Design Focus: Brewhemia

September 6th, 2017 | Posted in: Editors' Picks,Features

1A Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE

Sometimes the numbers say it all. North of £2 million invested, 29,000 square feet and more than 100 staff members – quite simply, Brewhemia, the sprawling new multi-sectioned venue situated at the rear of Waverley Station, is a behemoth. It is not, however, a space that sacrifices style on the altar of spectacle. All of its five distinct sections are roomy, aesthetically pleasing and focused in on a specific form of alcohol, incorporating German, Czech, Italian, French and Scottish influences.

The premises on Market Street have a rich history to say the least, having been home to The Scotsman print works and, more recently, Sportsters Bar and City Nightclub. Owners Castle Leisure Group closed the latter two last October and began the process of transitioning into Brewhemia – a shrewd move given the UK-wide decline of the nightclub and rise of the versatile late night bar, not to mention the need to adapt to the tastes of the tourists and cultural types that stream out of Waverley in their thousands every summer.

Brewhemia

General Manager Daniel Wylie told DRAM, “The direction of large nightclubs and what people were using them for was changing. That was and still is quite evident. We started thinking about how to make best use of the space, because it is 29,000 square feet and the biggest licensed premises in the city. Event spaces like The Corn Exchange are bigger, but in terms of bars there is nothing bigger.”

Brewhemia

To link the sections together and give Brewhemia an air of tradition a backstory has been developed telling the tale of Robert Stuart, a boy from Leith who travelled round Europe in the 19th century, taking in “the beer palaces of Prague, the Oktoberfest in Bavaria, the masquerade balls of Venice, the Moulin Rouge in Paris and then finally back home to Auld Reekie,” the idea being that the new establishment is the work of his descendants.

The first section, The Taproom, would be an impressive pub in its own right, and indeed Daniel says one of the difficulties is getting visitors to explore further and not bed themselves in! Encompassing a long curved bar, a large seating area and a mezzanine, The Taproom functions almost like a show flat, offering glimpses of what awaits further aside this cavernous space. It’s here that you’re introduced to the two standout gimmicks – the gold ‘Buzz For Bubbles’ buttons built into the tables, which allow customers to order Prosecco without moving an inch, and tank beer. Now this isn’t the only place with tank beer in Scotland – or Edinburgh for that matter – but whereas other venues have one or maybe two tanks, Brewhemia has a staggering six. The two in The Taproom are used to showcase the finest in local craft brewing – The Edinburgh Beer Factory’s Paolozzi and Stewart Brewing’s Jack Back. And just to show that sport hasn’t been completely removed from the agenda, Scotland rugby international Finn Russell had the honour of ‘tapping the tank’ at a special event. The food service runs throughout the day and features classic dishes presented in a cheeky way – lobster with Bloody Mary mayo, IPA battered haddock etc. There’s a nice variety of modern light fittings open cabinets full of wine and champagne on the wall above the bar.

Brewhemia

The next stop on the journey is The Caffè, and as that extra F suggests, this is where the Italian influence takes hold. Located just upstairs from The Taproom, The Caffè offers artisan coffee and takeaway food made in-house – until 5pm that is, when the lights go down and it’s transferred into a gin and prosecco bar.

The Taproom and Caffè both lead into The Beer Palace, which combines the space of an aircraft hanger with the opulence of a ballroom and is the sort of room that requires a good 30 seconds’ open-mouthed gawping before you can actually sit down or order a drink. Split over two levels, it contains three bars, two private function rooms, a stage, a DJ platform and even a photo booth complete with comedy props. And there’s a reason it’s called a ‘palace’ and not a hall, as Daniel explained.

He said, “The worry was that if you say ‘beer hall’ to people it conjures up long tables, steins, singing, lots of men, rowdiness. There are businesses that do that and are successful but it wasn’t right for us. We brainstormed hard to make sure our venue didn’t slide into that section of the market. We’re calling it a beer palace because it’s bigger, more decadent and more glamorous, and it’s female-friendly.

Brewhemia

“I’m happy to say that’s been borne out so far, the usage is couples, women, groups etc, they’re not at all fazed by the ‘beer’ in the title. It is an inclusive space. We want it to be somewhere a group of girls would want to come to on a night out. It may be a stereotype but as a sports bar it was very male-orientated and I didn’t want to recreate that.”

The inspiration is Czech, not German, and accordingly two of the four beer tanks suspended either side of the stage contain Czech brand Pilsner Urquell. On the lower level, where the printing presses once stood, and the dance floor after that, there are now long wooden benches overhung by dazzlingly bright chandeliers. Below the main bar there’s white brickwork with thin strips of wood and above there’s a gold stripe with table numbers that illuminate when the Buzz for Bubbles buttons are pressed. Up above that is the stage, where everyone from brass brands to piano players and voice choirs do their thing throughout the week. The colour palette mixes smooth blues and creams with gleaming bronzes and golds and there are leather banquettes and comfortable booths ringed round the edges of the room.

Designed in French and Scottish styles respectively, function rooms The Boudoir and The Bothy are close by to one another on the higher level, in the finest traditions of the Auld Alliance. The Boudoir, with its mirrors and lights beyond count, positively glitters, with silken seat coverings for revellers to sink into and a carpet that brings to mind interconnecting peacocks’ tails. The Bothy is more muted and homely, with high-backed chairs, a mantelpiece, a fireplace behind a glass screen and an extensive whisky selection.

