Beer & Skittles, Edinburgh

beer skittles edinburgh

Scotland rugby star Simon Taylor heads a team that have opened a new Edinburgh bar specialising in sports and beer

After retiring from playing international rugby for Scotland last year, Simon Taylor has a new challenge: running a hotel, restaurant and bar. With his business partners, he has taken over the helm of boutique hotel Twelve Picardy Place, including its Twelve lounge bar and destination restaurant Steak, all in a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh city centre. They have now transformed the basement club Pepper into a totally new concept, Beer & Skittles, specialising in craft beer and showing live sport.

While some of Pepper’s sleek, stylish décor remains, there is extra seating and a more laid-back ambience. It was developed by Simon with the bar’s general manager Chris Caira who worked for Edinburgh bar operator Montpeliers for 10 years as a general manager and, after a spell as a consultant for Diageo’s Reserve Brands, most recently ran the Circle Café in Canonmills, Edinburgh.

He has put together an extensive selection of over 70 beers from around the world. There are currently nine on draught, from Scottish ales to Reigeler Pils from Germany, Menabrea from Italy and Affligem from Belgium as well as the bar’s own Beer & Skittles Craft Lager which is brewed for them by Scotland’s Belhaven. However, Chris says the plan is to increase this number to 16, with about four of the beers on rotation. “All the beers are doing well. There aren’t any that are not selling,” he adds. “Everyone is willing to try something different.”

The bottled beers are from 40 different countries, from Argentina’s Quilmes to Vietnam’s Lao. Alongside leading brands, there are the likes of Einstök from Iceland, Crocodile from Sweden, Baltika No 7 from Russia, Švyturys from Lithuania, Moosehead from Canada and Stiegl from Austria. There is even one English ale: Thornbridge Jaipur. As well as Innis & Gunn and Belhaven Black on draught, Scotland is well represented in bottles with brews from Williams Bros, Stewarts, Barney’s and Orkney.

Alongside a small selection of ciders and wine, Chris has created an inventive list of beer cocktails which are twists on the classics. They include a Caipbeerinha, which is a Caipirinha topped up with Williams Bros Joker IPA, and a Stout Diplomat, combining a dark rum, Pedro Ximénez sherry and Belhaven stout. “I thought people might look at them and turn up their noses but people absolutely love them,” Chris says. There is also a list of recommended Boilermakers, such as Olmeca tequila with Mexican beer Pacifico Claro, Brugal rum with Cuban lager Palma Cristal and Courvoisier Exclusif cognac with French blonde beer Bellerose.

With Steak restaurant upstairs, the bar snacks are better than your average sports bar. Choices include crispy ox tongue, haggis fritter, flash-fried prawns and roast scallop with black pudding. The bar has seven screens showing sports and a pool table and darts board, but Chris says Beers & Skittles is more than a “stereotypical sports bar”. The customer base is evenly split between men to women, and customers are coming for the beers as much as the sport, he explains.

There is also an outside courtyard where, when the weather is warm enough, there will be barbecues and a second bar with three beers on tap. Operating seven days a week until 1am, Beer & Skittles opens at 5pm weekdays and midday at weekends. At present, it has to be entered via Steak upstairs but Chris says the plan is to create a separate entrance later this year. “It is a bit hidden away but that has not put people off seeking it out,” he says. “The reception to it has been fantastic.”

Beer & Skittles, 14 Picardy Place, Edinburgh EH1 3JT
Tel: 0131 556 1289

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Bar magazine.

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