Thursday, 10 November 2011

Trust in the pub

There are over 800 breweries in the UK – how many would you like to try a beer from?

My answer is over 800. I’d love to drink a beer from every brewery in the UK. Even better would be a couple of beers to see the range of what they make.

I’m guessing that some of it will be incredibly good, surprising, interesting and beers that I’d like to drink again and again. That’s why I’d like to try them all. But there will be a lot of beer made which isn’t delicious. Some will be badly brewed and should never be sold while others will be boring or lacking quality. And some beers will inevitably suffer at the hands of the pub serving it.

It’s a lottery of whether that pint you order is going to be good, which is why drinking in pubs you trust is a good start.

There are three London pubs I drink in more than any others: Southampton Arms, Craft and The Rake (there are others I trust but go to less often - I guess I'm too busy chasing hops in the beer bars). I trust these pubs to not put crap beer on the bar: they order beer from breweries which they know are good, they look after the beer and they sell it fast which is good for tap turnover. I know that I can go into one of these places and always get good beer. It’s not about the number of taps either: if these bars only had one keg line and one cask handpull then I’d still be confident that I’d get a good beer. And the selection isn’t just about finding new and over-hopped beers to drink, if a pub will always look after their beers and serve them in perfect condition then that’s as good as anything else. Finding places like that make me want to return regularly.

It’s hard to know if you can trust a new brewery or not (branding is a good start – if care and attention has gone to that then there’s more confidence in the beer) but by finding a good pub who you know chooses the best beer, there’s the safety net against a bad pint. It’s good to be able to walk into a pub and know there’ll be too many beers on that you’d like to drink.

At the same time, one of the great things about drinking in different pubs is the unexpected: the unexpected great pint, the unexpected great pub or the unexpected which happens inside them. Sometimes you have to take a hit with a bad or boring pint but there’s always another pub around the corner and you never know what you’ll find there.

Do you return to the pubs you trust for good beer more than searching out new pubs? Where are you most likely to drink beers from new breweries? 


  1. At the moment it tends to be in the form of bottles at hom...for obvious reasons. I'm not adverse to trying anywhere new, but if the beer range is dull I'll just walk back out again. As for trying new beers...that's what tasters are for!

  2. Good post and one that would previously have made me envious of your London location location location (must visit soon). I'm in West Yorkshire and until recently I would have moaned that we have nothing interesting to drink. However, now we are currently enjoying the rise of several new breweries who are producing some outstanding beer: Magic Rock, Summer Wine, Mallinsons, Saltaire, Ilkley to name a few. Add to that pubs and bars I can trust in the shape of Mr Foleys, North Bar (Leeds), The Grove (Hudds) and the Sparrow Bar (Bradford) and I find myself struggling to get around them all in time to try the latest beers. I know of a few other pubs that others trust and I'll be adding these to my circuit, but I stay clear of the rest where possible. If I get the chance to go for a few beers I want to enjoy them to the full and not be predictably disappointed by some of the dross out there.

  3. That's quite an astounding number when you think about it, the US has 1800 breweries with a population 5 times greater than that of the UK.

    Hurrah for Blighty!

  4. I like searching out new pubs. Makes the me feel brave and manly if i've no idea of its quality. Whilst I love the pubs you mention part of the fun is risking a minging pint. They make me appreciate the great pints and pubs more.

  5. BB. If you think you will get better beer and better kept beer in the average London pub than the average West Yorkshire one, then you are sadly mistaken.

    But it is getting better in fairness.

  6. With the real ale scene in Sheffield and the surrounding areas growing as it is, it's a challenge to stay up to speed with new real ale pubs.

    There's still a number of real ale pubs in Sheffield which I haven't got round to sampling yet. Not a bad challenge to have ahead of me!

  7. I always go back to the same places (Craft, Tap, Cask, white horse) until someone else recommends a new one. I don't get as much time to spend in pubs as I'd like so I want every pint to be a good one. And these are exciting places, it's never the same beer twice which keeps me coming back for a different experience every time.

    My local is a Fullers pub and whilst it doesn't vary it's beers (apart from the current mediocre beer festival, all English cask not even one continental/american beer) I know I'm going to get a great pint of Pride or ESB.

    Is there an 'app' for good pubs that isn't camra supported? Camra in my experience prioritise the beer over the actual place. If I take my wife to a camra recommended pub she will often sigh 'oh no' because they prize the beer/serving method well over atmosphere/cleanliness which are important too!

  8. I'm likely to return to the same old pubs, time and time again. Partly because I like those pubs, I'm known, and they sell what I want to drink. In Glasgow, the choice of pubs selling non-mainstream beers isn't as great as it could be, and so the number of establishments for drinking beer (well, beer that I want to drink) is limited, hence why I return to the same places.

    On where I try the wares of new breweries. If they are not likely to be available in a pub, it's more than likely it's got to be done in bottles.

  9. Yorkshire has tonnes of great pubs if you compare with london in a per tapita way. (NYC beer week term, not mine). Looking forward to the openin gof the York Tap

  10. It's a mix of both for me, Mark. the pubs in Leeds and nearby that are my 'usual haunts' are so because of quality as well as choice...I'll take a hit every once in a while but if a pub is serving good beer in a bad way, then I'll vote with my feet.