The Junction

The Junction Birmingham foodSet in a commanding Victorian building at the top of Harborne High Street, open fireplaces, chequerboard tiles and sink-in-to-me-and-never-leave booth seating places The Junction squarely into must-have weekend territory.

With six regularly changing real ales and a stellar reputation for world beers – and that’s before world beers were a thing – The Junction just gets us. And if the bubbly brown stuff isn’t your thing, the rich yet revitalising Bloody Mary alongside Saturday brunch or The Junction’s epic Sunday lunch is our drink of choice.

Get your hands on a paper, some pals and settle in for the long haul – The Junction has everything you could possibly need. It even does boardgames.

Best Bars tip: Sunny day? The secluded beer garden, which isn’t visible from the front of the pub, is sometimes overlooked.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

The Junction Birmingham interior

London Beer Week 2015 Guide

London beer week high resIt has begun: London Beer Week is officially on so you better HOP into the festivities (sorry, we couldn’t resist). To make things easier, we’ve rounded up the BEST activities and bars so you don’t miss one frothy bit. From 16-22 February, you will have a huge array of tastings, tours and tipples around Londontown to keep you busy (and all you need to do is get a £10 wristband).

MONDAY

London beer week barrel aged ihlBarrel Aged IHL Launch Party

For one night only, you’ll discover a brand new beer that’s be aged for six months in one tequila and six bourbon barrels. Plus you’ll get to check out the all-too-lovely The Kings Arms in Bethnal Green.
Free, 6pm, The Kings Arms Pub, 11A Buckfast Street, Bethnal Green, E2 6EY.

TUESDAY

London beer week brewhouse islington

The Big Flavour Beer Dinner

Enjoy a tasting with head brewer Pete Hughes of original house-brewed Brewhouse & Kitchen beers plus adventurous international guest beers from the experts at Boutique Bar Brands. They will be matched with chef’s seven-course taster dinner.
£25, 7.30pm, Brewhouse and Kitchen Islington, Torrens Street, EC1V 1NQ.

WEDNESDAY

London beer week crate brewery

Meet The Brewer with CRATE Brewery

Whether you’re an experienced home brewer or simply an enthusiastic craft beer drinker you’ll love the in-depth knowledge and comedy stylings of CRATE brewers Calum Bennet and Mark Peather at this special event. CRATE will also be taking over the taps at the Windsor Castle with their wide range of cask and kegged beers for your pleasure. And if you’ve never been to CRATE, you better believe you’ll want to go now.
Free, 7pm, The Windsor Castle, 135 Lower Clapton Road, E5 8EQ.

THURSDAY

london beer week the hops and glory

Brewery Launch at The Hops & Glory

One of the best pubs London has to offer has decided to launch its very own ON-SITE brewery. You’ll get to taste the beginning of their upcoming range of beers ranging from crisp, clean Pale Ales to Belgian Tripels.
Free, 8pm, The Hops & Glory, 382 Essex Road, Islington.

FRIDAY

London beer week beekeeper#BeeFactFriday Meet The Beekeeper and Hiver Tasting

Beers + bees = one hell of a buzz. Hiver Beers Founder, Hannah Rhodes, will be introducing Barnaby Shaw of Bee Urban London, who will offer an insight into the life of urban beekeeping and answering any questions you might have. There’ll be bee suits to try on, honeys to sample, a beehive to peer into and of course samples of award-winning Hiver for LBW wristband holders to enjoy.
Free, 7.30pm, Translate, 12-14 Kingsland Road, E2 8DA.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY

london beer week craft beer rising

Craft Beer Rising

Now this list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include Craft Beer Rising. 70 breweries, 450 different beers, and an onslaught of adventurous innovations and bold new flavours. Expect more craft beer than you could ever imagine (duh), lots of smoky street food, and a party pumping with DJs spinning tunes all weekend long.
Tickets £18.70-£22. Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL.

BEST BEER WEEK BARS

The Sun Tavern London Beer Week

The Sun Tavern

go and check out one of our favourite east London haunts and sip down on Camden Town Brewery’s Pale Ale for £3 … until its gone. Or have a boilermaker and try poitin (it’s like Irish moonshine) with half a beer for just a fiver.

big easy covent gardenBig Easy Covent Garden

Big, bold and beautiful — this Americana-styled hot spot has won the hearts of Covent Garden dwellers with its saucy ribs and frosty beers. Come by for £3 Meantime Brewery Fresh London Lager.

