Beer Tours: Norwich

Surely Norwich, home to Alan Partridge, isn’t up to speed with the craft beer revolution? Turns out it is, and seems fairly well versed in it too. It’s not just craft beer either, we saw signs that suggest the city could be a surprising rival in subculture for say Brighton or Bristol. Once again, it’s incredible what you find when you scratch the surface.

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The Cottage9 Silver Road, Norwich NR3 4TB

This pub on the edge of the town centre is affiliated with Norfolk based Grain Brewery. It’s not all Grain beers though, The Cottage also has a decent selection from other brewers. The staff were keen to talk us through all of these, offering samples and even insisting we tried pairing one with some dark chocolate. The pub is known for it’s resident ginger tabby who we sadly didn’t get a chance to meet. We were however greeted in the beer garden by another friendly cat who the owners of The Cottage have unofficially adopted.

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St Andrews Brew House – 41 St Andrews St, Norwich NR2 4TP

On the surface St Andrews Brew House looks like a one off, dig a little deeper and you’ll learn it’s part of the The City Pub Group. Alike the other pubs in this chain, they do brew on site, offering a few options at the bar unique to this location. The highlight of this stop was the food menu, with their ‘British Tapas’ mezze dishes offering a number of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. This pub is not to be confused with the Scottish based St Andrews Brewing Co.

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The Mash Tun – 16 Charing Cross, Norwich NR2 4AL

The Mash Tun is set across two floors, with a craft bar downstairs and a ‘gin palace’ above. Their selection on keg is the best in Norwich and is conveniently laid out on a board adjacent to the bar, which was particularly useful when visiting at peak time on a Friday night as the venue did get busy. Beer aside, The Mash Tun is worth visiting for the photo op with a particular neon sign that I now want for my lounge (you’ll know it when you see it!).

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The Plough – 58 St Benedicts Street, Norwich NR2 4AR

The Plough is another pub affiliated with Grain Brewery. Unlike The Cottage, The Plough didn’t offer much in addition to their Grain beers (most of which were available here on both keg and cask, to suit your preference), their range from this brewery is perhaps wider though. The pub’s fair sized beer garden would make this a good starting point for a Summer session.

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Brewdog – 1 Queen St, Norwich NR2 4SG

Norwich’s Brewdog is one of the bigger and seemingly busier of the brewery’s worldwide chain. As such, it does have a wide selection, with 25 beers on tap and a separate in-house ‘Bottle Dog’ selling bottles and cans for takeaway. It lacks some of the character of their smaller bars dotted around the UK, but is still an essential stop on a Norwich city crawl.

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Redwell BrewingThe Arches, Bracondale, Trowse, Norwich NR1 2EF

Situated 2 miles outside the city centre is Redwell Brewing. Their tap room, based within the brewery itself, is open to public on Friday evening (5 – 10pm), Saturday (12 – 10pm) and Sunday (12 – 8pm). It’s a lively space which regularly hosts pop up street food vendors, workshops and live entertainment. The tap room bar’s paddle boards offer an opportunity to try a selection of their beers, before taking in some table football or marvelling at the Redwell unicorn.


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Beer Tours: Southampton

Southampton should be somewhere near the top of your list to visit for beer if you haven’t already. The city is undoubtedly leading the way for craft on the South Coast. The majority of the stops on this tour are within walking distance, although you may need to plan for a taxi or two if you want to include some of the hidden gems outside the city centre.

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Overdraft383 Shirley Rd, Southampton SO15 3JD

Overdraft has two locations locally (this being one, the other in nearby Winchester). They’ve made the best of what appears a lot like a shop unit from the street, with an exposed approach to the decor inside. There’s space in the bar area for up to 10 cask ales and 10 kegs on draft so is worth the trek out to see what’s on tap, despite no sign of bottles and cans. If you’re visiting on a Tuesday be sure to take advantage of their 2-4-1 offer on tacos!

