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A Grand Old Drink in York

At 9.30pm, I was sitting down at a lovely warm pub sinking a pint with lemon and earl grey ale, whilst listening to live jazz emanating from the back room. It had all happened by accident and now it seemed like a dream. After I had clumsily booked the wrong dates for a trip in North Wales, I had sat wide-eyed at the computer at 6pm on a Sunday night and booked a substitute trip which was a two hour drive across The Pennines. It was late, I was tired but I was there and it was treating me very well indeed.

York was our destination and the first pub we sought refuge in was The Phoenix Inn. The pub is nestled just within the city walls adjacent to the York Barbican and has a strong feeling of a pub for the locals. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming with the uplifting live jazz providing the soundtrack for the varied conversations bubbling away in the snug front room. The beer also lived up to expectations with the first pint coming from Sheffield's Abbeydale Brewery. Not Just Jam (4.1%) was a lemon and earl grey straw coloured ale that was a perfect starting point due to its easy drinking and refreshing quality. The next pint was Honey Comber (4.5%) by Grey Hawk Brewery, Skipton. It was an ideal step up and developed well throughout the pint with enough interest to keep going back for more, although I resisted temptation to turn in for the night.

The following day, we visited Scarborough and Whitby on the formidable North Sea coastline. It was a pleasant surprise to see Whitby Brewery appear like an oasis behind the ruins of the 16th Century Benedictine abbey that sits majestically overlooking the fishing boats of Whitby. Surely there is not a more picturesque brewery in the UK. Some excellent ales on show but sadly I had to pass by with a decent drive across the North York Moors ahead.

Back in York, I had some difficulty choosing which of the many quality pubs to drink in. I settled on The Hop on Fossgate which had a quality range of Real Ale and craft on tap. It's a fine setting for a pub and was apparently a former fishmongers which may explain the many tiles that adorn the place. The pint of choice was the Manchester Bitter from Marble Brewery. A strong example of quality Lancashire bitter in this competitive category. Then a short trip over the road to probably York's most charming pub. A tiny snug with no music, flat screens TVs or fruit machines. With a friendly landlord willing to have a relaxed chat whilst pulling a tidy selection of ales, The Blue Bell is the antithesis of the modern chain pub. It is a traditional, honest boozer where there is no need for novelties or bright lights. The focus is on great beer and conversation (no swearing or loud groups permitted). I imagine it'd be very hard not to make friends if settling in for the night particularly over an excellent pint of Ruby Mild by York's own Rudgate Brewery (a category of beer I'm very fond of).

In a short trip, it was difficult to fit in all the pubs I wanted to, but I will definitely be heading back to York as it's certainly a city where the beer scene is clearly supported by the locals and visitors alike. It's beautiful architecture and friendliness of the locals is something to be celebrated and certainly worth a trip for anyone visiting the North Yorkshire.

*A mention to Spring Espresso too who made the best coffee I've had outside of Melbourne. Cracking porridge and bircher muesli for breakfast too.

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