So, How Many Craft Beer Bars Are There?

North Bar, Leeds, in June 2013.

A little while ago, we tried to work out how many craft beer bars there are in the UK. We got stuck, but perhaps you can help.

For starters, here are some (to us) obvious examples, first in chains:

  • Brewdog bars × 22
  • Bloomsbury Leisure × 4.5
  • Craft Beer Co pubs × 6
  • Draft House × 8
  • North Group × 6 (ish)
  • Pivni × 4.5
  • Utobeer — The Rake, Tap East
  • Zero Degrees × 4

Then some one-offs:

  • Bristol — Small Bar, Beer Emporium, Beerd
  • Edinburgh  — The Hanging Bat
  • Exeter — Beer Cellars
  • Falmouth — Hand
  • Lancaster — Tap House
  • Leeds — Mr Foley’s, Tapped, Northern Monk Refectory
  • Manchester — Port Street Beer House, The Font, 57 Thomas Street
  • Newton Abbot — Teign Cellars
  • Tunbridge Wells — Fuggles Beer Cafe

And as for London, Des de Moor’s London’s Best Beer, Pubs & Bars listed 270 establishments of which around 148 are classified either as bars or ‘contemporary pubs’. (As opposed to ‘traditional pubs’.) At a glance, about 100 of those are what we would call (give or take some debate) ‘craft beer bars’.

So there’s about 170 before we’ve even started to rack our brains, so we’d guess that means there are actually more like 250, but that’s still not really a lot, nationwide.

Are we missing any obvious examples in your neck of the woods? (Yes, obviously — tell us below.)

And do you have any better guesses, or cleverer ways to calculate, the total number?

Pre-emptive FAQ

  • ‘But how do you define a craft beer bar?’ This is a legitimate question — where’s the line between style bar and craft beer bar? Or ‘contemporary pub’ (© Des de Moor) and pub-pub? Try this: If we turned up in your town and asked someone carrying a Pete Brown paperback under their arm for directions to the nearest craft beer bar, where would they send us?
  • ‘I dislike the term “craft beer bar” because…’ [Patronisingly] OK, great — we’re going to write that on this Post-It Note and come back to it at the end of the session.
  • ‘I have a quirky take on the definition of “craft beer” and am therefore going to suggest a Sam Smith’s pub in Bolton.’ Have you considered writing for the Ironic Review?

66 thoughts on “So, How Many Craft Beer Bars Are There?”

  1. The Hanging Bat is in Edinburgh…..plus Holyrood 9A

    In Gkssgow there are Inn Deep and munro’s

    1. Oops! Thanks, Ian. I even checked in my final edit but obviously did that thing: ‘Definitely not Glasgow, definitely not Glasgow, definitely not Glasgow, *definitely* Glasgow….’

    2. Munro’s is a prime example of the question “Where do you draw the line between an actual ‘craft beer bar‘ and a pub that’s just put some Flying Dog in the fridge and started selling pulled pork sandwiches?”

    3. What about Drygate, West Brewery and Clockwork in Glasgow? where do you draw the line with Brewpubs ?

  2. what about the ‘Discover World Beers’ pubs that form part of the Castle Rock Group? Mostly in Notts including The Canalhouse and Keane’s Head, the fact that they actively promote 5 crazy keg thirds for a tenner keeps the locals savvy

    Then there’s the Junkyard in Nottingham too- perhaps a bit ahead of the pack in that they only served Californian beers when they opened but now are doing a mix of UK and Californian beers

    and for final orders the Pint Shop Cambridge

  3. Norwich has the Mash Tun, St. Andrews Brewhouse and Norwich Tap House, though often a couple of cask led pubs often out craft them when it comes to interesting keg beers!

    1. Definition starts becoming fuzzy though, is this really a “craft beer bar”: http://www.threewisemonkeyscolchester.com/drinks/draft-beer/

      And AFAIK the lineup there is unchanging – or rarely changing. (Seemingly supplied by Greene King and Charlie Wells.)

      Is self-identifying as a “craft beer bar” sufficient to be one?

      The Victoria in Colchester is more “craft” with just a single often-changing keg tap, and a quite exiting lineup of cask.