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Unity Brewing CoBelgrave Industrial Estate, 10 Belgrave Rd, Southampton SO17 3EA

Unity are well known locally for brewing some of the most interesting and innovative beers around. If you’re hoping to visit Unity on your Southampton trip, you’ll need to plan around a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon/evening as their taproom opening is limited to these times. If you don’t make it out here, Unity is well distributed throughout Southampton (and increasingly further afield) so you’re more than likely to find a beer or two of their’s elsewhere in the city.

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The Butcher’s Hook Alehouse7 Manor Farm Rd, Southampton SO18 1NN

In terms of selection The Butcher’s Hook Alehouse in Bitterne more than delivers, despite its relatively small size. At peak times you may find it difficult to get a seat, or even in the door, but it’s worth trying to ensure you don’t miss out on this essential Southampton stop. All of their cask, keg, bottles and cans are listed clearly on a chalkboard to allow you to easily peruse everything on offer. Be sure to take a group photo using the digital screen on the wall, it’s only £1 and money raised is donated to charity.

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Caskaway Tasting Rooms – 47 Oxford St, Southampton SO14 3DP

Caskaway Tasting Rooms, located near Southampton’s Ocean Village district, claims to be the city’s “first micropub”. Their collage wall of pump clips from past beers on tap is a fitting tribute to the consistently high calibre of brews that have passed through this nautical themed bar. Caskaway offers table service and has additional seating in both it’s courtyard beer garden and “al fresco” area out front on Oxford Street.

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Dancing Man Brewery – Town Quay, Southampton SO14 2AR

Dancing Man Brewery is one of Southampton’s biggest venues dedicated to craft and yet is perhaps the city’s best kept secrets, as you’re unlikely to find their beers outside of this site (a conscious decision made by the brewery). Based in one of Southampton’s oldest buildings, Dancing Man Brewery is a far cry from the converted shop and industrial units we generally come to expect on our craft beer adventures. You will often find the downstairs bar to be packed out and the first floor restaurant booked up, a testament to their equally fantastic food and beer.

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Belgium and Blues184 Above Bar St, Southampton SO14 7DW

Situated in Southampton’s cultural quarter, Belgium and Blues boasts two floors, a gin bar at street level and a beer cellar below. Their range, as you might expect, has a heavy focus on Belgian beers, which is unique not only for Southampton, but also for much of the UK. If the Belgian style isn’t your thing, they also always have a fair selection of other types of beer on tap and in bottles/cans.

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The Rockstone63 Onslow Rd, Bevois Valley, Southampton SO14 0JL

The Rockstone is the most traditional pub looking pub of the Southampton tour, described above the front entrance as “a country pub in the centre of town”. It’s another popular spot in the city and is worth booking in advance for peak times if you’re hoping to sit inside. Alternatively, there is extensive seating out front. The Rockstone is also known for it’s notorious burger menu, which includes nine vegan options!

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Brewdog18A Upper Bannister St, Southampton SO15 2EF

The Southampton branch of the Brewdog chain is located a little further off the beaten track for one of their city centre bars, and is easily one of their cosiest as a result. Beer wise they never seem to have quite the selection of exclusives you’d expect from a flagship bar, but do a good job of flying the flag for both the local players and respected names in craft beer.


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Beer Tours: Wimborne

Wimborne is a market town in Dorset, with a population of 15,500. It was once home to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. It has a town crier who is also a well known underground DJ. Right now it’s experiencing it’s very own craft beer revolution. It could be regarded in the scene as a “best kept secret” but my guess is that won’t be the case for much longer.

If that opening paragraph has intrigued you enough to make the trek to Wimborne, the rest of this post will hopefully provide some insight for your pilgrimage. The first thing to know is that currently the best time to visit Wimborne is on a Friday evening. This is when the town’s key craft brewers open their taprooms to the public.

