Our Beer Man’s Verdict
The Potting Shed has apparently been open since last August, but I was unaware of it until I passed by chance and decided to investigate.
There is a commendable emphasis on quality Scottish produce and beer, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, I think these twin aims – although clearly completely compatible – seemed to rub against each other to make the Potting Shed feel like a pub which suffers from an identity crisis.
So there are big comfy chintzy sofas in the large bright windows which look out on to Potterrow and a long communal rustic wooden bench which dominates the room. Little terracotta plant pots are light shades, there are wicker baskets on the tables and plenty of hand-painted wooden signs with trowels and cartoon country characters on them.
All fine, but I thought it jarred somewhat with the typical industrial “craft beer” vibe – corrugated iron, air conditioning ducts, scaffolding and exposed brick.
Various random nick-nacks are arranged haphazardly – on the walls, from the ceiling or attached to tables – and it all feels a bit busy and confused and, consequently, didn’t quite gel for me.
The tennis was on when I went in on a warm weekday evening and, although there were only a handful of customers dotted round the large space, the service felt a little distant.
The draught beer offering is solid, with the odd surprise. There are 18 lines (five are rested or being cleaned when I’m in) dominated by familiar staples like Alechemy, Barney’s, Stewart’s, William’s (who do the house lager) and West. It’s fantastic – if a little incongruous – to see Wild’s wonderful champagne-like Ninkasi on too.
I order a two-thirds of a pint schooner of the Burning Sky Aurora (£3.90) – oddly, they don’t sell half pints – and this assertive 5.6 ABV American pale ale is perfect for a warm day. It’s in great condition – fresh and drinkable with the bitter hop bite refreshing and aromatic. A strong start.
Wild’s Epic Saison and Weird Beard’s Little Things That Kill are also on draught, but I opt for a schooner of the Mochaccino from Leith’s Pilot (£2.90). It’s normally an unctuous decadent confection – the initial roasted coffee kick softening to smooth, creamy chocolate (it’s really delicious poured over good vanilla ice cream, too). But it’s not so great here. There’s some disconcerting whispered discussion between the staff as my drink is poured and it arrives lifeless, with little carbonation and all subtlety gone – only the bitter roasted coffee notes come through.
The Potting Shed shows definite promise. The draught selection is realistically priced and balances solid crowd-pleasers with a few more eclectic options. The bottle range is limited but impressive, including Beavertown, Kernel and Redchurch. And the food menu looks tempting, with some imaginative use of Scottish ingredients.
A more clearly-defined identity would work better for me. It’s certainly worth popping in if you happen to be nearby – although there is no shortage of competition – and I look forward to trying it again sometime.