OK, before I start this, I’ll explain very clearly that I’m doing this to primarily remind myself of the best pubs that I visited in 2020, I don’t expect the Guardian to publish a story on it. It feels a bit self-aggrandising if I don’t mention that straight away.
Although having noted the entire irrelevance of this post before I’ve started, the wonderful Tony from the Hop and Vine did do this board last year. That encouraged me following my 2019 Pub of the Year post 🙂 And, I’ve revisited this marvellous pub in Hull this year and it’s just as good. But, my friend Nathan told me that the Hop and Vine couldn’t win my award every year and I suppose that he has a point. So, they were excluded in 2020, but anyone going to Hull must go there. And I’ll be back in 2021.
I’ve also had far fewer pub visits than expected this year due to the health situation that has engulfed the world, which has also made it more difficult for staff to engage and welcome customers in the same way. Although in some ways this has improved matters in terms of a staff member usually being there to welcome customers at the entrance to a pub.
What I am ideally looking for is a welcoming environment, an excellent beer selection and a desire to recommend the pub to others. The guiding principle is that if I was someone who had just moved into the local area and went to the pub, would I be really pleased with what I found?
On that basis,
So, after apologising to the Hop and Vine, my favourite pub (well, more a bar, but it doesn’t matter) is……
WINNER : GOOSE ISLAND
I’ve visited this bar four times this year, and for a pub in a busy area near to London Liverpool Street, it absolutely shines. It’s on-trend, it has intriguing beer options and everything feels professional. The staffing is also way above average, not only engaging and conversational in style, but they’re fiercely knowledgeable about beer. But, never to a point where they’ve made it exclusive or sneery, this bar welcomes people.
Above are the links to my four visits, with nothing negative to report on any of them. The staff’s enthusiasm for beer, the cleanliness of the location and the sheer beauty of some of the beers that they sell is rather a joy to behold. And, if someone goes in alone, they’re treated with just as much of a welcome as groups. This place understands customers in a way that such a busy venue shouldn’t perhaps find so easy. And, when I return to their home of Chicago, I look forwards to going to their brewery there.
And certainly for anyone nearby to London Liverpool Street, this is an essential place for anyone who likes beer to visit. So very lovely.
RUNNER-UPS (1 in Romania, 3 in Poland, 3 in the UK)
La 100 de Beri, Bucharest – this bar is located in Bucharest and my quick visit turned into two hours. The member of bar staff was clearly slightly sceptical about British drinking habits and perhaps with good cause from when I’ve seen British stag groups abroad. Once his initial scepticism cleared, he was engaging, conversational and very proud to show the sorts of beer that he had available. This was not a busy bar, so I was on my own with the staff member for much of the visit, but the environment was welcoming, quirky and without any intention to do so it was magically on-trend.
Hoppiness, Warsaw – this is the bar I’ve visited most in Warsaw, something of a cafe bar style with no shortage of excellent craft beers. The burgers are delicious, and the spicy option was certainly that to say the least. The welcome is polite, but I’ve just got a level of excitement when visiting here and their Facebook posts are a constant inspiration for me to return to Poland.
Hercules, Lambeth – this is a Fuller’s pub and it changed my mind about that brewery, which I thought had some rather generic pubs. The staff here were hugely proud of their beer options without my even initially asking, something I was very pleased to experience. Although I was the only customer in the pub during my lunch-time visit, there was still a comfortable atmosphere and the engagement from the staff lifted my spirits as they say…. And the beer selection was excellent, well above what I expected. I have no idea how this place isn’t in the Good Beer Guide.
Same Krafty Multitap, Warsaw – I’ve moderately reassessed this place on reflection to like it even more. In Warsaw’s Old Town and with a potential to be too touristy, the prices are a little higher, but the pizza was marvellous and the beer selection suitably intriguing. And the staff were engaging, with the pub having a bit of a community feel to it.
George and Dragon, Acton – this was one of the first pubs that I visited this year, with a rather quirky atmosphere, but still welcoming. There were certainly a range of styles in terms of the interior design, and this was at a time when I could explore the building as there was no virus and also no other customers. Staffing was friendly, the only slight issue was that I thought the beer was served just a little too cold and that impacted just slightly negatively on the flavour. But, nonetheless, I liked this pub a lot.
Pułapka, Gdansk – meaning ‘trap’ in Polish, I could think of far worse places to have to stay for a long time. A blackboard full of craft beer delights, an engaging service and a bar that I intend to return to when next in Gdansk.
Swiss Tap, Castleton – this pub had a community feel running through it and it was an interesting concept from the B&B to try something a little new. The service here was warm, welcoming and authentic, and as a bonus there were some marvellous food and drink products with Richard being very taken with the Snyder’s Pretzel Pieces.