Britain’s Craft Beer revolution started in 2005, when the clever guys at Thornbridge in Bakewell brewed ‘Jaipur,’ a citrusy, hoppy, high-alcohol IPA. Many have followed in that template, including Scotland’s Brewdog with their now ubiquitous ‘Punk’ IPA. But Bristol, never to be outdone, has more than caught up in the Craft Beer stakes, and now styles itself as ‘Britain’s 1st City of Beer.’ This piece aims to shed some light on the amazing work being done by Bristol’s breweries and guide you towards the many breweries and taprooms where you can get yourself a pint (or more…) of the good stuff.
The taprooms below appear in such an order that you could tour all of them, starting and finishing in the centre of the city. Most distances are walkable but the odd taxi might not be a bad idea. Unleash your inner beer lover…and start early!
Where?: The corner of Colston St and Park Row, BS1.
A mainstay of the Bristol scene, Zerodegrees (which also has branches in Blackheath, Reading and Cardiff) is a microbrewery and Italian restaurant situated in a spectacular and award-winning converted tram shed. Perhaps lacking the independent charm and cosy feel of some of Bristol’s other breweries, it more than makes up for that with lovely balcony seating and a comprehensive food menu where each dish is thoughtfully paired with one of their own beers.
Must-try beer: People rave about the Mango Beer (and it does have to be tried to be believed!) but their Black Lager is a hoppy delight.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 12pm – 12am; Sunday: 12pm – 11pm.
Brewhouse and Kitchen
Where?: Cotham Hill, BS8.
Brewhouse is a relatively new addition to the Bristol scene, but is already extremely popular with students and locals alike. More of a pub that brews its own beer than a brewery taproom, Brewhouse nevertheless boasts a warm atmosphere that is often complemented by the aroma of hops wafting over from the beer kettle in the corner – perfect for a Sunday afternoon with the papers. They have 5 cask and 2 keg beers of their own on permanent offering, along with a tap on rotation and a wide range of guest beers. It will also be worth your while to check out their events page, with frequent opportunities to attend beer and food pairings, or “Meet the Brewer Thursday.” Moreover, they offer Brewery Experience days for anyone interested in finding out how all his exquisite beer comes in to being.
Must-try beer: ‘Maple Sap’ brings to mind Innis & Gunn with its smooth toffees and caramels.
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11:00 – 23:00; Friday & Saturday: 11:00 – 00:00
Wiper & True
Where?: York St, St. Werburgh’s, BS2.
Wiper & True only open their doors for 6 hours a week but don’t let this put you off a visit; they might just be the most exciting brewery in Bristol. This is a taproom in the truest sense, with the bar literally touching distance from the kettles. In fact, as an added incentive to visit W&T rather than try their beers bottled, you can enjoy a taproom-exclusive beer straight from the kettle. On a recent visit, ‘Phantasmagoria’ was all hops, taste-wise. And if the usual array of Imperial Stouts and IPAs doesn’t move you, try the ‘Kettle Sour’: maddeningly sharp, this red-wine inspired brew is like nothing I’ve tasted anywhere else. Beers here will be served by knowledgeable staff wearing slick Wiper & True merch, available to purchase alongside their very stylish beer glasses. Wiper & True is serious rockstar beer and an essential visit for any Craft Beer aficionado.
Must-try beer: All of them. Seriously.
Opening Hours: Saturday: 13:00 – 19:00
Fierce & Noble
Where?: Mina Road, St. Werburgh’s, BS2.
Just around the corner from Wiper you will find Fierce & Noble, and you would be foolish to miss it out. The confidence of the psychedelic red and blue colour scheme that adorns the interior and exterior of their premises is matched by Fierce & Noble’s approach to creating vibrant, seasonal beers. The taproom itself is a strange building in two parts: a tiny wood-panelled pub serving as an antechamber to the brewery itself, which has more seats in case the pub spills over. Fierce and Noble worship at the altar of the hop, and the place was strong with the smell on a recent visit. ‘Baby New England’ is a well balanced treat and it’s a true pleasure to drink great beer in the same building it’s created.
