Last Updated : 16/09/08
ere we list our top pubs in the UK for scooping beers; please remember this list is purely personal and subjective so, for this very reason, your list may be totally different. We try and give as much detail about the pub as we can and the comments have been decided on after many years of selfless research and renal abuse at the establishments below so, if you don't agree, then let us know!
-- This list is no longer updated --
-- If you want the Scooper's Pub Guide (a more thorough list with lots of gen on the pubs and towns) then click here! --
Current Pubs - Alexandra, Anchor, Bar Fringe, Beer House, Bhurtpore, Black Horse Darwen, Blackfriars, Borough Arms, Briardene, Brunswick, Cask & Cutler, Crescent, Clockwork, Crown Oakengates, Dragon, Fat Cat, Flowerpot, Guildford Arms, Harlequin, Hillsborough, Kelham Island Tavern, Lower Red Lion, Marble Arch, Market Porter, Mill Hotel, New Oxford, Out of the Vaults, Royal Oak (Bath), Ship & Mitre, Smithfield, Stalybridge Buffet, Three Judges, Waggon & Horses, Wellington.
Deceased Pubs - Beer Circus, Brown Bear, Crystal Palace Tavern, Elephant, Fagin's, Hebble Brook, Pot of Beer, Prince Albert, Queen's Arms, Stanley Arms, Station, Wheatsheaf.
- Current Pubs -
Cask & Cutler, 1 Henry St, Sheffield, Yorkshire.
Originally called the Wellington when it was bought by Neil and Sheila Clarke in the early 90's, it was renamed the Cask & Cutler in 1993. Thought by most scoopers to be the best scooping pub in Britain, the "Cask" serves 8 beers and more at festival times (3rd week in November) at very democratic prices with none of the rounding up often seen elsewhere; almost all beers are under £2 a pint, most well under. The Cask has a unique atmosphere all of it's own which I suppose I'd call "very Yorkshire" and doesn't appeal to everyone - I still remember the hesitant southern scoopers trying to decide which beers to try and Sheila losing patience with them - "Do you want a bloody beer or not?" she snapped; Yorkshire hospitality isn't for delicate Southern flowers!
The Cask started brewing in 2001 (Port Mahon brewery) after years of preparation, although the beers may not be to everyone's taste. Has a good selection of Belgian beers and "guest crisps" from the Seabrooks range! My favourite pub in the UK and has consistently been so for the last 15 years; I know a lot of the well-regarded scoopers feel the same way so Neil and Sheila must be doing something right.
Neil and Sheila are finally to move out of the pub after the festival in November 2006; although this is gutting news it's been expected for years and so let's just hope whoever runs it doesn't fuck it up and keeps it just the way it is... it somehow won't be the same though... Thanks Neil and Sheila for 15 great years and happy retirement - you've earned it! < Top >
Phot: Gazza. Phot: Dave Wild.
Hillsborough Hotel, 54-58 Langsett Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire.
A newcomer to the scene, the Hillsborough only opened in the late 90s. Del and Di Tilling used to run the famous New Barrack Tavern just down the road before they founded this excellent hotel. The rooms are well equipped and comfortable, and the bar serves 8 real ales with around 3 from their own Crown brewery downstairs. The bar's opening hours have been criticized (opens at 16:00 Fri-Sun) but the welcome and beers are superb. Holds beer festivals in the conservatory. Has taken over the second spot in Sheffield from the Fat Cat. Was sold in late 2003 to Edale brewery, and reports of reduced beer range and the increase in the price of hotel rooms is worrying. Was sold again in 2006, is supposed to continue brewing.
On a recent visit (May 06) the beer range was still half-decent with several from the brewery downstairs although guest rooms are now a lot more expensive and don't include Del's famous breakfast... I visited again in December 06 and the pub is much-improved, with lots of scoops, decent opening hours (from 12:00 now!) and a much healthier future with luck. The regular mini-festivals held in the conservatory are also back! < Top >
Phot: Gazza. Phot: Dave Wild.
Crescent, 18-21 The Crescent, Salford.
Sal and Idy Phillips are famous in the Manchester pub scene. They ran the Beer House for one of it's most famous periods in the mid 90s before taking over this old freehouse by the Irwell out in Salford. They have turned the place around and it now opens all day and serves about 10 real ales including many new beers with house beers from Roosters and Hydes with guests being varied and interesting. Sal still does his famous cellar runs, usually at festival times (and as long as "ees ready"), when cellar lists are posted above the huge blast-furnace hot fireplace. The food is cheap and filling with Wednesday night being curry night. Not as packed with students as you'd expect from the location almost opposite the University of Salford.
In April 2007, Idy and Sal said they were retiring and the owner has put the pub up for sale with all possibilities being considered - it's on a "development corridor" so anything could happen from demolition to it staying as it is with everything between also being a contender. Whilst I'd like to be optimistic, I don't hold out much hope of the Crescent being there next year - at least not in a scooping format.
Apparently the Crescent will continue as a pub as a local has bought it - although I've seen no confirmation of this! One of the current barstaff will be installed as manager and the beer range will be built up again, although I stress this is only gossip!
