If you’re a craft beer fan planning a trip to Scotland be sure to make time to sip through the best Edinburgh Breweries.
The most visited city in Scotland offers more than just its cute castle and pretty Princess Street. Beer lovers staying in downtown Edinburgh can enjoy fresh pints poured at a handful of local craft breweries.
History of Edinburgh Breweries
There is no region more associated with the history of brewing in Scotland than Edinburgh. The brewing industry contributed to Edinburgh’s moniker of “Auld Reekie,” named after the smoke produced by coal and wood burning furnaces and boilers. At the turn of the 18th and 20th centuries, Edinburgh had no less than 35 breweries churning out thick black smoke from its brewhouses.
Two of Scotland’s most historic and largest brewing firms were established in Edinburgh. William Younger began brewing in 1749, going on to launch the Abbey and Holyrood Breweries. William McEwan founded his famous Fountain Brewery in 1856, becoming hugely successful for early Scottish hop heads.
Edinburgh Breweries Shine at Two Annual Beer Festivals
Serious craft beer fans visiting Scotland should plan their trip in May to enjoy the annual Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival. Scotland’s global craft beer gathering features breweries from around the world, alongside fancy street food and live music. Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival is Scotland’s biggest celebration of contemporary craft beer culture, taking place each Spring at The Biscuit Factory in Leith.
Each November, Edinburgh hosts the Craft Beer Experience, an immersive beer event that takes over three floors of the Assembly Roxy on Roxburgh Place. The Craft Beer Experience is more focussed on pouring local suds from the best Edinburgh breweries. Craft Beer Experience in Edinburhg is more than just an opportunity to taste local Scottish beer. They also offer insightful workshops where brewers hold tastings, Q&As and educational lectures. The popular craft beer festival in Edinburgh runs for five sessions over three days, offering guests sips from over 20 breweries.
Book An Edinburgh Breweries Tour
If you’re looking to join a guided tour of the best Edinburgh breweries book an afternoon with Scot Beer. The award winning Scottish tour company offers local beer tours in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
In Edinburgh, Scot Beer offers three unique tours for beer loving visitors:
- Edinburgh Old Town Tour: Scot Beer’s most popular beer tour in Edinburgh starts on the Royal Mile. The historic walking tour of the Scottish capital offers a deep dive into the city’s history of beer from 1100’s to today’s thriving craft beer scene. You’ll visit three unique venues, sampling a total of 8 Scottish beers. 2.5 hours and £35 per person.
- Leith Taproom Tour: escape Edinburgh’s touristy downtown by exploring the Shore to hear about Leith’s transformation from port to thriving food and drink scene. This Edinburgh beer tour includes a walk through Leith’s historic brewing quarter. You’ll also sample award winning Scottish beer from Leith breweries and local beer bars. 2 hours and £31.80 per person.
- Southside Edinburgh Brewery Tour: enjoy a microbrewery tour and cask ale tasting on Edinburgh’s south side. You’ll visit Barney’s Beer and visit three craft beer bars. 1-2 hours and £16-31.80 per person.
Best Edinburgh Breweries
If you’re planning your first trip to Edinburgh and want to sample the city’s best craft beer you’re in luck. There are a handful of Edinburgh breweries located right in the heart of the city’s downtown tourist zone. We spent three days skipping between the best Edinburgh breweries, all of which are easily walkable from centrally located hotels and attractions.
Important to note, many of Edinburgh’s best breweries are located outside of the downtown tourist zone. If you’re a diehard craft beer fan we’d suggest taking the time to explore the city’s outskirts by visiting these popular Edinburgh breweries:
- Stewart Brewing: an award-winning Edinburgh brewery with two locations just outside of the city. Stewart’s Dockside Tap north of downtown Edinburgh and the Stewart Brewery in Bilston.
- Knops Beer Company: located a 45 minute drive east of downtown Edinburgh.
- Alechemy Brewing: located south west of Edinburgh in Livingston.
- DemonBrew: brewing at Gothenburg pub in Prestonpans, a short drive east of Edinburgh.
- Belhaven Brewery: this famous Scottish brewery dates back to 1719 and is located in Dunbar, a 45 minute drive from Edinburgh.
- Campervan Brewery Tap Room: Located in Edinburgh’s oceanside Leith neighbourhood.
- Pilot Brewery: another popular craft brewery in Edinburgh’s Leith neighbourhood.
32 Bankhead Dr, 44-131-442-4562
If you’re planning a road trip of Scotland we suggest celebrating your arrival into Edinburgh Airport by immediately sipping suds at Edinburgh Beer Factory. The brewery is located a short 8 minute drive from Edinburgh Airport, making it the perfect first or last stop on a Scottish beer tour.
