Our Guide To England

Cask ale, historic pubs, and craft beer!

Indisputably, England’s (and indeed the United Kingdom’s) beer scene is the most diverse and interesting in the world. Focusing on unusual styles of ale and a format of serving not commonly found anywhere else. It may be a consequence of being an island country with a long period in the year of damp, cold weather, but English beer drinkers still enjoy thick brown bitter ale served via gravity pulled cask. The distinct flavour and texture makes it a standout from most other countries.

Pub going was almost inevitable given the cultural inheritance of the country, as for a long period brewing was a safer way of drinking clean water, and the only brewing that made sense was on a large scale. People had more beer than they could drink, so invited people to drink it, even started selling it to other people. The connections were fostered ever more deeply until the emergence of taverns, beer competitions and the development of different techniques and standards which helped innovate and create new styles.

Even today visiting a true English pub gives you an umbilical connection to nascent pub-going centuries ago.

Unfortunately, the evolution of the scene has also meant lots of these ‘free houses’ were swallowed up by expanding breweries who were able to dictate terms to their now employees. These breweries were also subsumed into parent companies whose interests were in distribution and lowering manufacturing costs to deliver greater profits to their shareholders. This in turn made it hard for landlords to run their pub at a profit, or even to decide how their pub was to be run.

We have a situation now where many historic pubs are run and owned by chains who may at turns see the value in the heritage, but have hollowed out the community inside by standardising their offerings and creating the ‘chain pub’ feel. Sadly many city and town offerings are chain pubs whose concerns are chiefly about making a safe reliable place to go, even if that means mediocrity written long. We wrote about this in a feature article, ‘The Importance of being Distinctive‘.

The counter-reaction to this process has been the scene of Craft Beer, which has been a much needed shot in the arm reversing the process of awful macro brewed lagers reducing the choice and quality of beers and helped bring a wider audience into drinking different flavours they wouldn’t otherwise have considered. It was hoped this would help foster a renaissance in the traditional pub going scene, but this unfortunately has not happened.

Craft brewing has instead decided it wishes to operate in a niche, not only competing with macro-brewing but competing against real ale, meaning cask real ale, the premier product of England is further sidelined. Craft Beer breweries are savagely effective at marketing at young audiences, far more so than the likes of Budweiser and Heineken even, and unless there is a genuine concerted effort by craft breweries to make thick bitter cask ale in the English tradition, even this potential panacea will be lost.

In the drive to make families return to pubs many publicans have taken the decision to turn their pubs into sterile bland places which look like they have come from Laura Ashley catalogues with beige print wallpaper and sofa seating, and gourmet burgers that cost £13.95. Even on this front the traditional English pub in town and country is under attack.

There is a real danger that the art and knowledge of what makes an outstanding pub will be lost, or driven to obscurity. Every time someone decides a pub needs redecorating it is under threat. All it takes is one very foolish man or woman to destroy a century of character.

However, it is not all negative. The surviving traditional English pubs prosper not just because of their antiquity but because of their inherent quality. There are so many varieties, niches within niches too that it can be hoped that these are all captured for posterity and maintained, or even revived.

England is full of diverse places to drink: country inns, market taverns, station pubs, craft beer taprooms, brewpubs, micro-pubs, luncheon bars, gin palaces and – of course – the neighbourhood local.

The core identity is of the proud, whiskered-cheeked old man in the corner quietly sipping his bitter ale.


All the venues we have visited in England and rated 7.5/10 or higher!

Ratings Key (0-10)

