‘Beer club’ set to launch in Portobello

Picture: Jon Savage
Picture: Jon Savage
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Book clubs have become a global phenomenon in the last 30 years, springing up everywhere from prisons to offices.

But despite the number of pubs and bars across Capital – around double the number of licensed premises than Glasgow – there are very few beer clubs.

Now all that could be about to change with the launch of what may be the city’s first – Portobello’s “Bottle Rocket”.

Inspired by Edinburgh’s microbrewery renaissance, the aim is not to get drunk but to raise a glass to the rich variety of local beers on offer.

The club is the result of a collaboration between Skylark and Beer Zoo, a beer shop established three months ago on the High Street.

Dominic Holt, owner of Beer Zoo, said the organisation would be “more inclusive” and “less elitist” than beer clubs elsewhere in the UK.

He added: “In the past people who are quite nerdy about beer have been well-catered for. We want a broader spectrum of beer-lovers to get involved.

“This is also a good opportunity to try things – including new releases – that you might not usually try.

“There is something of a renaissance going on in small-scale brewing at the moment. And a big part of this will be getting brewers on board with ‘meet the brewer’ events. And if people [club members] want to brew their own beer with us they can. The response so far has been really good.”

The national Campaign for Real Ale was established almost 50 years ago, but this new venture is understood to be the only group devoted almost entirely to locally-brewed beers. The beers available include those from Top Out Brewery and Stewart Brewing, based in Loanhead, and Edinburgh’s Eyeball Brewing Ltd to name but a few.

Gregor Zielinski, beer expert and bar manager at the Skylark, said he hoped the variety on offer would encourage beer-lovers to try new beers.

“A lot of people are stuck in a rut when it comes to beer,” he said. “They come in and drink the same lager they always have and don’t like to change.

“But we really want to open people’s minds up to new breweries and craft beers.”

The club will meet for the first time on November 2 from 8.30pm and again on December 7, which will feature a talk from representative of James Clay, an independent importer and distributor of specialist beers from all over the world.

Paul Lamie, co-owner of the Skylark, admitted the concept would appeal to “guys who like a decent beer”. But the group also hopes to attract female beer-lovers – though no women have expressed an interest in joining so far.

He added: ”We want to break out of the traditional [mostly male] mould. It’s going to be like a book group but with beer instead of books.

“We’ll have guest beers, brewers and industry visionaries along to chat and drink beer.

“A session used to mean going out and getting drunk but there is a change happening in Scottish beer. It’s an evening in the bar that isn’t about getting smashed but enjoying the flavour.

“We are looking to start very small and keep it very small.”