After a bit of a play around with new colours, I’ve landed don this beaut-
And a bit closer:
You can find it here:
After a bit of a play around with new colours, I’ve landed don this beaut-
And a bit closer:
You can find it here:
The oldest pub in England. Probably*.
The claim of AD 1189 is a tad too quaint: this is the same year that Richard The Lionheart became king and at the bequest of Pope Gregory VIII lead the Third Crusade to the Holy Land, but not before the jolly knights filled up here before a little Saracen slaying. Hence the name. The lower, black and white timbered exterior almost certainly dates from 1650 and was still there in 1751 to feature in the book “History of the Antiques of Nottingham”, after which the taller outcrop was added. But here’s their claim as the oldest: the caves under the castle have been used to brew beer since construction in 1067. It could well be the oldest continuously serving pub in Britain.
It is carved into the caves of Castle Rock under Nottingham Castle- that same castle where the Sherif of Nottingham lived as his land was beleaguered by the legendary Robin Hood. As you can see below, much of the pub really is in the caves. In one small room, a chimney leads vertically up and emerges into the open air outside the castle walls- this was likely the malthouse.
A few legends persist- there is a very, very dusty ship which hasn’t been cleaned for hundreds of years for fear of death (it’s cursed) and the Pregnancy Chair that helps you, well, get pregnant. In The Ward Room you can play one of the oldest pub games: baiting the bull. One must swing a bull’s nose ring through the air and hook it onto a horn. This is pretty difficult if there’s anyone else in the room.
A real legacy pub. It may be owned by a large beer company that cares more about it’s market share and growth, but they have not at all ruined this landmark building. Old, quaint, storied and quintessential.
A very good range of ales, and the specially brewed ‘Olde Trip’ is one of my all-time favourites. Completely standard range of bland lagers though.
The ultimate ‘one for the road’ pub.
*Unsurprisingly, this is a fiercely contested title: in Nottingham alone, Ye Olde Salutation Inn and the Bell Inn both make such a claim. The Guinness Book of Records currently cites Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St. Albans, as the oldest, but this is far from certain: it might not even be the oldest in St. Albans.
The debate is not helped by the confusion between oldest building and oldest continually serving premises, the lack of solid proof for the latter and whether the former makes the latter redundant: for example, the Old Ferryboat Inn, Cambridgeshire, has archeological evidence suggesting the building foundations date back to 460 AD and records that show liquor was served in 560 AD, however the building is much, much younger, and who knows what happened in-between? If one supports oldest building, then the 143 million year old caves into which Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is carved provide some gravitas to its’ claim.
The postcard town of Lewes is home to Harveys Brewery, who take advantage of the River Ouse ambling through town. A raft of decent pubs serve Harveys straight from source as it were- overlooked by the impressive brewery building itself. But for something a bit more special, take ten minutes to walk a little through the suburbs in search of The Snowdrop Inn.
Legend has it that after a devastating avalanche of snow from the nearby tor, the Snowdrop Inn was built upon the ruins. I think they just left a canalboat here for so long a pub was built around it.
Alongside quality, incredibly local English ales (7 by the looks of things in the above photo), they stock a range from the local Burning Sky brewery, which offers less traditional pub tipples, such as Saisons and American-style IPAs.
There are a bunch of recent bad food reviews on Tripadvisor, but we thought the tagine and enormous olives were very good, particularly since we weren’t actually in Morocco and one portion was enough for both of us.
A quaint pub in a quaint town, just a few stops away on the local train from Brighton.
Oddly like a narrowboat. Set before an impressive landscape.
Ambitious new beers alongside classic ales.
There’s a place in Belgium that thought, back in 2004, that stocking a different beer for every year since Jesus was born would be a cracking idea. It was. But it quickly became passé. So now there’s 3,162.
Breaking the record back in 2004 helped to put Delerium Café on the map. The secret is certainly out. So I feared a venue overrun by tourists or packed like a London pub at 5pm on a Friday (a quick one at The Harp, anyone?) or, worse, a business now hollowly profiteering off its fabled reputation, turning the prices up to 11 and stripping out the ancient furniture in favour of standing areas and tables with shiny lacquer surfaces for easy wiping down (I’m looking at you, Früh am Dom, Cologne).
