Yarborough Hunt, Brigg

49 Bridge St, Brigg DN20 8NS
  • Quality and/or choice of drinks –8/10
  • Style and Decor – 8/10
  • Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 9/10
  • Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
  • Value for Money – 6/10
  • The Pub-Going Factor –  8/10

Some of you may have been wondering when I’m going to profile an English pub, so I’m pleased to keep you in suspense no longer. After all, England is going to feature heavily on this website one way or another given the quality and sheer number of good pubs (regardless of whether that number is going up or down) and given it’s where I happen to live, making these places much more accessible than, for example, the bar scene over in Belarus.

Brigg is a typical Lincolnshire market town, yet crowded with more pubs than you’d think would be viable for a place of its size. A 5 minute walk through its small centre will take you past a dozen pubs, each of which manage to remain open despite the recent appearance of a Wetherspoons and the ominous threat to local trade that represents.

My favourite in town by some distance is the Yarborough Hunt, based on a small back street over the river Ancholme, which implausibly has three pubs within a stone’s throw of each other, making for one of the easier pub crawls out there! There’s a bridge and a picturesque stretch of river lined with willow trees, often with a family of swans terrorising anyone trying to use the water for barging, rowing etc.

The pub building is one of those typical venerable townhouses you find across the East of England with weathered brickwork and an architectural style calling up stereotypes of rural life in the 18th Century.

While the buildings themselves go back a long way, the pub itself is a relatively new venture from 2003, making use of the old ‘Sargeant Brewery’ buildings and carefully designing a bar and pub rooms into the ground floor in a traditional rustic style.

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“The Yarbrough” manages to be a country pub in a slightly different way to some, with some touches which give the place a preserved character, and eschewing a lot of modern pub features – music, cooked food and fruit machines for a start. The main sound you’ll hear is the chatter of conversation and perhaps the occasional dog barking. The sense of calm is often missing from pubs these days whereas there are times, especially during the afternoon, when that’s precisely what you want.

This place isn’t ‘Inn’ by any stretch, it isn’t large or homely enough for that. It’s a workmanlike barn type pub, and before you think I intend that as a criticism, I don’t! I mean that in a very good way.

You will notice the exposed beams and tiled floor when you walk in. Take a few steps to your left to enter the bar area where the ceiling has been removed to expose the rafters which gives it a characterful feel. The central area of the pub is mainly tiled but there are comfortable carpeted areas in the sides rooms to your left and right with huge sturdy wooden bench seats.

Almost a pre-requisite, the fire is kept going for months on end which adds a warm cosy feel to the otherwise upright sturdy main pub area.

Despite being a pub, the place does more like café-style trade during the day, as young families, old fogies and retirees potter down here to drink coffee and read the paper. However, there are some reliable intransigents propping up the bar drinking cask ale, and when you look at the range of options it’s clear these chaps have the right idea over everyone else.

Rather unusually, the Yarborough has a multitap keg ale panel behind the bar in addition to several cask pumps in front. It’s a curiosity in an otherwise old fashioned place, but the joy is that there are several unusual beers to try. Unfortunately they have ceased to do the line of beer from Brauhaus Riegele which is a great shame as that is barely available anywhere in the UK, and knocks a point off, but the range still extends beyond what you’d expect for the place. Without the specialist beers on offer you’d still be right at home with a pint of thick brown cask bitter, kept as well as you would hope and expect.

On Saturdays the pub often plays host to friendly away fans travelling to football matches in Lincoln, Grimsby, Scunthorpe and the pace certainly livelies up a touch when they arrive. The Ancholme can be good for rowing and often rowers head over for a pint after their exertions.

During the evening the Yarborough escapes first gear, with a different crowd gathering and a hubbub developing. I would recommend sitting towards the end of the bar area for the most atmosphere as the fairy lights around the beams and general ambience around the bar is pleasant and jovial. The high ceiling in the main room betrays what is otherwise a ‘nook-and-cranny’ type pub.

They have made some strange design decisions in some of the smaller side rooms which are wholly regrettable and not in keeping with inn-keeping (bdum tish), but hopefully soon someone will see sense and consolidate the whole pub back to its core and stop trying to use it as a canvas for dodgy amateur interior design.

The same extends to the beer garden where they have seen fit to create heated beach huts, presumably to try and keep smokers satisfied. Odd to say the least.

There were also some wranglings in the last few years with the owner Tom Woods whose brewery’s mediocre ales (in my opinion) were being outsold, unsurprisingly, by the other, superior options. It seems that this has now been resolved by the sheer variety on offer.

However, despite the usual provincial quirks that stop the Yarborough reaching its potential, the pub is managed by Lucy, a very enterprising woman and a core of committed employees that are clearly proud and determined to keep the pub in good shape. This shows in nearly everything the pub does, and despite the healthy competition for bums on seats in Brigg, they enjoy committed repeat custom, quite rightly, and the strongest reputation as the reviews on Google will attest to.

