Inside Pilot Brewery, Leith's Biggest Beer House

Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland | Zsolt Stefkovics / © Culture Trip
Photo of James Fenn
Photography Commissioner11 July 2018

Just north of Edinburgh, Pilot Brewery is the first commercial brewery to be set up in Leith for almost a century. Founders Matt Johnson and Patrick Jones met at Heriot-Watt University, where they were both studying for a master’s in brewing and distilling. Culture Trip travelled to Leith to chat with Jones about what goes into making a Pilot brew.

CT: Who is the founder and how did this brewery start?

PJ: Me and the other founder Matt met while studying. We got on well and had similar views on beer so decided the best thing to do would be to start a brewery.

Patrick Jones, co-founder and director Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland | Zsolt Stefkovics / © Culture Trip

CT: How did you get into brewing beer?

PJ: A bit of home brewing at first, but then very quickly taking I took the leap to ditch my job and study for the master’s.

Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland | Zsolt Stefkovics / © Culture Trip

CT: What do you look for in a beer? Is it taste or is it the philosophy behind the brand?

PJ: Taste. We’ll always have a very specific idea of the final result we want, then talk around how we’re actually going to get there.

Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland | Zsolt Stefkovics / © Culture Trip

CT: What is this brewery’s approach and philosophy to brewing beer?

PJ: Anything goes, as long as the basic idea is solid. Something could sound stupid, like throwing sweets into a beer, but could actually have solid reasoning behind it and produce the sort of results we’re after.

CT: Can you talk through the range of beers on offer?

PJ: The full range we’ve done would take far too long, but we offer a core of pales varying from floral to spicy to tropical. Then we do more esoteric things like imperial red grape saisons and seawater and liquorice stouts.

Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland | Zsolt Stefkovics / © Culture Trip

CT: What was the first beers you made, have your flavours changed?

PJ: The very first beer we brewed was Vienna Pale, a Vienna lager-inspired beer, which we still brew to almost the same recipe. Our range as a whole has become much more adventurous though.

Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland | Zsolt Stefkovics / © Culture Trip

CT: Do you offer any brewery tours? How can people experience your beer?

PJ: We don’t at the moment, though we hope to in future. For now people can experience our beer at any of the permanent lines we have.

CT: Do you have any regular events that people can get involved with?

PJ: Not really, though you can see what we’re up to on our social media.

Pilot Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland | Zsolt Stefkovics / © Culture Trip