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The Brew Shack – 3 Old Manor Farm Buildings, 187 Leigh Rd, Wimborne, BH21 2BT (NOW CLOSED)

The Brew Shack is the smaller of the Wimborne’s breweries, but has barrels of potential and is only really just getting started. Based at The Old Manor Farm Buildings, a short walk from the town centre, The Brew Shack is a good first port of call on your Wimborne crawl as it both opens and closes early (3pm – 7pm). There’s not a lot of room inside, so depending on the time of year you visit you may struggle to get in. The Brew Shack currently have five flagship beers to try, as well as single batch brews, all across a variety of styles. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the pale / IPA beers tend to go first, so get there early!

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Eight Arch Brewing Co – 3A Stone Lane Industrial Estate, Wimborne, BH21 1HB

From The Brew Shack I recommend crossing town (by taxi, or 30 minute walk) to the Stone Lane Industrial Estate, home of a brewery set to take the country by storm, Eight Arch. Having focused initially on perfecting their core styles, Eight Arch have recently started to branch out with more adventurous beers and collaborations. The past two years have seen expansions at the Eight Arch tap room. Throughout this time their Friday night session (4pm – 8pm) has been accompanied by an outdoor street food offering from Flaming Peaches (who do cater for vegetarians/vegans).

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The Tap House11 West Borough, Wimborne, BH21 1LT

From Eight Arch it’s a short walk to The Tap House, an overall more traditional ale house, but a good stop over on route to Wimborne’s mecca of craft beer, The Butcher’s Dog. The Tap House is a Cask Marque CAMRA recognised pub, who serve ‘real ales’ straight from the cask, with mostly local beer on offer but some from further afield also. If it’s your first time in Dorset it’s a chance to sample some of the county’s more remote/rural brewers. There is a also a Wetherspoons on route to The Butcher’s Dog but I’d advise skipping that.

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The Butcher’s Dog6 East St, Wimborne, BH21 1DS

The Butcher’s Dog is what makes the effort of trekking out to Wimborne worthwhile. Locally they are leading the way for how a good craft beer pub ought to be. They have 14 beers on tap across a variety of styles and breweries, plus a bottle fridge that is always stocked full of interesting alternative options. The beers on tap are always clearly listed on a large board next to the bar. The downstairs and bar area can get a little crowded on a Friday night, but there is also a spacious upstairs room and landing. They regularly host tap takeovers from some of the best British craft brewers, but these tend to be on a Saturday night rather than Friday (a welcome reason to come back if you’re local!).

Public transport links to Wimborne are limited and do make visiting the town difficult. You can get a bus from Bournemouth or Poole Town Centre, where the London Waterloo to Weymouth train line also stops. The last buses out of Wimborne leave before midnight, be sure to check listings in advance.


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Beer Tours: Kraków, Poland

A group of us spent a weekend in Kraków, Poland for Ed Shaw‘s 40th birthday. The trip was booked through ChilliSauce and I have nothing but good words to say about their organisation of our activities and accommodation. ChilliSauce also offer the option of an evening tour guide for the city centre. If you’re planning a trip to Krakow, take a read of the following review and perhaps ask for a tour guide to help you locate each of these fantastic venues.

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We had a list of places we wanted to visit based on a few Google searches, with no real idea of what to expect. We knew we’d picked the right city when we arrived at our first stop, Multi Qlti. The good news is, Poland gets craft beer. Everywhere we went on this trip has nailed the format. Good clear signage of the beers on tap (most had a number associated with it to help with the language barrier) and an accessible fridge for browsing bottles and cans.  This may sound like the basics you’d come to expect, but many pubs at home still manage to get this wrong.

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Multi Qlti can be found at Szewska 21, 31-009. It’s located above street level, with window seating looking out over the city centre below. They have twenty beers on tap plus bottles and cans. It was a good casual starting point for the early evening on Saturday, day one of our two day tour. From here we moved on to House of Beer at Świętego Tomasza 35, 31-027, a short ten minute walk through the city centre. House of Beer seemed to be popular venue, with lots of big groups filling up the pub’s two floors (street level and an arched ceiling basement). It was difficult to see the full extent of what was on offer at the bar, but it looked to be the widest selection of the trip (perhaps worth noting that some of this was spirits).

