Our Beer Man’s VerdictIt’s testament to the strength of the burgeoning beer scene in the city that the opening of Usher’s of Edinburgh slipped under the radar without much fanfare.
The low-key launch is probably the main reason I was the only customer there on a weekday early evening just a few days after it had first opened its doors, with the smell of fresh paint still lingering.An unassuming entrance at street level leads down – with the assistance of eye-catching illuminated handrails – to a large atmospheric room.
It’s a smart place – dark and woody, with the main beer hall leading down into an area which seems more suited to eating. Pillars and barrels break up the space and some moody red downlighting on the bar adds to the cosy, comfortable and informal feel.The welcome from the barman is warm and open, with a friendly explanation of the 15 keg and five cask lines and the bottle list and food menu.
The draught offering is solid – with a strong accent on Scottish and British breweries – while the bottle list is dominated by the likes of Flying Dog, Rochefort and Thornbridge. So far, so good.I start with a half of the Alechemy Bad Day At The Office (£2.25) and it’s lovely. There’s not much nose, but it’s incredibly fresh and deliciously drinkable – a refreshing 4.5 ABV pale ale which slips down a treat on a warm day.
Then it’s a half of the Oakham Green Devil (£2.30). It’s great too – intense pine and fruit, with a lightness which belies its 6 ABV. Although I ask for a half, I’m poured a two-thirds schooner in error and, after some good-natured banter, not charged for the extra – a nice touch.
The farmhouse ale from Tempest is next – not a beer I’ve seen on draught too often and great value at just £2.20 a half. It’s classic Belgian saison via Kelso – dry earthy flavours with a tight head and lively carbonation. Really tasty.
Overall, I was pretty impressed by Usher’s. It’s clearly very early days and they are still finding their feet – in a neighbourhood with no shortage of pubs, including the popular Pear Tree just a couple of doors away – and trying to get a handle on what their customers want and where they fit into an already crowded market.
The draught offering beer was well-kept and well-served. Although it did play it rather safe, that’s maybe understandable in the first few days – and it was midweek and some lines were off. They also plan to have their own on-site brewhouse up and running soon producing house ales, which will give a true measure of what Usher’s is all about.
It’s a welcome addition to Edinburgh’s beer scene. While it’s unlikely to blow your socks off, it feels like the kind of pub which will ease its way in and find a little space in the market. I look forward to visiting again.