Edinburgh Beer Factory first opened in November 2015. The craft breweries own Ben Oiller explains, “We wanted to brew a traditional Bavarian lager, using natural ingredients and processes and utilizing a 5-6 cold conditioning or “lagering” process which is unheard of from major lager producers.”
Kane, Edinburgh Beer Factory’s Assistant Head Brewery adds, “We’re interested in taking beer styles that have fallen out of favour or that are not considered ‘craft’ and rework them. Something like the Lager or Brown Ale for example, we like the idea of breathing new life into old styles.”
It’s one of the most eye-popping Edinburgh breweries. Oiller explains the aesthetic, “We were inspired by an Edinburgh born pop-artist and sculpture artist named Eduardo Paolozzi, his works commented on the concept of Art meeting Science, which we think a brewery really is in essence. We worked with a charity set up in his name (The Paolozzi Foundation) and restyled some of his artwork and named our beers after them.”
The Edinburgh Beer Factory features a Taproom, which can accommodate up to 40 people. Pop by for a quick beer tasting or book yourself a brewery tour. The informative 90 minute tours are £15 per person and include two half-pints, samples, snacks and a £5 Brewery Shop voucher.
Must-try beer at Edinburgh Beer Factory
- Unfiltered Paolozzi: Edinburgh Beer Factory’s flagship Paolozzi Helles Lager enjoyed at its fullest, unfiltered form. Full bodied, hazy with a malty-sweetness.
- Moonstrips Smoky Wheat: classic hefeweizen style wheat beer featuring peat-smoked malt.
- Untitled IPA: a combination of new hop strains from Germany and Slovenia with a historic Edinburgh ale yeast. Notes of Blackcurrant and Mandarin balance a delicate bitterness on a full malt base.
1 Summerhall Pl, 44-7512-253660
Barney’s Beer is a craft brewery located at the southeast corner of Edinburgh’s Meadows in Summerhall. Ranked as one of the best Edinburgh breweries, Barney’s Beer is housed in the stables of the city’s old vet school.
Barney (Andrew Barnett) started working in his hometown brewery in Wolverhampton back in 1983 at 16 and has been in the industry ever since. He’s worked in brewing and distilling including Scottish & Newcastle, The Macallan and Brugal Rum. Barney became increasingly aware of the growing craft beer scene in Scotland and in the US when travelling on whisky business there.
Summerhall is a thriving arts venue and in the course of the discussions to open a micro-brewery it was discovered that the site had been a brewery from 1705 until the vets moved in, in 1913. When the new Summerhall brewery first mashed in in July 2012 it laid claim to the title of the “longest established non-continuously operating brewery in Edinburgh.”
Mhairi Shaw-Hawkins, an ambassador for Barney’s Beer explains the experience, “As part of the Summerhall site there’s a pub called The Royal Dick (a name harking back to the old ‘Royal Dick’ veterinary school), which is located in the old animal operating theatre wing of the building. Although not owned by the brewery, it functions as our informal tap room. It pours at least 6 Barney’s Beers, with a further 5 in the fridge. You can get tasting flights of three of our beers in there.”
Barney’s Beer Brewmaster explains his craft beer philosophy, “When the brewery first opened, I made my beers a celebration of traditional British styles. A tradition that could have very easily been lost amidst the craft beer revolution. While keeping up tradition is important – particularly in the core range with beers like our Volcano IPA, Red Rye and Capital Porter – it’s always been just as important to me to be innovative and creative. We’re a very small team of four and we all focus on constantly pushing ourselves and developing new products. This is anything and everything from tea-infused beer, beer made with fava beans, sherbet-infused sours, big juicy IPAs or big sweet stouts – nothing is out of the realms of possibility.”
If you’re popping by for a beer tasting save room for a bite as The Royal Dick’s kitchen’s chefs serve classic British dishes with multicultural influences from Italy and Spain. Highlights include a Reuben Sandwich featuring beef marinated in Barney’s Capital Porter, cheesey arancini balls and vegetarian-friendly Aubergine Parmagiana.
Must-try beer at Barney’s Beer
- Volcano IPA: the craft breweries flagship beer dubbed a “transatlantic IPA.” It brings together the best from both the British and the American takes on the style.
- Marshmallow Milk Stout: a decadent dessert beer with rich notes of sweet chocolate and vanilla with a gentle dry finish to create the flavour of marshmallows roasting on an open fire.
- Sherbet Sour Pale: zingy citrus hop flavours of lemon and lime carried with tongue tingling kettle sourness. Feels and tastes just like eating sherbet.
