Every Pub in Bristol: The First 100

Collage: Bristol pubs.

On moving to Bristol in the summer of 2017 we commenced a mission to visit every single pub in the city. This is what we’ve learned in the first six months.

Com­plete­ly unsur­pris­ing­ly, the pubs we vis­it most fre­quent­ly are those near our house. We have (well, Jes­si­ca has) been keep­ing notes in a spread­sheet record­ing each vis­it which means with the click of a but­ton we can see our most-vis­it­ed pubs.

At num­ber one, by a mas­sive mar­gin, is The Draper’s Arms – not only the near­est pub to our house by any mea­sure but also, clear­ly, the best pub in the area and one of the best in the city. We’ve been there togeth­er 28 times (plus the odd solo vis­it for one or the oth­er of us that doesn’t count for the pur­pos­es of this count) which equates to about once a week.

The Inn on the Green is at joint third with five vis­its; The Welling­ton joint fourth with four vis­its; and The Gold­en Lion joint fifth with three.

The Bar­ley Mow near Tem­ple Meads sta­tion is our clear sec­ond favourite with six vis­its – one a month – and it is indeed a pub with which we con­tin­ue to be very tak­en.

In gen­er­al, any pub we’ve vis­it­ed more than once despite (a) this daft mis­sion and (b) our gen­er­al excite­ment at new turf to explore must have some­thing going for it. So, with­out fil­ter­ing or com­ment on indi­vid­ual pubs, here’s the com­plete list of those we’ve been to at least twice.

Draper’s Arms 28
Bar­ley Mow 6
Inn on the Green 5
Grain Barge 5
Welling­ton Arms 4
Hill­grove Porter Stores 4
Gold­en Lion 3
Brew­Dog 3
The Old Fish Mar­ket 3
Snuffy Jacks 3
High­bury Vaults 3
Com­mer­cial Rooms (Wether­spoon) 2
The Can­teen (Hamil­ton House) 2
The Straw­ber­ry Thief 2
The Bridge 2
The Mardyke 2
Zero Degrees 2

With more data we’d expect a prop­er top ten to emerge in the next six months and sus­pect some of those names will drop away from the lead group.

Capsule Reviews

Anoth­er col­umn on the spread­sheet records in a few words our impres­sion of each pub. These are great fun to write and some­times a bit snarky (“nice beer, filthy glass­es”) but their pur­pose is to help us rec­ol­lect the pub months and hope­ful­ly even years after what might be one vis­it. We test­ed it last night (in pub #103) and it worked:

Marston’s with­out the Marston’s? The Pump House. Bel­gian brown cafe vibe? The Grace. Crazy fol­ly, now a Flam­ing Grill? The Black Cas­tle. Cosy, smells like a swim­ming pool? The Vic­to­ria. (It is next door to a lido.)

The Next Stretch

We’ve got no more local ticks so it’s bus rides and shoe leather from here on. At the moment there’s a long list of pubs we’ve seen or heard of and are keen to vis­it – The Post Office Tav­ern at West­bury on Trym, for exam­ple, AKA ‘The Pot at Wot’; The Sev­en Stars in the city cen­tre which we vis­it­ed before we moved to Bris­tol but haven’t been to since; and The Colos­se­um, a rare post-war sur­vivor in Red­cliffe.

Rather than let the less imme­di­ate­ly invit­ing pubs pile up so that we have to slog through them at the end, we’re try­ing to get to them on the way. So far we’ve found that a lot of Bris­tol pubs which look dodgy from the out­side are at worst fine, and at best very pleas­ant sur­pris­es – full of warmth and com­mu­ni­ty feel­ing even if the face they show the world might sug­gest oth­er­wise. Just in case, though, we’ve giv­en our­selves a get out clause: if we’re made to feel unwel­come in some active way, we can count it as a tick with­out stop­ping for a drink.

FAQ

How many pubs are there in Bris­tol?
We don’t know exact­ly, and don’t need to know at this stage, but we’ve seen esti­mates of about 450 which feels about right.