< Top >
Phot: Dave Wild
Stalybridge Station Buffet, Platform 1, Stalybridge Station, Cheshire.
A place that divides opinions; it has stood in it's present form for years and has enjoyed various phases of scoopability. Sylvia has run it since the mid 90s, and alongside the boring standard beers there are 4 or more guests, usually new and/or rare with a "forthcoming" board posted on the door to the conservatory. Occasional fests are held albeit not with the same enthusiasm or number of beers as they used to be in it's heyday. The main gripe I hear about the "Buffet" seems to be the unwelcoming atmosphere and bad service, which IMO sometimes cannot be denied, although it depends on the barstaff and circumstances and it's still an essential stop if you're in the Manchester area. Tends to favour beers from local breweries with some from further away nowadays, but still plenty of new beers. < Top >.
Smithfield Hotel, 37 Swan St, Manchester.
This city centre hotel has gone from nowhere in the mid 90s to become one of the best scooping pubs in the city. Run as a cheap and cheerful budget hotel, the bar serves 8 real ales (house beers are Greene King mild and Phoenix Smithfield bitter) with a high percentage of new and rare beers. Regular beer festivals are held with beers from the cellar served from jugs when the place is packed with scoopers sampling the Far North beers which are regulars at the festivals. The only problem is the variable beer quality at festivals with beers served from jugs getting warm and flat behind the bar, but this is usually nothing serious as a steady stream of scoopers ensures a quick turnover! < Top >
Crown, Market Street, Oakengates, Shropshire.
Run by John Ellis, this pub holds regular beer fests which claim to have the most hanpulls at a pubfest - over 30. At other times the pub dispenses about 10 real ales with a lot being interesting. Not the easiest place to get to, with no other scooping pubs nearby (the nearest are probably the Mill at Chester or the Bhurtpore and the pub over the road was making an effort at stocking decent beers last time I went), but the fests are well attended and enjoyable. The "token" system for cellar runs at the fests is an institution!
I've received this from Carl Young which reminded me about the pub over the road which I'd totally forgotten about! "Next time you visit the Crown, walk literally over the road to The Station'; it's far better. It has at least 8 real ales on all the time with new ones pretty much every day. There was a cider and perry festival there a few weeks ago and currently there is a beer festival on that is specialising in foreign beers. They have 5 on hand pull and a couple of dozen others from all over the world in bottles."
< Top >
Phot: Gazza. Phot: Dave Wild.
Fat Cat, 23 Alma St, Sheffield, Yorkshire.
The "cat" has been brewing since the late 80s and at one time was Sheffield's only decent free house although it's no longer strictly a brewpub as the brewery has now moved to a new building in the adjacent car park. Unfortunately, the cat seems to be slipping down the scooper's list of favourites as the beer range is becoming steadily more uninteresting and festivals comprising of 12 Kelham beers with various additives. Here's to the hope it will regain it's old form; the pub is certainly one of the most atmospheric around. Does a good line in veggie food and a selection of commoner Foreign beers. Brian's cellar runs for the "scooper's xmas party" are sadly but a memory. < Top >
Lower Red Lion, 36 Fishpool St, St Albans, Hertfordshire.
The Lower Red has been around for a long time. It was a free house when I first visited in 1989, albeit with only Adnams and Greene King beers available, but under the stewardship of Mary Hamilton it became a firm favourite with mostly southern scoopers until "Little Chris" took over the running completely in 2005 and it continues as a scooper's favourite to this day. Beer fests are regular and occur in a tent out the back of the pub. St Albans is a good place for a pub crawl (if you're rich) and the Lower Red is the highlight - although some scoopers don't like the "tickfests" that much as it's not always possible to work out what the beers actually are derived from - although the last festival reportedly was much better in this respect.
The owners now brew at the old Verulam brewpub nearby. < Top >
Waggon & Horses, 21 Stourbridge Road, Halesowen, West Midlands.
An institution, and long may it remain so. The Waggon is not a scoopers pub, it's a locals pub that just happens to serve 15 or so beers of which a fair number are guests and often rare/new; it's certainly one of the "must visit" pubs for anyone who loves old fashioned drinking shops. The bar fills most of the front room with a sloping floor to add to the Victorian atmosphere which is aided by outside toilets! There may not be quite as many scooping beers as there used to be, but several local pubs and clubs now make up for the shortfall and it's still a must if you're in the area; go for the atmosphere and surroundings as much as for the scoops! < Top >
Leader in the Waggon. Phot: Gazza.
Alexandra, 203 Siddals Rd, Derby, Derbyshire.
Small hotel next to the once essential Brunswick near Derby station, the "Alex" has long been a scooper's haunt. Serves about 10 real ales with many being new and rare and although Tynemill now own the pub, Castle Rock beers haven't pushed out the guests as has happened elsewhere. The cheap accommodation is recommended and very handy for a quick trip to Sheffield before hitting the Derby pubs. Filled with railway memorabilia, and not just kettle stuff - many pictures of heritage diesels are featured. Derby is not the place it was in the mid 90s when it was the scooping centre of the UK, but it's still worth a crawl and the Alex is now the star point.
