These are a Few of our Favourite Pubs

Over a few beers the other week we found ourselves making a list of pubs we love and find ourselves longing to be in.

It’s not The Best Pubs, it’s not a Top Ten, it’s just some pubs we like enough to feel wistful for. We’ve been tinkering with it since and decided to share it.

Brains bitter at the City Arms, Cardiff.
The City Arms, Cardiff

10-12 Quay St, CF10 1EA
This is, in fact, the pub where we had the conversation. It was our first visit but love at first pint. The perfect mix of old school, new school, cask and keg, it just felt completely right to us. Worn in and unpretentious, but not curmudgeonly, and serving a revelatory point of Brains Bitter. (Not SA.) Is it an institution? We assume it’s an institution.

The Brunswick, Derby.
The Brunswick Inn, Derby

1 Railway Terrace, DE1 2RU
We loved this first time, and it’s still great. Flagstones, pale cask ale, cradling corners, a view over the railway, and the murmur of lovely local accents. Worth breaking a train journey for.

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Old Haunts #1: The Brunswick, Derby

I was nervous about revisiting Derby’s famous brewpub The Brunswick, so happy are my memories of our last visit almost a decade ago.

My worry, I suppose, was that anything less than a great experience in 2018 might wipe out the warm glow around the memory of 2009.

But I simply couldn’t resist when the opportunity arose to accidentally-on-purpose arrange my trains to allow for a stopover in Derby. Too many times in the past few years we’ve sailed through, seen the pub from the train, and daydreamed about jumping off and running across the road.

I just couldn’t watch it sail past again.

So off I came, through the barriers, and out on to the road by the station (which is as lovely as most roads by stations), from where I commenced a terribly long walk over the short distance to the pub.

What if it has got worse? I wondered. What if it’s just the same but my tastes have changed so I can no longer appreciate it? What if I’m simply fussier now than I was then?

Approaching the door was odd, like being  yanked back a decade into a previous phase of my life, twenty-something and full of beans: the pub looked identical, as if it had been waiting with breath held all these years.

Inside, nothing seemed to have changed either: slate floors, well-worn wood, the buzz of conversation in local accents with beautifully twisted vowels.  A choice of rooms to park yourself in. Above all, the thing that made it great then was still outstandingly good now — the welcome from the staff. I felt like I belonged there, even though I was an obvious stranger with my southern accent and enormous rucksack.

Sat there on my own, I looked up our tasting notes from 2009 and, yes, they still apply: “[Not] especially complex or clever, but… unbelievably fresh. When people say cask ale is alive, this is what they mean… The pale and hoppy White Feather (3.6%) was the stand out — it was easy to believe that it hadn’t long stopped fermenting.”

I’m so glad I revisited this wonderful pub and I certainly don’t intend to leave it until 2027 before going again.

Flat beer in a very popular pub

The Brewery Tap (aka Derby’s Royal Standard) is a beer geek pub and is the primary outlet for the products of the Derby Brewery Company.  When we visited on a Saturday night, it was very busy indeed, but the huge range of guest ales and Belgian beers isn’t the secret to this pub’s success — a majority of people seemed to be drinking wine, big-brand lager, spirits, cider or Guinness.

It is successful, we suspect, because it is bright, clean and modern.

The enticing sounding two day rare beer festival was less successful. The ales on offer were served very flat from a temporary bar in the back yard, and there weren’t many takers. It didn’t help that some members of staff had been called in on their day off to work the festival and were vocally unhappy about it.

We preferred the Brunswick, but the local CAMRA branch disagree, having named the Brewery Tap city pub of the year.

Beer with zing

The Brunswick Inn, Derby

The Brunswick Inn in Derby has quite a following. A friend of ours who grew up in Derby said, without hesitation, that it was the one pub we had to make sure we visited on our trip.

And, sure enough, it is truly one of the country’s great pubs, and worth visiting Derby for in its own right.

There aren’t many brewpubs in Britain and many of those that we’ve visited have less than exciting beer. That is not the case in the Brunswick: the beer didn’t seem especially complex or clever, but was unbelievably fresh. When people say cask ale is alive, this is what they mean.

The pale and hoppy White Feather (3.6%) was the stand out — it was easy to believe that it hadn’t long stopped fermenting.

There were also several guest ales in perfect condition and very tasty, but lacking the zing of the own-brand beers, none of which were anything other than delicious.

We are by no means the first beer bloggers to spot the Brunswick:

Die Derbische Schweiz?

A British phone box in Germany

Because we’ve got Germany on the brain, we couldn’t help but jokingly refer to the beautiful countryside around Derby as the “Derbische Schweiz”, with reference to the nickname given to the national park in Upper Franconia.

Sometimes, though, a joke turns out to have something in it. In 24 hours in Derbyshire we came across:

  1. a very authentic Bratwurst stand with “Schleswig-Holstein” written all over it
  2. a shop and cafe for German and Austrian ex-pats with a window display of Semmel Knödel mixes
  3. two microbrewed, unfiltered, unpasteurised pilsners
  4. more beer gardens (that is, proper beer gardens, with trees and attractive panoramas) than we’ve ever seen anywhere else in the UK.

Maybe all of that makes up for the time we came across a disconcerting and unexplained red phone box in Goslar?