81-83 Lothian Rd, 44-131-228-6392
Launching the barrel-ageing movement in Scotland, The Original bourbon barrel-aged beer is the one that started Innis & Gunn when Master Brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp founded the craft brewery in 2003. The popular Edinburgh brewery has grown since to be one of Scotland’s most successful international craft brewers, exporting to over 35 countries.
Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom in Edinburgh recently reopened in March, 2019. It plays home to one of the most extensive craft beer selections in Edinburgh, featuring 26 craft taps offering Innis & Gunn core beers and small batch brews. You’ll also find a rotating selection of beers from other Scottish and international breweries.
Ranked as one of the best beer bars in Edinburgh, Innis & Gunn Taproom offers live music every weekend, live sports on the big screen, and a unique Brew School on Sunday where beer fans can spend a day learning how to brew and leave a 5 litre keg of their own beer to take home.
The popular beer bar also serves hearty Scottish Soul Food such as beastly burgers, Ox Cheek Pie, Squash Tikka Masala, Halloumi fries, and gourmet hot dogs.
Must-try beer at Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom
- Innis & Gunn Lager: Refreshing and full flavoured with zesty aromatic hops, and naked golden oats for a smooth finish. The top selling craft lager in Scotland.
- The Original: Bourbon barrel aged beer with a caramel and rich roasted malt aroma, a smooth taste with a delicious toffee character. The Edinburgh brewery’s flagship beer.
- Mangoes on the Run IPA: A fresh IPA brewed with the fruitiest hops we could find, and a mountain of mangoes adding citrus aroma and tropical fruit flavours with a silky smooth finish.
4 Grassmarket, 44-131-357-2865
Cold Town House is a newly launched pub that has brought brewing back to Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. Located the former Robertson Memorial Church, Cold Town House revives a brewing tradition a street which dates back to the 16th century.
Cold Town Beer launched in April 2018 with Brewmaster Ed Evans focussing on a capacity driven distribution program. The Cold Town team later opened its 3-storey brewpub in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket in March, 2019.
It’s one of the best Edinburgh breweries to grab a sip and snack. The friendly craft beer bar and restaurant can accommodate 320 guests, spread out across a three-story brewhouse, pizza and prosseco bar and rooftop terrace.
Cold Town Beer’s menu is inspired by Italian street food, Scottish pub classics and hanging grills. The menu’s sharing theme pairs equally well with a glass of bubbly prosecco or cold and crips lager.
Pizza lovers take note: the kitchen serves authentic Neapolitan pizza prepared with Bespoke organic flour, San Mazarno tomatoes and Fior di Latte mozzarella. The kitchen’s pizza dough recipe also includes over a pint and a half of Cold Town Lager.
Craft beer lovers can enjoy beer tastings and flights directly from Cold Town House’s tanks, which are pumped up straight from the brewery. Cold Town Brewery’s Brewmaster explains, “We’re all about making super tasty beer accessible. We’ve gone past the point of “Peak Craft” – we aren’t trying to make the world’s strongest, or most bitter – we strive to produce tasty, session-able beer without the snobbery or judgment previously attached to the craft beer movement.”
Must-try beer at Cold Town House
- NEIPA: sessionable and fruity take on the IPA style. The taste is driven by fruit forward hop flavours and a fruity yeast character with a low bitterness and full mouthfeel to give on overarching juicy experience.
- Raspberry Berlinnerweisse: a raspberry infused sour beer. Pink in colour with citrus notes and the unmistakable flavour of raspberry.
- Saison: traditional Beligian style farmhouse ale. It’s crisp dry and refreshing with light spicy notes, perfect for a summers evening on this Edinburgh breweries rooftop terrace!
133 Lothian Rd, 44-131-229-7059
The Hanging Bat is a beer lover’s pub serving craft ales and microbrews via bat-shaped taps. The popular watering hole is located on Lothian Road, a stones throw from BrewDog and Innis & Gunn.
Step inside The Hanging Bat and you’ll find a spacious three level space featuring vintage red leather couches and bar top seating. The walls of this popular Edinburgh craft beer bar are painted vibrant cartoon frescoes reminiscent of Futurama.
The Hanging Bat’s petite craft beer operation is located at the back of the bar. During our visit a group of local college students were tinkering with the pilot breweries latest recipe.
On any given day The Hanging Bat offers fresh beer from 21 casks and kegs as well as over one hundred bottles. We suggest sampling through The Hanging Bat’s latest craft beer creation while nibbling through the kitchen’s hot dogs and meatloaf burgers – which are served until the wee hours of the night.
