Pub of the Year: City Slicker Contenders

The Hunt for the Pub of the Year is on!

Since we began our hunt for the best pub in the country we’ve been flooded with your messages pointing us in the direction of some truly fantastic boozers…

We asked for your help in finding the very best pub that this country offers and you’ve not failed us. Despite pubs closing on a weekly basis here in the UK, we’re still incredibly passionate about our locals so we’re glad that you’ve got back to us with so many recommendations. Due to the sheer quantity of recommendations we’ve decided to split up the ever-growing shortlist into varying categories of pubs, so that we can best highlight some of these fantastic drinking holes that you’ve helped us to discover.

First up are the City Slickers – these pubs are located in a major city and offered a well-poured pint, in addition to fulfilling the other standards that we laid out earlier this month:

Hare & Hounds in Birmingham


Grade II-listed the Hare & Hounds has been around for quite sometime and has picked up a stellar reputation for live entertainment along the way. This pub’s wide appeal, in addition to its generous value, has granted it a place in the hearts of music lovers in Birmingham. This is what regular local Jared had to say about his favourite boozer:

“When I was relocating from London to Birmingham for investment I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to find venues that would rival the awesome underground places that I’d found in my hometown. Hare & Hounds proved me wrong, the music is top-class, the pints are cheap and the staff are just awesome.”

The Grapes in Liverpool


This cosy pub is a fantastic all-round boozer. During the summer it’s packed to the rafters with dedicated locals, travellers and students alike. On Sunday nights lively jazz flows through the building, whilst during the week there’s always a healthy contingent of locals propping up the bar. Damien was responsible for bringing this place to our attention:

“This is my go-to place when I’m out for a few casual pints. There’s always a great atmosphere here and the pints are especially well-kept. It might get rammed on the weekend, but that’s probably due to the fact that it’s so good!”

Wharf Chambers in Leeds


‘Wharf’, as it’s simply known to Leeds locals, might be a little rough round the edges, but that doesn’t mean that you should miss it on your next visit to this fun city. This pub neatly encapsulates the arts-fuelled subculture of the city and is home to a slew of DIY performances throughout the year that consistently attract sweaty audiences in the rough’n’ready back room. Jessica tells us all about this hipster hot spot:

“I had my first pint as a student at Wharf Chambers and fell in love with the place instantly. The drinks are always so cheap (even for Leeds) and its simply the best place to discover the vibrant music scene that this city has to offer.”

Pub of the Year: Rural Bolt-Holes

Is the Pub of the Year in this category?

We’ve been on the hunt for the Pub of the Year and have been getting help from drinkers all over the country!

Over the last few months we’ve been inundated with messages from loyal pub drinkers from the UK touting their favourite drinking holes. British drinkers understand better than anyone else the importance of a good pub, and they also know how varied they can be which is why we’ve chosen to split our competition up into a wide range of categories in order to give every style and location a pub the chance to be included. We’ve already covered the city-based pubs that have impressed us over the last year, so now we’re going to switch our focus over to the pubs that are a little harder to reach.

A proper rural pub is a hard thing to find. Not only are these pubs under the most threat from closure, but they’re all too often isolated from the rest of the industry which leads to them flagging behind their urban compatriots. Thankfully, our readers have been in touch and tipped us off regarding their favourite country haunts.

We’ve been blown away by the standards at these establishments and are happy too present our short list for Rural Bolt-Holes:

The Thomas Lord in Hampshire

Many village pubs have closed over the last few years, The Thomas Lord was one such establishment, dutifully restored by its owners, the Upham Group. The pub is a stunning example of rural-public house design and is staffed with attentive waiters throughout. The food presents a clever twist on pub classics and although the prices are a little higher than we’re used to paying, we thought it was well worth the price. Andy, the local who brought The Thomas to our attention, had this to say:

“For years this place was empty, so I’m so happy to see that it’s open again and under such efficient management. I was a little concerned when I discovered that it had been bought by a group, but those worries were laid to rest within a matter of weeks of it opening. The staff are lovely here and the food is the best in the area.”

The Rising Sun in Cheshire

The Cheshire countryside is the stunning backdrop to The Rising Sun, a traditional country pub whose food output marks it as a real cut above the rest. The cleverly devised menu at The Rising Sun is full of appealing crowd-pleasers, such as Popcorn Chicken and Crispy Duck, whilst a generously priced 3 Course Lunch features an adventurous Chorizo & Black Pudding Croquette and Chicken Tagine. Martin tipped us off about his favourite local and explains why here:

“For years I’ve been searching for the perfect place to incorporate into my weekly Sunday dog walk, so I was over the moon when I discovered The Rising Sun. I’m a regular here now and plan on occupying a cosy armchair every Sunday for the foreseeable future!”

The Fox & Duck in Hertfordshire

Nestled in the centre of idyllic Therfield, The Fox and Duck is a pub that ticks all the boxes when it comes to rural comforts. Set in front of an attractive green, which is a hub of activity during the busy Summer months, we found this pub to be just as busy on a colder Autumn evening. Hungry diners can pick from two menus: an informal bar menu packed with classic pub grub dishes and an a la carte menu for something a little bit more special. Diana is a frequent diner and told us more about why she loves it so much:

“I simply adore this pub, it has everything that you could desire of a country escape: delicious warming food, a delicious wine menu and plenty of tasty desserts to keep the kids happy. I think I’ll be coming here for the rest of my life!”

Pub of the Year: Student Drinking Holes

Looking for cheap pints and lively conversation?

Our search for the Pub of the Year takes us to the dustier realms of the student pub, thanks to a string of recommendations from the penny-scrimping youth. 

