 keg lines and possibly the widest selection of bottles and cans in Edinburgh (around 400). Not bad for a wee man.
Where – 57-61 Blackfriars Street
Go Here If You’re Seeing A Show At – The Hive, Banshee Labyrinth, The Tron, Anything on The Royal Mile.
(Photo – The Holyrood 9A)
And finally, another FullerThomson masterpiece. But one I feel worthy of its own entry for two separate reasons. One. The Haggis Burger they do is a wonder of the modern world and should be heralded as such. And two, because this pub was one of the places that really invigorated my love for craft beer. Many a day was spent here drinking pints of Tempest, Long White Cloud and Fyne Ales, Jarl. And many a day will be spent doing the same in the future. Half-restaurant, half-suave yet not pretentious bar, it’s a place you can’t help but fall in love with. It has a kick-ass core range (mainly the likes of the aforementioned Tempest and Fyne along with other great Scottish breweries like Pilot and Stewart) and a guest selection that never disappoints. Far enough away from the madness yet close enough to the action, a visit to Edinburgh wouldn’t be the same for me without a trip here.
Where – 9a Holyrood Road
Go Here If You’re Seeing A Show – The Caves, Cabaret Voltaire, Three Sisters
So if you do make a visit to any of these hop havens during The Fringe or at any time. Do let me know on Twitter. I’d be really keen to hear what you think!