By seasoned beer drinker, Tom Flint
I could be exposing a lack of class in saying that I really like a good pub crawl, but I am not ashamed in admitting it. I’m not talking about a pointless trawl through a series of characterless pubs that have little appeal apart from geographical proximity; that would be rubbish. My idea of a pub crawl is a well-considered and planned trip through some of your favourite pubs, or perhaps those that hold some sort of personal significance. A pub crawl is not just an excuse for outrageous alcohol consumption (please drink responsibly people) it should have a reason or a purpose.
I’ve planned and partaken in numerous pub crawls over the years. For my 18th Birthday we completed one from my parent’s house into central Bristol with the goal of visiting all the rough south Bristol pubs we had deliberately avoided until then. I also head out every Christmas eve with the aim of enjoying a Christmas Eve pub crawl. A pub crawl can be a wonderful thing, a journey down memory lane or a homage to your favourite watering holes in a given city.
Brighton appreciates a decent boozer
Brighton is a city that was created with pub crawls in mind. With a higher density of public houses than anywhere else in the UK, all of which are easily walkable and of a high standard, it is a city that appreciates a decent boozer. Pubs have been through the wringer in recent years and many have sadly closed, but things appear to be on the up thanks to increased interest in craft beers and real ale. Brewers and enthusiasts are doing what they can to keep their local pub alive and that can only be a good thing.
This got me thinking about a Brighton craft beer pub tour (crawl) that not only takes in some of Brighton’s best craft beer pubs but also those that have played an important brewing role in the city. My tour/crawl will start at Brighton station and make its way around some of the best pubs that our fair city has to offer. This is not a short tour and a fair bit of walking is involved, but I’ve kept it as central as possible and you can, of course skip some along the way if you wish.
Pub 1: The Evening Star, Surrey Street
Stop number one is not far from the station, thankfully, but it is not included just for this reason. The Evening Star is a pub with some serious credentials and history. It is a well-known fact that the Dark Star Brew Co was born in the basement of this pub and remains a homage to their beers. With a great selection of Dark Star and a strong supporting cast of craft brewers you would be forgiven for not wanting to leave, but this is a test to how committed you are to the tour. With some seriously powerful beers on offer you must be careful, choose wisely if you want to make it round, and I would suggest going for a pint of Hophead or similar to get things off to a gentle start. You can always come back another time to give that Imperial Stout a try – and you should because it is phenomenal.
Pub 2: The Craft Beer Co, Upper North St (0.4 miles, 8 mins)
A short walk away you will come across our next stop, The Craft Beer Co on Upper North Street. Now I know what you are thinking, what has this pub got to do with Brighton’s brewing past? And fair enough you would be right in asking this given it is part of a chain. However, what this pub might lack in history it makes up for in choice and variety. The second of the Craft Beer Co. pubs, here you will find 18 keg lines, 9 Cask Pumps and over 200 cans and bottles to choose from. With so much choice you are going to have to be decisive in choosing your drink, but don’t worry there is plenty still to come.
Pub 3: The Brighton Beer Dispensary, Dean St (0.2 miles, 2 minutes)
Another short walk away, we want to get things off to a good start, and you will find the excellent Brighton Beer Dispensary. This award-winning pub has everything you would ever want from a local boozer. With a fantastic range of local and international craft beers and ales, not to mention an excellent food offering, The Brighton Beer Dispensary had to be on this list. Apparently there has been a pub on this site since 1866, and its current incarnation is certainly a favourite of the city. Grab a pub snack from the Dizzy Gull menu and a drink of your choice before heading off to the next stop.
Pub 4: The Seven Stars, Ship St (0.4 miles, 8 mins)
A few beers in and I expect you will be in good spirits at this point. The next pub sees us head in the historic lanes of Brighton and is another quality craft beer establishment. The Seven Stars is a craft beer and gin house that has become very popular in the city. One other reason for their popularity is the excellent food courtesy of The Little Blue Smokehouse, so grab some food if you need to. The pub might not have much history but the impressive late Victorian building that houses it does. Back in 1901 it was the venue for the meeting that led to the creation of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. Right then, time to move on.
Pub 5: Bison Beer Crafthouse, East St (0.2 miles, 4 minutes)
Okay so I know this is not a pub but the Bison Beer shop is well worth a visit; especially if it is a nice day and you want to pop down to the beach for a bit with a beer. Bison have been at the forefront of the craft beer movement in Brighton and have helped to educate the masses in the city. With the imminent opening of the Bison Arms pub just down the road, they will certainly warrant a mention on this list. Until then head in and chat to the knowledgeable staff before purchasing something interesting for later and heading on to the next venue.
Kemptown Loop – The Hand in Hand, Upper Saint James St (1 mile, 25 minutes)
If you are taking this seriously, and why shouldn’t you be, then the optional Kemptown loop will be for you. It adds an extra mile onto the journey but you will not regret it as it takes in a significant pub in local brewing history. The Hand in Hand is a tiny little pub that is packed with character. It feels like you are drinking in someone’s living room and apparently at one stage used to be three different pubs; although I am not sure how. Back in 1989 a brewery was added and this is one of the reasons it is significant. The Hand in Hand was once home to Brighton Bier. Brighton’s best loved brewers started here on their path to craft beer domination before moving up the road to a larger site in Whitehawk. The pub now brews its own beer under the name of Hand Brew Co. and from what I have sampled these beers are every bit as good, and honestly priced to boot. Get up there and give them a try, you could probably do with the walk at this point anyway.
Pub 6: The Brighton Bierhaus, Edward St (0.4 miles, 8 mins)
At the time of writing this is not actually open yet, but it will be soon. This will be the new home and taproom for Brighton Bier, the city’s award winning craft brewery. The brewery has stepped in to save the site, that has housed a pub since 1830, and a slice of Brighton history to boot. The listed building will be transformed into a new community hub serving an extensive range of beers, showcasing the award winning Brighton Bier range alongside guest beers from UK, European and American Breweries. Opening in 2017 this is going to become one of the best beer venues in the city and one not to be missed.
Pub 7: Brewdog, Grand Parade (0.3 miles, 6 mins)
Let’s be honest, if you have managed to get to this point you are doing very well and deserve a bit of a rest. Lucky for you the next pub is just a short walk away and you will be rightly rewarded for your efforts. I don’t think I need to stress the significance of Brewdog in the UK craft beer landscape, and so no craft beer tour would be complete without a visit. Here you will find an awesome range of brewery fresh beers to enjoy and with 30 taps to choose from you are spoilt for choice. In my opinion you cannot go far wrong with a pint of the classic Punk IPA which will taste better here than anywhere else you’ve tried it.
Pub 8: The North Laine Brewhouse, Gloucester Place (0.2 miles, 3 mins)
This is our last stop, you may be pleased to hear, and a good place to finish. The North Laine Brewhouse is the Brighton home of the Laine Brew Co. who have recently built a new brewery just outside of the city. This large microbrewery and pub has an excellent range of beers to sample and with DJ’s on Friday and Saturday nights is a top choice to end your journey. The pub is also the HQ for the annual Tap Takeover festival that transforms local Brighton pubs into temporary taprooms for some of the biggest brewers in the country – not to mention creating a whole new pub crawl of its own.
Here we end our tour which I feel has taken in some of the top craft beer pubs in the city. With at least 8 pubs visited and nearly 3 miles of walking, if you did the loop, it makes for a decent day out. With so many pubs to choose from you can easily add more or take others out and explore other areas of the city. If you are a day tripper and must head home, then I leave you within touching distance of the station. You can have a well-deserved sleep on the train home dreaming of your next trip to Brighton and the pubs you will visit.