Mapped: Every British Brewery

I stumbled upon this incredible map of ALL the breweries in the UK. Phew, I can’t even imagine how long this took. It’s hidden on this Etsy page- https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/474870607/map-of-all-the-breweries-in-the-united?ref=shop_home_active_1

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I once saw a similar map of US breweries in a London pub and wondered- why isn’t this a map of British breweries? I guess it didn’t exist back then.

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Lovely detail. Even at a beer per day, it’d take years to try all the breweries I think.

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Candidate #23- Café Briljant, Haarlem, The Netherlands

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Haarlem is a small city to the west of Amsterdam. Far more than just a satellite town, Haarlem has an important history itself, and provided the name for the New York suburb. The heyday of beer brewing in Haarlem goes back to the 15th century, when there were no fewer than 100 breweries in the city. And it’s twinned with Derby, England, oddly.

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There are a good number of cosy and warm Dutch pubs (brown bars), and a jewel in the crown is Café Briljant. They stock around 50 beers, with a heavy Dutch and Belgian prevalence,  offer 5 changing taps and 29 whiskies. They also serve a real community vibe, nestled as it is in a quaint suburb. There is  great window seat to watch people go by (below) or an equally appealing alcove seat at the back.

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Venue: 8/10

A relaxing venue, and perfect for gathering some energy after a wander around some very pleasant, meandering, historic streets.

Beer: 7/10

A great bottle range and 5 changing taps to keep you interested.

Worthy? Maybe

The definition of a hidden gem

Candidate #22- Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, Nottingham, England

The oldest pub in England. Probably*.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Venue: 10/10

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.

Beer: 7/10

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.

Worthy? Yes

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.

85. Delerium Café, Brussels, Belgium

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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The entire venue, spread over three floors, is vast, so here’s a bunch of photos:

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Go on, step right in:

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Venue: 9/10

A benchmark in beer bar design. That it can absorb so many people and still feel intimate and cosy is praiseworthy.

Beer: 10/10

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?

Worthy? Yes

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.

Candidate #19- CASK, Pimlico, London, England.

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?

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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.

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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.

Luton Airport.

Luton Airport.

Sure, they sell some beers. But loads of places do.

Venue: 1/10

Just woeful. It would feel uncomfortable as a coffee shop. As a pub, it is bizarre.

Beer: 5/10

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).

Worthy? Nope

Candidate #18- Café Belgique, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Café Belgique hides in plain sight- amidst chain retail outlets, it’s easy to not notice this gem of a beer warren.

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One of the smallest bars in Amsterdam, you’ll find yourself wondering, “How can this be one of the smallest?!”. Unbelievably, they host live music. I’m not sure how, or why- as appealing as music is to some, it won’t make this one-room cubby-hole any bigger, so it’s not like they can pay the DJ off the back of increased customer revenue- it’s always full. And heed that advice- turn up very shortly after opening (3pm) and you might get a seat.

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In truth, it thinks it’s way cooler than it is. And by ‘it’, I partly mean the clientele. If this were London, we’d call them scenesters. The website states “It’s frequently visited by a varied public of locals, expats, musicians, artists and dj’s”. See what I mean? Who cares if artists go there? Do I feel better about my Orval because the guy with an unkempt beard sat too-closely next to me sticks wires through books encased in styrofoam and calls it “A Critque on the Abandonment of Western Values”, and his dreadlocked girlfriend photographs litter blowing in the wind for her forthcoming exhibition in a disused plastic bag making factory? No, I do not.

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For the size, the beer choice is broad- 50 bottles and 8 taps, but even this may be too many as evidenced by the foul taste of the Floreffe Blonde.

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Venue: 9/10

The only real criticism is the size, but that’s also part of the atmosphere. And when you do finally get that corner seat by the window, boy does it feel cool.

Beer: 6/10

Decent range, but unfortunately not all the taps are very well maintained (I’m looking at you Floreffe Blonde).

Worthy? Maybe

Candidate #16- El Lokal, Zürich, Switzerland

El Lokal sits on an island between the Schanzengraben and Blaue Sihl rivers. In the summer, you can lounge on the expansive outdoor terrace that overflows around the building along the waterfront, and dip your feet in the spring Alpine meltwater. They grill meats and serve other foods (decent samosas) in the finer months, so you could spend all day here.

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Summer is strong and dependable, but all too brief, in Zürich so the insides of places are important. All too many venues in this town are all shiny tables and fresh paint. Much of the town can feel sterile. It’s hard to find a bar with real character, history and eclectic, personal touches: a dive bar.

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El Lokal is huge, but the design has expertly kept a cosy feel to all the areas. The furniture is often very unique (see the sofa above), there’s an enormous skeleton, a statue of a footballer, religious artefacts, football memorabilia, paintings on maps, and it all somehow works.

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One of my favourite features is the horseshoe mezzanine level that offers you a barstool and great vantage point for people-watching and enjoying the regular live music.

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If the below photo was tagged “south Floridan bar”, people may just believe it.

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Venue: 10/10

I have a particular penchant for dive bars, but who can deny the mezzanine balcony and waterfront?

Beer: 2/10

Oh dear. They have Schwarzer Kristall, which redeems them. Otherwise go on a hot day when lager is tastier.

Worthy? Not yet

Only if it stocks better beers.

148. Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington, DC

I’m not sure what this place is trying to be. I’m not sure they do, either.

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Apparently the oldest dinning saloon (whatever that means) in Washington D.C. and very close to the White House, so all sorts of important white grey men must have come here for beer. Their website proudly offers 1856 as their opening date because, you know, history, but this was when it was in Chinatown. So not really that old is it? And now it is owned by a local restaurant conglomerate boasting thirteen properties. So it’s in a different location and owned by different people. But: history.

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Their website also claims the patronage to be a bustling mix of tourists and politicos. Score. Apparently the oysters are great, if that’s your sort of thing.

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Venue: 5/10

Grand, very expensive looking, which can make your typical beer enthusiast feel a bit unwelcome because, as everyone knows, fermented grapes, not grain, is the sophisticated thing. Because the Romans did it, presumably.

Beer: 2/10

If oysters were beer, then this would be right up there. They’re not though, are they?

Worthy? No.

A grand venue, no doubt, but not a beer bar.

Mapped: The Best Beer Bars in the USA.

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According to some people, these are the best beer bars in the contiguous USA. Granted, I took this list from a 2010 publication of Beer Magazine (I think), so it may be a bit dated, but you can’t manufacture historical whimsy, so at least some of these must still be right. I have only visited those with a blue label, so there’s much to look forward too.