You’ll find the staff up front and welcoming; it’s one of those places where groups of people know each other very well. The essence of being there is the simplicity and the ritual a social tradition untouched by centuries, which is the genius loci of this place. Given that’s the case, I’d strongly advise them to concentrate on preserving that and trying not to turn it into something it isn’t.

I have no hesitation in recommending paying a visit if you’re anywhere near Brigg.

Šnekutis, Vilnius (Užupis branch)

Polocko g. 7A, Vilnius 01204, Lithuania
  • Quality and/or choice of drinks –8/10
  • Style and Decor – 9/10
  • Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 10/10
  • Amenities, Events & Community – 8/10
  • Value for Money – 7/10
  • The Pub-Going Factor –  10/10

At times in a city, pub going can feel a tad sterile and soulless without the company to elevate your surroundings, no more so than when drinking in chain bars who focus on reliability but never excel at anything or give the impression anything interesting will happen in them. They become like waiting rooms, simply painted in a pub style rather than being actual public houses. This is a dangerous template to churn out. Without pub character, what is there inspire loyalty and affection?

In England that question often drives me to explore places that offer something a little different, even if that risks disappointment. As I live in Leeds, this usually means visiting alternative, pricey ‘scene’ bars, as sadly there are only a few pubs left with a genuine DIY feel around the country, let alone in Leeds, I mean the kind of hostelry where you can see food being prepared in a normal homely kitchen out of the corner of your eye, where you can crowd around a real fire, and where the primary purpose is to make you feel as comfortable as your own home, with the cumulative effect that you can’t bottle. The sound of people together having a fucking good time.

Snekutis is Lithuania’s single best answer to the problem of sterile modernity, tracing their nation’s distinctive folk heritage to bring together a pub that truly feels like something far more than a business, with all the folksy quirks, rustic food, enveloping warmth and good cheer that ought to involve. But neither is it a hackneyed, plastic, unimaginative stereotype of such a place – this is a genuinely ramshackle venue out on its own on a quiet street  out of the way lane up hill out of the bohemian quarter of Vilnius, Uzupis. The pub looks like (and in a few ways is) a giant shed, even containing a tree growing out through the roof. Throw in a fish tank by the window, objects collected from the far corners of wherever and everywhere, wooden walls and a roaring hearth and you have quite the quirky little venue.

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The crowd inside depends on luck, as Snekutis started off as an in-the-know independent place then caught on through the arty Uzupis crowd in the late 00’s as craft ale and what may loosely still be termed ‘hipsterism’ started to make an impact. As Lithuania became more of a destination for Westerners in the mid-part of this decade, there are tourists and backpackers too, as quite a few hostels have sprung up in this fashionable neighbourhood. Depending on time of day, year, any % mixture of these people may be in attendance, which in itself adds to the variety of the experience.

I really enjoyed some time among the locals enjoying a rough and ready vegetable stew and a pint (it was minus 10 degrees outside), but the night before I had popped in to find some talkative British lads by the bar who were making a quick stop to down some vodka and move on. The prospect of visiting after reading that may put you off, but I believe that not to be the normal way of things in this bar. As with all good pubs, the atmosphere subtly changes over the course of the day on into the small hours and is stolid enough to absorb such shocks to the system as an impromptu gatecrashing of British tourists.

Service is attentive, English speaking (as with Lithuania in general) and nice enough, certainly patient enough to entertain my questions and have polite conversation which made me feel welcome as a solo traveller.

Lithuania is currently showing off its craft beer scene, particularly ‘farmhouse ale’, and Snekutis blazed such a trail, serving raw unfiltered, or as they call it “live” farmhouse style ale, emerging from a blue barrel they don’t overly advertise (licensing laws are a grey but steadily tightening area on this issue). The beer is cloudy, slightly sweet and very refreshing. Reportedly, Lithuanian yeast cultures are unique, leading to a distinctly different flavour. There are a great range of other Lithuanian beers to sample, including some very reputable dark beers and Baltic porters to enjoy, which won’t clock in at much over 2 euros 50 cents, a typical example of how Lithuania is a great way to explore Swedish/Finnish style surroundings on the cheap, and a fridge full of other options if nothing floats your boat.

Snekutis have other branches around the city, all of which are enjoyable in different, more conventional ways, but none has the truly rustic and corporate-free charm of the Uzupis branch. It’s the kind of place that inspires and fosters loyalty by being brave enough to do something unpretentious yet still different, just as I was saying at the start.

With all these positives in place, and the dark Baltic winter outside, you can see quite easily this all adds up to a pub of genius in the making, not just strikingly different and thoroughly enjoyable but outstanding further than that. It is one of my all time favourite places and among the top ten pubs I would call upon to spend my time in and thoroughly deserves a 10/10 rating. Get to Vilnius too, it’s excellent.