York — a great city for beer

york_brewery.jpgIf you like beer, York is a great place to spend a few days. And that doesn’t just apply to fans of real ale.

From our experience, you can’t go too far wrong following your instincts in York — if it looks a friendly pub, it probably is — but here are some pubs we tried and liked.


The Three Legged Mare, High Petergate

An outlet for the York Brewery, and a very cosy but contemporary feeling pub — it doesn’t look like an olde worlde tourist trap. When we visited, there were five or six brews from the York Brewery, plus guests from Oldershaw in Grantham (Old, Boy and Caskade) and HB Clark in Wakefield.

York Brewery’s beers are, on the whole, decent, tasty brews, although all seem to be served via sparkler, which we know is an issue for some drinkers. More on that in another post.

YB Guzzler is a great session beer at 3.6% — it’s pale and hoppy and extremely refreshing. Better than the stronger but similar Yorkshire Terrier. Highlight of the session was Wonky Donkey (another name for the pub, apparently). It’s described as a winter warmer, and was dark and rich with a hint of spices, but not much in the way of hops – one of those Burtons Ron is always on about?

On the whole, an interesting place which straddles the divide between real ale/ grumpy old man pubs and studenty, would-be trendy places. There was no music, no kids, a jar of pickled eggs and pork scratchings, but it definitely didn’t feel like an old man’s pub. How do they achieve this so effortlessly when pubs in London seem to struggle?

Another YB pub, the Yorkshire Terrier off Stonegate, was very similar in feel, but with a different but equally interesting range of guest ales.

Pivo, Patrick Pool

Six months ago, Pivo opened on a narrow lane off the market square. It’s aiming for the student market but, like everywhere we went, the clientele was very mixed and friendly. The beer range was really excellent, with a range of generic Belgian and German beers on tap; unpasteurised Czech lager and dark lager from Bernard, also on tap (semi-ubiquitous in York, for some reason); three real ales in good nick; and fridges crammed with American, Belgian and German beer. Good luck to them, we say. They’ve certainly put the effort in.

Koko Bar, Goodramgate

brooklyn_brown_koko.jpgA more established international beer bar, Koko is not quite as friendly, although the range of beer is arguably a little better again. On tap, were: Frueh, Fruli, Warsteiner, Van Steenburg’s Augustijn, Hacker-Pschorr Weizen, Koestritzer, Pure Czech, and two real ales (Dark Island from the Orkney Brewery and Ascension Ale, from the Leeds Brewery). In the two big fridges, Brooklyn Brown Ale, Anchor Sierra Nevada Brown Ale, and too many others too mention. Highlight: four elderly ladies from Newcastle on a day trip literally knocking back the koelsch.

thebottle_shop.jpgFinally, our minds were blown by what must be the best beer shop we’ve ever seen. The Bottle, also on Stonegate, had hundreds of beers from around the world, including a massive selection from Yorkshire. This, along with the legendary York Beer and Wine Shop, means that the York ticker would be kept in novelties for life.

We liked York. Real ale isn’t an afterthought or a niche market — it’s mainstream, a part of the culture. The local CAMRA are an active lot whose publications and campaigns are slick and effective. You should go.

This post written, edited and posted on a train, courtesy of National Express’ free wi-fi and our lovely new Asus EEE PC… we truly live in the future.

13 thoughts on “York — a great city for beer”

  1. We’ve had a few of the Unibroue range and been very impressed. Fin du Monde in particular struck as as a brilliant beer. They seem to be popular in France, too, where Boak enjoyed a few of the range on her big trip recently.

  2. I love York. Been there many times drinking and due to go again in September. I have a few questions:

    1. Did you go to The Maltings? My favourite real ale pub in the city. Or The Ackhorne, or The Tap and Spile? There really are so many good pubs
    2. “Anchor Brown Ale”??? Did you mean to say that?
    3. What did you think to the prices of the Foreign bottled beers in Pivo and Koko?

  3. Maeib:

    1. No, we didn’t make it to the Maltings, though it was on our list. Nor the other two you mention. We just wandered about picking places that we liked the look of.
    2. Oops. Post amended. We meant Sierra Nevada. What a mistake-a to make-a.
    3. Didn’t take note of the prices, so I guess they were competitive compared to London — which is to say, they were probably expensive.

  4. Thanks for the reply. Those bars are ones I’ve not heard of and was just curious if the bottles came in much cheaper than you are used to. Sadly it seems not! Next time you go to York do go to The Maltings; I don’t think you’ll regret it.

  5. I used to go to York all the time as a kid. We used to stay in B&Bs on Bootham Crescent. I didn’t know it was so good for pubs. York Brewery’s Centurion’s Ghost is a beer I’ve always wanted to try on its home turf.

  6. York’s great for beer. I can’t believe you thought KoKo was not as friendly as Pivo. I’ve gone in a couple of time and they’re the most friendly in the whole of the York. There was a guy going around giving out free samosa’s one time ! They also take time to explain a bit about the beer and give you a free sample to try.

    Pivo on the other hand are a shambles – they take 15 minutes to pour the beer and can’t even get a regular supply of Bernard – and they are the sole UK import agents of this beer !!! If you go into Biltmore and ask for Bernard – prepare for fireworks at their frustration in dealing with Pivo for the supply of Bernard…

  7. Richard — thanks for stopping by. I guess it depends when you go and what mood people are in. We certainly didn’t wait long in Pivo, despite it being very busy, whereas the chap behind the bar at KoKo was very busy dealing with a loud millionaire at the bar, so perhaps wasn’t as cheerful as usual.

    I think the bottom line is, I liked them both, and would recommend them to anyone who likes a well-kept pint or a decent bottle of imported beer.

    Interesting to hear that Pivo are the import agents for Bernard — we had wondered why York was flooded with the stuff when we’ve never seen it elsewhere in the UK.

  8. Seconded on the KoKo front – the owner is a mine of information and I went in on my own and within 5 minutes was having a conversation with a couple of the regulars. The whole feel was that of a relaxed bar comfortable in its own skin. Can’t comment on Pivo – although I did try to get a Bernard in Biltmore and they said they had no stock !

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