      The “Hop & Grain Store” in Cambridge is Greene King’s “craft beer concept” … is it a craft beer bar? So far is seems to have underwhelmed all Cambridge crafties I know.

      1. It was alright to start with, I had an excellent Brixton Porter for £4 which was a bargain, but it seems to have settled on a range on rather uninspiring pseudo-craft beers and now seldom varies.

        You can’t get anything there that you can’t get in tescos, which undermines its credentials somewhat.

  4. Friends of Ham in Leeds is self described as a craft beer bar (I have never been). Their draft list supports this

  5. In Cardiff there is Tiny Rebel’s Urban Tap House and The Cambrian Tap (a Brains offering but it does fit the bill I think).

  6. In Aberdeen there’s CASC and Six Degrees North, and BD are opening a second place as well.

  7. First question: does it have to sell craft keg to qualify, or does a wide range of adventurous cask beers + a bottled beer menu qualify?

  8. Liverpool has The Ship & Mitre, the 23 Club, Grove Beer Tap and the Fly In The Loaf. The Baltic Fleet is Liverpool’s (only I think) brew pub so could also qualify.

    The Piccadilly Tap in Manchester could also be added.

  9. OK, based on places I shift a significant volume of keg (and cans!) to – so the general public would recognise them as stocking “craft beer” alongside “real ale”. And restricting to those who have multiple rotating “craft” lines. Not just a bunch of Camden/Meantime/etc perma-lines.

    Cambridge:
    – PintShop (unashamedly national-craft-beer-bar)
    – Cambridge BrewHouse (city pub co, lots of keg, own brewery keg, fridge full of cans)
    – Blue Moon (A bit “back street” location & vibe, but 5 FoT keg lines, to be expanded in near future, just 2 cask)
    – The Cambridge Blue? It’s very much trad pub, but they have 6 FoT keg lines and buy everything from the “standards” like Beavertown to Kiwi-ultra-craft) TBH folk would probably not label it as “craft”, but the beer fits the bill.

    Norwich:
    – St. Andrew’s Brewhouse (city pub co, lots of keg, fridge full of cans, probably heading towards own brewery keg)
    – The Plasterers Arms (look of a trad pub, but great “craft” selection spanning both cask and keg)
    – Gonzo’s Tea Room (quite an eclectic place, keg-only, keg lines usually have some pretty awesome stuff on)
    – White Horse Inn, Neatishead (outside of Norwich, but a bit of a find in “The Broads” – something like 8 keg lines, own micro brew kit, and puts some excellent cask on too)

    Nottingham:
    – Crafty Crow (several keg lines, varied and rotation, good cask set too, great bottle/can selection)
    – [there are others in Nottingham, I don’t deal with ’em – but Canalhouse should to qualify and Junkyard – both mentioned by folk above]

    Birmingham:
    – Craven Arms (a lot of the trad pub about the look of it, but the cask/keg/fridge lineup is as craft as all fuck)
    – Cherry Reds (sort of a “cafe bar”, with great keg & cask draught beer )

    Northampton:
    – The Garibaldi (don’t know it well, but it buys good keg & can stock from me)

    These are just places that have somewhat of a “craft focus” – they’re actively and significantly pursuing a “craft beer” cachet. There are many others I deliver to that just have the odd keg line – from city-centre pubs with a single “craft tap” to places in the middle of rural Suffolk with the “right sort” of landlord who wants something good on keg. (There are more of these than folk might imagine, and growing. I’m doing what I can to help them and get lines installed/fixed, support keg dispense, etc.)

    There are also places that I’d call “craft” on the cask front – many and varied good beers, buying lots of Moor, Siren, London brews, etc… but maybe only an unchanging “craft lager” or “pale ale” on keg.

    No doubt I’ve forgotten several.

    Having recently spent time in Leeds – there’s definitely more there than listed above.

    1. In Norwich I forgot the Redwell places, not on my mental compass simply as I don’t deal with them:

      – The Mash Tun
      – The Tap House

      For whatever folk may generally think of Redwell, the lineups in these bars is unquestionably “craft beer”.

