Guide to the perfect pint: 14 of York’s best cask ale pubs

A great place to relax

As the best of Britain’s beer is celebrated, York CAMRA’s Nick Love picks out the pubs that pour a perfect pint

beer-pintIt’s national Cask Ale Week (September 25 to October 5) and York drinkers will need no encouragement to celebrate this event.

After all, we are living in one of the best cask ale cities in the whole of the UK with a stunning selection of 281 different real ales being available on any day of the week.

This is hardly surprising given that in the last five years alone there have been 25 new breweries opening within a 25 mile radius of York.

Little wonder that BBC1 have been making a programme on York’s real ale credentials that will be shown as part of the Inside Out series in October.

It is therefore a really invidious task to have to pick just 14 pubs to recommend to you in which to try some of the best kept cask ales in York.

This list is by no means exhaustive but rather a starting point as you will no doubt have your own favourites as well.

Blue Bell

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Photograph: Gareth Buddo / visityork.org

  The Blue Bell
  53 Fossgate, York, YO1 9TF
  01904 654904

A wonderful diminutive city-centre pub, situated within the eating and drinking hotspot of Fossgate.

Despite its size, it still manages to pack seven handpumps onto the bar, interleaving Yorkshire breweries with guests from further afield.

The original Edwardian interior is unchanged since 1903 and is listed in CAMRA’s national inventory. It’s wood-panelled throughout, with two small rooms and a corridor with a serving hatch.

Previously owned by one of the first directors of York City FC it held meetings that led to the formation of the club in 1922.

It is the only current CAMRA Good Beer Guide pub that appeared in the first ever Good Beer Guide in 1974!

Brigantes

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  Brigantes
  114 Micklegate, York, YO1 6JX
  01904 675355

This real ale haven on Micklegate has ten handpumps featuring Yorkshire beers, and regular guest ales from all over the UK including permanent Okells ale from the Isle of Man.

Situated just inside the city walls it is part of the Market Town Taverns chain and also stocks a selection of continental beers and a draught cider.

The ground floor bar area leads to a lounge area, while upstairs is a period Georgian function/ dining room.

Recently extended, the new area caters during the day for diners and the menu features daily specials and a pie of the day.

The Duke Of York

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  Duke Of York
  King’s Square, York YO1 8BH
  01904 676065

A recent newcomer to Kings Square, this Leeds Brewery has hit the ground running and become a part of the notional real ale pub crawl that starts in Patrick Pool and heads down Colliergate into Fossgate.

As well as the full range of Leeds cask beers it has a firmly established policy of stocking four guest beers from mainly local microbreweries. There is also a good selection of craft keg beers and lagers.

The wonderfully atmospheric long lounge allows you to relax whilst you eat from the well-priced menu, drink locally brewed real ale and watch the antics of street performers outside.

Golden Ball

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  The Golden Ball
  Cromwell Road, Bishophill, York, YO1 6DU
  01904 652211

This is a true community pub that has just won the Yorkshire Pub Of The Year award from Yorkshire Life magazine.

It is owned by a community cooperative, situated in Bishophill and is a fine, welcoming Victorian street-corner local.

A worthy inclusion in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors it has what it thought to be the most complete surviving example of an inter-war renovation – by John Smith’s in 1929.

It has four very different rooms – a main bar with a rare tiled counter front, comfortable lounge, front room with bar billiards and a snug. It also has a large south-facing beer garden.

There are seven handpulls serving permanent beers from Timothy Taylor, Everards and Treboom as well as four varied rotating ales.

House of Trembling Madness

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  House Of Trembling Madness
  48 Stonegate, York, YO1 8AS
  01904 640009

The whole of this near thousand year old building is a shrine to beer. On the ground floor you have one of the largest and most extensive bottled beer (over 600!) off licences in Yorkshire.

Climb the creaking wooden stairs and you enter an atmospheric bijou medieval drinking hall complete with extensive taxidermy exhibits, lighted candles on every table and views of York Minster.

It manages to squeeze three handpulls on the bar which also houses a galley kitchen that serves top notch grub and hot snacks until 11pm daily.

All three cask beers are guests rather than permanent fixtures which ensures that you will always be wondering what they’ll have on next.

The Hop

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  The Hop
  11-12 Fossgate, York, YO1 9TA
  01904 541466

A new addition to the restaurant heartland of Fossgate, it ensures that diners have a selection of local pubs in which to great beer to drink after their evening meals.

The first York pub owned by Ossett Brewery, their excellent beers (and those from the Rat & Fernandes microbreweries they own) almost exclusively dominate the 11 handpumps with the odd guest ale thrown in.

They have done a fine and sympathetic renovation of William Waudby’s fishmongers dating back to 1900, preserving the glazed bricks and tiles with their coloured geometric patterns.

The vast drinking hall at the back houses a wood fired pizza oven and a small music stage for their regular live music.

