Last week, I posted my Golden Pints looking at my favourite beer and events of 2017. But, I wanted to do something special that celebrates pubs too. With Tryanuary just a few days away, I thought I’d share with you my favourite pubs of 2017. I hope this end of year awards celebration encourages you to support the great British Pub throughout January, whether you’re partaking in Tryanuary, or going dry. Enjoy!
Special International Award
Earlier this year, I went to Athens, Greece. Athens has an unexpectedly vibrant beer scene, and I wanted to call out one particular venue for a special International award. You can read my full Beer Tourist’s Guide to Athens here.
In the heart of Athens, just a few minutes’ walk away from Monastiraki metro station, is Beertime. Opening from 4pm daily and staying open late, this is a little beer haven in a bustling Athens district. The bar itself is quite small, with downstairs and upstairs seating. However, it has a very generous outdoor seating area that could not be better in warm sunshine, and for people watching. Showcasing a vast range of keg and bottled beer, you’ll also find a lot of local Greek microbrewery beer available to try too. The staff are friendly and helpful, and the food is good quality. If you stay long enough (and visit often enough!) then you’ll get a free shot of Greek mastic-based liqueur thrown in. As important a place to visit as the Acropolis!
Best UK Pub/Bar Visited (not Leeds)
With trips across the UK this year, including Birmingham, Cardiff, Lincoln and London, I had plenty of opportunity to check out pubs outside of Leeds. Tough to shortlist this one, but here are my top three.
3. Crafty Devil Cellar Bar and Shop, Cardiff
Crafty Devil is a brewery based just outside Cardiff centre, which has a tap room nearby – the Crafty Devil Cellar Bar and Shop. It’s a short bus trip out of Cardiff centre to get here, but it’s worth the effort. A tap room that’s small, but made to feel welcoming. The beer on tap is all keg and, as you’d expect, dominated by Crafty Devil beers, with a few supporting guests. As the name suggests, there is also a good selection of cans and bottles that you can drink in or takeaway. The Crafty Devil beers themselves are high quality and tasty, so if you don’t manage to make it to Cardiff, at least keep an eye out for their beers.
2. Craft Beer Co, Clerkenwell, London
Although I have worked nearby on a few occasions over recent years, I never knew about this particular Craft Beer Co bar. How I found out about it was via Thornbridge, who held a tap takeover here earlier in the year (you can read more about this here). This pub has a huge number of taps available, keg and cask. A CAMRA-award winner and a beautiful venue, this place is all about the beer. With the range and quality available, you don’t really need to go anywhere else!
1. Zerodegrees, Cardiff
I suspect this won’t be top of a lot of people’s drinking lists in Cardiff, but it is mine. Although there’s a lot of competition for great pubs in Cardiff, Zerodegrees wins out for me. This is a gastro pub experience with an on-site brewery – like a really high quality tap room. The food is top quality, and the beer fresh, tasty and varying in styles, and the staff couldn’t do enough for you, they were great. What also makes this stand out is it reminded me of my trip to Washington DC last year, where this style of bar was not only prevalent, but incredibly successful. I hope to see more of these types of eating and drinking experiences pop up in the UK over the coming years.
Best Leeds Pub/Bar Visited
The final category and award for 2017. My home town of Leeds has such an incredibly vibrant beer scene, arguably the best across the North (although I’m sure my friends from Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle may challenge that!). So, it’s only fitting that I end the award’s series with my top recommendations for Leeds.
5. Cardigan Arms, Kirkstall
Let’s be honest, the Cardigan Arms had been struggling for some time. Falling into disrepair, with break ins and not a lot of love from customers, earlier this year it’s future was of grave concern. Then, step forward Steve Holt and Kirkstall Brewery to save the day. Restored with respect to its heritage and serving great beer, the Cardigan Arms is now a must visit venue. You can read a more in-depth review of the pub here.
4. Foleys Tap House, City Centre
Foleys has gone from strength to strength over recent years. A regular winner of local and national pub and cider awards, manager Jason has made Foleys a top beer destination in Leeds. A wide-range of cask, keg, bottled and canned beers, and the largest choice of ciders in Leeds, this has something for everyone in a friendly environment.
3. Cross Keys, Holbeck
I wrote recently about the Cross Keys, a rural delight in Central Leeds. Part of the North Bar family, this pub takes influence from its beer pioneering older sibling and marries it with comfort, friendly staff, a lovely atmosphere and top quality food. This is somewhere to lose a few hours and not realise. Brilliant.
2. Whitelock’s & Turk’s Head, City Centre
Whitelock’s is a long established Leeds boozer. Steeped in history, generations of people have stepped across the threshold and enjoyed beer here. After a period of mediocrity a few years ago, Whitelocks has re-established itself as one of Leeds’ greatest pubs. The old is complimented extremely well by the new, Turk’s Head, which is just next door. I could have listed these as separate entries in my top five, but because of ownership and locality, I see these as one venue. Between them is one of Leeds’ most wide-ranging beer choices, and I have spent many an hour here in 2017. In fact, it’s probably where I’ve spent most of my time when out in 2017! Thanks Whitelocks, it’s been awesome, and you have a well-deserved entry in my top five.
1. The Fleece Inn, Fartown, Pudsey
I must admit, it was close between my top two. But, the Fleece just edges it for 2017. I’ve written extensively about the Fleece here earlier this year. With Paul at the helm, this vibrant community pub is built on it’s friendly, welcoming and comfortable atmosphere, with absolutely top quality beer on draft. This pub is a journey for me to get to from South Leeds, but is always worth it. Congratulations Team Fleece, here’s looking forward to 2018.
Thanks a lot for reading my Golden Pints Pub Special, and I hope this inspires you to support our pubs throughout January 2018 and beyond. As I sign off for 2017, I want to wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2018!If you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.