Edinburgh – Bow Bar

It’s been a little difficult visiting the local pubs in the Good Beer Guide, as many of them have been closed or are operating on heavily reduced hours. It transpired that Bow Bar has only just reopened as well, due to a staff member having Covid-19 last month, which must have been a blow after they were finally allowed to open. However, they certainly seem to have been honest and open about the situation, and everything is back to normal now for this bar.

There was a very friendly welcome from the staff member at the door, she was conversational and welcoming. I did wonder whether this small bar might be a little cliquey, but it absolutely wasn’t, there was a nice relaxed atmosphere inside.

There’s an interesting decor in the bar. I would normally meander around and take a couple more photos, but under the current situation, that wouldn’t be sensible.

I don’t drink whisky as it’s too, er, powerful in flavour, for me. I like beers that have been in aged whisky casks, but the whisky itself does nothing for me. There were some tempting options here in the whisky month that the pub was running, with I note numerous flavours similar to those that can be found in beers. There were some very decadent options as well, so I can imagine Richard might well have been tempted by them (especially the expensive ones). It’s great to see such a wide selection available for whisky drinkers though, a few customers were drinking through some of the options on this list.

There is a beer board, but it’s at the other end of the bar. The enthusiastic staff member checked whether I was a whisky or beer drinker, before carefully explaining all of the different beer options. I have a problem that I can’t remember a list of options, I just stop the staff member when they tell me a beer that sounds interesting. I liked the enthusiasm of the staff member as well, she must have to repeat the beer list a lot, but she remained helpful and willing, seemingly to genuinely want people to get a drink they’d like. Never scripted and never routine, I like it, although I did wonder whether it’d be easier to just have a print out of the beers they had. But, it was a good way to allow the staff member to engage, so all was well.

My new drinking partner who spent the entire time ignoring me and looking the other way. I have some friends like this to be fair and it’s very annoying when I want to tell them about craft beer. The bar has put these giant teddies on some seats to aid social distancing, a really nice idea. Non confrontational and adding to the atmosphere, rather lovely. I did name the teddy, but I won’t put the name here….

The beer that I chose was the Mochaccino Stout from Pilot, which is a micro-brewery from Leith, in Edinburgh. It had a rich flavour and had a smooth chocolate and coffee edge to it, although the aftertaste seemed to dissipate a little quickly. A really pleasant beer though and for some reason, it seemed appropriate for the bar that I was drinking it in.

Looking at the reviews, the bar certainly seem to be doing something right as they’re nearly all very favourable. There are a few really idiotic comments levelled at the bar and they do sometimes reply in quite a punchy manner. I like that, genuine complaints treated with respect, but idiocy dealt with accordingly. Like the person who felt appropriate to leave 1/5 as they wouldn’t let his 17 year old daughter in, even though that is what the bar’s licence states.

And someone who complained that they didn’t serve Guinness. I love the bar’s answer:

“I see you have edited your review to now complain that we don’t serve Guinness. If we wanted to serve something that tasted like Guinness, we would serve Guinness. However, we support smaller independent breweries, and we have an alternative stout for the dark beer drinkers. If you don’t like it, that’s not our fault, and I don’t see how you can get so upset over it. It’s just beer at the end of the day.”

Someone also complained that they paid £5 for a pint. The bar’s response was moderate, adding “PS, we are not Wetherspoons” at the end. Fair play, there’s a place for JD Wetherspoon as far as I’m concerned, but there’s even more of a place for brilliant little independent bars like this who focus on great customer service and beer from small, local breweries.

I really liked this bar, primarily because the service was personable, pro-active and simply welcoming. This is certainly one of my best pub experiences of the year so far that isn’t in a chain (well, in a Brewdog) and it absolutely deserves to be in the Good Beer Guide. It’s in a touristy area of Edinburgh, so I imagine they get a real mix of locals and visitors from further afield, but the welcome seemed authentic to all. All very lovely.