The Maltings

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  The Maltings
  Tanner’s Moat, York, YO1 6HU
  01904 655387

Nestling beside Lendal Bridge, this iconic ale house has been a real ale trailblazer since 1993 and is one of the first names on any beer tourist’s list of pubs to visit in York.

The interior is a cornucopia of reclaimed fixtures, fittings and authentic vintage advertising signs.

Seven cask ales are always on offer, with three popular Yorkshire beers always available and an eclectic range of four guests hailing from any part of the country.

The lunchtime menu from “The Dragons Pantry” is legendary and the recent extension with a tasteful outside area has enabled the pub to cope with the ever growing demand.

Phoenix Inn

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  Phoenix Inn
  75 George Street, York, YO1 9PT
  01904 656401

This unspoilt traditional independently run CAMRA heritage pub lies just inside the city walls near to the Barbican centre. The major refurbishment in 2008-9 won a national conservation award and preserved the historic features of the pub.

The pub has five real ales with permanent ones from Timothy Taylors, Copper Dragon & Wold Top supplemented by two varying guests mainly from northern breweries.

The focus is very much on an authentic pub experience with no TV’s or jukeboxes and a real fire in the front bar blazes away in the winter months.

It is noted for its live jazz which happens two to three nights a week and is a former winner or Yorkshire jazz venue of the year.

Pivni

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  Pivni
  6 Patrick Pool, York, YO1 8BB
  01904 635464

The founding bar of the Pivovar chain that boasts some magnificent railway station bars in York, Sheffield, Harrogate and London.

This timber framed building, tucked away on Patrick Pool close to the Shambles, houses drinkers on all three of its ancient floors that have been chiming to human footsteps since 1190.

They are kept happy by an ever changing selection of 5 cask ales from all over the UK, complemented by 10 of the world’s best craft beers and Czech lagers on tap, all served from the Tardis like bar that also houses a fridge stocked full of world bottled beers.

Rook & Gaskill

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  Rook & Gaskill
  12 Lawrence Street, York YO10 3WP
  01904 637478

This thriving local is currently CAMRA’s autumn pub of the season. Situated just outside the ancient city walls near Walmgate Bar, this simply furnished hostelry has a single split level bar that keeps a varied clientele happy with nine constantly rotating guest beers supplemented by a range of top notch craft keg beers.

Two more handpumps serve traditional cider. Food is served throughout the day with top quality burgers being a particular favourite of diners.

It has a busy social calendar with a weekly quiz that is packed to the rafters as well as regular music nights and quarterly beer festivals.

Slip Inn

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Photograph © Tim Green on Flickr

  Slip Inn
  11-12 Fossgate, York, YO1 9TA
  01904 541466

This traditional community pub in the fashionable Clementhorpe area has been an independent free house since 2010 and is part of a small boutique pub company run by local businessmen.

It has permanent cask ales from four Yorkshire brewers plus a guest, and the range expands dramatically during its regular beer festivals.

There are two bars plus a snug and a paved outdoor area often covered for the frequent events such as the annual beer festival run jointly with the Swan just up the road, other beer festivals and featured brewery days.

The Three Legged Mare

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Photograph © rjp on Flickr

  The Three Legged Mare
  15 High Petergate, York, YO1 7EN
  01904 638246

Situated in the shadow of York Minster, this York Brewery pub showcases the entire brewery range as well as a selection of guest ales on its eight handpumps.

There is usually a boxed real cider available as well. It serves an eclectic array of clientele including actors and staff from the nearby Theatre Royal until midnight six days a week.

A modest frontage gives way to a roomy pub with plenty of seating and a small outside patio and garden in which they will be soon growing their own hops for a house ale.

There is regular weekly live music too.

Volunteer Arms

  Volunteer Arms
  5 Watson Street, York, YO24 4BH
  01904 541945

A shining example of a convivial neighbourhood local residing just off Holgate Road. It was saved from the knackers yard by a York based pub company after it was wrongly condemned as unprofitable by a national pub company.

Affectionately known as “The Volly”, such is its current popularity it now offers a selection of seven hand-pulled cask beers mostly from Yorkshire.

It is also a venue for regular live music a couple of nights per week including an established and popular blues / Americana event every Saturday night as well as open mic and jam sessions.

York Tap

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  York Tap
  York Railway Station, YO24 1AB
  01904 659009

This skilfully restored piece of railway heritage has acquired a national reputation.

What better way to greet visitors to York than a bar that serves a jaw dropping array of 20 cask beers from a handsome period style island bar?

It stocks several beers from breweries close to York, from its own Tapped Brewery as well as from all over the UK.

It has won architectural awards and justifiably so with its terrazzo floor, iron columns and most impressively the beautiful stained glass cupolas that flood the bar with natural light.

It has probably one of the most diverse clientele around and is an ideal source of refuge for the weary traveller heading home after a long stint at the coalface.

Nick Love

Nick Love

As well as being a writer for YorkMix, Nick is presenter of Vale Radio's Classical Collection, a beer campaigner and musician, as well as being active in the city's politics