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 #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.

134. The Bell, Aldworth, Berkshire, England

Some people just can’t let things go. Like pubs; The Bell Inn has been in the same family for five generations: more than 250 years. Take that, inheritance tax.

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Many British pubs look quaint and akin to a film set from the outside, but are all too often trashed by tasteless interior renovations that currently seem to involve painting the walls ivory or mauve and filling two-thirds of the place with shiny mass produced furniture and calling it a ‘restaurant’. The Bell doesn’t subscribe to this nonsense. The interior seems to be vaguely centred around a wooden cubicle of sorts, from which the staff serve you through a window; the menu is a series of paper notes haphazardly affixed to the walls.

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The Bell is the proud winner of the 1997 Best Sandwich Pub Award (which is a thing, apparently). For a mere £3.50, you can chose a warmed roll stuffed with a doorstop of goats cheese and a side of olives, or a hearty handmade soup.

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Aldworth, the village which The Bell serves, has approximately 8 houses. I visited for the lunchtime opening slot (it closes in the afternoon, just like in yore) and every single resident and their friends must have stopped by since it was bustling. The next nearest village has four houses, and the local ‘town’ (maybe 100 houses and a Post Office) is over an hour walk away. There are no busses. No phone signal, and a phone box that doesn’t take cash but gladly accepts BT Phonecards, whatever they are. So just quite where all these people came from I don’t know. The 1940s, probably.

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Half of the pub is the old tap room and features a set of long benches for packing in large groups and making new (old) friends. The best seat (above photo) is in a recess that used to be the fireplace.

Best stay inside.

Best stay inside.

The Gents toilets are worth a mention: one literally relieves oneself on the wall outside, exposed to the elements, only a wooden fence separating your back from the car park. Efficient use of space.

Venue: 10/10

The definition of ‘real pub’.

Beer: 7.5/10

Small range, but still diverse and, of course, well-kept.

Worthy? Yes

Stands out amongst even the top tier.

The Best Beer Bars in the World.

A precarious, tentative, inchoate ranking of the best beer bars in the world I have visited, so far:

1. Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman, Amsterdam, Holland 9.5/10

=2. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, London, England 9/10

=2. McSorley’s Ale House, New York, NY 9/10

=2. U Fleku, Prague, Czech Republic 9/10

=5. Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO 8.5/10

=5. Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield, England 8.5/10

=5. Brouwerij ‘t Ij, Amsterdam, Holland 8.5/10

=5. Zum Uerige, Dusseldorf, Germany 8.5/10

=9. Sunset Grille & Tap, Boston, MA 8/10

=9. Charlie’s Bar, Copenhagen, Denmark 8/10

=9. The Olde Mitre Tavern, Ely Court, London, England 8/10

=9.  Nederlands Biercafe ‘t Arendsnest, Amsterdam, Holland 8/10

13. PINT Bokbierfestival, Amsterdam, Holland 7.5/10

=14. Redbones Restaurant, Somerville, MA 7/10

=14. Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, NY 7/10

16. The White Horse Pub, Parsons Green, London, England 6.5/10

=17. McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel, Portland, OR 6/10

=17. Olympen Mat og Vinhus, Oslo, Norway 6/10

=17. The Brickskeller, Washington, DC 6/10

20. The Gravity Bar, Guinness St. James Gate Brewery, Dublin, Ireland 5/10

=21. Pivovarsky Klub, Prague, Czech Republic 4.5/10

=21. Au General Lafayette, Paris, France 4.5/10

=21. The Wynkoop Brewery, Denver, CO 4.5

24. The Dubliner, Washington, DC 4/10

25. Kulminator, Antwerp, Belgium 3.5/10

=26. The Market Porter, Stoney Street, London, England 3/10

=26. Belgo Central, London, England 3/10

=28. The Publick House, Brookline, MA 2.5/10

=28. d.b.a., New York, NY 2.5/10

=30. Brauhaus Sion, Cologne, Germany 2/10

=30. Brasserie Federal (Hopbahnhof), Zurich, Switzerland 2/10

=30. Gösser Bierklinik, Vienna, Austria 2/10

33. Fruh au Dom, Cologne, Germany 1.5/10

34. Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam, Holland 0.5/10

35. Blue Moon Brewing at the SandLot, Coors Field, Denver, CO 0/10

 

Throughout, I have tried to create some sort of bell curve from the rankings: a few at the bottom of the pack, a rising amount in the middle 4-6/10 range, and then a handful of exemplary bars in a class of their own. This makes sense, because this is a (largely) thoughtfully compiled list of elite venues, so if I were to compare them to all the beer bars of the world, then the rankings would almost always be 8, 9 or 10 out of ten, and therefore unilluminating.

 

 

 

138. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, London, England

Just off Fleet Street, London (but oddly off Google Maps), is a museum of a pub. A heavyweight holding a candle to anywhere.

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Nestled down an alley, it is has been worth seeking-out since at least 1667. Even Dickens thought so.

