Our Beer Man’s Verdict
Brewhemia must be the biggest bar opening Edinburgh has seen in years – maybe ever.
It attracted some sceptical and hostile remarks in the run-up – admittedly not helping by some of its own pre-opening PR – but I tried to approach it with an open mind.
On my midweek visit, I was immediately struck – this was during the Festival, remember – how quiet it was.
Yes, it was midweek and I’m sure it was still in soft launch etc etc – but the gaggle of bored staff gathered behind the many bars outnumbered punters so heavily they were playing games to amuse themselves.
It’s cavernous, absolutely vast. It has taken over the former Sportsters on Market Street – which was a big place anyway, over two levels – and also engulfed the old City nightclub to create one monster complex.
There are vague themes for each of the zones, each with a faint whiff of PR bullshit: the bothy, the boudoir etc. You get the picture.
An eye-watering amount of money has clearly been invested in Brewhemia, but the décor doesn’t immediately appeal to me and falls somewhere between a beer hall and cocktail bar. If I was being uncharitable, I could say it wasn’t unlike a swanky Wetherspoons.
However, given that it calls itself a beer palace, I was there to check out the much-trumpeted tank beer, said to be “almost as refreshing as drinking direct from a brewery”. There are six of these big copper beasts, serving Paolozzi lager, Stewart’s Jack Back and unfiltered Pilsner Urquell.
Keen to find out more about the benefits of tank beer, one of the bar staff told me it is fresher than any other serving method because “a step of the process normally undertaken in the brewery takes place in the tank instead”. Hmm.
Anyway, the big moment: how did it taste? The Jack Back is fine. As usual. It doesn’t really taste or smell any better or any worse than the usual.
The Pilsner Urquell is markedly different from the usual offering: sweet, chewy, yeasty. However, I suspect that’s probably down to it being the specific unfiltered variety rather than any magic from the mysterious process taking place in the tanks.
The rest of the draught beer is fairly uninspiring: Lowenbrau, Goose Island, Blue Moon, although I enjoyed my Leffe Enkel.
So, Brewhemia – perhaps predictably – was a big and glossy but underwhelming experience. I know it’s not aimed at me as I’ll always opt for somewhere else nearby where the beer is well-chosen and well-served, like Salt Horse or the Guildford.
However, there’s no doubt it needs to find its audience soon and start to recoup what was surely a huge investment. Less than 100 people – even on a midweek – is surely unsustainable for a 3000-capacity venue.
Quite by accident, I joined our beer man for part of this adventure. He’s captured things very well. I plan to return in a few weeks time to try their paradigm shifting food…
Address: 1A Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE