The city of Bristol has many fascinating stories to tell and a walk through its charming streets will soon capture your imagination. Its long history is evident in its heritage sites, the historical architecture, flowing waterways and let’s not forget its numerous pubs. And if there’s one thing that all Bristolians love, it’s a pint of the wet stuff.
Whether it’s a hearty glass of ale, a trendy bottle of craft beer, a keg of sweet cider or a vat of dry cider, you’ll always have a barrel of laughs touring the pubs in Bristol.
We want to take you on a tour of the best pubs in Bristol, sample the festivals, delve into the local breweries, put its craft beers to the taste test and find out what it’s really like having a cold one on a dedicated booze boat.
Bristol’s Boozy Barges
"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind and the Willows
And messing about in boats with a cider in-hand is a recipe for a truly wonderful night out.
Ahoy! Cider ahead!
You would be forgiven for assuming that most Bristol pubs are located on dry land but as this is a city that likes to push its boundaries, we would like to introduce The Apple: a floating cider bar. Set on a converted old Dutch barge, The Apple has sold more than one million pints of cider and is the perfect place for urban drinkers to unwind in what can only be described as Cider Central.
All aboard this unusual Bristol bar however you like your cider, including:
- Still or sparkling
- Cloudy or clear
- Sweet, medium or dry
- Raspberry, apple, pear or strawberry
- International, national or local
Served in bottles and on tap, as revellers sip their ciders, the surreptitious creaking of the boat adds character to the ambience. With a true pirate-esque feel, you’ll be forgiven for attempting to spot Jack Sparrow’s handsome face in the crowds that mill around on the open deck area, the quayside terrace where the landlubbers drink and down in the hold where the hardcore cider folk can be found.
Bristol cider at its best and after all; where else can you enjoy sampling more than 40 ciders on board a barge?
The Grain Barge
This boat is not a hoptical illusion. The Grain Barge is, indeed, a boat filled with delicious beer. It also serves up tasty lagers, wheat beers, IPAs, craft beers and local ciders making it a great Bristol bar for anyone looking for a rather unique experience down in the harbour area.
The Bristol Beer Factory provides The Grain Barge with three cask beers, while the remaining two casks are filled with ever-changing guest beers. Milk stout is available on keg, along with a host of bottled beers that are perfect to wash down tasty meals made from organic, locally-sourced and fair trade ingredients whenever possible.
We agree with Ratty - there is definitely nothing more fun than messing about in boats.
Cheers to Bristol’s Crafty Side
Craft beer in Bristol and indeed anywhere in the UK can be a controversial subject. In fact, there are even dedicated panels made up of ‘beer experts’ that discuss the matter at length and one can only assume they do this with a cold one in-hand.
With so many beer fans squabbling over what makes a genuine craft beer, we want to see what Bristol has to offer on the craft beer scene.
The Beer Factory
Beer is a personal experience and as it’s so subjective, it can be tricky to define what makes a true craft beer. One thing’s for sure: it’s a subject that many of us love to talk about, including those in the know at The Beer Factory.
It appears the local Bristol-based company surreptitiously weighed in on the craft beer debate on their website, with a sentence that reads:
"Artisan, hand crafted, call it what you like - our passion is great beer with amazing flavours... welcome to our world”.
The Beer Factory’s love of craft – also known as artisan, also known as hand-crafted – beer is all about making sure that everything they produce leaves the factory tasting great. Whatever your stance on the craft beer argument, a great tasting beer will always win – whatever you choose to call it.
Bottles, casks and kegs are all up for grabs at this award-winning brewery, including everything from rich, full-bodied vintage ales to stouts and wheat beers, with strengths ranging from 4% to 10%.
If you’re here for the beer, then ‘hopportunity knocks’ when it comes to craft beer in Bristol and the revolution inside the aptly-named Beer Factory.
The Beer Emporium
If you’re looking for variety, then head to The Beer Emporium. You’ll be greeted by hundreds of tasty craft beers hosted in three vaulted cellars, making it one of the best pubs in Bristol for those who like a choice. Home to more beer than anywhere else in the city, The ‘Emp’ showcases craft beers from local breweries such as Ashley Down and Wiper & True, alongside others from all over the world.
A beer emporium indeed.
This hugely popular bar is often referred to as the home of craft beer in Bristol, largely due to its on-site microbrewery found on the first floor. Zerodegrees was one of the first bars to claim its place among the hierarchy in the craft beer world and its impressive collection of beers ranges from black and wheat lagers to pale ales and pilsners.
Summer Guzzler: If you visit in the summer months, quench your thirst with a Mango Beer, which is as crisp as it is delicious.
Wildly Different Beer
If you are searching for Bristol beers with a real bite, then the wet ‘n wild offerings at the Wild Beer Co. should quell your thirst. Founded in 2012 by Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis, both former employees at the Bristol Beer Factory, the Wild Beer Co. now exports beer to 22 countries and the beer-some twosome had the following to say about their entrepreneurial skills:
“This isn’t just about beer, it’s about challenging perceptions, creating a movement and battling against a tradition that says only pints are beautiful and quantity is more important than quality”.