The Blues Kitchen ShoreditchThe Blues Kitchen — Shoreditch

A temple to the coolest B’s in the book: blues, BBQ and booze. Drop in for a taste of Innis and Gunn Original. And if we were you, we’d DEFINITELY upgrade to the £5 Woodford Reserve boilermaker.

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar Hawksmoor Spitalfields

An underground haven for all things meat and booze. This is a sophisticated Spitalfields spot that’s just the right amount of trendy — with bang on burgers and BBQ too. Order yourself a bottle of Hibernation White IPA to go with those meaty eats.

Oskar's Bar in Dabbous interiorOskar’s Bar in Dabbous

A cocktail master, Oskar knows how to churn out some of the tastiest hoptails in town. Keep it simple and order the Pale Ale OR upgrade to The Drink With No Name, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, greengage, ginger ale, lemon and Einstök pale ale.

The Cocktail Trading Company interior

 

The Cocktail Trading Company

Cosy pub vibes, party drinks and an intimate atmosphere tucked underneath Central & Co. This tiny basement bar is an incredible addition to the Soho drinking scene, and you need to swing by for their hoptail Boiler Baker (only a bang for your buck fiver!).

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Belgrave Music Hall

Belgrave Music hall LeedsLeeds’ north quarter channels east London vibes with this trendy, bustling venue. Across Belgrave Music Hall’s three floors you’ll find food, live music, an art market, film screenings, a token french bulldog or two (of course) and the city’s most impressive roof terrace.

Serving a wide selection of cask ales, premium lagers and craft brews (including the venue’s own craft beer made with Northern Monk Brew Company), this is the ideal drinking spot for beer lovers. If you’re not into hops you can choose from straight up mixers, no-fuss slushy cocktails, a short wine list or get a caffeine fix with fresh coffee courtesy of Laynes Espresso. Canteen-style street food is served up by Dough Boys, the in-house “pizza pilgrims” who deliver a constantly changing menu of locally sourced products and vegan and gluten-free options. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love Belgrave Feast which takes over the venue every second Saturday of the month to showcase independent food vendors from all around the country.

It’s easy to see Belgrave Music Hall as one of the most exciting spaces on the Leeds scene. Its east London-inspired décor with industrial touches and minimalist bold designs make the perfect backdrop for the eclectic roster of music, arts and film performances. The large roof terrace itself is enough to draw a crowd, decked out with fake grass, quirky heated huts, deck chairs and its own mini bar. Whether you’re up for food, booze or art, this is the ultimate year-round hangout for any culture vultures, foodies and beer enthusiasts.

Best Bars tip: Love dough? Pizza slices are half price until 7pm, Sunday – Thursday and 5pm Friday and Saturday.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

Belgrave Music Hall Leeds beer garden

Hare & Hounds

Hare and Hounds Birmingham diningThe Hare & Hounds is a neighbourhood boozer with international musical reach and some of the most forward-thinking club nights in the region. Two upstairs venues cover off everything from jazz to to comedy to D’n’B, while pub quizzes, home-cooked grub and weekend DJs keep both the old and new sides of the bar downstairs busy every night of the week.

We like the regularly changing guest ales and reassuringly sizeable selection of ciders for sunny afternoons which turn in to all-nighters. For a more conversational start to your visit, try the newly-renovated side of the bar where classic cocktails are now being dispensed.

Not a venue where punters generally stop in for just one — we’ve lost whole weekends to this Birmingham giant.

Best Bars tip: Sign up to the e-newsletter to avoid missing out on the next big musical thing. UB40 started here.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

Hare and Hounds Birmingham

Black Swan

Black Swan Leeds interiorThe masterminds behind Sandinista and Smokestack take on Call Lane with the elegant new opening, Black Swan. Moving away from the themed stylings of its infamous Latino and Prohibition-inspired sister bars, Black Swan is Yorkshire-bred through and through. It’s the perfect spot for laid-back drinking and despite being a 450-capacity, spacious two-floor venue — the bar maintains the intimate feel of a local pub with excellent service and incredible attention to detail.

