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 Arms28
Barley Mow6
Inn on the Green5
Grain Barge5
Wellington Arms4
Hillgrove Porter Stores4
Golden Lion3
The Old Fish Market3
Snuffy Jacks3
Highbury Vaults3
Commercial Rooms (Wetherspoon)2
The Canteen (Hamilton House)2
The Strawberry Thief2
The Bridge2
The Mardyke2
Zero Degrees2

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.


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.

UPDATE 04.06.2023: Which are the best pubs you’ve visited?
Because this keeps coming up, we put together a guide to (in our opinion) the best pubs in Bristol. We’ve updated it several times to take account of changes and new discoveries.

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

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?

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.

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?

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.

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!

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.)

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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