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Our last stop for night one of the tour was Viva La Pinta at Floriańska 13, 31-019 a three minute walk from House of Beer. Viva La Pinta is a smaller bar set back from the main street with mostly outdoor seating, which was great for an early September night. If memory serves me right the area is heated. We came back here again on day two of the trip.

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We got started again mid afternoon the following day with a 15 minute trek out of the city centre to Weźże Krafta at Dolnych Młynów 10/3, 31-124. When you start to think you might have gone the wrong way, rest assure you’re almost there! It actually felt a lot like home turning up at a run down industrial estate in search of good beer. Weźże Krafta is a fairly big room, which was empty when we arrived. It took me a while to get back into the swing of things with my first beer of the day. I was mostly enjoying the decor of the place, which matched exposed work unit chic with neon lights and 1950’s American diner style furniture.

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From Weźże Krafta we walked up along the Vistula River to T.E.A Time at Dietla 1, 31-070. This is about a half hour walk, so you may want to take a taxi if you’re choosing to follow our route. T.E.A Time have a slightly strange British influence to their branding, decor and beers, with some leaning more towards real ale. I didn’t quite get the reason behind the theme. T.E.A brew their own beer on site in the basement. We tried a few, including a nice and hazy 6% New England IPA called Anaconda.

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Before retreading some of Saturday’s steps in the city centre we walked across to the Jewish Quarter to check out two more great pubs. One of which, Strefa Piwa (at Józefa 6, 31-056) has an cool diagram of beer styles painted on it’s arched ceiling and a decent stack of board games (we had a few competitive rounds of Dobble). The other pub, Omerta is just around the corner at Kupa 3, 31-057. Omerta has a selection that rivals House of Beer, with two bars on opposite sides of the room, which makes it look as if it was once two pubs that they chose to knock through. Unless I was very, very drunk by this point, I think they also had two entrances?

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Our last pub of the trip was the Pracownia Piwa brewery’s tap house at Świętego Jana 30, 31-018. Here they serve their own beers, brewed on the outskirts of Kraków in the small town of Modlniczka, as well as a fair selection of guest beers, available on tap and from the fridge.

All in all, a great weekend. We’d highly recommend a visit to Kraków for any craft enthusiasts looking to venture outside of the UK. The beer scene in Poland has a useful online tool (which I found while writing this review) called OnTap, that allows you to browse listings of craft pubs and bars by city and also see what they’ve currently got “on tap”. Check it out at ontap.pl.


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Beer Tours: Birmingham

Birmingham is home to some of the most unique and outright strange craft bars we’ve ever visited. It’s currently sitting comfortably in our top 5 beer destinations, with plenty of places still to check out on return visits.

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The Old Joint Stocks – 4 Temple Row W, Birmingham, B2 5NY

The Old Joint Stocks is set in an old theatre and feels like walking onto the set of a 1920’s gangster movie, with an ornate island bar and landing overlooking the high ceiling room under a glass-domed roof. The bar has a range of Sadlers on tap, including the appropriately themed Peaky Blinder black IPA. If elaborate decor isn’t your thing, there’s also some very comfortable ratan furniture in the beer garden.

The Wellington – 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5SN

The Wellington is so conventional by comparison to the other craft venues in Birmingham that you could be led to believe hipsters had opened it as a pub themed pub. “Think the Nags Head meets the Rovers Return”. The Wellington offered a long line of craft and more ‘real ale’ leaning beers on cask, with a few big name beers available for the punters who inevitably stumble into this pub mistaking it for a pub.

