It’s the night before Halloween and in the basement of a converted Gothic church in Edinburgh, a monster is stirring.
The building, on George IV Bridge, is the home of Frankenstein & Bier Keller, which was acquired by Glendola Leisure Group from Saltire Taverns in 2011.
Since the concept was first launched, Dr Frankenstein’s creation has terrified and amused customers visiting the three-floor venue.
But Glenola reckoned the basement-level Bier Keller had been largely underused – until now.
The bars firm thought there was an opportunity to make more use of the subterranean space and has just invested £200,000 refurbishing the basement.
“This was called the Bier Keller, but it didn’t look like a beer cellar,” said Matt McKenna, operations manager.
“It was only ever used for functions, people were here eating and drinking, but then would go upstairs to ‘Frankie’s’ for a party.
“Because it had a large island bar it wasn’t particularly functional.”
The transformation of the space has created a large informal German-style beer cellar with chunky wooden and steel-trimmed benches which look onto a raised platform where an oompah band will perform.
Distressed wood panelling, back-lit by emerald LED lighting, provides an eerie glow that shines through slats in the walls. The green light is a recurring theme and echoes Frankenstein’s colours in the main upstairs bar. It is also repeated behind the copper-topped bar where a feature stein rack shines in emerald light.
The bar’s draught beers – consisting of a Frankenstein House beer made specifically for the venue, Erdinger Weissbier and Radeberger Pilsner – are dispensed from three white ceramic taps. A German food menu, meanwhile, offers dishes like Bratwurst, Jumbo Bockwurst, Veggiewurst, Apple Strudel and Black Forest Gateaux.
To the right of the bar two alcoves, or “beer vaults”, clad in corrugated tin lead to a feature wall showing rolling hills and a Black Forest castle. Overhead, chunky ceiling beams with beer keg light fittings reinforce the rustic look, while additional copper dome lighting repeats the bar top theme.
“We’ve created a venue within a venue,” said Euan Robb, group sales manager at Glendola.
“Frankenstein’s still works as a business, but we’ve now given it some functionality by creating a proper Bier Keller. It’s a multi-purpose venue, but this space still has to be functional to get the best use out of it. The idea is that you will be able to book one of the food and drink packages, enjoy the German food and watch a live oompah band. For us, the most important thing is that the venue is fun.”
The 160-capacity Bier Keller was designed by Edinburgh architects JA Leask and the main contractor was Hugh Stirling.
“We haven’t closed at all during the refurbishment,” said McKenna, who looks after nine sites for Glendola.
“It’s taken us four or five weeks to complete the work.
“But we made sure we didn’t cut corners with fixtures and fittings.”
McKenna anticipates the venue will be popular for big sporting events and with larger groups who can pre-order from a selection of food and drink packages.
“We are the only German beer cellar in Edinburgh, so I’m confident we will get a lot of tourists in here as well as stag and hen dos and works’ nights out,” he said.