Change of landlord in 2006, apparently still good. < Top >
Phot: Dave Wild
Dragon, 51 The Tything, Worcester, Worcestershire.
After years of being an average free house in Worcester the Dragon was bought by "Tricky Dickie" of Little Ale Cart fame and turned overnight into a real ale Mecca in the area. The pub has been refurbished and extra handpumps have been added with a regular "Stout of the week" (now discontinued). I think it's fair to say this is not really a scooper's pub but a good locals pub with some new beers; Dickie tends to favour pale, hoppy beers which means plenty of Oakham, Cannon Royall, Wetheroak, Pictish and the like. Not a place to go for lots of winners but some decent beer is almost guaranteed although the atmosphere sometimes leaves something to be desired; IMO it can sometimes be like drinking in a lock-in! < Top >
Anchor, Bradford Street, Digbeth, West Midlands.
Large old Victorian multi-roomed pub in Digbeth, just down the road from Digbeth coach station, and about 10 minutes from New St station. Serves a range of real ales from banks of pumps but the range and quality vary - you can get lucky or not in my experience! Holds numerous festivals throughout the year with themes like Burns night or individual brewery days with Church End being a major event. The Anchor is a sort of double edged sword - on the one hand it's one of the only pubs near central Brum where you might get a new beer but, on the other hand, it's not universally popular with scoopers for various reasons - It's a case of you either love it or you don't. Has a bit of competition with the new Wellington which should give the Anchor a well-needed kick up the arse. < Top >
Ship & Mitre, 133 Dale St, Liverpool, Merseyside.
Large pub on Dale St near the tunnel close to Lime St station that has served real ales and, more importantly, winners for a number of years. Was known as "old flaky" due to the dodgy external condition, but has now been painted! Probably one of the only scooping pubs to have gaslight in the bar. Still runs beer festivals regularly, although with a recent change of owner the range is not as varied as it once was. Still worth a visit, with a number of other decent drinking (and maybe scooping!) pubs nearby.
Some reports have said the beer list is getting worse and so the pub is on it's last chance in this section! < Top >
Phot: Dave Wild.
Mill Hotel, Milton St, Chester, Cheshire.
A very unusual venue for a scooping venue; a bar in a canalside hotel in a popular tourist city! The beer range has always been good for donkey's years, but after a refurbishment in the mid 90s where the number of handpumps grew exponentially it became a must-visit if in the area. The beer range may not be as good as in those heady days, but it's still a cracking pub with every chance of a tick and some top beer if not - was a regular outlet for local Weetwood beers. It's not far from Chester station so makes a convenient stopover on the way to somewhere with more winners and I've even heard the accommodation is quite good! < Top >
Borough Arms, 33 Earle St, Crewe, Cheshire.
When Alan from the Albion left in disgust after Tetleys sold the pub to a large chain, he declared in best Arnie style "I'll be back!". Everyone believed him and this is the result. A cracking locals pub with a large range of beers and a huge - maybe the hugest in the UK? - range of Benelux beers which stretches over 100 and includes various rarities. All this and Alan's not changed at all either! On my first visit, admittedly a few years after it had opened, I was greeted by "Where the f**k have you been then?". I smiled; Alan was back. It's ONLY problem is that it's a good 20 minute walk from the station.
Alan left in late 2005, and the future of the brewery and beer range isn't certain, but for the moment we'll leave it here until we find otherwise! < Top >
Marble Arch, 73 Rochdale Rd, Manchester.
Long standing scooping pub in the "Northern quarter" as it's called nowadays - or the area around the Beer House as everyone else knows it as. The Marble competed with the Beer House from the late 80s with the title of "best pub" changing hands frequently as both tried to source the rarest beers with some success. In the late 90s the pub installed a brewery in the back room with help from the iconic Brendan Dobbin who helped with the recipes - with the result that the beers were fantastic - although this spelt the end of the pub as a scooping venue except when a new beer was produced.
When Mark Dade left in 2000 to set up Boggart Hole Clough the new owners converted the beer range to organic with dire results, but the quality has improved vastly recently and almost touches the previous brilliance and, as a bonus, the pub now sells various guest beers making it one of the essential visits when in Manchester. < Top >
Phot: Dave Wild.
Bhurtpore Arms, Wrenbury Road, Aston, Cheshire.
This pub has been in Simon George's family for years. He runs it with aplomb and although it unashamedly aims at the
"food" market (with excellent results!) the beer is not neglected with 10 beers on at most times. Hanby
bitter is the house beer with around ten guests from far and wide and a beer festival is held in
July each year with loads of winners on parade. The pub also sells a large range of Benelux beers with a well presented list and various rarities;
a cracking all round good pub run superbly.
< Top >
Phot: Gazza. Phot: Dave Wild.
Kelham Island Tavern, 62 Russell St, Sheffield, Yorkshire.