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Tilt – City Arcade, 2 Union St, Birmingham, B2 4TX

From the outside of Tilt you could easily mistake this bar for a vegan coffee shop, in fact they do serve coffee, but enter the bar and you’ll soon find that’s not the only brew on offer. Enter further and you’ll get the surprisingly reveal of a line of pinball machine and keen wizards. For those less confident with their abilities (me) there are also a few additional machines hidden downstairs.

Pure Craft – 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5SN

Pure Craft has a fair range on tap, much of which is from Midlands brewery Purity, and an easily browsable fridge to the side of the bar. The interior feels not too dissimilar to a “posh” burger chain (think GBK, Byron) and part of the bar serves as a restaurant (with a much fancier menu than the aforementioned joints).

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Bacchus –  Burlington Arcade, New St, Birmingham, B2 4JH

The spiralling descent into Bacchus begins to feel more like you’re about to enter a indoor crazy golf or buffet restaurant. This unforgettable bar is set in the basement of a shopping centre with elaborate decor that spanned a bizarre mix of time periods, from medieval to Roman, via Egyptian, but don’t fear, the beer is mostly modern.

The Post Office Vaults – 84b New St, Birmingham, B2 4BA

It would be hard to top Bacchus, but The Post Office Vaults did rise to the challenge. Easily mistaken from the outside (and in) as a sorting room, The Post Office Vaults describes itself as “Birmingham’s Premier Foreign Bottled Beer Bar”. The beer I had here couldn’t have been any less foreign, it was one of their own. The only disappointment is not having a stack of letters to sort while you drink your beer. Take note, Post Office Vaults.

Brewdog – 81 John Bright St, Birmingham, B1 1BL

Brewdog’s Birmingham bar struggles to compete with the oddities to be found elsewhere in the city. It’s a safe bet, a fair size and good atmosphere, but not a pinball, pharaoh or postman in sight.


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Beer Tours: Cornwall

Planning a trip to Cornwall? The good news is there’s plenty of great beer to found across the West Country. The bars, bottle shops and breweries are scattered throughout the county, so this is by no means a walking tour. This list provides a selection of places to seek out whilst exploring the rest of what beautiful Kernow has to offer.

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Red Elephant Beer Cellar – 4 Quay St, Truro TR1 2GA

The Red Elephant Beer Cellar is a fantastic bottle shop in the centre of Truro, which opened in 2013. Here you’ll find at least one or two beers from almost every Cornish Brewery, as well as highlights from further afield. It’s run by a friendly chap who seemed more than happy to talk to us about every bottle and can lining the shelves. The prices are reasonable and it serves as a good outlet to pick up some beers from the local breweries that you can’t visit in person.

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The Old Ale House – 7 Quay St, Truro TR1 2HD

The Ole Ale House is a traditional pub, which serves as a tap house for the well known Skinner’s Brewery in Truro. Here you’ll find the full Skinner’s Brewery range, including some exclusives and rarities, plus guest beers on both cask and keg. The pub also has live music most nights of the week.

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St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre – 63 Trevarthian Rd, St Austell, PL25 4BY

An operation the size of St Austell Brewery makes for an interesting tour and I highly recommend you make the journey out to their visitor centre to experience it for yourself. For the £12 entry fee you get an extensive tour of the entire facility, concluding with a tasting session and a bottle or two to take away with you. Don’t expect this to be restricted to the commonly found Tribute and Proper Job either, we got through more than 10 different beers, including samples from their standalone small batch brewery built below the bar area.

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Verdant Brewing Co – 6 Tregoniggie Industrial Estate, Tresidder Cl, Falmouth TR11 4SP

Verdant have put out some of the most highly sought after craft beer of the past few years and it’s brewed here, on an industrial estate in deepest dankest Cornwall. As easy as it is to build the brewery up as a mecca of craft beer in your mind, like most small outfits, there’s not a huge amount to see here as the team we met confessed, but the juice bomb aroma that hit us when we stepped in was worth trekking every mile for. If you’re lucky (we were!) you might just get pick up a fresh batch. They also have a small selection of branded merchandise for sell.