For just over €2, I had a freshly poured glass of some wheat beer I’ve forgotten the name of. I can’t even get a schooner of Heineken for that price in Amsterdam. It was lovely too, of course.
Bent on world domination, Delerium World, as I’m calling it, has taken over the whole street and offers an absinth bar with over 400 varieties, a tequila and mezcal bar with over 500 types (because 12% beer just isn’t enough) and Little Delirium Café at the start of the street to confuse tourists. You can enjoy this alley until 4am most nights.
The entire venue, spread over three floors, is vast, so here’s a bunch of photos:
Go on, step right in:
A benchmark in beer bar design. That it can absorb so many people and still feel intimate and cosy is praiseworthy.
Giving a perfect score is a nervy thing- it implies perfection*. If there exists a better selection in depth, quality of choices and housekeeping, I’d happily be proved wrong. Seems unlikely any other pretender could possibly be as cheap though.
*There has to be a ten, or why not score the beer selection out of 9?
Quite simply a beer nirvana. Spread over three floors (with satellite bars along the street), it has absorbed the tourists and thrown them in to a crucible of camaraderie.
As a wise man once said, pubs in London need only put in minimal effort, and the business will come. It just needs to be slightly better than shit, and they’ll turn a profit. So where’s the incentive to excel?
And so London is full of pubs the locals say are good, but what they really mean (if they could contextualise and drop the blind belief that everything in London is the shit) is that it’s the best in the area. So it will be painted mauve or beige and serve artisan scotch eggs, or it will have original wooden flooring (but still owned and homogenised by one of the friendly local pub conglomerates). Against this backdrop, it a real surprise that CASK has somehow contrived to be even shitter.
The decor is painful. You can’t escape how bad it looks, and so the confusion as to why people thought this was a good idea is recurrent and unpleasant.
Sure, they sell some beers. But loads of places do.
Just woeful. It would feel uncomfortable as a coffee shop. As a pub, it is bizarre.
Yeah, they got some beers, sure, but their ale selection is far from remarkable in the UK and their international range is simply average (weak, in Belgium).
Reading, the ‘Paris of The Thames’*. All that French Rococo and Neo-classicism can really make a person thirsty.
Pubs in London don’t have to try very hard- there’re so many people, they’ll get the custom and pay the bills, resulting in an effusion of vanilla (or mauve) pubs cynically decorated with purchases from pubulike.co.uk (bar 4-5 exceptions. But that’s not many for 12 million people). So take the train to the provinces where customer loyalty is important, and enjoy all the benefits that engenders.
One only needs to go twenty minutes away to Reading, where The Alehouse can be found hiding in plain sight on a commercial street. It’s full of all the sorts of people you’d expect in a real ale pub, and they indulge in a real community feel.
The tap rotation is extraordinary (see beer labels just about everywhere) with 5 guests at any one time, and they are brilliantly kept. There are even a few choice foreign imports outside of the obvious: Belgoo, St Bernadus and Maredsous, for example. Also, Zero Degrees has a branch in Reading, so there are at least two reasons visit.
Brilliant partitioning to maximise space. Unfortunately, its still in Reading.
Great ales and choice internationals. Evidently, the tap rotation is vast.
A gem on a faceless high street.
*Said no one, ever.
The Free Press is the pub that Cambridge deserves. This college town is both cosy and strikingly imposing. After walking the grounds of Trinity College and gawking at the cathedral of Kings College, it’d be a real shame to have to refresh yourself at Wetherspoons.
The Free Press is not a proud, lonely bastion either. Cambridge has a bunch of great pubs, if you know where to look: even one famous for the discovery of the DNA double helix (beer makes you smart). But I always end up here at some point.
It’s cosy and dark, so in wintertime it excels. There is a little section of the pub mostly screened-off and large enough for just one table, which you will be lucky to find free, and the roof of this dominion is pasted with old newspaper clippings from monumental events in history: Royal weddings, State funerals.