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Old gent by the bar not guaranteed. Photo stolen shamelessly from beerlens.com.

The front bar is probably the best- ancient yet robust-looking dark wood encloses a quaint little room with a fireplace and more pumps than you’d think one would need for the amount of customers that could be squeezed in. The floor is covered in sawdust, as this was the normal way to mop up spills and debris and old people fear change.

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The excellent front room will of course fill-up quick, but Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is the gift that keeps giving; there is an overflow room on the ground floor, then a further two basement levels. People will have preferences, but you can’t really lose.

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Apparently the food is tosh, but who really cares? It’s not that sort of place; not that sort of blog.

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Venue: 10/10

Rebuilt in 1667. No need to improve it since.

Beer: 8/10

Samuel Smith’s pubs are a stalwart on the English ale scene. Not unique to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Not complaining.

Worthy? Oh yes.

The UK is blessed with (an unfortunately dwindling number of) old pubs. But this one stands out- did Charles Dickens drink at your local?

Candidate #5- Zero Degrees, Bristol, England

Zero Degrees is a brewpub chain of four: Bristol was the second venue and a local institution in the town I called home for my college years.

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The Bristol venue is the most unique as the location, nestled in amongst the historic Christmas Steps, provided an architectural challenge that was successfully met with stylish innovation. The steeply dipping hills allowed for three terraces and arresting views over the city. Some of the interior is of course reserved for the brewery, where glass walls enable the patrons to keep a discerning eye on the beer-monkeys as they go about their business. The brewery spills out over the bar with great arching pipes, emphasising the industrial chic design.

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Gratuitous shot of Bristol looking lovely. This is no where near the bar.

Although several of the beers have won some very prestigious awards, such as a CAMERA award for the pilsner, the mango beer is the reason people come back, frequently. I’m told it was an experimental guest beer, indeed it is unnamed on the menu, but they struck gold, so that the “Speciality” option is now synonymous with mango, regardless that the blurb explains this beer to be a changing, experimental compliment to the fixed pilsner, wheat and black lager. In five years, this guest has never changed apart from a cranberry Christmas brew. On a summer’s day, this mango beer is probably the best thing you could imbibe.

Venue: 7/10

Architecturally sumptuous, but perhaps a little cold on the inside.

Beer: 6/10

Mango beer. Much, much better than it sounds.

Worthy? Maybe

103. Charlie’s Bar, Copenhagen, Denmark

Pilestræde, Copenhagen, Denmark, has a very British surprise: Charlie’s Bar.

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With every detail, you will be transported to Ole Blighty; the staff will only speak English to you here, as will many of the punters.

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The cynic may point to the numerous, similar and possibly better bars of this ilk in the Motherland. But this is in Copenhagen. Which makes it unique, and quite remarkable. Drinkers vote with their wallet and their feet; Charlie’s is twice the price as next door, yet always rammed on the weekends.

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The ceiling is covered in old beer mats, presumably for the Australian visitors. Narrow and cluttered, in truth the seating options are limited. Those lucky few will be treated to cosy corners and close seating for vibrant conversation. The bar spills out to the street and has a ledge to prop your beer on whilst ogling the locals.

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Venue: 8/10

People-watcing Mecca, chthonic beer cave and beer mat emporium.

Beer: 8/10

Brilliant, if English ale is your thing. It is kept so well, Charlie’s Bar is one of a handful of pubs outside the U.K. to have been awarded the Cask Marque of quality. The menu is also furnished with a few choice Belgian’s.

Worthy? Yes

Charlie’s Bar may not be remarkable in the U.K.- but it’s not in the U.K., so it is.

86. The Olde Mitre Tavern

Publicity is the last thing this pub needs; it’s tiny. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is a rare hidden gem, nestled in an alley…somewhere in London.

The current incarnation was forged in 1772, although there has been a tavern of sorts on this site since 1547. And that is brilliant. It also belongs to the Crown. Where else can you drink in such good historic company?

Ye Olde Mitre, Clerkenwell, London

Thanks Guardian.com

The decor is a Tudor-style wood panelling with grand fireplaces, snugs and greying old men. Hard as it is to find, the secret is out and I recommend avoiding the post-work crush. Classic pub food is also served, such as pork pies and pickled eggs.

Venue: 9/10

This is a quintessential British pub. No sports, no music, no advertising; plenty of bitter and bar snacks. The exterior is also very picture friendly.

Beer: 7/10

I love British ale. It travels awfully, so I really appreciate it when possible. For me, the beer choices were fantastic, but the scores reflects the limited range; no foreign muck, as it were. However some of the 7 real ales an tap are award winning, and complemented by varying guests.

Worthy? Yes

The pubs of Great Britain are world-famous and very much part of the heritage. Unfortunately, a lot have been painted white and taken over by bland chains. The Old Mitre Tavern has firmly resisted change, and remains a stellar example of the quaint British tradition.