Bars marked with (*) will take you to our full profile write-up

Name Location Our Rating
The Red Lion Alnmouth 7.5
Game Cock Austwick 7.7
The Wheatsheaf Barton-on-Humber 7.8
Pheasant Inn Bassenthwaite 7.9
The Victoria Beeston 8
The Trumpet Bilston 9.5
Post Office Vaults Birmingham 8
The Anchor Birmingham 7.8
Bacchus Birmingham 7.7
The Wolf Birmingham 7.6
Bodega Bowness 7.6
Bridge Tavern Bradford 7.7
Corn Dolly Bradford 7.7
Record Café Bradford 7.6
The Fighting Cock Bradford 7.6
Yarbrough Hunt * Brigg 7.9
Bag of Nails Bristol 8.2
Orchard Inn Bristol 8
King William Ale House Bristol 7.7
The Cambridge Blue* Cambridge 9.1
The Elm Tree Cambridge 8.5
The Free Press Cambridge 8.1
Eagle Cambridge 7.9
Champion of The Thames Cambridge 7.6
The George Castleton 7.6
Ye Olde Nags Head Castleton 7.6
The Albion Inn Chester 8.5
Ye Olde Boot Chester 7.7
Cross Keys Inn Chester 7.7
Goat n Munch Chester 7.6
Ye Olde Cottage Chester 7.5
Robin Hood Inn Cragg Vale 9.1
The Pipe & Glass Dalton 7.6
Duke of Wellington Danby 7.6
West Riding Refreshment Rooms Dewsbury 7.7
The Diggle Hotel Diggle 7.7
The Victoria Inn *
Durham 9.1
Dun Cow Durham 7.8
Colpitts Durham 7.8
The Old Nags Head Edale 7.6
The Chintz Falmouth 8.7
Beerwolf Books Falmouth 8
Fox & Goose Hebdon Bridge 9.0
Drink? Hebdon Bridge 7.7
The White Lion Heptonstall 7.6
The Barrels Hereford 8.5
Beer In Hand Hereford 7.7
The Grove Huddersfield 8.1
The Sportsman Huddersfield 7.9
King’s Head Huddersfield 7.6
Ye Olde Black Boy Hull 8.8
Lion & Key Hull 8.7
Fretwell’s Hull 8.7
WM Hawkes Hull 8.6
Ye Olde White Harte Hull 8.5
The Whalebone Hull 7.9
Hop & Vine Hull 7.9
80daysbierhaus Hull 7.7
Ye Olde Blue Bell Hull 7.7
Shoulder of Mutton Kirkby Overblow 7.5
Mother Shipton Knaresborough 7.8
Whitelock’s * Leeds 8.9
Cardigan Arms Leeds 8.7
Headrow House Leeds 8.5
Brudenell Social Club Leeds 8.5
The Banker’s Cat Leeds 8.1
Angel Inn Leeds 7.9
Kirkstall Bridge Leeds 7.9
Grove Inn Leeds 7.9
Brownhill & Co Leeds 7.8
Arcadia Leeds 7.8
Duck & Drake Leeds 7.8
Kirkstall Brewery Taproom Leeds 7.8
Blind Tyger Leeds 7.7
Wharf Chambers Leeds 7.7
Adelphi Leeds 7.7
Reliance Leeds 7.6
North Bar Leeds 7.6
Tapped Leeds 7.6
Further North Leeds 7.5
Doghouse Leeds 7.5
Cross Keys Leeds 7.5
Sheaf St Kitchen Leeds 7.5
Garden Gate Leeds 7.5
Wapentake Leeds 7.5
The Ale Wagon Leicester 7.8
The Blue Boar Leicester 7.7
The Strugglers Lincoln 9.0
Peter Kavanagh’s Liverpool 8.8
Ship & Mitre Liverpool 8.5
Ye Cracke Liverpool 8.1
Roscoe Head Liverpool 8
Lion Tavern Liverpool 7.8
Philharmonic Dining Rooms Liverpool 7.7
Botanical Garden Liverpool 7.5
The Crown Hotel Lofthouse 7.6
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese London 9.5
Gordon’s Wine Bar London 8.8
The Nag’s Head London 8.7
Nightjar London 8.6
The Troubadour London 8.5
Ye Olde Mitre London 8.5
Lamb & Flag London 8.5
The Mayflower London 8.5
Citte of Yorke London 8.3
The Princess Louise London 8.3
Jerusalem Tavern London 7.9
The Captain Kidd London 7.7
The Seven Stars * London 7.7
The Grapes London 7.7
Howl At The Moon London 7.6
Viktor Wynd London 7.6
Proeflokaal Rembrandt London 7.6
Ye Olde Watling London 7.5
Pride of Spitalfields London 7.5
The Coal Hole London 7.5
The Blackfriar London 7.5
The Cockpit London 7.5
Peveril of The Peak Manchester 8.3
Circus Tavern Manchester 8.0
The Castle Manchester 7.8
The New Oxford Manchester 7.7
The Briton’s Protection Manchester 7.7
The Salisbury Manchester 7.7
Smithfield Market Tavern Manchester 7.6
Sinclairs Oyster Bar Manchester 7.5
Old Wellington Manchester 7.5
The Crown Middlesmoor 8.1
Smuggler’s Den Morecambe 7.9
Free Trade Inn Newcastle 8.6
Crown Posada Newcastle 7.8
Mean-Eyed Cat Newcastle 7.7
Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem Nottingham 8.6
Canalhouse Nottingham 7.7
The Cock Inn Oughtibridge 7.5
The Crown Pateley Bridge 7.6
Ye Dolphin Robin Hood’s Bay 7.6
The Queens Head Rothbury 7.5
Fanny’s Ale House Saltaire 7.6
Stumble Inn Scarborough 7.5
The Beacon Sedgeley 8.9
Fagans Sheffield 9.1
Blake Hotel * Sheffield 8.5
Shakespeare’s Sheffield 8.5
The Gardener’s Rest Sheffield 8.5
The Red Deer Sheffield 8.5
The Wellington Sheffield 8.5
The Fat Cat Sheffield 8.5
Sheaf View Sheffield 8.5
White Lion Sheffield 8.3
Brothers Arms Sheffield 8.1
Rutland Arms Sheffield 7.9
Sheffield Tap Sheffield 7.7
Beer Engine Sheffield 7.7
Bath Hotel Sheffield 7.7
Cobden View Sheffield 7.6
Harlequin Sheffield 7.6
Hallamshire House Sheffield 7.6
Cremorne Sheffield 7.5
The York Sheffield 7.5
The Fox Shipley 7.5
Grapes Inn Slingsby 7.6
The Nag’s Head Stacey Bank 7.7
Craven Heifer Stainforth 7.6
The Golden Fleece Thirsk 7.8
The Old Ale House Truro 8
Britannia Inn Upper Gornal 7.8
Fox & Hounds West Witton 7.7
The Green Dragon Whitby 7.6
The Blue Bell York 8.9
The Swan York 8.3
House of Trembling Madness (Stonegate) York 8.1
House of Trembling Madness (Lendal) York 8
The Golden Ball York 7.9
The Phoenix Inn York 7.9
The Wellington York 7.7
Pivni York 7.6
York Tap York 7.6
The Ackhorne York 7.6
Trafalgar Bay York 7.6
Snickleway York 7.6
Kings Arms York 7.6
Mason’s Arms York 7.5

Coming Soon…!