Must-try beer: Their Cold Brew Coffee Nitro Stout is like a perfect festival breakfast – coffee and booze combining perfectly.
Opening Hours: Friday & Saturday: 14:00 – 20:00
New Bristol Brewery
Where?: Wilson St., St. Paul’s, BS2.
Tucked away in St. Paul’s is New Bristol Brewery and their wood-clad taproom is adorned with furry cushions, a corrugated iron bar and (obviously) a ping-pong table. Their slightly erratic opening times mean that they are best visited when there’s an event on, be that Six Nations Rugby on the big screen or ‘Battle of the Paddle,’ their Ping-Pong tournament. New Bristol Brewery Beers are starting to be found all over the city, be it bottled, keg or cask and this is testament to the craftsmanship that goes into their brewing. Those who want to learn more can do so at their Bristol Brewery School.
Must-try beer: ‘Citrus Hill IPA’ is a subtly different pint, with hints of lemon.
Opening Hours: Erratic, check their Facebook page or message them.
Where?: Lawnwood Road, Easton, BS5.
Perhaps considered a less fashionable Bristol Brewery, Dawkins run a number of pubs in the city, including Clifton Village’s famously cosy Portcullis. Their taproom, only opened in Autumn 2007, is certainly worth a visit. Tables sit touching distance from the wood-clad kettles and the taproom hosts various events: Bristol Community Big Band played there in late 2017, and the taproom shows Six Nations Rugby on the big screen. Beer wise, you can expect more traditional fayre, including their Famous Bristol Blonde: a lovely, refreshing tipple.
Must-try beer: ‘Ultra’ is an award-winning Blonde that, at 6.2% ABV, lives up to its name.
Opening Hours: Erratic, check their Facebook page or message them.
Left Handed Giant
Where?: St Phillips Road, St. Phillips, BS2.
St. Phillips’ Left Handed Giant arrived on the Bristol scene in 2015. They have managed in only a short time to become widely respected, with their beers available around the city at venues like Small Bar and Wild Beer. Befitting a modern trend led by breweries like Cloudwater, their labels are striking and arty (with some even created by their in-house artist) and their pleasant taproom, where you can expect 8 LHG beers, is decked out in the chipboard and wood style that has become de rigeur. However, what could be considered as a lean towards conformity in terms of style is juxtaposed with a radical approach to brewing that results in some delicious beers.
Must-try beer: ‘BFG.’ Double IPA. 8.3%. Don’t mind if I do.
Opening Hours: Closed in winter; check their website for special events and summertime opening.
Where?: William St, St. Phillips, BS2.
Styled as a “brewery tap” rather than a taproom, Good Chemistry’s offering to the public is a spartan affair: a hardwood bar transplanted into their warehouse. The beers on offer there, however, are slightly more complex: take ‘Morello Theory’ – a dark beer with sour cherries, or ‘Quercus Alba,’ an old-school oaky bitter. Moreover, their labels are as much as a treat for the eyes as their beer is for for the palate: a curved bar chart on each bottle displays a summary of the tasting notes to be found within. If you can’t make a visit to St Phillips then make sure you pick up a bottle from the likes of Brewers’ Droop, or sink a pint of ‘In Our Nature’ at the Gallimaufry.
Must-try beer: ‘Steady State’ was the beer that sold Good Chemistry to me: brash and hoppy, but balanced with big malts.
Opening Hours: Fridays and Saturdays, April – October.
Where?: Days Road, St. Phillips, BS2.
Another brewery taproom tucked away in a typically industrial location, Moor Beer’s hideous plastic door gives way to atmosphere that could be cold, owing to the slightly ‘converted portakabin’ vibe of the place. But any reservations dissipated instantly: the tunes were pumping over the stereo and the staff, who later let us try a variety of beers, greeted us with a genuine warmth. There was a choice of ten beers on tap, arranged in ascending order of strength: ‘Moor Revival,’ a 3.8% bitter, was the weakest; ‘Agent of Evil,’ a 7% Black IPA occupied the rightmost tap. In addition, Moor had more than 20 previous brews on offer in their lovely textured cans.