A relative newcomer to the world of scooping, this pub is only about 50 yards from the famous Fat Cat in the Kelham Island area. For years it was a dodgy-looking local selling keg beers then, unsurprisingly, it closed and many people thought that was that and, to hammer the nails firmly into the coffin, when the area started to become a red-light zone that seemed to seal the fate of the "KIT". Amazingly, it was surprisingly reopened in 2002 and has gone from strength to strength, attracting many of the Fat Cat's customers with an excellent selection of beers and good atmosphere. Many people, scoopers included, now rate the "KIT" over the "Cat". < Top >
Phot: Dave Wild
Market Porter, 9 Stoney Street, Borough Market, Southwark, London.
This pub actually is next to a market, the famous (and now thriving again) Borough Market by London Bridge. It used to brew it's own beer many years ago from malt extract in a room next door to the bar (the room was still empty and with appropriate signage only a few years ago) but ceased in the late 80's. It became a poor relation to the excellent Wheatsheaf and has only become better after the "sheaf" was sold to Youngs. Variable amounts of winners, some love the place and some don't really care for it, but what's certain is that for London it's a right gem. In Manchester it probably wouldn't get much of a look-in which says a lot about the London beer scene! Extensive refurbishment in 2004. < Top >
Brunswick, 1 Railway Terrace, Derby.
The "Brunny" was one of the new wave brewpubs that opened in the early 90's and is the oldest purpose built railway hotel in the world, standing about 100 metres from Derby station. Trevor Harris started the brewery to compliment the already good range of beers he sold in 1991 and he brewed well over 100 different beers (with a standard core range) until he sold the pub and brewery in 2002, reputedly for a tidy sum of money, to Everards. Rumours abounded that the brewery would soon close, but so far this has been proved wrong although the expected reduction in guest beer quantity and scoopability has occurred. Still a classic pub, well worth a visit, but nowhere near as good as it used to be for scoops. Trevor has started brewing again during 2004 as the Derby brewing co. < Top >
Phot: Dave Wild.
Flowerpot, 25 King St, Derby.
This pub, now much enlarged from it's original incarnation, was incorporated into the "Headless" beer agency in the early 90's and made Derby the best place in the UK for scooping, with 5 or 6 pubs with a good selection of scoops - Brunswick, Flowerpot, Smithfield, Alexandra and a few others. The large glass fronted cellar was added in 1994(?) and was often full to the brim with beers, more often than not winners (whereas now it's usually almost empty). The music room to the side was added later and bands such as Blyth Power and The Men they couldn't Hang have played there.
With the demise of the Headless beer co in the mid 90's, most scoopers moved onto Manchester or the emerging champion, Sheffield, and Derby was relegated to a mere backwater to scoopers usually only visited when passing through - a long way from the times when the Xmas party was held there (92-95) and 20-30 scoopers would congregate in the city for a day's drinking. The "pot" is still a decent pub, albeit with less winners on nowadays, and serves usually local beers to a local clientele - just as it did before Derby became the scooper's epicentre all those years ago. < Top >
Guildford Arms, 1 West Register St, Edinburgh, Lothian.
A classic pub with an amazing ceiling looking more like something from a stately home and, more importantly, loads of beers on handpull which are usually from Scottish micros. Other factors going for it are the hellfire revolving doors, it's proximity to Waverley station and it's proximity to some other good pubs make it most scooper's first port of call when in "Auld Reekie"; highly recommended. Check out the Café Royal pub behind the Guildford which has a couple of Caley beers and another fantastic ceiling to gawp at. < Top >
Blackfriars, 36 Bell St, Glasgow, Strathclyde.
Great, lively little bar in a bountiful area for real ale in general. Five beers on the bar with most being Scottish micro beers; very few English beers make it here! The customers are students and locals and the whole ambience is very sociable and welcoming. Beer prices are high but that comes with the area, unfortunately. There used to be a brewing Firkin over the road! < Top >
Three Judges, 141 Dumbarton rd, Kelvinhall, Glasgow, Strathclyde.
This traditional and most excellent little Scots bar was different than most in Glasgow in that it sold 9 real ales from all over the UK from it's handpumps. Although owned by Maclays there was never any of their beers available, at least not on any of my regular visits! Reports from a few years ago that the place is now rubbish have been proven by a couple of recent visits to be absolute bollocks and the good beer range of ten beers continues with winners still cropping up. The place seems exactly as I remember it during the last ten years - thankfully - so here's to the next ten! < Top >
Wellington, 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, West Midlands.
Brum needed a decent scoopers pub in the centre, this was well know by everyone; the Anchor was OK but just a bit too far if you only had, say, half an hour at New Street. Suddenly, in late 2004, a miracle happened which sounded too good to be true - a bar in the centre with ten beers on! By the time I visited in early 2005 the handpumps had multiplied and the number of guest beers going through them was ticking by frighteningly quickly - almost 1,000 in 6 months I think! The bar has now been going a couple of years and is heaving with beer drinkers on most days who come for the amazing range of beers available. No food is sold but, just like the King's Arms in Norwich, you can bring your own and they will supply plates and cutlery.
This oasis in the centre is situated just behind the Old Joint Stock Fuller's pub literally 5 minutes from New street station - an essential visit. My first sight on entering was the English Electric sign above the bar; if this doesn't signify quality I don't know what does!!!
