Pete pouring the Summer Wine Half Wit
Word filtered through to us recently about something unusual appearing in one of Edinburgh’s bottle shops. To see it for yourself, you need to fight past the pipe-strewn battlefield of York Place to Broughton Street. Down in Cannonmills, away from the grimy roadworks, is the recently opened Beerhive. Inside, in addition to the expected shelf-based offerings is something not seen in the capital’s off-licences until now – a kegerator.
Fitted within a tumble dryer-sized metal cube, perched just inside the door, is a machine that dispenses draught beer for takeaway, which can be carried out in plastic bottles or stoppered glass jars. I went down the other day to chat to owner Peter Sherry about the idea, which is – as far as I’m aware – pretty much unique in Scotland (other than the large Wholefoods in Glasgow, who also offer something similar).
Made in Hicksville, New York (no, really), the machine holds one 30l keg at a time, and Pete will happily fill the 500ml plastic bottles to order. These types of growler stations are native to the States, where established chains (such as Buffalo’s Consumer’s Beverages) offer up to ten different beers on draught to supplement their bottle sales. Different markets, of course – the off-trade in the US relies on growler fills far more than here – but having something like this in the city is fantastic.
Pete is one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met – I went down to the Beer Hive for a quick chat and ended up there for over two hours. Having learned under the tutelage of James Wroebel at Cornelius, he wanted a place of his own, and to make a mark. Judging by the number of people who came in during my visit, that seems to be happening (he also had a customer referred to him by the staff in Tescos, of all places – surely a first).
Other off-licences are apparently looking at using the kegerator idea for their shops already, so he must be on to something. It’s still early days, but the first 30l keg of Magic Rock High Wire went in less than a week – the beer currently on offer is Summer Wine’s Half-Wit, a brand-new 8% Double wit from the guys in Holmfirth. The plan, from what I understand, is pretty much to be as flexible as possible with the beer on offer (with the necessary limitation of one at a time).
It’s a great idea, adding something different to Edinburgh, in a city already well-served by independent off-licences. As well as gaining repeat custom for those returning with their plastic bottles or glass jugs (which are the Williams Bros Nollaig ones), it also gives Pete a chance to merely offer customers a little taster whilst they are looking at the shelves. Getting people back into the shop a second time is a key thing for any business – having something unique like this can only be a good thing.
NB – Before anyone emails or comments, Pete has a lined measuring jug that he pours the beer in before decanting into the bottles – the above picture of him direct-filling the bottle was just a demonstration for photo purposes.
The Beer Hive is located on 24 Rodney Street, Cannonmills. Prices for the growler fills vary depending on the abv of the beer – at the moment, 500ml of 8% Half-Wit is £4. Plastic bottles are at no extra cost, but there’s a £3 deposit on the litre glass bottles. We think this is a first for Scottish off-licenses, but if you know different, please let us know. The BrewDog bars have been offering growler fills for almost a year now, of course.