The other week, I finally managed to look round Edinburgh’s newest brewery – the first to open inside the bypass for many years. Having moved the short distance from Falkirk, Barney’s Brewery began operating at Summerhall back in July, and were immediately pitched into the craziness of the festival. Now things have settled somewhat, it was a good time to visit Barney and check out his shiny brewkit – the old gear having been sold to a brewery in Nottinghamshire. Barney (or Andrew, I never know what to call him), agreed to meet me at the ornate front entrance to Summerhall – the arts venue created from what was the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School.
There was a new exhibition due to open that weekend, so everything was a hive of activity – ironically one of the only calm areas was inside the brewery, as Barney had been cleaning the kit down in preparation for the next brew. His facility looks great, being located inside the old college stables on the far side of the central courtyard – it doesn’t take much to imagine the animals being housed here before being seen by the veterinarians. “I love having the stable door, as people can look over and see what I’m up to,” he told me “although we had a bit of trouble getting the fermenters in, though!”
Since the move, Barney has billed himself as ‘the only microbrewery in Edinburgh’ – which is, I suppose, technically true – depending on whether you consider Loanhead to be part of the city or not. There’s no doubting the micro part, however, as Barney does pretty much everything on his own – a temporary intern will be heading back to the US soon. “There’s been no shortage of people asking me for work, though – so I should be able to find someone else to help out” he told me. The deliveries, for example, used to take nearly two days out of his week – although he’s recently gone into partnership with a distributor to get the time back.
90% of Barney’s current output is cask, although the demand for his bottled beer has recently skyrocketed. Great for the business – but that day and half saved not being in the van is now spent hand-bottling, meaning longer days in the brew room. Speaking of which, there are four fermenters, and another three that have been converted into the mash tun and coppers. Next door, through the adjoining part of the stable is his recently painted office, with an old side cupboard that serves as the grain and hop store.
For the moment, Barney is concentrating on his core of Good Ordinary Pale Ale, Volcano IPA (which tasted great from the conditioning tank) and Red Rye. The infamous beetroot beer isn’t on the schedule at the moment – “It might come back, but it’s on hold for now,” he says. One of the best things about his location is the Summerhall bar – literally a few feet from his stable door “I really want to use it as a brewery tap – it was touch and go to get the Pale Ale on for the start of the festival after we’d opened, but we just made it – and the reception it got was fantastic.”
The history of Summerhall has a neat symmetry, as before the vet college was constructed it was originally a brewery. The old Summerhall facility was a fixture of south-east Edinburgh before being demolished just prior to the First World War and converted into the vet school. Nearly a hundred years later, beer is once again being made on site. Although the boom years of Edinburgh brewing are long gone, it’s great to see another brewer opening up in the city. With the location he has, and a ready market at Summerhall, Barney and his brewery have got a great future.