Half circles of navy inset in forest green and sunflower gold. Geometric shapes in bright red bounce off white half-moons dipped in baby blue. In front of the striking mural, which spans the length of one wall of the brewery, a thirty-five-hectoliter brew kit sparkles like Vega and Sirius, two of the brightest stars in the galaxy.

At the helm is a bushy-bearded man in tan boots and red and black cargo pants bent over with a brush cleaning the deck. With a navy knit beanie pulled down low and a long grey sleeve with thumb loops, he looks almost like he’d be just at home on a ship deck as a brew deck.

Moonwake Beer Co. co-founder Vinny Rosario captains the three-year-old brewery on The Shore in Leith, Edinburgh.

Down a craggy cobblestone street right off the docks, the taproom sticks out. Turn the corner, and you’re hit with a fuschia door surrounded by blue, green, red, and yellow geometric shapes. Walk up the stairs or take the accessible lift up to the mezzanine taproom, and the vibrant mural immediately strikes you, a cacophony of color blazing against the shining steel.

Named after the moon’s reflection on a body of water, Moonwake Beer Co. embodies these shimmering layers. You can never quite pin them down, yet you are surprisingly impressed by their beauty.

As much as Rosario will tell you Moonwake Beer Co. is old-school and straightforward, the beers he’s making and, most notably, the environment he’s creating are about anything but.

Walk inside Moonwake’s dappled walls, and you won’t just drink fantastic beer; you’ll find yourself reflecting on what it means to be an inclusive and accessible brewery in the U.K.

From New Zealand to New Career

moonwake brewing black lager
Photography courtesy of Moonwake Beer Co.

When I walked into Moonwake on a blustery Friday afternoon, I’d actually caught Rosario on a busy day, finishing up a collab on a new NZ IPA with Yeastie Boys.

Rosario grew up in New Zealand and trained as a chemical engineer who specialized in food and beverage, specifically the dairy industry.

In 2012, Rosario moved to London. While he didn’t enjoy his work as a chemical engineer, he did enjoy something else: beer.

Craft beer had kicked off in a big way in England’s capital. “So I just rang up a bunch of breweries around me and asked for a job,” Rosario told me as we sat upstairs in an old break room sipping on Black Lager, one of his favorites. “Someone kindly enough gave me one.”

Sambrooks Head Brewer Sean Knight trained Rosario for his first two months on the job.

“He was always someone who understood the process about why are were doing things,” said Knight. “It’s that engineering mindset. From my experience with engineers I’ve met, they make the best brewers because engineering isn’t just a degree, it teaches you how to problem solve.”

In 2014, Rosario moved to Barcelona, where he helped set up Garage Beer Co. in its infancy.

“One of the things I definitely noticed about Vinny is he‘s not scared to jump into something and go for it,” said Knight, who remembers bumping into Rosario in London after he came back to work for a brewery called XT in Buckinghamshire. “He was traveling two to three hours each way every day just because he found a brewery where he gelled; it was great to see that commitment to something he loves and wants to do.”

At XT, Rosario focused on adventurous cask beers like black pales, black IPAs, and big pale hoppy beers. There, he met his eventual business partner, Fin Heslop, who came from a family of architects but broke the mold when he started a career in brewing.

“Vinny let it slip once that the only other place in the U.K. he would live would be Edinburgh,” Moonwake Beer Co. Marketing and Events Manager Sarah Sinclair told me. “I think Fin latched onto that with all his might.”

Rosario tells a slightly different story. “I don’t even [remember] saying that, but Fin swears by it, so I must have,” he said quietly. “I love Edinburgh, so I was keen to move.”

Rosario loved Edinburgh for, of all things, the water.

“I still think this is one of my favorite places in the U.K. to brew because the water is so soft,” explained Rosario. “It’s just an exciting blank canvas.”

Much like 6A Tower St. when Rosario and Heslop first moved in on January 13, 2020.

Just thirty-four meters from the shore in Leith, a developing port district in Edinburgh, Moonwake Beer Co. had some of that incredible water close at hand.

But at the time, none of that mattered yet, considering they didn’t even have a brew kit to put in the space.

Filling a Space With Geometric Shapes

moonwake brewing brewhouse mural
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Moonwake’s space needed a lot of love.

During the demolition, Rosario and Heslop filled two thirty-yard skips, or dumpsters, full of debris and moved approximately twelve metric tons of brick by hand, keeping only two mementos each—a Land Rover Alloy for Heslop and a Bosch Services sign for Rosario.

