143 Cowgate


St Patrick’s Day is like the Mad Friday that precedes Christmas – a night when wise people stay at home, leaving only the idiots and piss artists to roam the streets like beer-thirsty zombies, their heads hideously misshapen by the novelty Guinness hats affixed to them.  Few occasions are as successful as St Patrick’s at flushing out the pricks of this world, and that’s not a dig at the Irish.  I’m talking about prick-mankind in general, the sort of drunken oafs which every nation propagates.  Even if I was of the Irish persuasion, I would cringe at the thought of donning green face paint and an ill-fitting leprechaun’s beard and stotting out looking like the Loch Ness Monster in a bad disguise.  The thing about the Scots is that we don’t feel obliged to force our nation upon the rest of the world for one day of the year.  (St Andrew’s Day?  That’s just an American holiday.)  If we wanna get pissed, we’ll get pissed – we don’t need permission from society to embarrass ourselves.  While the Irish dressing up as Irish stereotypes is lamentable, it’s simply contemptible when the Scots follow their lead, in an attempt to ingratiate ourselves with our ‘Celtic cousins’, the very ones we rarely give the time of day to the other 364 days of the year.  Why do some Scots feel compelled to commit the modern-day equivalent of blacking up like minstrels by imitating the Irish?  Can you imagine us dressing up as Morris dancers and singing God Save The Queen on St George’s Day?  An extreme example perhaps, especially when the blame for such shenanigans lies not with the Scots or the Irish, but the breweries who perpetuate this tosh in order to shift units.

While The Three Sisters is hoaching with the Irish diaspora and ersatz hangers on, next door on the Cowgate, Brewdog is quietly getting on with the business of selling its trendy ales to the city’s discerning quaffers.  With branded caps, t-shirts, menus, coasters, bottles and cans all available, it’s like Brewdog Disneyland in here – you can have anything you want so long as it’s got the BD badge of approval upon it.  It’s easy to forgive the blanket propaganda within Brewdog’s own lair however, for the company are the Innocent smoothies of the beer world – a little pricey perhaps, but their marketing is so savvy and redolent of postmodern cool, it’s hard not to love these scamps for their audacity.  I mean, creating limited edition beers to bottle in stuffed roadkill and punt at £500 a pop?  Well you would if you thought you could get away with selling it, and Brewdog clearly do.  With beer – like all comestibles – becoming more than just a fuel and now a lifestyle choice, Brewdog and Edinburgh should be a smug match made in heaven.

The beer itself is created in the firm’s micro-brewery in Fraserburgh, a town previously famous only for its smack problem.  For every Renton who crawls out of the fishing port these days however, there’s 100 barrels of Punk IPA, heading to a CAMRA-friendly pub near you.  At the rate this ambitious company is expanding at, by 2030 Scotland might just be famous for something other than Trainspotting.  The bar’s beer selection is dominated by Brewdog’s own draught offerings, with staples such as Punk IPA and 77 coming in around £3.50 a pint.  With Tennent’s and their ilk banished from this devout alehouse, woe betide anyone who walks in and dares order a lager tops.  It is possible to drink beer other than Brewdog without concealing a carry-out in your rucksack, but it comes at a price.  Guest beers start at a wallet-melting £2.50 a ½ pint, going up to £3, confusingly, for a ⅓ pint of Judgement Day.  In mitigation, this Lost Abbey brew does come in at 10.5% – a full pint would probably turn you blind, or worse still, have you dressing up as a leprechaun.

At the time of this review, only three days into trading, the bar appeared to be doing a brisk trade, although in fairness, you could serve up pints of watered down Babycham on St Patrick’s Day and you’d still be packed out.  As with any new premises, there are always teething problems to be overcome, evinced in this case by the scrawled notice above the bar: ‘Due to the world being against us, cash only.’  And that is the beauty of Brewdog.  They trick you into buying into their insurrectionary counter-corporation mentality by making you believe that you’re part of a cultural revolution, when really you’re just lining the coffers of yet another brewery, albeit one with the cute epithet ‘micro’ in its title.  But who cares how rich they become off their calculated marketing ploys designed to seize hold of the zeitgeist and squeeze every last penny out of it?  When the beer tastes this good, Brewdog Bar could sponsor international terrorism and people would still drink here.  When its patrons wake up tomorrow, they’ll be grateful they spent their last £20 on good beer instead of ten pints of Guinness just to win a furry top hat.


Try: Everything, but probably not all in one sitting.

Avoid: The board games.  Connect Four’s all well and good, but in a bar?  When there’s serious drinking to be done?  Get a grip!

Typical prices:

£3.20 – £3.50 a pint

Cheese board £6/£12