If you like beer, Edinburgh is a pretty awesome place to live. The city and surrounding area is lucky to boast many excellent breweries: Pilot, Barney’s, Elixir, Alechemy, Stewart’s, Knops, Tempest…the list goes on. So what can the newest addition to the scene, the Edinburgh Beer Factory, bring to the table? That depends on what you want on your table.
Unlike most startup breweries, Edinburgh Beer Factory didn’t start with a homebrew kit in someone’s garage. EBF was founded by John Dunsmore, former chief executive of Tennent’s owner C&C Group. What this means is a brand new brewery with unusually deep pockets. EBF already has its own custom built brewhouse out in Bankhead, whilst its first beer, Paolozzi lager, is being promoted through an extensive PR and marketing drive, including a launch at the Modern Art Gallery last week.
The gallery was a fitting launchpad because Paolozzi is named after the artist Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the leading lights in the early days of Pop Art, whose family owned a sweet shop in Leith at the start of the 20th century. But the beer itself, I think, isn’t really the point of EBF or Paolozzi. Rather, it’s a truly spectacular and well-executed exercise in marketing. EBF’s aim to be ‘unashamedly modern and urban’ is exemplified by the brewery’s branding. It features a stylish curve of neon blue and pink whilst Paolozzi’s packaging is a beautiful geometric design in pale blue – and since beauty is in the eye of the beerholder, I reckon that’s what’ll tempt you to try it.
But Paolozzi lager is far more than style over substance. EBF spent a year creating just one beer and like many breweries, hired a graduate of the distinguished Heriot Watt Brewing and Distilling course to make it. The result is a very well made, commercial-tasting lager: gently fizzy, not especially bitter, with a light malty finish. If you like Peroni, San Miguel and Grolsch (to name but three) and fancy drinking something made locally, this could be the beverage for you.
Personally, I’m not a lager fan. I’m one of those craft beer snobs who likes sour wheat beers flavoured with obscure fruit. Given that EBF have only released the one beer, it could be a while before we see them create anything adventurous like that. Which is why I don’t think EBF is a threat to the plethora of fledgling craft breweries with smaller budgets. In fact, I think it’s the likes of ABInBev that should be worried about them, as the big boys of brewing have been looking to capitalise on the craft beer market for a while now. And Paolozzi lager could do just that – without taking from the little guys. Because whilst it may not be my new tipple of choice, it could sway young Heineken fans to turn to the craft side. And I’m very much in favour of that.