Served 2,610 beers in 2005 - the most of any pub in the UK. < Top >
Bar Fringe, 8 Swan St, Manchester.
This is a strange place indeed. It's supposed to be in the style of a Belgian bar but there's not many I've seen with a motorbike precariously balanced over you when you enter (but I suppose it's been there for a long time now and if it was going to fall on me it would have by now). The clientele are what would be termed "mixed" - bikers, scoopers, and - well - just go and find out for yourself, OK? The jukebox is superb with much alternative/goth music featuring and is played at a level which can be enjoyed. The beer range of 4 UK cask ales usually includes something new but the real draw are the Belgian beers in the fridge - there is no beer list, you just have to peek over the bar to see what's in there at that time. Expect to find real Gueuze, Westvleteren and other rarities including Contreras (the landlady's name!). Strange, and not to everyone's taste, but a refreshing change and well deserved of it's top-flight status on the beer crawl. < Top >
Briardene, 71 The Links, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear.
From nowhere comes this superb place, straight into the top ten in the UK's finest scooping pubs. Serves around 8 cask ales at a time and has loads in the cellar waiting to go on. Can be reached by metro and then a brisk 15-minute walk, or bus 308 (see below) goes to outside the door from the centre of Newcastle. The beer range is adventurous and includes lots of new breweries and rare beers and the pub is fast becoming the number one in the North-East. An excellent locals pub which just happens to attract the local scoopers with it's amazing beer throughput!
To get there, get to Newcastle Haymarket and catch the number 308 bus. It takes 40-45 mins and drops you off at the door - the road outside splits into two outside the pub so allow a couple of minutes to cross it for the bus back! The 308 has a regular service during the day dropping to every 30 mins after 18:00. Other buses serving the pub are 310 (Sunderland to Blyth) and 301/302 Gateshead to Whitley Bay. (Thanks to Chris Palmer for this). < Top >
Clockwork Beer Company, 1153-1155 Cathcart Road, Mount Florida, Glasgow.
A cracking brewpub this, the only one in Glasgow since the demise of Maclachlans and Miller's Thumb, this place has settled down into it's niche of brewing good beer and selling 15-20 real ales at a time at quite reasonable prices (except the hazy daze fruit beers!) to an enthusiastic and mainly local clientele. A night in Glasgow without a visit to the Clockwork to see what delights from near and far are available just isn't acceptable in my book... Serves around five guest beers from around the UK in addition to their own homebrewed beers alongside a fridge full of decent European beers (such as Cantillon) making it the most beery place in the whole city. Was sold by the original owners in 2004 but little seems to have changed - thankfully. < Top >
Out of the Vaults, 24 King Street, Leicester, LE1 6RL.
With the closure of the original Vaults in 2003 most people thought that was the end of a great little pub which had been serving Leicester well with scoops for quite some time. Not so, thanks to Paul the then manager, and within a few weeks a replacement had been found and was soon open named, appropriately, "out of the Vaults". With a dozen handpumps and beers from the cellar this pub has easily surpassed the old Vaults for sheer scoopability and the regular festivals have lists which make even hardened tickers wince with scoop-overload. Highly recommended. < Top >
Black Horse, 72 Redearth Road, Darwen, Lancashire, 01254 873040.
If during the 90's you'd have mentioned Darwen to a ticker, they'd have thought you were talking about the brewery in the North East unless they were into "Hetty Wainthropp Investigates". Now however they all know of the what the Romans knew when they built a road through the town, there's a cracking pub there. The Black 'Un is a unpretentious little boozer which just so happens to be having 15 beer festivals during 2006 and they all specialise in beers that are as rare as a good InBev cask ale. The main festivals in January and the last two weekends in May and September produce about 30 beers a weekend. And just in case that's not enough there are 10 beer weekends at the end of every other month, and Andy the landlord can't count very well, so 10 is generally about 15. The rest of the time you'll probably have to drink Hopstar beer, and that's no hardship, from the in-house, or more accurate in-Barry's-garage, brewery. And the mention of the Romans, why I hear you ask? Well, Andy is still wearing jeans that he bought from them when they passed through or at least it looks like it! (Many thanks to Rick Pickup for the above)
Gazza's notes : I visited the Black'un for the first time in August 2006 and was very impressed; I required every beer on the list and scooped 5 breweries too! Add to that the sociability of the staff and I'm without any doubt that this is one of the best scooping pubs in the Northwest, if not the UK, although it could be easier to get to...! The walk there (cheers to Rick for the shortcut) is an education in urban dereliction! I'll be back... < Top >
Royal Oak, Lower Bristol Rd (corner of Brook Rd), Oldfield Park, Bath BA2 3BW. 01225 481 409.
This gem has arrived straight out of nowhere to be the best (and, if the truth be told, only) scooping pub in Bath and - at the same time - one of the best in the South West. The Landlord comes from the Hobgoblin in Reading so has an excellent pedigree (but thankfully doesn't sell it) and tries to keep all ten handpumps ticking over all week, although the choice may drop to a mere six to eight midweek. The beer choice is eclectic and wide-ranging but favours new and rare beers, which is almost a nostalgic tear-jerker in these times where finding such a pub is almost unheard of! It's only been open in it's current form for around eight months but already is attracting beer-loving regulars and scoopers from far and wide with a policy of new beers and only one lager (Bath Organic, no idea who brews it) with no alcopops etc.
