Keeping it real … Real Ale
Over the last decade or so I, like many football fans, have travelled around the country watching our chosen team. Over that period of time it is fair to say I have visited some real shit holes! But it is always a real pleasure when you get to experience a town or city that is lovely and has so much going for it, York was one of these places, possibly even the nicest place I have visited with Leyton Orient. The fixture Gods were good to me this year, York away fell a few days before my 30th birthday so it seemed rude not to visit somewhere with such great beer reputation to start the week long celebrations.
There really couldn’t be a more perfect place to greet or say farewell to people travelling to York. Situated practically on the platform you will find this big white pub, looking at it you cant help but think that it resembles a small castle, but in fact used to be a Victorian tea room.
Walking in on the terrazzo floor from either side you will be greeted by a large room with a circular bar in the middle, both sides with a large selection of cask beer and keg offerings on the side of the bar. Bottled beer and cans fill the fridges behind the bar, including a few Belgian bottles not often seen.
There is plenty of seating areas in the York Tap and the place is full of a real mix of people, beer tickers, hen parties, families and football fans. The beers are well kept and the selection is great, the beer was flowing out through the white hand pubs with York Tap wrote across them. You can even take away drinks for the train as long as it is not after 6pm on a Saturday when the station becomes “dry”, this was a real shame as there were a fair few cans calling my name for train beers when we left. There are plenty of booths for large parties to gather in, especially at the side of the pub not on the train platform. Big windows with beautifully coloured mosaic designs gives loads of natural light to the front of the pub. If you are travelling to York for a beer, then there is no excuse not to visit the York Tap even if it is for one on the way home.
Address – York Railway Station, Station Road, York YO24 1AB
Opening times – Mon-Thurs 10am-11pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11:45pm & Sun 11am-11pm
House of Trembling Madness
Possibly one of the greatest names for a drinking establishment that I have been to, The House of Trembling Madness is a must visit pub while in York. Downstairs it is an incredible bottle shop with beers from all over the world, while upstairs is a bar full of character. Big wooden beams, exposed brick, many stuffed animal heads and a huge iron chandelier give this attic bar a medieval country pub feel.
The beer selection is far from medieval, both keg and cask offerings with beers such as Cloudwater, Bad Seed and a familiar face all the way up in Yorkshire of Howling Hops. Not only are there these draught selections but you are welcome to drink any of the downstairs bottle shops beers upstairs. What makes The House of Trembling Madness stick out from anywhere else I have ever been to is the selection of world’s strongest beers, a menu allowing you to try some of the rare worlds strongest beers in a shot size glass, all be it at quite a price. Of course being a big celebration, a Brewdog Nuclear Penguin at 32% happened, and a few of us including myself enjoyed this crazy beer which tasted like the booziest Christmas pudding you have ever had in your life!
The bar staff were super friendly and really helpful and according to the girls sitting next to us the food was really decent too. It is a small space and in very popular so make sure you visit early.
Address – 48 Stonegate, York YO1 8AS
Opening times – Mon-Sat 10am-12am Sun 11am-12am
The Yorkshire Terrier
One of the pubs owned by York Brewery, The Yorkshire Terrier is a stone’s throw away from The House of Trembling Madness so a good choice to visit when planning your York pub crawl. At the front of the building is a shop full of York Brewery items but behind is a bar where you can sample some of the beers being brewed by the brewery.
Walking through the old style building in this beautiful part of town reminded me of walking into someone’s home. You are first greeted by the bar on your left and the lovely staff ready to pour you a pint from the city centre brewery. There are guest beers available, Anarchy featured when we visited, but as we decided we couldn’t fit in a brewery tour it made sense that we drink a beer from York Brewery, most of us enjoying a pint of Guzzler. Again a small pub but it had a side room with a table large enough to fit all of us in and if it wasn’t for the long plan ahead of us then I could have seen us spending some more time in The Yorkshire Terrier.
Address – 10 Stonegate, York Yo1 8AS
Opening times – Mon-Thurs 11am-11pm Fri-Sat 11am-12am Sun 12pm-10:30pm
After walking through some medieval looking back alleys and pathways (including doorways even I had to duck under!) we found Pivni. Fitting in its surroundings Pivni’s exterior has a classic 16th century townhouse building, with an appearance of white walls a huge black wooden skeleton keeping it all together.
The very impressive beer selection can be enjoyed over three floors, the bar being on the ground floor and two levels of drinking space. There were some incredible beers available including the stunning Dippy & the Equinox from Siren & Boneyard. A reoccurring theme in York was to have both cask and keg beers of the highest quality.
The bottled and can selection was really impressive too, and it gave me a chance to finally get my hands on a Death by Coconut by Oscar Blues, a beer I have seen all over Instagram recently. Death By Cocounut lived up to the hype and its name as possibly the most full on coconut flavoured beer I have ever had, bounty bar in a glass! I could have spent most the day in Pivni smashing through their selection of beer but as we were already a few beers in it was probably best for us (and everyone around us) to only have the one double IPA!
