Candidate #13- The Free Press, Cambridge, UK.

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.

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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.

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Hogwarts Academy for the Wealthy and Privileged.

 

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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.

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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.

Venue: 8/10

Plenty of rustic, old-England charm, just a short walk through quaint Cambridge suburbs from the centre and colleges.

Beer: 8.5/10

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.

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Candidate #6- Café Gollem, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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Café Gollem was the first to bring good beer back to Amsterdam. And is still one of the best.

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Around since 1974, Gollem is a beer institution famous in Amsterdam and the world. Originally, the proprietor hired a car, drove to Belgium and filled up. These beers sold quickly.

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Gollem probably looked old when it was new. The bar has an ambience that breaks down social barriers and patrons chat freely. Maybe also because it is tiny: the venue is split over two layers; a large U-shaped stool area surrounding the bar, with some prized window seats too, and a mezzanine floor with some small tables. Get here early if you want a seat.

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Make sure you compliment your beer with some Trappist cheese. Those monks, man.

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Venue: 8/10

The only criticism is the size, but that’s also part of the atmosphere. So really I’m just complaining that it’s hard to get a seat, which is kinda like complaining because it is too good.

Beer: 9/10

It’s hard to imagine a better beer list. There are 14 taps to choose from (7 regulars, 7 guest) and ~250 bottles covering local breweries here in Amsterdam, craft brewers around the Netherlands and all the big and small players from Belgium.

Worthy? Yes

Little has changed since its’ inception almost 40 years ago, because they got so much right.

132. Gösser Bierklinik, Vienna, Austria

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For me, Vienna was a squalid disappointment on many fronts. The most romantic city in the world? Better stick to the square kilometer in the centre then.

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I thought Vienna would salvage its reputation with its old European charms and quality beer. So much potential: I even liked the name; “The Beer Clinic”, how whimsical! But none of the chthonic, ancient, rustic Central European charm, so resplendent in Prague, can be found in Gösser Bierklinik.

Often great bars have an unremarkable frontage, but at the Bierklinik, this rather set the tone for the evening. We asked the impatient waiter for a beer recommendation and were left lumbered with bloody Gösser. This piss-water is the Heineken of Austria, and surely has the friendliest profit margin.

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Damn good schnitzel though:

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Venue: 4/10

Unremarkable. Played heavily on the historic, medieval theme, but in this respect can’t hold a candle to the average old Prague pub.

Beer: 1/10

We asked for a recommendation, and were treated to Gösser pils; the Heineken of Austria.

Worthy? No

There are much better bars of this style in Vienna, and a remarkable new one in 1516, so this inclusion is unfathomable.