The drinks menu not only boasts over 52 craft beers, six rotating draught ales, an on-site microbrewery and accessible two-page wine list, its cocktails also showcase the unquestionable talents of owner Si Ord’s bar team. Based on twists of classic serves, each cocktail recipe is credited to individual bartenders working for the group — from the sweet and moreish Mai Tai by Loren Holmes (Sandinista) to Niall McGloin’s (Smokestack) bitter kick Amaretto Sour. You’ll even find Mr Ord putting his own specs forward for an Espresso Martini pick-me-up. Catering for afternoon to late night boozing, you’ll find an upstairs restaurant serving up delicious, best of British cuisine — including kids menus and sharing platters — while the downstairs pizza kitchen cooks up light bites.

The bar’s exposed brick walls are decorated with varying designs — from Si’s antique suitcases and metal liquor ad signs to intricate hand-painted artwork by local artists. There are unique features wherever you look — such as the upstairs restored wood bar, array of vintage-style tables and chairs, projector beaming out old classic films and a roaring fireplace found in the Black Swan’s intimate side room. True to the venue’s heart, chilled out indie tunes play out in the day and turn into pumped up indie anthems, both old and new, as the night goes on.

Best Bars Tip: As tempting as it is to stay at the bar working your way through the drinks menu, the Pizza Kitchen cannot be missed. Its copper furnace serves up sourdough deliciousness until 10pm every night and the Yorkshire chorizo is one of our favourite Leeds’ bar bites to date.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

Black Swan Leeds fireplace

The Prince George

The Prince George Brighton barPopular with the post-work crowd, neighbourhood boozer The Prince George — located on bustling Trafalgar Street — is a mix of both traditional pub and boutique bar. Case in point: there are lots of cosy nooks and crannies (surrounded by the type of framed posters and paintings you’d expect to find in an old timer) merged with pendant lamps and exposed brick walls alongside fancy wallpaper. It’s this, plus the lovely little garden – replete with plenty of plants, plus heaters and big brollies in the evenings – which brings the crowds.

Its main draw, however, is its restaurant Veggie-Veggie. As its name suggests, the entire menu is dedicated to herbivores, and it’s been voted as one of PETA’s top 10 veggie restaurants in the UK. With the likes of ginger beer-battered halloumi with chips and mushy peas as well as chestnut mushroom ravioli with blue cheese sauce on head chef Malcolm Ingram’s menu, we’re not surprised.

If you’re just after a bevvie, then the selection of local ales here is almost second-to-none. There’s a range on offer from the 1648 Brewing Co, Dark Star, Langham, Kissingate and Hepworth & Co. We make ours a pint of Dark Star IPA every time.

Best Bars tip: For the serious vegetarians, there’s a meat-free wine and beer list. Very virtuous.

— Heather Steele, @steeleheather

The Prince George Brighton fireplace

The Engineer

The Engineer Primrose Hill exteriorThe Engineer is arguably one of London’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away in a secluded Primrose Hill spot, this laid-back pub offers up an extensive beer, cider and drinks menu, gastro grub, canal views and an incredible outdoor space that’s designed for all-year alfresco drinking.

If you’re not too busy celeb spotting (yes, this a prime hub for those Primrose Hill darlings), the drinks menu should grab your attention.  Whether on draught or bottled up, The Engineer specialises in “The Best of British” beer and cider, hosting local brews such as Camden Hells, Meantime’s London Stout and Sharps’ Orchard. The pub also prides itself on a rotating selection of real ales, a global range of craft beers, old and new world wines, plus a decent list of classic cocktails.

It’s not just about relaxed drinking here but informal, chilled-out dining, with fresh seasonal dishes and notoriously delectable bar bites – we challenge you to find anywhere that serves a better homemade Scotch egg. Décor is traditional with a modern twist and the upstairs not only looks out over the Regent’s Canal but also switches from a restaurant by day to a party area or private hire space by night.

Best Bars tip: It’s a little known fact that The Engineer is home to one of the City’s best pub gardens. The spacious outdoors area is made for both summer and winter drinking. When the sun’s away heated undercover seating keeping you toasty even on the chilliest evenings.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

The Engineer Primrose Hill interior