Then, of course, they got the unit one month before the first big lockdown hit the U.K. “It was great timing; we had nothing to do for a long time,” Rosario said.

Complications from the pandemic meant significant delays for their original thirty-five-hectoliter three-vessel brew kit. Not only did the original ship with the kit get stuck in its port, but even after transferring the equipment to a different vessel, “That ship got stuck in the Suez Canal,” said Rosario. In all, it took nine months for their brew kit to arrive.

In the meantime, with a demoed space but nothing to do, the pair, along with brewing assistant Connie Skinner, did what many folks did during lockdown: took up a little artistic hobby.

“We [hand-painted] the back wall with a pattern, all circles and everything,” said Rosario, who got the artwork for the brewery’s graphic designer Greig Pirrie.

When I visited, the brewery had just installed a bunch of new fermenters, which pretty much covered up the original mural. “You can’t really see it anymore,” Rosario chuckled. “But we did all the circles with a pencil and string and hand-painted everything. It took us about three months, but we literally had nothing else to do.”

Rosario said they originally planned to start brewing by the end of summer 2020, but the beer didn’t reach pubs until June 2021.

“What he’s done with Moonwake; it wasn’t an easy time to set up a brewery, but he’s gone and done it, following that trend of again taking the plunge,” said Knight. “He’ll find a way to excel in a challenge, which is a great thing for brewers because if you get scared trying something new you won’t try it and you’ll never know if it will be great or not.”

In a Brewhouse, All That Gleams Is Clean

moonwake brewing brewhouse
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Today, walk up the stairs (or take the lift) to Moonwake’s mezzanine taproom, and you still can’t miss that mural even though there are a few new fermenters in front of it.

Sit down at one of the tables, and from every angle, you look out over Moonwake’s gleaming brew kit.

“That was super important to Fin and me because we spent so much money on all the stainless steel; we wanted to show it off,” said Rosario.

At Moonwake Beer Co., keeping that kit as shiny as the moon’s reflection off the water is paramount. The team thoroughly cleans the floors, kit, and brewhouse at least once every week.

“That’s one of the things you just find time to do,” said Rosario. “We want to emphasize keeping everything shiny because it’s on display at the end of the day.”

Everything Moonwake went through to just get the kit into the space makes them care for it that much more.

“These guys take great pride when they see people sit in the brewery and hear them talking about how good it all looks,” said Rosario.

The equipment seems to be almost as important as the beer…almost.

Despite only being open for three years, Moonwake has made a significant impact. They’re incredibly proud of the beers they’ve brewed and the community they’ve cultivated.

In 2022, Moonwake won the Best Newcomer award at the 2022 Scottish Beer Awards and New Brewery of the Year at the 2022 Brewers Choice Awards.

Sinclair boils everything down to a tagline she came up with that you’ll often see on Moonwake’s cans, glasses, and merch: “Precision Brewed” or “Precision Brewed in Leith.”

As she explained to me, “Your community is like your heroes.”

And Moonwake wants to be nothing if not a reflection of its people.

Precision Brewed in Leith

moonwake brewing black lager
Photography courtesy of Moonwake Beer Co.

With Moonwake, Rosario envisioned going back to basics. “I wanted to, for lack of a better term, do old-school pints, sessionable, but on cask,” he said. The brewery wouldn’t make its first cask beer until three years in, but you can find the “old-school” and “sessionable” characters throughout most of its core beers.

“We want to keep it simple,” said Sinclair. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

Moonwake launched with a new-world pale ale Rosario designed with all New Zealand hops, but ones he described as “ex-German Noble hops, so it’s Motueka and Wakatu, which used to be Hallertau and Saaz if you go back one hundred years,” he explained. As a nod to his hometown, Rosario joked, “It was a selfish beer!”

Joining that core lineup: an IPA “slightly more of a West Coast style because everything was just juicy at the time,” said Rosario. “We thought we’d go another way.” Along with a milk stout because “it was just a beer we always liked drinking.”

Most recently, Rosario and Heslop added an XPA to the lineup. “We decided we needed a juicy, hazy beer in the core range, but instead of going for the ABV arms race, we went the other way—super sessionable,” explained Rosario. “We do a silly amount of oats instead, which causes nightmares for the brew day!”

Overall, Rosario emphasized, “We’re not really making hype juice or really crazy beer. We have our own style, and we push ourselves.”

