Modest as it may appear from the outside, Portobello’s smallest bottle shop proudly claims to house the greatest beers in captivity.
Opened in July last year, on the corner of Portobello High Street and Windsor Place, the Beer Zoo boasts a vast selection of Scottish beer – supplied direct from the brewery – as well as “best-of-breed specimens” from across the UK, Europe, the US and beyond.
It was the shop’s location and dimensions that proved irresistible to owner Dom Holt and his wife Fiona when they realised the property was available.
Dom had previously worked at Cornelius beer and wine in Easter Road and always hoped to open his own shop at some stage.
“We kept driving past this shop in Portobello, a former licensed grocers which had been empty for six to eight months. It was a really small shop, but a really nice location and it seemed perfect for a small beer shop,” he says. “Portobello is a lovely little coastal suburb with a lot going on and a lot of shops. I was quite surprised that the place had been empty for so long.”
After a few renovations, Dom and Fiona found the configuration of the premises was perfect for shelves and fridges stacked with craft beers.
While the shop also has a range of cider and organic wine, the focus is firmly on beer, with up to 500 different beers in stock at any one time – many of which aren’t sold by the bigger retailers.
Dom adds: “We felt beer was in the ascendancy, while wine is pretty well catered for. There are little microbreweries popping up all over the place right now and there is a real interest in craft beers.
“If small shops in the high street are going to compete with the supermarkets, I think they need to be creative and specialise. We already have a little Sainsbury’s and licensed grocer nearby where people can buy the regular stuff.”
The couple, from Leith, are delighted with the support they have received so far. “We have been very well-received and we had a really good Christmas. We’ve just done our first year and it looks like we are here to stay,” says Dom.
Beer Zoo, 219 Portobello High Street, Edinburgh EH15 1EU, 0131 258 3024, www.beerzoo.co.uk, @beer_zoo. Open Monday to Thursday, noon-8pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-8pm; Sunday, noon-6pm.