Must-try beer: I love ‘Nor’Hop’: juicy, pale and golden
Opening Hours: Fridays and Saturdays, April – October.
Bristol Beer Factory
Where?: North St., Southville, BS3.
BBF are Bristol through and through: their minimalist logo is a stylish amalgamation of Brunel’s Bridge and a frothy pint, and their Southville site boasts more than a century of (albeit interrupted) brewing history. Their beers are omnipresent in the city, with No. 1 Harbourside and The Canteen both dedicating a tap to BBF Milk Stout. A sojourn to Bedminster to visit the taproom will offer an opportunity to try half a dozen brews, as well as bottled curios like a 10% Wheat Wine. My only reservation about the place was its slightly cold atmosphere on a recent Saturday night visit, but if you feel the same then it’s well worth a trip across the road to the (BBF-owned) Tobacco Factory for good times with the South Bristol faithful.
Must-try beer: Nothing beats their Milk Stout. Well, except maybe their very own ‘Southville Hop.’ Try one of each?
Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday: 12:00 – 19:00; Thursday to Friday: 12:00 – 21:00; Saturday: 10:00 – 21:00.
Wild Beer Co.
Where?: Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf, BS1.
Ok, ok, ok so it’s not technically a taproom… but Shepton Mallet is too far to go for the life-changing brews of Somerset’s Wild Beer Co. Moreover, they consider Bristol their ‘spiritual home’ so I’m more than happy to include them here. Wild Beer’s USP is their Sour Beer, and I was truly blown away the first time I had one: occupying the hazy middle ground between a dry white wine, a hoppy pale and Atomic Waste sweets, a Wild Beer sour has to be tasted to be believed. There are no limits for this boundary-pushing brewery: previous brews have included ingredients as wide-ranging as miso, pineapple, yuzu, samphire and 58-year-old sourdough culture (though not all at once).
Must-try beer: The weirdest thing you can get your hands on. How about the tagine-inspired ‘Sleeping Lemons’ to start with?
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday:12:00 – 23:00; Sunday: 12:00 – 22:00
King Street Brewhouse
Where?: King Street, BS1.
Any self-respecting piece of journalism on Bristol Beer must make mention of King Street, centre of the city’s so called ‘Beermuda Triangle,’ and thereupon lies King Street Brewhouse. The place lacks the rich history of its neighbours The Llandoger (perhaps Bristol’s oldest pub) or The Old Duke (the city’s famous Jazz venue) but compensates by way of an array of small-batch brews and a warm atmosphere. Much like their namesake on Cotham Hill, they offer tours and brewery experience days, but KSB is also a nice venue for a pint, day or night.
Must-try beer: ‘Liberty’ American pale is lovely cask fayre.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday:12:00 – 00:00; Sunday: 12:00 – 22:30
… And that’s it! A comprehensive guide to Bristol’s taprooms. Stay safe, beer-drinkers.
Epilogue – Honorable Mentions
Bristol, of course, has a number of outstanding craft beer venues to be explored aside from those who brew their own beer. In no particular order…
The Old Butcher’s – Wiper & True’s outpost on North St.
Crofter’s Rights – Formerly grungy music venue the Croft, Crofter’s now has more than a dozen beers on tap at any time.
King Street & surrounding area – Try Small Bar, Beer Emporium, The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer and Brewdog for more quirky brews.
Nettle & Rye – Clifton’s go-to craft beer venue, run by King Street’s Volley.
Brewers’ Droop, Corks, Beer Necessities, Coffee + Beer, Grape + Grind – reliable bottle shops for your craft beer needs.
Arbor Ales – The most prominent Bristol brewery to not yet have a taproom. Although word on the street is that this might be changing very soon! Come on, guys!