This forward-thinking company is now the proud owner of two of the best pubs in Bristol, namely:
- Jessop House
- Wapping Wharf
The brewery located in Evercreech successfully combines traditional tastes with modern brewing techniques and their focus is always concentrated on flavour.
And boy, will you appreciate it!
These are not just every day flavours that by themselves can be somewhat predictably tasty. At the Wild Beer Co., individuality is embraced by giving their beers a unique edge through their in-house wild yeast that was born in a nearby cider orchard.
Their beers are certainly wildly different from anything else you will taste in the city. This brewery makes everything from rich stouts and scrumptious bitters, to fruity beers and pale ales.
Whether you want smoky or oaky, spicy or herbal, the Wild Beer Co. runs two of Bristol’s best bars when it comes to beer-fuelled fun, with an edge.
Hail the Ale at Bristol’s Beer Festivals
Taking place in March every year, the Bristol Beer Festival draws in beer-loving crowds from all over the UK for three days of slurpingly good fun. It all began in 1997 and continues to grow in popularity every year. The sheer range of good quality beer on tap is undoubtedly the main attraction.
Local Bristol breweries provide 31 of the beers, while another 70 come from all over the globe, and according to Richard Brooks, chairman for Bristol & District CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), it’s all about the beer:
“We’re celebrating beer and encouraging people to taste lots of different types. Pace yourself, try many and find a new favourite.”
Celebrating beer, you say? We highly recommend a trip to Bristol if only to sample the delights of this festival.
Bristol Craft Beer Festival
In September, craft beer fans can enjoy sampling wares from all over the UK, the US and the rest of Europe. As well as the craft beer itself, the Bristol Craft Beer Festival celebrates the culture behind modern artisanal beer and considers the artistic side of brewing.
More than 25 breweries serve over 200 different craft beers, and tasty snacks from local food producers can be nibbled on as you make your way round the brewing community. Great music can also be enjoyed whilst sipping your way through this wonderful festival.
Only the Good Apples Make it to the Glass
You know what they say - an apple a day keeps the doctor away - so we checked out the best cider festivals in Bristol:
Sausage & Cider Festival
Take some tasty sausages, add a splash of cider, top it off with loads of great music and you have one awesome festival. The annual Sausage and Cider Festival takes place in August and attracts apple-guzzlers from all over the UK to sample what many claim the West Country do best – cider.
It takes place in the Old Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station and as well as more than 100 different ciders to sup, there are plenty of soft drinks for the unfortunate drivers, along with yummy vegetarian options for those who don’t fancy a meaty sausage.
Bristol Winter Cider Festival
Festivals aren’t only fun in the summer sun; they are also a great way to spice up a dull winter’s day – especially when there’s cider involved.
At the Bristol Winter Cider Festival, everything from cheese platters to hog roast rolls can be washed down with over 100 ciders and perries. And as with any good festival, local bands offer the best in entertainment to enjoy while you drink the cider.
The Best of Bristol’s Pubs
Bristol is a mecca for beer and cider lovers and the gateway to the south west takes pride in its love for these consumables that are arguably the city’s Holy Grail.
Let’s take a look at some of the best pubs in Bristol when it comes to serving beer and cider at its traditional best:
Getting it Right at Crofters Rights
Undeniably one of the best pubs in Bristol, local, national and international beer and cider can be enjoyed at The Crofters Rights.
We caught up with General Manager, Will Kidner, to find out more about the pub’s most popular beers:
“Our bestselling beers are almost always from local breweries. Lost & Grounded Keller Pils is a crisp, refreshing unfiltered lager and Moor's Return of the Empire is full-on English hopped IPA - both brewed within walking distance from the pub.”
There is also a large versatile arts space within the venue for the local arts community to fill. With eight keg beers, five cask ales and three ciders on tap, it’s easy to see why The Crofters Rights is such a popular Bristol bar.
Cider on Tap at The Coronation Tap
Focusing more on their apple-based offerings than their barley-made cousin, The Coronation Tap is a ciderhouse at the very top of their game. The venue itself is hundreds of years old, and once inside, you’ll be spoilt for choice with its superb selection of scrumptious ciders.
This cider-mad pub is so popular that it has numerous nicknames including The Cori, The CoriTap and The Tap and it serves its drinks with a healthy side of live music.
Yes, Bristol zoo is a wonderful attraction and the Clifton Suspension Bridge is certainly a sight to behold. But if you want to get deep into the heart of this city, sampling its local cider and craft beers on a barge or in a pub, visiting the festivals and touring the breweries are by far the best ways to experience Bristol at its very tastiest.
CrossCountry can take you to Bristol to sample its beer and cider scene for yourself for less with our Advance tickets. You can buy CrossCountry Advance tickets up to 15 minutes before departure, and they all come with a seat reservation, making it more affordable to get to some of the UK’s most popular destinations.
Written by Abby