Bus 5 drops you almost outside if you're too lazy to walk the 15 minutes from the centre, but however you get to the Royal Oak just get there and sample a scooper-friendly atmosphere and a whole ruck of scoops; I scored 7 beers in the pub and that's not happened in a long, long time, never mind a new pub on the scooper's circuit. A gem, and I sincerely hope it continues to thrive... go and support it, you won't be sorry. The pub won the local POTY in 2007, well deserved in my opinion...
As a bonus, if one should be needed, the pub is in the very exclusive club which sells beer from Hopstar of Darwen; Andy (Landlord of the Black Horse, Darwen - coincidentally also on this page!) is from the area and when he visits he apparently slings a couple of firkins in his boot! < Top >
(Thanks to Martin the Mildman for the tip-off - I may never have found it without him!)
New Oxford, 11 Bexley Square, Salford, M3 6DB, 0161 832 7082.
With the downgrading of the King's Arms to a (mostly) normal's pub and the possible loss of the Crescent, great news reaches us of this reborn pub halfway betwixt the two. I've walked past it a million times with it's faded Vaux sign, but now it's run with enthusiasm and skill by Tim - the fastest barman in the world? - and seems to be cementing itself into the Manchester/Salford scene as fast as you can say "scoops". With the cask beers varying from five to fifteen on festival days and a superb range of bottled beers in the fridge, this is one pub which is really going for it - and it needs to considering where it is, in a not-so-salubrious part of Salford.
I'd love to see this pub do well, but things might be set against it - the location is one, despite recent gentrification, and if the Crescent does close then some trade may be wiped out overnight. Despite this pessimism, however, this pub is one of the brightest stars to appear on the scooping circuit in the last few years and I sincerely hope it thrives and continues to offer great beers for a long time to come.
A year on, great news is that the New Oxford is thriving and seems to have established itself firmly on the scooper's circuit of Manchester and Salford. With the Crescent's future now looking brighter, maybe I can say with certainty that the New Oxford is here to stay and one of the best pubs in the twin city? I can, and I will!
< Top >
Angel (ex-Beer House), 6 Angel St, Manchester.
One of the all-time greats, now a sad shadow of it's former self. Was a boarded up Tetleys pub when Sue first saw it in 1985 (?), it opened in the late 80s as the Beer House (as seen in picture during 1991), selling 10 real ales and more importantly, the legendary Dobbin's beers from Chorlton. Competed with the Marble Arch down the road for the title of "best scooping pub" and usually one or the other was good for a few months then the other overtook it again. A steady stream of landlords passed though, often moving on to other good pubs (Sal and Idy to the Crescent) before the last (Ian Casson) left in disgust at the slagging off he received from the local CAMRA branch, whereupon the owning company sold it to a pub chain and it's gone downhill ever since... maybe they will sell it on again .... ?
I suppose it's my spiritual scooping home, having been a regular since 1991, and I've had many good times and winners there. If there's one pub I'd love to see return, this is it; I can but hope I suppose. It's now run by the team from the Pot of Beer, and the beer range seems to be picking up every time I go in there, but it's still nowhere near it's previous high water mark...
In an unsurprising but still saddening development the pub closed in August 2006 and was boarded up with metal plates - a sad end to a classic scooping pub and one which I know a lot of people have very fond memories of. I honestly can't see it re-opening so, reluctantly, I've moved it to the "dead" section.
Amazingly, the pub sprouted a sign saying it was for lease and it re-opened in mid 2008 owned by a famous local chef. The bar is run by a very enthusiastic bloke who aims to build up demand for cask ale and is so far doing pretty well; don't expect many scoops but pop in for a half to preserve this pub and celebrate cask ale... the Beer House is back, sort of! The chef bloke lasted a year then moved on and it's now even better with the number of beers creeping towards a a dozen again and very good reports about the choice and quality... the Beer House (sorry, Angel!) is definitely back now and, with the threat of demolition for a new Co-op car park lifted, things are looking up at last.
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Harlequin, 108 Nursery Street, Sheffield. 0114 249 4181.
The Harley has been a decent pub for quite a while but it's only in the last year or so that it's achieved anything like the fame - and custom - that it deserves. Hannah runs the pub well in a way which allows all aspects of the custom from locals to beer scoopers via everyone else to coexist happily with everyone leaving satisfied: which is what it's all about.
The beer range is reaching new heights with every passing month thanks, mainly, to Boggart and the Road Crew's efforts in sourcing new and rare cask ales for the legion of local beer lovers - plus those of us who go from a bit further away! It's fair to say, in my opinion, that the "Harley" has picked up the baton left by Neil when he moved from the Cask & Cutler to France with absolutely no dodgy changeover and is now Sheffield's best scooping pub by some considerable margin. That's not to detract from the KIT, which is still a great pub with a huge range of beers, but simply on the basis of new and interesting ales the Harlequin is currently unbeatable.
