What are we looking for?

How are we rating the pubs and bars we visit?

You can’t please all the people all the time“, so the saying goes.
At European Bar Guide we can only judge a place on whether it is successful at what it is trying to be. There are many factors behind why people may not like the same bar. For example:

1) Age. Some people feel uncomfortable around people of different generations for whatever reason, and some venues go out of their way to market themselves to a specific age group, which sometimes doesn’t help!

2) Class. Class sensitivity becomes more extreme than ever in the increasingly unequal societies we live in. Snobbery towards pub chains that provide options for people on low incomes is repaid towards cocktail bars and expensive taprooms. There are a vanishing number of places that are true democracies where people of all backgrounds mix happily and lots of places which divide opinion due to who they are aiming at.

3) Race. It is impossible to deny that as a white man I can blend in to certain venues far more easily, when others feel uncomfortable. This is not to say we endorse or even tolerate racism. We don’t. We call it out every time we see it. Europe is also a vast space where some social attitudes are alien to others. We promote Humanism. Of course we do. We’re a pub guide for heaven’s sake!

4) Gender. Without wishing to pigeonhole, it is broadly true that a large swathe of men and women’s tastes don’t neatly overlap, while there are also venues which, like 3) may be comfortable and enjoyable to visit alone as a white man, but less so for a single woman or trans person, etc.

5) Plain old personal preference. Rock bars aren’t going to be be everyone’s cup of tea. Does that make them bad? Not necessarily. Where rock bars do a really good job we are going to celebrate that fact, likewise when high end cocktail bars do something out of the ordinary.

6) Quirks and bugbears. Some people detest smoking and smokey venues. Some people hate going to the bar to order, vice versa table service. Some people hate paying in cash only, vice versa cards. The toilets might be awful. The service might be bad. There might not be enough light, the music might be bad/too loud. Do they all make the bar bad? Not necessarily. It all goes into the mix.

Once all of this considered, you can see the difficulty of recommending pubs and bars to the wider public.
At European Bar Guide, the way we can help is first ask you ‘What kind of place do you like?’ and go from there…

In order to provide some objective comparison, there are specific criteria it is possible to define, compare and contrast.

There are 5 categories these venues will be judged upon, leading to an overall final rating which we have labelled, ‘The Pub Going Factor‘.

For this category we will mainly judging the quality and choice served in the bar, mainly the taps, however I will also consider the range on the back shelf as well. If the venue specialises in a certain thing and does that well, it will be allowed a degree of latitude if the beer is not up to scratch.

Any bar that has a distinctive look or character, whether through really standing out or just looking lived-in and possessing a clear identity will score a higher rating. Less derivative, more distinctive. Bad news for bland cookie-cutter craft beer taprooms and chain pubs.

Most people choose to visit a place because they enjoy the surroundings on some level. There is a special atmosphere generated when a place achieves genius locii, harmony of place and purpose. This could be a busy noisy Irish pub with a fire going and folk music playing, or it could be an ultra-cool ruin pub with excited youngsters exploring semi-abandoned surroundings. Likewise, if a place has retained a core gathering of locals in the face of pressure from big money and property or changing demographics, that will be accounted for.

The primary purpose of a bar is to serve drinks, and allow people space and room to drink them in the fashion and mood the bar intends to generate. However, extra features such as food, games, terrace areas, quizzes, live music and community events will score points when and only when they are a net improvement on the place’s core mission. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all. It’s possible to have no seats, 1 available drink and still be a great pub.

Becoming a regular at some bars could turn into a very expensive habit. This is something we pondered recently in our feature article Beers Vs. Your Bank Balance. It’s vital bars price their drinks fairly in order to maintain a loyal following. We will be judging value for money by considering a bar’s location, the quality of the drink and surroundings. If we can only get a Corona for 6 euros, we are going to be unhappy. If we can get a pint of Pilsner Urquell for less than 40 Czech koruna, we are going to be very happy.

This is what you end up with when the scores from the above are put together, and when  other inexpressible feelings are weighed with it. Essentially this final score is the answer to the question: how likely am I to make a special visit to this place, or, if possible, make it a regular haunt? The score as much as any other will tell you outright how good this pub is. If the end result is a score of 8/10 or higher, it will make it onto our Bar Directory.


8/10 – If a bar succeeds at doing a number of things well, not just well but clearly above average, it has a chance of a spot on our guide. Scoring 8 means it’s a bar you would recommend to someone, not necessarily in a ‘you must go here whatever else you do’, but in the knowledge that it’s an outstanding option .

9/10A score reserved for an excellent venue that does a series of important things really well, far and beyond the norm, to enhance your experience. The kind of place you want to make your local and cheerlead.

10/10An unmissable pub going experience stemming from several special qualities that make the place standout beyond the every day venue. Possessing or offering something that cannot easily be found. Usually a ‘genius locii’, harmony of place and purpose. A reason to visit a town or city in and of itself. Not many venues have received this score from us!

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