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Hand – Old Brewery Yd, High St, Falmouth TR11 2BY

Hand is both a bar and bottle shop, occupying neighbouring units in the centre of Falmouth. It’s perhaps the closest we found to a modern, dedicated craft outlet in the county and makes sense to be located here, not all that far from Verdant, in a University town with a younger age demographic. Speaking of Verdant, the bottle shop’s selection from the brewery rivals that which they hold in stock at their official outlet. The bar has indoor seating and an outside area in a picturesque courtyard, which is also home to a handful of other small businesses.

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Beerwolf Books – 3 Bells Ct, Falmouth TR11 3AZ

Beerwolf Books delivers on exactly what it’s name promises, beer and books. I was actually taken back by quite how much of a legitimate book shop this pub manages to double up as. It’s a bizarre concept but fits right in with the rest of Falmouth’s vibe. I would possibly go so far to say that the book selection was greater than the beer, though if I’m honest, my eyes truly lit up when I saw they’d also made room for three pinball machines.

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Padstow Brewing Co. Tasting Room – 4-6 Broad St, Padstow PL28 8BS

Padstow isn’t all just Rick Stein you know! Padstow Brewing Co. have something to say about this, opening a tasting room in the centre of town as an outlet for their brewery. The shop stocks both their iconic “pint of Padstow” 568ml bottles and their new craft influenced series, with striking artwork from students at Falmouth School of Art. Padstow Brewing Co. do also offer tours and brewery experiences at their brewery based on the outskirts of town.

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Bude Brewery Tap Room and Shop – Kings Hill Industrial Estate, Bude, EX23 8QN

Bude always seems a little out of the way when visiting Cornwall, situated further up the Atlantic coast, close to the border of Devon. It is however home to a great little brewery, the aptly named, Bude Brewery. Time your visit right and you’ll catch one of their lively tap room sessions. If not, there’s still beer for sale, including a new range from their sister brewery Kreft Beer.

What about Newquay?

While there is craft beer to be found on tap and in the fridges of many nice, stag party free bars in Newquay (honourable mentions to Tom Thumb, Bear Bar and Whiskers), our best find was 55 Yards (at 5 Cheltenham Pl, Newquay TR7 1BA), a bar and relatively well stocked bottle shop on the ground floor of a town centre B+B. No. 5 Brewhouse is another promising sounding bar, unfortunately it wasn’t open when we visited mid week, nor does it open outside of the main summer season.


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Beer Tours: Hackney Wick

A handful of great craft beer outlets can be found in Hackney Wick, a 20 minute walk from Stratford Shopping Centre (through the Olympic Village), which can also be reached via Hackney Wick station or kayak if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.

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Howling Hops – Unit 9A, Queen’s Yard, White Post Ln, London, E9 5EN

Howling Hops serve straight from one of ten massive tanks, in a large open plan warehouse unit, with BBQ food offered by residents Billy Smokes. In addition to the indoor seating there is also a number of benches outside, overlooking the courtyard of the Queen’s Yard industrial estate (an increasingly familiar view on the craft beer scene).

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Crate Brewery – Unit 7, Queen’s Yard, Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN

Right next to to Howling Hops you’ll find Crate Brewery. Here you’ll find perfect spot on the riverbank to enjoy Crate’s beers brewed on site. The view and equally good beer perhaps account for how busy both the indoor bar and outside area were when we visited on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May. Their stonebaked pizza also looked very nice.

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Mick’s Garage – Unit 8, Queen’s Yard, Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN

Crate have another unit on the Estate, Mick’s Garage. In addition to a (quieter) bar, the converted warehouse is also home to two floors of craft (as in ‘arts and craft’) stalls from independent sellers and a space to sit out back covered almost entirely in astroturf. At night the space becomes a club with ticketed events.


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