  10. Holyrood Edinburgh is part of a Fuller & Thomson chain of, I think 7 pubs ,(Holyrood, Red Squirrel, Southern, Ox184 – all Edinburgh plus 3 bars in Dundee). Excluding ‘traditional’ pubs that sell craft beer, in Edinburgh there’s also Ushers & Potting Shed. If you’re including Mr Foleys, then for Edinburgh I’d also include the 2 Cask and Barrel pubs, Bow Bar, Clerks, Caley Sample Room…

    For Glasgow, I’d add Drygate.

    And then there’s the Head of Steam of around half a dozen pubs.

  11. In Newcastle the Pete Brown reader would most likely direct you to the Free Trade Inn. There are numerous other places nailing colours to the craft beer mast, but the Free Trade wins dues to the number of Tweets emanating from it.

      1. Was just going to say, The Free Trade and The Fly in the Loaf are much more “pubs with craft beer” than “craft beer bars”, IMO. Nobody going in expecting a standard British pub would get a shock the way they would in The Hanging Bat or a BrewDog. Actually, on that ground I’d probably cut the Craft Beer Co chain from the list but add in The Euston Tap and Holborn Whippet.

  12. As far as Leeds goes, if you’re putting Mr Foleys in then you’ve also got:
    – Market Town Taverns. Variable between pubby and bar but the likes of Arcadia are undeniably ‘craft’.
    – Arc Inspirations have been rebranding a number of their bars to ‘The Pit’. I thought it might be a bit ‘craft by numbers’, so was surprised when I went in to find the likes of Thornbridge Tart on keg. (But does having Coors Light disqualify them?)
    – Sela Bar
    – The Social
    – The Reliance
    – Bundobust
    – Friends of Ham
    – Brewery Tap (most of the Leeds Brewery bars in fact)
    – Kirkstall Bridge
    – Candelbar
    – Belgrave Music Hall
    That’s off the top of my head really. Not all of them are places that beer geeks rave about, but I don’t think any can really be deemed not craft.

    I don’t know Bradford that well but there’s The Sparrow, Bradford Brewery Tap, Saltaire Tap and I’m sure far more. Magic Rock have just opened their tap in Huddersfield, and there is The Grove there of course.

  13. In Brighton we have a Beer Dispensary which is a JV between Late Knights and Brighton Bier Co. Late Knights have a couple more of these in that London place.
    That’s defo a craft beer bar (and a v good one) but I’m less sure how to position a number of pubs that Indigo Pub Co calls its ‘craft beer pubs’. They certainly offer a broader range in bottle and can (though the ‘craft keg’ is dominated by Molson Coors with a bit of Camden) but are a kind of hybrid, I reckon, appealing to ‘ordinary’ pub-goers as well as your craft beer aficianado. And it’s a v successful formula.
    Sorry to confuse the issue!

  14. For Bristol I’d add (off the top of
    my head)

    Definitely Craft

    The Crofters Rights
    Strawberry Thief
    Urban Standard
    The Barley Mow (Bristol beer factory
    Tap)
    The three tuns (arbor brewery tap)

    Craft(ish)

    Bristol Flyer
    Graze
    The Grain Barge (Bristol Beer Factory’s other bar)
    Bag of nails
    Hope and anchor
    Colston yard
    Volunteer Tavern
    Lazy dog
    The windmill
    Pipe & slippers

  15. I also have a classification in my book which is ‘specialist’, used in conjuction with ‘contemporary pub’, ‘traditional pub’ etc. Distinctions like these are always a bit soft-edged (murky?!) but I mainly use this for places where the range of specialist beer is their MAIN pitch to attract customers. These days for a specialist I’d be looking for at least 100 non-mainstream beers across the formats (including cask, keg and bottle). I think looking at the actual range is more useful than looking at the way the place projects itself. ‘Craft beer bar’ summons up images not just of keykegs full of bretted black yuzu saison but also of bare brick and steampunk lampshades. But there are plenty of, erm, ‘traditional pubs’ that are also specialists. I don’t know if anyone’s yet mentioned the Grove in Huddersfield, but that’s a great example.

  16. They’re not *bars* but here in Brentford both the Magpie & Crown and the Express Tavern are trad pubs with a definite craft focus, regularly rotating both keg and cask guests. The Express’s siblings – the Sussex Arms in Twickenham and the Antelope in Surbiton – have similar offerings.

