The Hanging Bat
Our Beer Man’s Verdict
These reviews usually aim to feature new or perhaps unheralded venues which have – or at least claim to have – a strong focus on good beer.
So some of the more long-standing or illustrious Edinburgh venues have not yet featured. The Hanging Bat may not qualify for the first category – although it already seems difficult to recall when it wasn’t there – but it certainly qualifies for the second.
The Bat arrived with a bang at the end of 2012, immediately becoming a destination beer location.
Behind a strangely anonymous pale facade on Lothian Road, it operates on three levels and, as a result, feels more intimate than it actually is. There’s even a compact beer garden out back which I suspect may not get too much sun, even on the sunniest days.
The in-house brewing kit – for their own Alpha Project line and guest brews – is well used, and proudly on display behind windows near the bar. The food is largely informal American-style barbeque, smoked on the premises, and its enticing aroma usually permeates the whole place.
A decent range of quality independent drinks are available, but the Bat unashamedly celebrates beer – and mainly British beer, whether it’s draught, bottle or the humble-but-hip can.
The very best brewers on these isles are offered across 14 keg lines and 6 cask lines – among the most in Scotland alongside places such as Drygate, Holyrood 9A and CASC. Whenever beers from further afield feature, you can be sure they’re pretty special.
The Bat’s second birthday celebrations – and a typically stellar line-up – seemed an ideal time to finally give it the Beerquest treatment.
I start with the sour beers first. The Beavertown Earl Phantom (£2 a third of a pint) is infused with tea and is wonderfully crisp, almost savoury, while the Kernel raspberry sour (£2.35) is like sticking your nose in a pot of jam. London outfit Brodie’s are a favourite of mine, but the clementine sour (£1.90) didn’t impress – all pucker, no fruit.
The Harbour Aji Lemon IPA (£2.05) was great, though, bracing bitter lemon pith with the pleasant aftertaste of green chilli without the heat.
Other highlights are the darker, higher ABV options The Magic Rock Dark Arts, aged in whisky barrels with raspberries, is harsh initially but a joy when it warms and softens. The Bat’s own Alpha Project vanilla mocha stout (£3.10 a third) is a gloriously boozy, unctuous confection – probably my pick of the night. I finish up with the Siren and Magic Rock collaboration Mr Brown – a smooth, sweet brown ale.
It’s a measure of the choice – and this stunning selection of beer isn’t a rarity at the Bat – that I don’t even reach to the superlative Orkney Porter from Highland.
No gripes. Service at the bar can be slow, either because the beer is being served carefully or advice is being given to customers – and who can argue with that?
A sister bar, Spit/Fire in Dublin Street, opens shortly with an alternative take on the Bat ethos.