Friday, February 6, 2009

Welsh Pub Crawl - Pub Reviews

The Royal Oak Hotel Betws-Y-Coed
Holyhead Road Betws-Y-Coed Gwynedd LL24 0AY
More of a restaurant/pub then the traditional pub, warm fireplace, lots of tourists, some walkers, hikers and outdoors types. Has a good selection of commercial ales, but the food is sub par. Mostly that trucked in stuff that's reheated in a microwave.

George & Dragon Hotel Beaumaris Church Street Beaumaris
This is an excellent pub, good ale, in a tiny pub. You've got to be social because, "ya gona b sitn wid da naybrrs." Fantastic food in the dining room which 200 years ago use to be the stables. They've been mucked out. This would be a great place to bring your partner and plan a sleep over upstairs. Lots of history; Swift, Dickens and the like all have stayed here. I even picked up a genuine Dickens autograph in the pub. This local, down on his luck, sold it to me for a pint. Apparently it's the only autograph Dickens signed with a ball point pen - worth a fortune!

Black Boy InnCaernarfon Northgate Street
Named after a black publican, this is the home of Welsh nationalism where the drive to revitalize the language started; good breakfast, really warm and welcoming staff, ask to see the wad of funny money collected from travellers over the years. Look for the $50,000 bank note from Zimbabwe with the best before date. Caernarfon is the seat of the Prince of Wales, the castle dominates the town and the pub is a good place to start and end your tour. The food here is very good. I had a great breakfast. There's nothing like starting your day in a pub except maybe ending the day in the same pub. I came close as I was waiting for my family to come up from London. They were six hours late. The staff are warm and welcoming especially if you're carrying a kayak paddle and can spin a tale or two.

Ye Old Mail Coach Conwy High Street
This was a hard place to like, warm ale is ok, hot is something else, only pub in Wales that I didn’t feel welcome in.

Albion Conwy 6 Uppergate Street
Run by Kerry Cresswell, her three sons and someone named Baz. There are no local ales but they serve good commercial pints. Check out the fireplace that burns real coal. - Very warm on a wet and cold day.

The Bluebell Inn Conwy Castle Street
Ah the Bluebell, it’s now run by a former SAS Non Commissioned Officer. There's a nice outdoor courtyard out back. Unfortunately the Bluebell has given in to the demand for video slots, and loud electric bands that feature some wanna be DJ scratching out noise with a record player, take a pass.

The Liverpool Arms Conwy Lower Gate Street
Best in Conwy for people watching, it’s right on the quay so you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists. It’s small, unpretentious and lovely, good mix of ales. If you take your pint outside you’ll get it in a plastic cup, outside can be cool as the wind comes straight off the Irish Sea and the estuary which really dries out on the ebb. Watch the current as the Conwy River outflow makes for some interesting boating. This is a great place to enjoy a drink. Conwy castle is just to your right, the library is back through the lower gate through the wall and some hovel called the smallest home in Wales is to your left. Check out the historic photo the the undefeated Lions Rugby Team. These are hard men with hearts of oak, or was that heads of oak.

The Kings Head Llandudno Old Road Llandudno
Great old fashioned pub, just like they should be, warm & friendly with an open fire. Best in Llandudno. Food was good, may have been great, but was totally distracted by the two women sitting next to us. What a pair! Good selection of draught bitters, the sort of pub one could happily spend all day in, in fact I did. The pub is located at the bottom terminal of the tram up the Great Orme; never got around to making the trip.

London Hotel Llandudno 131 Mostyn Street
Busy, very busy, but has good service and lots of ales, kind of funky, I wouldn’t call this a traditional pub, it serves latte’s for god’s sake, but for some reason I liked it.

The Groes Inn Conwy Nr. Conwy
Oldest licensed pub in Wales 1573, lots of older pubs but this one was licensed which seems odd. An Irishman, a Welshman and a Canadian are well into their cups, someone calls the Canadian a Yank. Things get out of hand. The evening ends with the trio singing folk songs to the sheep in a pasture. Oh, the food was good too.