      1. Hmm – that wan’t meant to be a reply to Bryan the Beerviking – THIS was meant to be a reply to him:

        The Sussex Arms doesn’t have any craft keg, and aways has been a pub. Elswehere in the borough, the Pig’s Ear Beer Cellar in Hill Street, Richmond definitely IS a craft beer bar, since (a) it’s down in a basement and (b) it sells craft keg as well as cask beer.

  17. In Northampton the inner urban area located and heavily renovated pubs the Garibaldi (as mentioned by Yvan above) and the Princess Alexandra both count as craft beer bars. Ok so the keg taps aren’t lined up at the back of the bar and there is usually nothing particularly cutting edge on tap (although pleased that Cloudwater was on at the Garabaldi) but both have a good bottled selection and no industrial lager is sold in either venue.
    If even Northampton is getting craft beer bars then nowhere is likely to be immune!

  18. Definitely think there’s a few suggestions above I would consider as pubs-that-serve-craft – Tiny Rebel Urban Tap House, for example, definitely felt like a pub to me.

    Locally, I’d say there are very few – none in Stoke or Stafford that I know. Birmingham – probably just BrewDog and Pure Bar. I’d call Cherry Reds a Cafe and Craven Arms a pub.

    I’d guess there’s a fair few ones where breweries have added bars to their premises however – Fyne Ales brewery tap definitely.

    1. If Boak and Bailey approached me in the streets of Cardiff looking for craft beer, then apart from Brewdog, UTH would be my first suggestion.
      I think its more of a bar personally, but may concede ‘contempary pub’.

    2. Pure bar in Birmingham is now Purecraft Bar, so that should definatley count!?

      And yes, Cherry Reds is a cafe, Craven a pub, albeit with evilkeg.

  19. It seems to me that the only really relevant factor in identifying a “craft beer bar” is the range of craft beers available. The décor is irrelevant.

    If what we’re interested in is the increased ubiquity of craft beer around the UK, then quibbling about the difference between a craft beer bar, a craft beer café, and a craft beer pub seems to be splitting hairs.

  20. Manchester – Font’s a chain; there are three of them. There’s also Pi – two of them in [greater] Manchester, one in Liverpool.

    Where do you draw the line, though – and how important is the word ‘bar’? Most of the places I drink are ‘craft beer bars’ in the sense that they feel more like a ‘bar’ than a ‘pub’, and you can get at least one ‘craft’ beer on keg and a couple in bottles or cans – but they’re not places you’d name if somebody said “where’s a good craft beer bar around here?”. I guess range is crucial; 100 (per Des) seems like setting the bar a bit high, but 20 would seem like a bare minimum. And if the establishment with the interesting taps and the amazing fridge also has upholstered bench seating and a sign that swings in the wind, presumably that still belongs in the list – whereas the one down the road with maroon walls, wooden chairs, one craft keg tap, four or five bottles and a whole range of coffees doesn’t.

  21. The two newly-opened bottle shops-cum-bars in Stockport – Heaton Hops and Bottle Heaton Moor – would certainly qualify.

    But, as others have said, where do you draw the line between craft beer bar and pub that serves lots of craft beer? The Magnet in Stockport very much has the ambiance of “alehouse”, but it has 14 handpumps with a very eclectic and adventurous cask range, 6 craft keg taps (advertised in the local CAMRA magazine), some of which rotate, and fridges full of interesting bottles.

    Likewise the Grove in Huddersfield is an established alehouse that in recent years has taken a more “crafty” approach.

  22. Hopbunker in Cardiff is much more than the Hopcraft/Pixie Spring tap house, with 15 cask options and a similar number of keg choices. Not only is the range of beers excellent, but prices are competetive – cask being £3.00 a pint and keg, £4.00 a pint.

  23. Thanks, all. If nothing else, this list will be useful next time we go on our travels round Britain. At some point, we’ll use this info to come up with a couple of numbers for craft beer bars defined strictly, and defined loosely. Beginning to think now that the former might rule out places occupying existing pub premises.

    1. …because?

      I’d have thought the presence of large numbers of new wave beers (which would disqualify many bars) would be more important than the absence of flock wallpaper.

      1. Only ‘beginning to think’, mind.

        One of the things we’re particularly interested in is the extent to which beer bars, micropubs, etc., are actually adding to the total number of places to drink, and whether/how they’re different to pubs.