The range of ales is more than a sessions worth, unless you are really committed, and even the pumps look cool. The service has been great whenever I’ve visited too. Without being uncomfortably busy, this place is no secret, so even lunchtimes can be generally full. If you want a quiet pint, go for the mid-afternoon lull.
Plenty of rustic, old-England charm, just a short walk through quaint Cambridge suburbs from the centre and colleges.
Well kept, well-poured; hard to stop.
Worthy? A good call.
It’s hard not to just choose 150 British pubs, if they’re your thing.
Step back in time: before ruining a good old pub with plastic tables and blank walls went by the insidious name of ‘gentrification’, before every beer had a comically large handle to thrust their advertising in your field of vision even once you have ordered their damn Rocky Mountain water-brewed beer and before women were allowed in (their motto was once “Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies”. You can still get the onions.) and forced us to re-invent our public house etiquette (OK, not so much that one).
Staggeringly, not at all ruined by the ‘cool kids’ (count the beards below: very few).
The walls are the end-product of years of collecting and hanging all sort of excellent crap: former presidents, flags, pins, and never removing anything since 1910. And underneath, some fine, dark, probably original, wooden panelling.
McSorely’s is the oldest ale tavern in New York City, probably dating back to 1861, and as such sustains a few myths and legends. One that may be true is that the wishbones hung behind the bar were placed there by soldiers on their way to WWI, to be removed upon their return.
The usual suspects of literary figures are thought to have drunk here: Hunter S. Thompson, E. E. Cummings, Brendan Behan et al., and a roll of presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, and also a guy called William Tweed, who used to own the third most land in NYC and chose to spend much of his time on this bit. But don’t listen to them, listen to Beckiboo1983 on TripAdvisor who had her feelings hurt by the bar staff and didn’t like it, so she gave the whole place a 1 out of 5. Because what Beckiboo1983 doesn’t know about customer rotation, the cut-throat line between profit and loss in prime Manhattan real estate without the spongy cushion of outlandish food profit margins, about continuing an 150 year old legacy, about the festering languishing of tourists for an hour over each drink and forcing other cash-filled tourists to walk on by, well, what Beckiboo1983 doesn’t know about that, frankly, isn’t worth knowing.
Resisting gentrification since 1854 (and women, until 1970).
Enjoy the simplicity of their options: dark or light.
As trite as this sounds: it’s an institution.
A largely unconvincing entry. It’s just a bar.
Filled on a Saturday night with yuppies and and shirted gents, barely a scenester in sight. I’m not sure what that is indicative of, perhaps that they have given it up for the masses. They probably weren’t particularly sad to see it leave.
I might sound harsh; after all, they serve beer. But from the range to the decor, there is nothing extraordinary. Nothing that lets it hold a candle to the 150 best beer bars in the world, or even a bunch of others in the same city.
Things on draft that don’t work on draft- Old Speckled Hen on nitro cask anyone? Thought not. It’s embarrasing to think this is what American’s think English ale tastes like. People have probably supped it and said ‘Nah, bro, I don’t really like English ale’. You are doing us a disservice.
Maybe it suffered for being a Saturday night, but I felt very little rapport for the place. Would not like to idle away hours in here.
The atmosphere in a pub is as crucial to its success as the quality of its beer, but the recipes and methods are frustratingly opaque.
It is easier to reference a place that so perfectly illustrates an atmosphere; Kelham Island Tavern is that pub.
Despite bordering an empty lot and varies industrial units but very little housing, there is a robust set of locals who the bar staff know by name. Far from being alienating, I was welcomed casually and affably, by the staff and regulars alike.
Kelham Island Tavern is a regular CAMERA Pub of the Year winner (except in 2013, where The Shakespeare down the road stole the title). These were not won on the back of expensive and needless renovations, glitter and ball balls, but because it so thoroughly embodies what it means to be local pub, and why this is so important in the British culture. None of this success has gone to their heads; an understated, casual Northern attitude runs through the staff and locals.
No ridiculous renovations, plenty of old things.
Exceptionally maintained local beers, served with true passion and expertise. A small but well-chosen international selection of bottles, too.
This is the gold-standard for a good British pub.