The Real Ale Revolution: A Guide to the Best Beers in Nottingham

Steering you clear of the students in fancy dress necking WKD, here are the best pubs in Nottingham for a pint of real beer.
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Steering you clear of the students in fancy dress necking WKD, here are the best pubs in Nottingham for a pint of real beer.

The great British Public House, or pub as it’s more commonly known is one of the great institutions of Britain that is still standing. Albeit more and more are going bust every year – results from the latest survey by The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) show an estimated 39 closures a week up and down the country. Tragic as that is, there are still some mighty fine establishments that are worth your time.

Here in Nottingham we are blessed with a varied selection of pubs, and I’m not talking your carbon copy bar chains and gastro pubs stocking overpriced lager and mediocre food. Although we do have plenty of these - I feel that they tend to be full of students dressed up in all sorts of stupid costumes whilst consuming adverse amounts of Sambuca or WKD for a laugh. And to be honest, I can’t think if a worse way to spend my night. I’m taking about authentic and traditional pubs that belong to breweries and serve real beer. And by real beer I mean, naturally brewed beers using traditional ingredients that are left to mature in casks.  Are you sick of rampaging students and so called lager louts spoiling a quiet pint in town? Are you sick of paying over the odds, for a beer distinctly lacking in taste? If you want good honest food, not a micro waved burger, to accompany your beverage of choice then this list is for you.

The Newshouse

Just a stones throw from the train station is The Newshouse. A real traditional boozer – filled wall to wall with wood panelling and brewery memorabilia. Ahh you can just smell the stale scent of alcohol from here. In all seriousness though, this is a great pub. On entrance you can go left or right. Go left and you enter the lounge area accompanied by a traditional bar, purely for, well… drinking and all that usual pub banter. Go right and you find much less room to sit, but you will find a billiards table (that I’ve never seen in use) and occasionally the odd televised football match. Serving 2 to 3 Castle Rock ales and numerous other guest ales, alongside all the other usual suspects, The Newshouse is a hidden gem that sits just on the outskirts of the city, meaning it is usually the perfect place for a nice quiet pint.

The Dragon

Stepping up a level in décor, atmosphere and clientele, we have the Dragon – located on Angel Row just off the market square. This pub blends into its reasonably dull surroundings so you might not see it at a glance, but look again and sure enough there it is. This is your perfect Friday/Saturday night boozer. A resident DJ plays an eclectic mix of tunes on a Friday, which at times can be too loud if I’m being honest. Slightly less beers on offer here, although there is a fridge stocked with plenty of lager if that’s your thing. Ales on offer are Adnams Broadside and Bitter alongside local favourite ‘Supreme Champion Beer of Britain’ Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale. These 3 are a permanent fixture and I believe this is to be the only pub in Nottingham to stock Suffolk’s own Adnam’s on a continual basis.

No fancy décor here, just plenty of classic memorabilia from Raleigh bikes to Players Tobacco.

The Kean’s Head

In the heart of the historic Lace Market district sits The Kean’s Head. The name is a nod to Edmund Kean, the famous 19th century actor. Not heard of him? Neither have I but don’t let that put you off. More noted for its food than beers, the Kean’s serves some of the best pub food in Nottingham. The use of locally sourced produce is utilised perfectly to create a fantastic traditional English menu. I will personally vouch for the quality of the food here, most notably the pies but if you fancy a lighter bite the sandwiches are top notch as well. Top it all off with a drink of your choice.  There are up to six cask beers for your perusal among the other usual continental lagers and a few select ciders.

Stratford Haven

Located just outside of the city, in the small town of West Bridgford, the Stratford Haven sits proudly as the best drinking establishment in an area that is overcrowded with bars and restaurants. Originally operating as a pet shop until it’s closure. It was then transformed into a traditional pub.  The great atmosphere is created by the fact that it’s always full of punters, day or night – and it’s close proximity to both The City Ground and Trent Bridge cricket ground ensures it’s status as a hotspot on match days. The lengthy bar means you never have to wait long to be served and with up to 14 cask ales on at any time, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

The Lincolnshire Poacher

Located on Mansfield Road on the way out of the city is the CAMRA Pub of The Year 2007, 08 and arguably the best pub in Nottingham.  Opening in the late 1980’s, it has been a hub for real ale drinkers ever since. No fancy décor here, just plenty of classic memorabilia from Raleigh bikes to Players Tobacco. The bar is of reasonable length and holds up to a dozen cask ales at any time, with choices ranging from Castle Rock and Batemans to several other guest ales. There are 3 widely populated seating areas, as well as a smoking area at the back with seating for the warmer months.  What more could you want from a drinking establishment?

It’s no coincidence that 4 out of the 5 of these pubs are owned by Nottingham brewers: Castle Rock. With an impressive 20 pubs under their control throughout the East Midlands, Castle Rock have managed to build their brewery up through their own pubs and have just successfully increased the size of their brewing site to cater for the ever increasing demand for their beers.

So if you like your beer brewed naturally in a cask, and your pubs with more hand pumps than you can shake a stick at – visit any of these pubs and you are sure feel right at home.

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