We’re still on the lookout for the best pub in the UK and this month our attention has been firmly focused on the establishments that aim to provide a quality pub experience which also delivers on value. Not everyone has £40 to drop on a casual trip to the pub, so we thought it was important to create a shortlist for the pubs that make an effort to make value their top priority. We had no intention of dropping our standards for this particular category, so don’t expect to find any places on this list that offer 70p pints of flat Fosters or hovels for toilets.

Thanks to the recommendations sent into us from students all around the country we’ve been able to narrow down our shortlist to three excellent pubs which champion student prices whilst refusing to compromise on quality:

The AJ in Liverpool

Although the August John is not what you’d call a traditional pub (the clumsy design is certainly redolent of its 1968 origins) you’re guaranteed to find a cheap drink in this popular student haunt. Major sports events are regularly shown and there are always at least 5 real ale or ciders on tap. The alluring scent of freshly cooked pizza, served all through the day and night, serves as powerful college marketing for the pub is, prices for pints rarely pop over £3 and other drink offerings are similarly well-priced.

Whilst The Augustus John hardly offers up much in the way of a comforting atmosphere, the usual rabble of students and lectures make this a relaxing environment nonetheless. James has been drinking there for years now and had this to say:

“There was a time when you could buy a pint of Carling here for £1.80! Although I’m sure that the price has gone up since, I keep coming back here for the ales and the fun vibe.”

Old Firehouse in Exeter

Although the Old Firehouse was recently sold to London based The City Pub Group, you’ll find that little has changed here for years. The charming historic building, as the name suggests, was once home to the city’s fire department. The building became a recruitment office during the Second World War, a warehouse during the 60s and 70, but remained derelict from then until 1986 when it opened as a pub.

History student, Sally, has been frequenting this cosy pub for the last three years and explained to us why she keeps going back:

“I first heard about The Old Firehouse before I came to University here in Exeter. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and read on a forum that this place was an inspiration for The Leaky Cauldron. Although I was a little disappointed to not find Butterbeer on the menu, I was enchanted by the cosy atmosphere and the massive pizzas. I’ve certainly spent my fair share of evenings there!”

Eagle & Ball in Birmingham

Birmingham has one of Britain’s biggest student populations, so it’s hardly surprising that there are a handful of decent places to grab a pint here. Built in 1840, this pub has survived thanks in part to its traditional architecture. The infamous Peaky Blinders have been linked with the pub, not to mention a number of paranormal experiences, although we were really concerned about were the pints. Decent craft ales are always on offer here at a good price and you can even get a pizza and a pint for £5 on a Monday.

Chris expounds why the Eagle & Ball is his go-to destination in Birmingham:

“The fact that this place is incorporated into the University building makes it especially attractive to students like me, I love being able to roll out of lectures and into this place for a cosy pint or three.

Beer Festivals From Around The World

Drink up! Drink up!

These international beer festivals have built a reputation for their variety, cultural heritage and sheer volume.

Beer is consumed all over the world and whilst we Brits take particular pride in our humble celebrations (or not so humble if you’re heading to The Great British Beer Festival), for each beer-drinking country there is an ultimate beer festival that promises endless schooners/steins/litres of beer with an army of attendees who are all as passionate as any beer-swiller from Blighty.

Wilfully ignore any alcohol consumption guidelines and run riot at one of these legendary beer festivals:

Oktoberfest

Arguably the be all and end all of beer festivals, Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival of its kind in the world. Over the course of 18 days millions of people travel to Munich, Germany to consume litres upon litre of Oktoberfest Beer. This medium bodied lager is a Bavarian classic that is undeniably malty with a very clean finish. Colours of this lager vary from a light amber to a dark brow and is dangerously drinkable. Oktoberfest is a celebration of Bavarian culture, it’s a folk festival but it’s also a fairground and definitely one for your bucket-list.

Where? Munich, Germany When? September 22nd 2018

BeerFes Tokyo

Although this event is more of a convention than a true festival, it has nonetheless built up a solid reputation as one of the best beer festivals that the world has to offer. Tokyo is an exciting, vibrant city with an enthralling food scene, this event is a perfect opportunity for you to become better acquainted with the radical beers that are being produced out here. Only a handful of lager brands make it out of Japan despite the fact that there’s a huge beer industry here, so to discover it you’ll need to go to them!

Where? Tokyo, Japan When? TBA June 2019

Great American Beer Festival

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years you’ll no doubt be aware that American Beer has made somewhat of a breakthrough in the tastes of British beer drinkers. Whilst them yanks have yet to brew an ale to rival the best that we have to offer, they are more than capable of cobbling together a decent enough hoppy pale ale and Colorado is arguably at the centre of this micro-brewing revolution. The Great American Beer Festival hosts 96 separate category competitions in addition to offering presentations, tastings and even a silent disco.

Where? Denver, Colorado When? September 20-22 2018

Bruges Beer Festival

Whilst many British drinkers might still see Belgian beer as an acquired taste, Belgians (unsurprisingly) will have their beer no other way. The Belgian style is as broad and varied as the ales we have on offer here, with beverages ranging from session style ales of a piddling few percent to full blown barleywine bangers of up to 16% ABV. The exhibition hall is one of the largest in Belgium and the city is an architectural treat – just make sure you wrap up warm though, as this festival takes place in the depths of winter.

Where? Bruges, Belgium When? 31st January – 5th February 2019

Pilsner Fest

Real Ale drinkers might well put their nose up at the European Pilsner but that hasn’t stopped it becoming one of the go to styles of choice for beer drinkers all across the world. Amstel, Grolsch, Budweiser and Beck’s have conquered the lager market for decades so it can be easy to overlook the fantastic variety of craft pilsners that are produced in its homeland of Plzen. The festival takes place on the first Saturday of October each year and is well attended thank to its proximity to Munich and Prague.

Where? Plzen, Czech Slovakia When? 6th October 2018