Brewhemia

Lawrie Orr provided architectural services and consultants CRGP assisted on the project management side of things.

Key players other than Daniel include new Head Chef Christopher MacDiarmid, formerly of Ghillie Dhu, and new Entertainment Manager Lauren Glass, formerly of Electric Circus. Daniel himself is a Geordie who first came to Edinburgh as a student and has since worked in pubs and clubs all over Scotland, from Dundee to Dumfries, before joining Castle and taking over Sportsters.

He added, “Every city has been different. The mechanic is the same – you’re selling food, drink and entertainment – but it’s a challenge every time to work out what they want and how they like it.”

Thankfully, now that he’s in charge of a venue that feels like a city in itself, that’s not as much of a concern anymore! 


It’s time to vote for Pub of the Year 2019 or to get your customers to vote for you

Thu 18th April 2019

This year the Sunday Mail Pub of the Year Award will go to the ‘best of the best’ at this year’s Scottish Bar and Pub Awards. This... Read more.

Do you think you know the best cocktail bar in Scotland or do you think you ARE the best Cocktail Bar in Scotland?

Thu 18th April 2019

If so why not enter the Tia Maria Cocktail Bar of the Year category at this year’s Scottish Bar and Pub Awards? Judges will be looking... Read more.

Are you a social media savvy business?

Thu 18th April 2019

Social Media is very important when it comes to promoting your business and hollicom and the Scottish Bar and Pub awards 2019 want to hear f... Read more.

Which Scottish beer bar is king?

Thu 18th April 2019

Molson Coors and Judges from the Scottish Bar and Pub Awards are looking for Beer Bar of the Year. will be looking for an outlet with a rang... Read more.

Step forward Scotland’s best new bar

Thu 18th April 2019

Kopparberg is on the lookout for Scotland’s best new bar as part of the Scottish Bar and Pub Awards 2019. The Kopparberg team is looking f... Read more.

Calling all environmentally conscious hospitality businesses

Thu 18th April 2019

Sea Change is a range of environmentally conscious wines that are now being distributed by Inverarity Morton and this year, in the same spir... Read more.

Do you run Scotland’s best Hotel Bar? Would you like to nominate one?

Thu 18th April 2019

Hotel Scotland, Scotland’s only dedicated hotel publication, is on the lookout for Hotel Bar of the Year as part of the Scottish Bar and P... Read more.

We want to hear from you if you run Scotland’s best whisky bar

Thu 18th April 2019

Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseur’s Choice range gives a platform to many of Scotland’s single malt distilleries from across all reg... Read more.

We’re looking to crown Scotland’s best casual dining experience

Thu 18th April 2019

The Scottish Bar and Pub Awards 2019 is looking for a restaurant that also boasts a bar, that has created the perfect ambiance and food offe... Read more.

Which Scottish pub excels at customer service?

Thu 18th April 2019

Customer service is paramount when it comes to running a successful business. BII Scotland is on the lookout for a pub, restaurant or hotel ... Read more.

Which Scottish pub wins the woof and wag test?

Thu 18th April 2019

The Scottish Bar & Pub Awards is hunting for a pub that provides a welcome for pet dogs.... Read more.

Desperately Seeking the Greatest Scottish Bars and Pubs

Thu 18th April 2019

Scotland’s home to some of the best pubs and bars in the world but ‘which bars and pubs have made an impression on Scottish cust... Read more.

Do you know a budding Scottish entrepreneur? Are you one?

Thu 18th April 2019

Buzzworks and Flow are partnering to offer one emerging entrepreneur the opportunity to be mentored by one of the industry’s most experien... Read more.

Sue Says! Straight talking from our very own publisher

Thu 18th April 2019

Research from Rotary Great Britain claims that more than half of all UK adults are lonely, particularly when they get home from work. Perhap... Read more.

HIGH FRYERS: SCOTLAND’S CHEF-PATRONS MAKING THEIR MARK ON THE SCOTTISH CULINARY SCENE

Thu 18th April 2019

NEIL FORBES Cafe St Honore, Edinburgh and JUDITH FISH The Applecross Inn, Strathcarron... Read more.

Scottish hospitality industry unites to demand fair rates for all

Wed 17th April 2019

Glasgow’s hospitality industry has been unfairly discriminated against by rates assessors. That’s the view of industry bodies, Scottish ... Read more.

ABERDEENSHIRE GIN WINS GOLD AT WORLD SPIRITS COMPETITION

Wed 17th April 2019

HRAFN GIN  has won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. HRAFN GIN ‘Thought & Memory’, created in 2... Read more.

HIGH FRYERS: SCOTLAND’S CHEF-PATRONS MAKING THEIR MARK ON THE SCOTTISH CULINARY SCENE

Wed 17th April 2019

Here are the first two, FRED BERKMILLER OF l’escargot bleu, Edinburgh and MARK GREENAWAY Grazing by Mark Greenaway, Edinburgh.... Read more.

Star Pubs & Bars extend recycling agreement to leased estate

Tue 16th April 2019

Star Pubs & Bars is offering its leased pubs the same commercial terms for recycling and waste collection it has negotiated for its Just... Read more.

British Embassy adds Edinburgh chef to the menu in South America

Mon 15th April 2019

Edinburgh chef, Barry Bryson, is representing Scotland in a series of  events hosted by the British Embassy in Uruguay, South America, ... Read more.