Opening at the end of last year, perfectly timed for the Edinburgh/Scotland/UK micro-brewing explosion, The Hanging Bat seemed like a brave experiment at first. In the end I think even they have been surprised at how successful their formula turned out. Regularly rammed and with a hearty line-up of 20 beers on tap at any one time, it’s like a mini beer festival every day.
Let’s not beat about the bush, this place is all about…
With 6 casks and 14 kegs, I can’t be bothered typing it all out. See the picture on the right. In short, on this occasion, offerings from Luckie Ales, Fyne Ales, Out There Brewing, Summer Wine, Hawkshead, Adnams, Redchurch, The Kernel, Tempest, Lovibonds, Blackjack, Alpha State, Williams Brothers and Cromarty. So none of your typical safe bets like Deuchars, Te**ent’s or Gui**ess. Beer geeks out there ought to be wetting their pants at the thought of all that tasty micro-brewery goodness under one roof. The dedicated twitter feed will give you an up-to-date picture. There’s a long list of bottled beer too of a similar variety and quality.
Unfortunately, it seems to elicit bad reactions from some people, the main gripe usually being that “I can’t get a pint,” since the most they serve in here is two thirds of a pint (a.k.a. a “schooner”). It’s also quite conceivable that people simply feel overwhelmed by all these strangely named beers they’ve never heard of. The idea is that you’re meant to talk to the staff and get recommendations, something people aren’t necessarily used to. They seem to have addressed one other concern and have started writing the type of beer under each one, so at least you get a rough idea of what you’re ordering. I think my only gripe is that there are no pump clips, but that’s a minor detail. Oh, and no nachos, but this is the beer section.
Several of this tour’s crew have taken a dislike to the place, mostly for the schooner thing (plus they’re spiteful buggers at times and they know I like it in here). It seems strange to me that anyone cares that much about the size of their drinking receptacle. In a place with this much choice, all I want to do is have lots of different beers, so a pint is actually a hindrance to me. It has even been alleged that it’s a scam to rip people off by making it seem like the beer is cheap (price on the board is for a schooner, so it looks like you’re back in 2005), hiding the “true” price. Not true. Sure, the kegs are a bit pricier than the casks (as expected), and you can sometimes find a speciality quadruple IPA with unicorn horn finings at £5 for a half pint, but they’re generally reasonably and competitively priced, even when you scale up to pint prices. The one night we came here for our regular Tuesday Booze it ended up being a relatively cheap night, a fact which my friends conveniently forget, probably just to wind me up.
The bar is unique in central Edinburgh in that they make their own beer on site, with kit on display (why didn’t I get a picture?), to the tune of about 40 litres a week. It’s the closest approximation Edinburgh has to a brewpub, just not really the volume to warrant that label. They get guest brewers in for collaborations on the kit, and host meet the brewer events.
For the non beer drinkers out there, you’re probably covered too. There are something like 40 different gins! Who knew that many existed? Of course, they have more than just gin on the spirits front.
It’s a different menu from the usual pub grub, slightly North American but without the burgers (and sadly, no nachos). When was the last time you saw a Reuben on a menu in the UK? There are a selection of hotdogs too, I recommend the one with haggis on it. Can’t. Resist. The. Haggis.
At first I thought it was wee bit expensive (~£5 for a hotdog), but in comparison to similar offerings around town, it turns out to be relatively cheap. There aren’t actually many places in Edinburgh where you can get good food for under a fiver, never mind in pubs with fantastic beer. The portions are fairly large too, so I should give them credit really.
They initially had plans to hire out the brew kit, but I’m not sure that’s still the case. No harm in asking, but I suspect you might need some brewing street cred to pass muster.
There’s a small patio out the back with heat lamps. As usual though, it’s where all the smokers go.
No TVs, but good music on the stereo. No actual data from this outing, but I seem to remember the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith when they were good (sweeeeeeeeeeet emooooooooo-tion), Led Zep etc from a previous visit.
No such luck.