Plough and Harrow Monknash, Nr Cowbridge
You're going to have to work to find this place but it's worth the trip. All the ales are from small cottage breweries at this freehold. Some of the best ales I sampled in Wales where right here. Major disappoint was the beer festival which was scheduled for the following week - we had to miss it. tears were shed. However the food was great, try the "Faggots with Spotted Dick" for desert. Go ahead the publican will really warm up to you. Small pub, large fire, tiny bar, but lots of real Welsh locals. Really liked this place. I had a great photo of myself surrounded by empty kegs piled three and four high in a sheep pen but the bloody computer ate it.

The Edinburgh CastleHolyhead Black Bridge
Local hangout for kayakers serves a good breakfast, expect beans with your eggs, and if you ask for poached eggs you’ll get something like “Air now, d’r fr’m da market ain’t da.” Poached; wont ya take us fer”!

The Boston Arms Hollyhead 1 London Road
Not very remarkable, had some interesting nautical paintings or photos, and a limited selection of ales. Centuries ago Johathan Swift, wrote a devastating review of the town of Hollyhead while waiting for the tide to turn and the captain to clear out of a pub. Things have improved. Slightly. Two best things to do in town are: Get a kayak from Nigel Denis and paddle away or catch a ferry to Dublin.

Red Lion Inn Llansannan High Street
If you’ve stumbled in here you are well and truly lost as this pub is well off the beaten track, never the less it’s a fine rural pub with a horse motif and a legendary chair, ask the publican to explain. There's a pub across the road called something like Saladin's Head. Park in front of this place and walk back to the Red Lion.

Notes: You don’t have to order a pint. You can always order a glass, which is of course much smaller. If you find you like it then you can follow up with a pint or move on to something else. If you've just come in from hiking in Snowdonia or from deconstructing a Welsh cottage start off with a glass of lime and water. It'll rehydrate you and you'll enjoy the subsequent pints more.

Green King is a stunning IPA, highly recommended. Brains sponsors the Welsh Rugby team. The brewery is located right across the street from the regional prison in Cardiff. They can be cruel. Brains apparently has been proven to have no affect what so ever on intellect, refinement or good taste. Enough said.

Freeholds are pubs that are not associated with any brewery, consequently they serve ales, bitters and stouts from a variety of sources, usually small local cottage breweries. The reality is that in GB more and more pubs are owned by the major breweries and managed by an employee of the brewery. This is better then the alternative of shutting the pub down. Support your local Freehold. Another development is the advent of pubs linked to motels along the major motorways. If you need a place to sleep and eat these places are fine but almost totally devoid of character. Kind of like a Holiday Inn in Pittsburgh.
List of Welsh breweries
This list is incomplete Artisan Brewery, Cardiff
• Black Mountain, Llangadog, Carmarthenshire
• Breconshire Brewery, Brecon, Powys
• Bryncelyn Brewery, Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot
• Bullmastiff Brewery, Leckwith, Cardiff
• Carter's Brewery, Machen, Caerphilly
• The Celt Experience, Caerphilly
• Bragdy Ceredigion Brewery, New Quay, Ceredigion
• Coles Family Brewery, Llandarog
• Conwy Brewery Ltd, Conwy
• Cwmbran Brewery, Upper Cwmbran
• Wm Evan Evans Brewery, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire
• Facer's Flintshire Brewery, Flint, Flintshire
• Felinfoel Brewery Company, Ltd., Felinfoel, Llanelli oldest regional brewery in Wales
• Ffos y Ffin Brewery, Capel Dewi, Carmarthen
• The Flock Inn Brewery, Brechfa, Carmarthen
• The Great Orme Brewery Ltd/Bragdy'r Gogarth, Colwyn Bay
• Bragdy Gwynant, Capel Bangor, Aberystwyth
• The Jacobi Brewery of Caio, Penlanwen, Pumsaint, Llanwrda
• Jolly Brewer, Wrexham
• Kingstone Brewery, Whitebrook, Monmouth
• Lord Raglan brewery, Merthyr Tydfil

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