This weekend I visited York, home of many real ale pubs of repute.  The York CAMRA mini guide lists over 100 pubs serving real ale in the city and surrounding areas.  Looking at their listing at least half of these pubs are owned by the mid to large pub owning estates, selling their own beer with a couple of guest beers.  This is not a surprise as I’m guessing buying or leasing a pub in York is not cheap!    Particular hot spots for real ale are up on Petergate as you leave the Minster and exit through the city walls, Fossgate on the southeast side of the city on a street full of independent businesses and around the market / Shambles area of the city.

1000936I didn’t really visit the city looking to go on a real ale tour, more to find places which looked good as me and the wife explored the city, be they for beer, spirits or cocktails, being partial to a good Long Island Iced Tea myself.    The “problem” with York is it’s popularity, by 2pm most of the best real ale pubs were standing room only if you were lucky and stayed that way until we left the city centre about 9pm.   Also it appeared that half the population of Newcastle had come down for the weekend judging by the number accents in evidence, including one stag doo that had dressed the groom to be as an 8ft cock, balls included.  

The first pub I visited was the Blue Boar, a fairly typical food led pub with a homer simpson handful of mainstream beers and 2 guest beers one of which was a nice start to the day, if nothing spectacular, but the giant fish finger sandwich certainly hit the spot that went with it as well as the Cheesy Chips or should I say Chippy Cheese.   The next stop was at Evil Eye, sitting behind a bottled beer shop and internet cafe (yes they still exist).   With some fantastic decor including the beer garden wide mural, it was a really nice place to relax, with a mix of old school and newer tunes.   At least 200 different spirits caught my eye and had a great cocktail menu, the beer being from a bottle fridge which did itself no shame whatsoever mirroring the beers in the shop.   My Long Island Iced Tea was generous with the spirits and just what was needed as the day warmed up.

A wander later, I popped into the Burns Hotel, a Samuel Smiths joint, whilst my wife went treasure hunting in TK Maxx, finding my cheapest half pint in over 20 years of drinking, 70p for half a lager, admittedly the 2.8% variation.  A friendly pub, but one that has the custom of those left behind by the modernisation / tourist takeover of many York drinking establishments.  Getting bored I walked down to the river by Bridge Street and finding most bars jam packed as you would expect, The Lowther and the Kings Arms being the real ale pubs in this area.

1000957We popped for a drink at Winner Winner, a chicken joint and dive bar overlooking the restored Woodsmill Quay.  The beer is bottled craft beer with Brooklyn Lager on draft.  Onto the cocktail menu again, I had my second Long Island Iced Tea of the day, technically a better example than Evil Eye with less coke letting more of the spirits come through, my wife enjoying the Daiquiri, her Pina Colada being a bit too creamy for her liking.  People all wanted to sit outside where as we were happy to sit in a cooled bar next to a window with as good if not a better view, whilst they were left pub hunting, I don’t understand the logic of some people when they’ve looked over a really nice place to relax.  

20160604_194721We finally got into a proper real ale pub as evening set in, the Old Shambles Tavern off the famous street of the same name, a small bar with a back room and beer garden looking over the market.  6 real ales on tap all from small or independent brewers, my two beers were very nice and could have sat out back there all night if dinner was not calling my stomach.  It’s only been open 3 years, it’s previous guise being a gift shop, but they are doing a great job there and one I’d recommend visiting.    After the Chinese meal, we walked the 2 miles back to the hotel, finishing with a nightcap of rum.


100096720160605_123738So whilst by no means experiencing the best beer that York has to offer, it was a great day out in the city which is full of visual treats.   On the Sunday we popped into Leeds Centre for a few hours and parked at the Tetley Wharf site, the office building beautifully restored as a visitor and cultural centre, all it needs now is a brewery on site again!   Over lunch we popped into Friends of Ham, probably my favourite bar in town and the Summer Wine Pacer didn’t disappoint to put a great end to a great weekend.

One last note this week, a certain pub complained I never mentioned them a couple of weeks on social media.  So on Friday night, I eschewed my usual favourite pubs and visited this venue, putting off my visit to new bar The Grayson Unity.   I was in about 9pm, the pub having most of the customers congregating around the bar, the historic side rooms hosting a small number of people.   Five real ales were on, a mix of mainstream and smaller brewery offerings.  I ordered a couple of halves, already having had a pint at the Waterfront at Littleborough post walking.   I was disappointed however, one of the halves was in good condition, the other being frankly undrinkable and was left with only ? of a pint drank.  It may have been an off night, so as always give will the pub a second chance in the future.