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.
Haarlem, thirty years older than Amsterdam, is a medium sized town less than 15 minutes to the west from Amsterdam Centraal (apparently far enough to deter most tourists). It has a long history in brewing and was a major centre in the 16th and 17th centuries: this legacy can be seen in street names, such as Brouwersvaart (Brewer’s Canal)- a waterway used to bring fresh water from the dunes to the city’s breweries. At its peak, Haarlem had roughly 100 breweries, but the Black Death ravaged the city’s population: by 1752 there were just 7 breweries left; by 1820, none.
In the 1990s the Stichting Haarlems Biergenootschap started brewing historic recipes and Jopen beer was born. The kind folk of Haarlem didn’t exactly sit around drinking water waiting for the beery Gods to brew again: Haarlem has a robust selection of good beer bars, and per capita it must be amongst the most beer bar rich town in the world. Enter: In Den Uiver Proeflokaal.
Remarkably, there are just 5 reviews on Tripadvisor, which may explain the positive reaction from staff, who seem genuinely happy to talk you through their beers and history: the snug hidden around the back was an office of the world’s oldest newspaper still in print, since 1656 (Haarlemse Dagblad), but I could believe it belonged to the Drones Club, such is the English-private-member-club-of-yesteryear feel.
Another nod to the local history is the plethora of aeronautical memorabilia to celebrate the Haarlemmer Anthony Fokker, an aviation pioneer whose Douglas DC-2 (the eponymous ‘Uiver’) won its class in the 1934 Melbourne Race.
In the summer, get there early and enjoy a seat outside and look over one corner of the stunning market square and Grote Kerk. Some reviewers on Tripadvisor claim that the market square is ‘Nothing to write home about”- what else is in your life? Because I want some of that.
Cosy and ‘gezellig’ in the winter, great outdoor in the summer.
Decent enough: 10 taps, 15 bottles.
You can’t invent history.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The definition of ‘real pub’.
Small range, but still diverse and, of course, well-kept.
Stands out amongst even the top tier.
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.
A precarious, tentative, inchoate ranking of the best beer bars in the world I have visited, so far:
=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
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
=17. Olympen Mat og Vinhus, Oslo, Norway 6/10
=17. The Brickskeller, Washington, DC 6/10
=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. 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. Gösser Bierklinik, Vienna, Austria 2/10
33. Fruh au Dom, Cologne, Germany 1.5/10
34. Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam, Holland 0.5/10
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.
The White Horse Pub is in the garden of London- Fulham. After a few stops hemmed-in on the underground, accountants and actuaries emerge after a busy day of sitting into a leafy suburb. A short stroll brings you out on Parsons Green, where the White Horse Pub sits proudly.
There can be a certain uniformity to London pubs (Health & Safety Codes?). I get the feeling that The White Horse Pub is so close to an excellent interior, but the manager’s imagination is shackled by the need to accommodate the huge amount of foot-traffic and certain idiosyncrasies Londoners have come to expect. The outdoor area is fantastic- not simply a post-smoking ban renovated yard, but an open area overlooking a park with a guy grilling meat over an open flame. This works.
But let’s get down to business: beer. They are certainly not shy. The offerings include a decent selection of traditional draft ales, of course, and also a bold range of international (in style or origin) beers served from the right pumps, at the right temperatures, in the right glasses. They get this very right indeed, better than anywhere else I’ve seen in London (happy to be proven wrong, of course).
Not everyone enjoys beer and instead orders Fosters or Heineken or some other interchangeable yak piss. A publican can’t really avoid this without taking a hit (although the novelty might work in London?). Thankfully, The White Horse Pub have gone for a lager of real quality- Pilsner Urquell. Sometimes, an ale isn’t what you need (as you kick back on your yacht in the sun after a jog up the beach), and lager is the necessary thirst-quencher. Urquell is the boss.
Clean, undeniably, but perhaps to its detriment. The interior lacks that indefinable charm which so many others hold. Good outdoor space with grill.
London doesn’t seem to understand foreign beers (or care?), but The White Horse Pub puts in a great show, without neglecting local local brews. World-class.
I’m not sure you can unequivocally beat this international beer selection in London, but the décor is a little too spartan.
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.