No 8 Lister Square, 44-131-229-4634
Located in the heart of the University of Edinburgh’s campus, Apothecary Bar is one of the newest editions to the the Edinburgh brewery scene. Tucked into Lister Square, step inside Apothecary Bar and you’ll find a chic dining room and bar on the main floor featuring floor to ceiling windows.
Skip up the stairs to the second floor and you’ll enjoy gorgeous views overlooking the square below (perfect for people watching) as well as Apothecary Bar’s on-site brewery and distillery.
Apothecary Bar is one of our favourite Edinburgh breweries as it’s the only one that produces high quality craft spirits. Apothecary’s sublime craft gins are prepared in a 30L copper pot still Kalitza. A choir of micro-brew tanks can be found in the same fermentation room, offering the brands brewmaster a place to get creative with quality yeast, hops and barely.
Since Apothecary Bar is located in the heart of the city’s university campus, expect to find the space frequented by nerdy intellectuals with a penchant for fine beer and craft cocktails. If you’re keen to indulge in entertainment visit on Tuesday for Pub Quiz night, Thursday for Live Music and Friday for Gin o’Clock.
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50 Lothian Road, 44-131-228-2305
BrewDog is one of Scotland’s top selling craft beer brands. In 2007, founders James and Martin started BrewDog with a mission to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as they were.
BrewDog’s HQ can be found in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. The state of the art Scottish eco-brewery is also home to Overworks Brewery, BrewDog’s testing lab for sour beer.
BrewDog truly is a Scottish success story. They’ve recently ranked as one of the fastest growing Food & Drink companies in the UK and now operate several breweries in Scotland, the US and Australia.
If you’re keen to sample BrewDog’s latest craft beer creations in Edinburgh head over to their newly opened beer bar on Lothian Road. The double decker space is housed in what used to be Clydesdale Bank. The trendy space mixes industrial design elements with posh cushioned banquettes and chic bars stools.
BrewDog Lothian Road offers 20 taps of craft beer as well as sublime cider, best enjoyed alongside the kitchen’s top notch menu. Highlights from BrewDog’s menu include finger-licking-good wings, corn on the cob, mac & cheese and a parade of gourmet burgers.
Must-try beer at BrewDog Lothian Road:
- Punk IPA: BrewDog’s signature beer offers bursts of caramel and tropical fruit.
- Quench Quake: grapefruit and tangerine sour offers a juicy tartness.
- Zombie Cake: praline chocolate porter offer hints of toffee and mellow coffee.
46 Stanley Place, 0131-656-9390
Bellfield Brewery is the UK’s first craft brewery dedicated to producing quality gluten-free beer. The gluten-free craft brewery in Edinburgh is located a short walk from Holyrood Palace with plans to fully launch its tap room in summer 2019.
Located in the historic area of Edinburgh alongside the mainline train track, with a birds’ eye view of the London train, visitors to Bellfield Brewery are able to enjoy beer in the sunny yard or indoor taproom.
Bellfield began as a conversation in an Edinburgh bar after two craft-beer loving friends who had both been diagnosed with coeliac disease, discussed the fact that they couldn’t find a gluten-free beer they liked. They decided to turn a negative into a positive and set up a dedicated, gluten-free microbrewery.
Bellfield brews only gluten-free beer, nothing else, which differentiates the company from many big breweries which are producing gluten-free variants of their standard beers. Bellfield tests every single batch in a UKAS accredited laboratory, and all its beers are accredited by Coeliac UK and registered with the Vegan Society.
Bellfield’s brewmaster explains, “At Bellfield we set out to make great-tasting beers that everyone can enjoy. Our beers are modern interpretations of classic styles, using the best, natural ingredients and natural processes and they are all certified gluten-free. We brew in small batches and also take time over our brews, which is part of the reason they taste so good. Because we want everyone to be able to enjoy one of our beers, we also make our entire range vegan – we deem putting isinglass (fish bladders) in our beer completely unnecessary.”
Must-try beer at Bellfield Brewery:
- Lawless Village IPA: copper coloured, aromatic beer brewed as a traditional American IPA made with pale and crystal malts and Cascade and Centennial American hops for a modern, citrusy finish. UK Winner, Speciality Beer – World Beer Awards
- Session Ale: citrus tones from the Citra hops, deliver flavour and aroma. Hop bitterness is balanced by fine malt character, making this beer very moreish.
- Craft Lager: bittered with a combination of Ekuanot and Mandarina Bavaria, the same hops are then used for aroma. This modern interpretation of a classic lager is biscuity and quaffable. It has as a deeper colour from the Munich malt.
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