In its quest to be the best, Edinburgh’s award-winning Great Grog Bottle Shop is constantly jockeying for the reputation of Scotland’s premier craft beer specialist.
With stiff competition from the likes of Cornelius Wines in Easter Road, owner Richard Meadows knows he can’t have things all his own way.
But it’s a long-standing and friendly rivalry which seems to keep him and his competitors at the top of their game.
Richard started the Great Grog Company in 1999, after working for ten years with one of the country’s major wine retailers.
“I was annoyed with working for other people and I love wine – and I think that is the vital ingredient. If you don’t have a passion for whatever business you are starting up in you are doomed,” he counsels.
Now operating from a shop in Dalkeith Road (known fondly as the wee store) and a warehouse in Leith (known as the mother ship), customers can select from around 550 wines and up to 350 beers.
As well as a strong local following, the store is making its mark on the destination shopping scene, attracting tourists from far and wide in search of beers they can’t find anywhere else.
The business sets itself apart from the supermarkets and discount retailers by stocking many of the artisan beers that they don’t sell.
“Scotland is in a pretty privileged position at the moment, in terms of beer production. We sell beers from different countries, but it’s mainly the Scottish beers that the tourists are after and they are happy to come here, load up and drive away,” Richard adds. “If a brewery starts selling in Lidl and Tesco then the beer is devalued from our point of view. There is no point in us listing that product, because we are trying to do something that the mainstream is not doing.”
Richard’s staff are as passionate as he is when it comes to knowing their subject and he makes no apology if they come across as “a little eccentric”.
“Being eccentric is a bonus, otherwise you get stuck in a rut and can’t adapt. It’s like some of the brewers we speak to; you don’t become an artisan doing something different by being boring.”
Great Grog Bottle Shop, 2 Dalkeith Road, EH16 5JU, 0131 667 2855. Great Grog Warehouse, 17 East Cromwell Street, EH6 6HD, 0131 555 0222, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.greatgrog.co.uk Open Monday to Saturday, 11am to 9pm; Sunday, 1-6pm.