How are you defin­ing ‘pub’?
We’re not – we want to be flex­i­ble and retain the right to play it by ear. Hav­ing said that, if we can walk in off the street, buy draught beer with­out feel­ing oblig­ed to order food, and take a seat with­out reserv­ing a table, then it’s prob­a­bly a pub. In oth­er words, we’re going broad rather than nar­row, includ­ing tap rooms, bars, social clubs, and maybe even some cafés.

What counts as Bris­tol?
We keep chang­ing our minds but prob­a­bly the Bris­tol Built-up Area. Again, this won’t become an issue for a while – there are plen­ty of obvi­ous­ly-in-Bris­tol pubs to tack­le before we start wor­ry­ing about mar­gin­al cas­es, but we do par­tic­u­lar­ly want to tack­le sub­ur­ban pubs and those on the out­skirts, while still find­ing some way to lim­it the chal­lenge.

9 thoughts on “Every Pub in Bristol: The First 100”

  1. You must live right by me. I find it odd that you haven’t list­ed any of the pubs on King Street. Is this delib­er­ate?

    1. In terms of this spe­cif­ic blog post, it’s because we haven’t been to any of them more than once since we moved here in July. That’s what the list is, no more, no less.

      *Why* we haven’t been is I sup­pose the under­ly­ing ques­tion.

      It must be part­ly because we went to them quite often between 2013-now so the nov­el­ty has worn off. The King Street run is great if you’re vis­it­ing town and stay­ing in a cen­tral hotel (as we often were) but when you live here doesn’t feel quite as excit­ing.

      But that doesn’t apply to the Grain Barge or Bar­ley Mow which we do keep going back to so, hmm, let me try to put it in words.

      Our last trip to Small Bar was a bit of a wash out – none of the beer on offer real­ly thrilled us and we end­ed up perched on uncom­fort­able seats near the bogs strug­gling to get through what we did order.

      And the FRNV, which I guess is the oth­er big hit­ter, seems to be either so busy we can’t get to the bar or unnerv­ing­ly cold and qui­et. Needs some sort of surgery to fix its atmos­phere.

      We like pub­by pubs, more now than ever, rather than bars. Brew­Dog, one of few out-and-out craft places we have vis­it­ed repeat­ed­ly, is rel­a­tive­ly cosy, if not exact­ly pub-like.

      1. Fair enough. I would have thought the King William Ale House would be up your street. Have you been to the Bag of Nails yet?

        1. The King William is OK and we’ve been a few times, but only once since mov­ing here. We had fun that time but, again, it tends to be either rammed with stag par­ties or a bit des­o­late. It’s a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem with those cen­tral loca­tions, I think.

          We have been to the Bag of Nails but only once since mov­ing here. Here’s what we wrote a few years ago. To be hon­est, though, I don’t much care for cats so while I under­stand that’s a draw for some peo­ple, it real­ly puts me off.

  2. Hel­lo both, its a long time since I went drink­ing in Bris­tol nut on the three occa­sions I have I real­ly enjoyed it. Although this is there­fore a decade out of date ques­tion, have you ever been to the Mry­tle Tree round the cor­ner from the Bag o Nails, which used to have a Wad­worths sign and liv­ery, is it still open, and does it still serve bass from the cask? Me and WF went in on our first rip to Bris­tol and have been back twice. It was, then, a prop­er tra­di­tion­al booz­er sell­ing inex­pen­sive Bass from he bar­rel. Not mak­ing any promis­es though!

  3. Accord­ing Pubs Galore there are 696 pubs in Bris­tol, but this is the postal dis­trict of Bris­tol, which also cov­ers the whole uni­tary author­i­ty area, and there­fore not equiv­a­lent to what you might think of as the city or the built up area. (See https://www.pubsgalore.co.uk/counties/bristol/.)

    1. That would seem to sup­port the c.450 num­ber in the area we’re cov­er­ing. (My par­ents have a BS post­code but live in a vil­lage miles away in Som­er­set.)

  4. The Avi­a­tor (Chan­dos Road) is nice, craft so no foam­ing pints of brown bit­ter, (sad­ly), but some great beer nonethe­less and a friend­ly, chilled vibe.

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