        1. A craft beer bar is any bar where the main selling point is the craft beer.

          A craft beer pub… follows the same definition.

          So what is the difference between a bar and a pub?

          1. I was trying to pin down how I’d distinguish “pub with craft beer” from “craft beer pub” with reference to the Cambridge Blue, and concluded that the difference is that if someone who like beer but thinks it should taste of beer and not grapefruit would go there because the beer’s good then it’s a “pub with craft beer”. If they’d only go there under protest and stick to the brownest thing they can find then it’s a craft beer pub.

            Hence the Blue is a pub with craft beer.

        2. (replying to Dave)
          So a craft beer pub can’t have anything on other than IPAs?
          I don’t think I know many craft beer pubs then after all. Most have at least a handful of bitters.

          1. No, but the “handful of bitters” (or milds or golden ales or whatever) has to be a sufficiently small and non-central part of the lineup that it doesn’t feel like a major selling point in itself.

            From my experience, people who are interested in beer but don’t like new-wavey craft stuff won’t bother going to the Pint Shop or the Craft Beer Co or the Euston Tap of their own volition. They will choose to go to the Cambridge Blue. I think this is a significant difference.

    2. “rule out places occupying existing pub premises”

      Interesting… now, but… what if the existing pub has been extensively changed? Still has a “pubby” look – but has 5 “craft keg” lines (soon to double), good “craft” cask on 4 lines, and then an Kiwi imported “craft” bottle collection in the fridge? [Thinking one of my customers here – the Blue Moon, Cambridge. It is the most fuzzy pub/craft-bar “crossover” I know.]

      1. So and old newsagets can become a craft bar. So can an old petrol station, an old Woolworths, doctors surgery or butchers shop. Anything but an old pub. That really would be just a bit silly.

      2. That sounds a lot like the Colston Yard in Bristol, at least before it had a make-over and reopened earlier this week.

        In its previous guise, I would have summed it up as a beer-focussed pub. It served the usual pub-ey wine, spirits, mass-market keg and cider. Then in terms of beer it had cask ale (Butcombe and guests), plus a large UK craft and world bottle selection and 5-10 rotating craft keg lines.

        The make-over has rendered it a bit soulless; lost the previously obvious craft beer focus (pump clips and bottles everywhere – now gone) and has gone for the rather safe ground of not-quite-pub, not-quite-craft beer bar, upmarket, mid-priced wine, over-priced snacks, bright and breezy feel. Maybe the new managers just need time to bed it in and gather character.

        Shame. I loved that place.

  24. Where do hybrid bottle shops/bars come into this. Would they automatically count or would it be based on some kind of on/off sales ratio? Am thinking primarily of the Chesham brewery shop & berkhamsted brewery shop (both owned by red squirrel brewing co) and Waens Gravity stations Cardiff & Swansea.
    *disclaimer: I manage berkhamsted brewery shop. But am bringing it up out of genuine interest rather than any kind of promotion.

    1. Tim – the ‘ask a Pete Brown reader’ test above should answer the question.

      We didn’t particularly have on-site brewery tap rooms in mind – they’re a different thing again, we reckon – but maybe there’re fuzzy edges there, too.

      1. Fair qualifier. Think the Pete brown reader probably would direct people to those business’. Although for the record all the examples are off site brewery taps selling both their own, and other breweries beers. Agree on site tap rooms probably shouldn’t count. Although it seems like you’ve opened a can of worms with this post I can’t wait to see your outcomes further down the line!

    1. Also the Cardinal’s Hat now. Craft beer bars are opening up so fast in little provincial towns in the midlands and the north its almost impossible to keep up.

  25. There is a brilliant craft beer pub called Piccadilly Tap just next to Piccadilly Station in Manchester. It’s a bit small place but well worth of a visit.

  26. Newcastle also has Dat Bar and it’s sister bar Bierrex, both are very much aimed at craft offering double figure keg taps. As someone who always recommends places in Toon, I’d always send people to Bachhus as Andy always seems to keep the beers on offer current & interesting.

    As others have mentioned the Head Of Steam chain have some bars that are on the craft spectrum, the one in Leeds and Tilleys in Newcastle spring to mind.

    Have to agree with most of Rob’s list for Leeds.

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