Address – 6 Patrick Pool, City Centre, York Yo1 8BB
Opening times – Sun-Thurs 12pm-11:30pm Fri-Sat 11am-11:30pm
Not one google search for best pubs in York forgets to feature The Bluebell, and it would of course have been tragic not to visit. Although I was worried we wouldn’t be allowed to visit at all. With stories I had read online of being refused entry because it was 1. Too busy 2. You were in a group of all males 3. You were in a large group 4. They heard you swear… As this was a fair way into the days plans I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t be let in for all of those reasons, but last minute research indicated that it was under new ownership and that the rules were slightly more relaxed. We got in, and I am really glad we did. It was like walking into someone’s living room, a warm welcome to all as you chose to either have a drink in the front bar, which was about the size of half a living room or the seating area out back. The bar featured more traditional beer compared to the other pubs we had been to throughout the day and was all cask beers. Still respecting previous rules there was to be no swearing (which seemed to be a running theme throughout York) but at one point a naughty word slipped out from someone and instead of being kicked out the bar staff made it clear by holding up the old sign with the rules on while making a lot of noise so everyone knew. This was also repeated for when somebody did something even worse than swearing… a fart! There is no evidence it was one of us but I wouldn’t have been surprised after the Winner Winner Chicken Dinner we had just devoured! Unfortunately, my camera battery died round about this point so there were no decent photos of The Bluebell or the next place we visited. While drinking in the packed front room we met Giles who was the manager of the The Hop across the road, it was on the plan and thanks to generous offer of a pint on him we popped across the road to The Hop a bit earlier.
Address – 53 Fossgate, York YO1 9TF
Opening times – Mon-Thurs 11am-11pm Fri-Sat 11am-12am Sun 12pm-10:30pm
Website – www.facebook.com/the-blue-bell
The Hop is clearly a great place to enjoy a Friday or Saturday night, it was much lively then the other places we had visited and the crowd really was a good mix. There was live music and the pizzas being cooked up out back smelt great. The front of the building is large glass windows making the long “J” shaped bar visible from outside. It was clean and shiny yet still had an old feel to it. At the back where the live music was being performed there was rows of seats like a concert, I could imagine spending the whole night there enjoying live music and many of the superb beers they had on. Again there was a natural mix of cask, keg, cans and bottled beers. It was getting late and a few of us were lagging but the atmosphere in The Hop was so buzzing that it gave us second wind, with some of the group going out for a bit of a dance and the rest of us continuing to another two pubs (both of no real reason to report on…one luring us in with false promises of Belgian beer only to find Hoegarden and Leffe! The other kicking me out for getting arsey when I was refused an empty glass with my bottle of Great Heck Black Jesus, which was taken from me and never enjoyed!).
Address – 11-12 Fossgate, York YO1 9TA
Opening times – Sun-Wed 12pm-11pm Thurs-Sat 12pm-12am
Brignates Bar & Brassiere
As we walked in I had vague memories of trying to fit a late night beer in Brignates Bar & Brassiere before heading to bed at the nearby hotel but we had missed last orders. It was for the best because I wouldn’t have appreciated the calmness of the lunch time atmosphere at Brignates Bar & Brassiere. The bar is fairly large, very clean and relaxing surroundings to enjoy the more sophisticated drink. The bar has both keg and cask with a decent selection of local beers, Belgian beers and Craft Beers sitting in the fridges. As one would expect from a place with Brassiere in the name the food menu sounded equally as posh as it did delicious. You are likely to find more than just beer drinkers here, with its relaxed atmosphere you could find people enjoying hot drinks or families enjoying lunch. Although maybe not on course for most people’s pub crawls of York as it is not directly in the centre, those who are staying at the Blossom St North Premier Inn should make some time and pop in for a quite pre crawl pint.
Address – 114 Micklegate, York YO1 6JX
Opening times – All week 12pm-11pm
After waking up feeling surprisingly ok we all filled ourselves up on Wetherspoons breakfast (wasn’t the best and to be honest I think I felt worse for it) we set out for a bit of a walk and a couple of (slow) pints before football.
The Maltings was on the original list of pubs to visit but in an attempt to beat the crowd at The House of Trembling Madness we skipped passed The Maltings. In a way this may have worked out for best, as it meant we were able to enjoy the pub before it got super busy. Situated next to the river The Maltings has a classic inn feel about it (most likely because its been there since 1842!), a wooden fire place splitting the room in two and old beer signs add to the vintage feel of the room. With an impressive selection of keg and cask beer I opted to go straight in at the deep end and have a pint of Magic Rock & Siren Ginspired, which I was warned of the price as I bought it “I have to warn you that is £5 a pint”… The landlord clearly has never drunk in London! It soon filled up, including a few faces recognised from Orient, the food that was being produced from the hatch to the kitchen (named The Dragons Pantry) looked really good and the staff were very friendly. The Maltings won CAMRA pub of the year last year, which is a great achievement. Although it took us an hour to nurse our first pints after the night before The Maltings provided perfect morning relaxation.
Address – Tanners Moat, York YO1 6HU
Opening times – Mon-Sat 11am-11pm Sun 12-10:30pm
There is loads more to York than this small handful of pubs too, rumours of enough pubs to visit a different one each day etc but whichever pubs you do go to I am confident that you will have a good time. I can’t wait to return to York, it reminded me of a British Bruges with the medieval look and churches. There is no doubt about it that York truly is a beer city worth exploring.