For instance, a new Hibiscus Sour, which included twenty kilos of hibiscus petals. “It caused havoc on the brew kit,” Rosario told me.

“I think we were still finding [petals] a week later,” Sinclair laughed.

Although proud of that beer, Sinclair said she absolutely loves Moonwake’s Weissbier, which takes over ten hours to brew.

moonwake brewing weissbier hefeweizen
Photography courtesy of Moonwake Beer Co.

Rosario takes Weissbier through a three-and-a-half-hour to four-hour mash, increasing the temperature at different times to create more flavors and sugar levels. “We get that nice phenolic clove flavors from the step mash, and it also allows us to brew the really heavy wheat load over fifty percent, which gives flavor and texture to the beer.”

As Rosario let me peek into the steam-jacketed mash tun, he explained the process for this hefeweizen, waffling between whether it took him six or seven steps. Short story, it’s a process. “The guys love brewing it,” Rosario shared. “Unless you brew it on a Friday!”

Originally planning just to make Weissbier as a one-off, “The beer went on to be beautifully to style, and it has now won multiple awards, so we have to keep bringing it back every week,” said Sinclair.

To show you the range of beers at Moonwake, Rosario also takes pride in dialing in the brewery’s gose, including the coriander and salt ratios.

He tested many variations of the spice, including Egyptian, Spanish, and Indian coriander, to determine which one worked best.

Settling on a combination of Egyptian and Spanish coriander, Rosario says, “It gives you slightly more lemon flavor and doesn’t give you the heat.”

But if Rosario had to pick a favorite out of the thirty-three different ones he’s brewed at Moonwake, he would choose the kölsch.

The traditional recipe, which includes a special kölsch yeast, impresses.

“We’ve had Germans come in and laugh that we have a kölsch,” Rosario told me.

“And then they eat their words,” Sinclair jumped in.

“And then they drink their words,” finished Rosario, who also spent a lot of time researching this recipe. “It just hit the mark.”

When I visited, Rosario shared with me that he’s keen to try brewing an American light lager with maize next. “It’s just a style I’ve never brewed before, and I quite enjoy lagers,” he said.

Inclusive and Accessible for All

moonwake brewing ans
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Most uniquely, Moonwake emphasizes accessibility, a quality often overlooked in the beer industry.

“Vinny is definitely one of the few people of color to own a brewery in the U.K.,” Sinclair told me. So he wants to make sure that Moonwake makes beer a safe and welcoming space for all.

“There is a lot of gatekeeping in the craft beer world; it was very much a cool kids club,” said Rosario, whose efforts earned him a spot on Good Beer Hunting’s 2022 Signifiers list. “The whole idea with Moonwake was trying to make it welcoming and accessible.”

Which comes in many forms.

Physically, Moonwake installed a lift, which cost them an extra £20,000 ($25,000) so that anyone could reach its second-floor mezzanine taproom, along with a separate, fully accessible disabled bathroom.

Rosario has a friend whose father had a stroke. Using a wheelchair, he found it hard to access a lot of taprooms—those like Moonwake, whose location near the docks in Leith includes a bunch of bumpy back streets.

Sinclair said they even had a recent customer visit with an elderly dog who used the lift so their puppy wouldn’t have to take the stairs.

moonwake brewing front
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

After Rosario returned to brewing, Sinclair and I shared a couple more beers in the taproom, chatting about the ripple effects of Moonwake’s approach. Today, the Queer community has gravitated to Moonwake. The way she spoke of the space reminded me of places like Trace Brewing in Pittsburgh or Goldspot in Denver, pillars in their own communities.

“[Vinny and Fin] wanted Moonwake Beer Co. to be approachable to a wide range of people; they wanted to make an inclusive, welcoming space in the taproom, and they want to embrace people no matter where you’re from or who you are,” said Sinclair. “And I like to think that we’ve managed to distill that through the whole business, as well as the technical brewing.”

From the mural to the Weissbier to the bright fuschia pink door.

“I think Vinny’s love of purple has definitely helped, too,” Sinclair laughed.

What started as a warehouse with nothing inside has become a home, filled with people of all ages, colors, gender identities, and expressions—all enjoying one thing.


One might say Moonwake’s community is as colorful as that iconic mural you see on the wall.

Even as the brewery continues to grow, its ethics are one thing they’ll never compromise.

“It’s not one thing we’ve done or one beer we’ve brewed,” Rosario told me. “It’s just everyone doing the little things well.”