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

Bond No 9

Bond No 9 EdinburghBond No 9 in name refers to its location on Leith’s Commercial Street, in a large building once a whisky bond, shared by a Michelin-starred restaurant, offices and a furniture store among the residents. A lot of the original stone has been revealed in the main area with a good sized bright conservatory out to the rear which can be booked out for events. During the summer months it’s also a great place to park up and enjoy the weather in their outside area.

We made our way there for some decent sustenance after a cycle around Edinburgh’s coastal paths and arrived just in time to grab one of the last tables in the conservatory area. Brunch is served every weekend and the offer of their “bigger breakfast” was too good to skip: pork and herb sausages, smoked bacon, and Stornoway black pudding were the main stars of an ample dish backed up with the usual brunch features. Although the cocktail list is ample and well executed it was a strong cuppa and a virgin Bloody Mary with their house blend of spices for us, this time.

Leith is an area which due to a lot of redevelopment in recent years attracts a diverse crowd and Bond No 9 is no exception. Weekdays the main draw is relaxed food and great coffee, weekends a more restaurant feel is there with patrons enjoying top notch grub served by candlelight. Check their social media too as they’ll often have local DJ talent playing later in the evenings at the weekends.

Best Bars tip: The gantry holding all the spirits at Bond is one of the biggest and most diverse in Edinburgh. This means that they can rustle up not just the drinks from the award winning menu but pretty much anything your heart desires – Pisco Sour anyone?

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Bond No 9 Edinburgh brunch

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

Clouds & Soil

Clouds and Soil Edinburgh barClouds & Soil is fortunate to be set in a townhouse which lends itself very nicely to a whole manner of spaces over five floors, the ground floor hosts the main bar area, the basement space is perfect for functions, and the first floor boasts a well-apportioned restaurant with private dining space. The top two floors are occupied by six luxury bedrooms which complete the space.

Having had a great eggs benedict here recently for brunch we went back to sample the seasonal dinner menu, amongst the choices on offer on this occasion was a duck breast served with fondant potato, marinated in vanilla pods and garnished with roasted root veg and a bramble and thyme jus, simply divine! Drinks wise we had a glass of house red with dinner but then skipped dessert in favour of the PBJ Flip – Buffalo Trace Bourbon, raspberry liqueur, peanut butter, cream and eggs, a twisted classic cocktail which really changed the game and if it wasn’t for an early start the next day we’d have had another or two.

With dining the heart of Clouds & Soil’s offer you are hard beat to find somewhere so good in the area. Open from brunch in the bar through to lunch and dinner throughout, there is always a contented buzz around the place. Weekdays are more casual and the weekend offers a more intimate feel.

Best Bars tip: Although Clouds & Soil offers many various dining options if you have a special intimate occasion then go for private dining for up to six in the Hendrick’s Gin room.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Clouds and Soil Edinburgh dining room

The Newsroom

The Newsroom Edinburgh barThe Newsroom can be found on the busy thoroughfare which links the city to Leith. With a range of hotels, shops, offices and much more close by. A bustling hub lit from the front by oversized jam jars filled with filament lamps lead you into a relatively unfussy and clean-feeling area with a large semi-circular bar at its heart. There are a lot of seating options on the ground floor with a separate well apportioned function space downstairs.

The food at The Newsroom is very much designed for great taste without too much fuss, which suits their guests’ demands perfectly. We tried the Great Scot burger, a haggis fritter with whisky mayo all served with salad and fries. Applewood smoke was hanging in the air after we tried the Smoking Ron Burgundy — Ron Zacapa rum with Cherry Marnier and Mozart chocolate liqueur, stirred down and smoked in a bell jar – worth the wait and our favourite Anchorman would be proud.

Very much a pre-club bar at the weekends with a DJ on every Saturday, The Newsroom attracts a young and upbeat crowd. Food is of course a major feature as is coffee and the vibe really does change throughout the day. If you’re looking for a warm up to your weekend then every Thursday there is Dr. Paul’s quiz, packed full of irrelevant facts and a lot of fun.

Best Bars tip: The beauty of The Newsroom’s downstairs private room is that is comes complete with its own bar and DJ booth, great news when you’re looking to have a party and want to impress your guests.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

The Newsroom Edinburgh