While Good Beer Week was happening in Melbourne, Chas and the Beer Muse travelled to England for a holiday. Admittedly, we didn’t double check dates so it was with a bit of sadness that we missed Good Beer Week, but on a plus side, there was a lot of great beer to try around England! England is the home to a lot of beautiful beer styles including the bitter and extra special bitter, the IPA, and porters, just to name a few…

It was a long journey from Melbourne to England; fourteen hours to Dubai, a two hour wait, then another seven and a half hours to Newcastle. So all together, it was nearly a whole day of travel. It was well worth it!

Newcastle and a Couple of Pubs

Straight off the plane and to the pub, as was the style with our last beer adventure to Portland, but first we had to check into the legendary (and highly exclusive) Hotel Roberto. Rob kindly escorted us to the local Brewdog Pub (there’s tons of them) as it was easy and he knew we’d know the beer.

As mentioned, there are plenty of Brewdog pubs across England, so they’re not terribly special. However, Brewdog makes an all right beer and, since it’s a bit of a chain, punters know there will be some consistency there. Really, it’s nice to get off a plane and go somewhere reliable. Love or hate Brewdog and the commercialisation of craft beer, at least you know what you’re getting.

Following Brewdog, we managed to stumble into the Head of Steam. This, we didn’t realise until Googling it, is also a chain! Not bad though considering the extensive range of beers they had on both CO2 and hand pumped taps. Not to mention the good selection of bottles…

The selection of English beers were great (try the Black Jesus by Great Heck Brewing Company), but we also saw the start of a trend we would see across the country: lots and lots of American beers as well.  Stuff we had heard of in Australia and very often managed to try, but stuff that is very hard to find back home. This started an ongoing dilemma throughout England… try all the local brews, or finally try beers we had heard about and had been dying to try.

The Head of Steam was the start of another trend: Chas meeting people he couldn’t understand. Thankfully, the Beer Muse is English and offered a great translation service.

Getting Stuck in a Pub at York

After a fun night in Newcastle (we’ll be back on our way out), we hopped a train to York, which took about an hour from Newcastle. British trains are tons of fun and, if you’re so inclined, you’re welcome to have a beer if there’s a food car on board too.

York was one of our favourite places, not only because of the great old architecture and the old wall, but also because of what was obviously a really cool bar scene around the city. Unfortunately, we found a great pub early in the night, made some friends way too quickly, and stayed until closing! We only stayed one night in York, so there wasn’t much of an explore.

Before that, however, we managed to find a bar, the York Tap, right at the train station. This proved very handy as we were going to be travelling back through York later in our trip and would need a place to wait for a couple hours. They had a about seven or eight hand pumps and just as many on CO2, so there was plenty to choose from for those thirsty after a long train journey or anyone who just needed to kill some time while waiting for a train. They didn’t serve food (beyond bar snacks) though, which was a bit disappointing, being at the train station really made it feel like it needed food.

Regrettably, we breezed past The Maltings with a promise to return there later in the evening (we didn’t – see above). This pub has a good reputation and was highly recommended to us. We’ll just have to return one day.

Instead, we wanted to have a beer by the wonderful River Ouse while it was still light out, and wondered down to the Star Inn the City to relax for a little bit. This was an enjoyable restaurant/bar, that should please all tastes: from beer snobs, to wine drinkers, to those with a simpler palate. We didn’t try the food, but the restaurant area was crowded and seemed popular. Another reason to return to York one day!

From there we wondered around and found what we were looking for: Pivni. Ironically, we’d find out later, the people who own Pivni also own the York Tap at the train station! Housed in a beautiful old Tudor style building, this place has lots of character and even more beer to select.

We started the night at Pivni hiding away in the corner of the second floor (watch your head on the steps, it’s an old building), but got talking with a couple York locals by beer number three. And this is why we never got around to seeing any other pubs in York. Not only was the bartender at Pivni more than helpful showing us some great local brews, but the punters at the pub were fantastic and kept us there way too long.

So we’ve pretty much decided to return to York. The big question, however, is whether to just go straight back to Pivni and not see York again, or check out other things. And yes, before anyone asks, we also managed to check out the York Minster, the National Railway Museum, and much more. However, please note, these places did not serve beer, so visit them at your own risk.

Beer Highlights and Where to Next

Next up we’re travelling to the small village of Great Ayton, not terribly well known for its beer scene, but we have family to visit. This is England though, so they will most definitely have a pub or two! We’ll also be travelling to Manchester, Scotland, and back to Newcastle. So stay tuned!

So far, there have been a number of beer highlights in England, so if you’re looking for something to try, check out the following (we’ll be doing a more thorough summary later):