So, if you've not been for any reason (it's a little off the circuit, although it is on a walking route from "Tenant square" in the centre of town) just get yourself along to see how a scooping pub should be run.
- Deceased Pubs -
here are many other pubs that have, sadly, now either closed for ever or the licensees have changed, taking the beer range with them. Here we list the best of the sadly departed pubs that gave us so much pleasure... read 'em and weep, as they say.
Pot of Beer, Manchester. * CLOSED AND BOARDED *
Many years ago, when the Beer House and Marble were at their peak, the Pot was a slightly dodgy "proper" Irish pub called the Shamrock. Due to the dereliction of the area it closed in the mid 90s (what a change nowadays - it's all flats around there now!) and reopened as the Pot of Beer, serving real ales from both gravity and handpump and also Boddies and the rare Robinson's Dark Mild. The Pot then cemented it's position on the N4 tour and offered some rare beers, usually through the 4 handpumps. A classic little street corner pub from a time long gone, it still felt like a mill worker's drinking house.
Unfortunately, with all the redevelopment going on in the area, the pot was bought by developers and closed - why they couldn't keep it open as a pub is beyond me... maybe poncey yuppies don't drink much? The building is reported as still standing as of May 2006, so maybe there's hope yet? As of August 06 the building is still there amongst the hordes of towering new flats so maybe there remains a chance of a rebirth...? Don't hold your breath! < Top >
The pub is (we think!) still standing, in the middle of a huge trendy apartment development. If anyone knows either way, let us know!
Prince Albert, Stow cum Quy. *NEW LANDLORD*
Superb pub out of Cambridge on the Newmarket road run by Ian and Anita with Jamie and Kirsty. Always a sociable welcome here, and even the locals were friendly despite us invading their pub! Ian would bottle up beers during the week for us and they would feed us at weekends with free chicken wings and chips! The only pub I've ever been to with no bell; it closed when the last customer left, how very European! Unfortunately the owner fell out with Ian and they also got a VAT demand to pay resulting in Ian and Anita leaving the pub in February 1996 after a superb last festival partly organised by Steve, Sue and Gazza where a lot of scoopers met for the first time. Ian and Anita's whereabouts are now unknown, but the licensed trade has lost an excellent landlord. I scored 150 beers in under a year; probably my favourite pub ever, and very sadly missed by all who were fortunate enough to call themselves regulars!
How can we ever forget the many stories of the ambulance, Kiwi's air bomb barrage (and his tongue), Gazza pulling the schoolies, Alex being force-fed chicken... the list goes on, and one day I will type up my memories of this place... My favourite quote is from Beige Phil, who says the Albert had a "reputation for militancy"! < Top >
Brown Bear, Biggleswade. *PUNCHED*
Mary and Alan bought this big old pub at the end of 1997 and the scoops started to flow soon afterwards. Built up a big reputation for scoops and especially their beer festivals which tended to have themes such as Merlin the cat's birthday, Sam the dog's wake or someone's birthday although some scoopers were unhappy about the beer policy which included mixing of breweries and 10+ beers from the same brewery. They sold the pub in may 2001 after receiving an "offer they couldn't refuse". The pub still operates, but with the usual pub chain beer list. Mary, Alan and Little Chris now run the Lower Red Lion, St Albans with the same policies of regular festivals. < Top >
Crystal Palace Tavern, Dulwich (New Cross!) *NEW LANDLORD*
This unlikely venue for a top scooping pub (about a 10 minute walk from New Cross station, not too dodgy but it paid to watch yourself!) rose and fell within a few years. The landlord, after Courage sold the pub to a pub chain, unilaterally decided to sell whatever he wanted, including loads of real ales, Belgian bottles, draught European beers and whatever else he chose. The place was a bit surreal at times, but the scoops flowed. Tony always said he wanted to run a bar in Belgium so when he suddenly left (it had been going downhill a bit before this) I assume he fulfilled his dream.
My abiding memory of the "CPT" will always be standing on New Cross station after a few winners and seeing the Canary Wharf bomb go off about a mile away over the river, persuading me that working in London wasn't all it was cracked up to be. < Top >
Hebble Brook, Mixenden. *NEW LANDLORD*
Another unusual venue, this remote pub near Halifax had some connection with Wild's brewery, and held several very good scooping beer festivals. It suddenly changed with the sad closure of Wilds. < Top >
Stanley Arms, Stockport. *NOW OFFICES*
This fantastic pub is no more, although the building remains as a carpet shop. Famous for being difficult to find (not just the the first time) and having an amazing range of micro beers. The landlord was one of the first to drive round himself collecting beers from new breweries to amaze the scoopers in the top bar. The house beers were from Ryburn (including the famous "Laurel and Hardy" house milds), but changed to Steampacket after Ryburn had supply problems when moving. An unusual pub, with (if I remember rightly) a stripper on Sundays and Tina, the dog most resembling a seal I've ever seen. With the building of a new supermarket next door, and the landlord's bad health, the pub closed in 1996. Maybe it will reopen one day, again we can but hope; the "Stanley" was one of the most unusual but best scooping pubs in the Manchester area and an end to more Manchester crawls than I care to remember.
Apparently, the carpet shop is up for sale (late 2005) so anyone got a few quid to spare and a dog that looks like a seal? You know you want to... although it's now been converted into offices! Still, it's still there... < Top >
Station, Warrington St, Ashton. *SOLD*
The original pub of Sylvia and John next to the railway, but not the station - the station on this line closed many years ago. A classic end of terrace pub without the terrace, this cracking pub served many guest ales from small and new micro breweries for years and ran beer fests in a marquee erected in the road outside - I kid you not (well, it is a dead end). When the Stalybridge buffet was added to the empire, then east Manchester became a honeypot for scoopers before the city centre crawl. However, the station was sold in the late 90s and, although the new owners made an effort, they didn't know what had made the place so popular in the first place - rare beers.
Apparently it has now been taken over by the owners of the Wychwood who aim to increase the beer range back to it's original level. I personally used to really enjoy the Station and hope it will rise again, but I didn't enjoy the runs back down the road to the station however - I don't miss those... It's my age, you know. < Top >
Wheatsheaf, Stoney St, Borough Market. *NOW YOUNGS*
I used to work in London in the late 90s and for me the Wheatsheaf was my local. This was the time when together with the "CPT" it was the only proper scooper's pub in the whole city. The island bar is unusual and creates the now rare 2 distinct "sides" to the pub and the building survived many attempts to destroy it by the railways as it's situated directly under a viaduct on the Charing Cross - London Bridge line which was planned to have a new viaduct built alongside to increase capacity. When the Jubilee line was built under the pub in the late 90s, they allegedly also built the foundations for the proposed new viaduct. Fortunately, as this viaduct would have also trashed the famous Borough Market, the idea was dropped and the Wheatsheaf survived.
I used to walk over London Bridge from my workplace in the city every dinnertime and I must have scored over 100 beers there in a couple of years. Sadly, the landlord left in 2001 and the pub, although surviving, is now a poshed-up Youngs pub. < Top >
Elephant, Faversham. *LANDLORD VANISHED*
"Sid" ran this slightly strange pub for a number of years, and it was really the only place in Kent that winners could be found regularly. I used to travel there weekly and score anything from 0 to 10. This may seem fantastic, but there were a few problems. One was the prices, which were pretty excessive for the area. Another was, how can I put this ... "trusting" Sid's gen on the beers. The other was Sid's slightly anarchic approach to cellaring which involved casks stacked outside for serving, even in summer and winter - some scoopers may remember the "slush beers" sometimes served here in January, or the draught Sarsons in August! All went well until about 1996 when Sid suddenly vanished, allegedly with the till contents and charity box.
The pub is now free from the clutches of Greene King (who used to run it during it's period with no scoops!) and now has guest beers again. According to reports the Elephant is a lot better in all departments recently, making it worth a visit - but is nothing on the old regime scoop-wise... so, if you're in Faversham and don't want any Sheps (and why would you?) then you know what to do.
Dodgy, yes, iffy quality, yes, but it was a gem for Kent! < Top >
Fagin's, Glan-y-Llan, Taff's Well. *CHANGE OF LANDLORD*
Not sure if this was actually a Whitbread pub or not, but in 1992 it suddenly began to sell lots and lots of decent beers from gravity (and some standard ones from handpump) including Dobbin's Yakima Grande Porter - anywhere that sells that must be good in my book! The pub had patches of excellence for a fair few years, it even contemplated installing a brewery at one point. Not sure of the current situation, but it had gone downhill for year or two previously. One to watch!
On a recent visit in early 2006 the beer range had improved but wasn't really up to scooping pub standards, but Fagin's is still worth a look if you're in the area. < Top >
Queen's Arms, 6 Honey St, Cheetham Hill, Manchester. * NEW OWNERS *
The "Queens" was a cracking pub in a slightly seedy area actually very close to the Marble Arch and Holt's brewery tap which was run by Dave and Sue (well known Manchester licensees) for a number of years, offering a large choice of beers, not necessarily winners, but always in good nick and some unusual choices with the house beers being Phoenix and Taylors accompanied by excellent, cheap and filling pub food. The Queens deserves to be on more people's N4 tour, but I'd not wander around the streets up there at night if I were you... being propositioned is the least of your worries!
Had a change of licensees in spring 2006 and, on my last visit, I was so alarmed at how far the place has gone down that I've relegated it to a "lost" pub. < Top >
Beer Circus, 282 High Street, Croydon, London.
** Sadly, this pub has now closed **
An unusual pub for this list and I know some may not agree with me as it doesn't sell that many UK beers but, hey, it's my website and I'm putting it in. OK? Situated on Croydon's busy High Street, a ten-minute walk from the stations, this cracking little pub sells a couple of UK beers (usually DSBC) as well as a huge range of Belgian and German brews, many being rare, maybe the best Foreign list in the UK? Unfortunately the building is for sale and the Beer Circus may be nearing the end of the road but the landlord is reportedly trying to raise funds to keep it going - I for one hope he succeeds, we need more places like this in Britain. A superb pub although if you don't scoop "Foreign muck" you may not agree with me... < Top >