The Craftiest Bristol Beer Bars

Credit: Brewdog
Credit: Brewdog

Beer has a rich history in the UK. In the olden days, people would drink beer in the place of water, as the latter was likely to give you cholera or something. We could’ve had a nice civilised national drink like wine, but our damp and overcast shores have never welcomed grape cultivation. We’re also not cold enough to justify living off strong spirits like those tough Scandinavians and Russians.

Not only has there been an explosion in the amount of small breweries and independent bars opening across the UK, but home brewing, real ale and beer festivals are more popular than ever. So, what better time to get acquainted with this diverse and exciting drink? Here are my tips for where to go in Bristol.

The colourful bar at Beerd. Credit:
The colourful bar at Beerd.

Created as the crafty cousin to their more traditional pubs, Bath Ales opened this colourful and fun bar in late 2011 and preempted the craft beer revolution in Bristol. There is now a Beerd Brewery which has an exciting array of offerings, but this bar also does a great line in American beers and local tipples from breweries such as the Bristol Beer Factory and, of course, Bath Ales. Their pizzas and bar snacks are mighty good too.


Despite a rapid expansion across the UK in 2012, Brewdog have managed to keep quite a strong local feel to their bars, and the Bristol branch is no different. Doodles of the staff adorn the wall, local independent food vendors & Bristol musicians frequently set up shop to make this more than just a place to load up on some Punk IPA. As well as trying Brew Dog’s own wittily named creations, there are always guest ciders & beers on offer and some intriguing beer cocktails for the more adventurous among you. They’re also very generous with tasters and these are usually strong enough to get you going before you’ve even ordered your first proper drink, bonus!

The bright and modern bar at Brewdog

The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer
Reopened and revamped in 2013, this pub is much brighter than its earlier incarnation. One wall next to the bar runs from floor to ceiling with an ever-changing list of ales, ciders and beers on tap. The staff really know their stuff and are first rate when it comes to recommending new beers for you to try, as well as giving background on the individual beverages, their brewers and the history of different beer variations.

The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer

The Beer Emporium
Set down in the caverns below King Street and next door to the Famous Royal Naval Volunteer, the atmosphere and decor for this place are markedly different to anything else in Bristol at the moment. Their kitchen is more than just pub snacks, with an extensive and well considered menu. Just looking down the vast bar at all of the taps will leave you a bit bleary-eyed, so it’s worth asking the staff if they have any tips if you’re unsure. They’ve also got a top notch bottle shop and a loyalty card scheme for the serious beeraphiles among you!

The Beer Emporium Bristol
Cavernous glory at The Beer Emporium

The Crofter’s Rights
This place is unrecognisable from its days as rock venue The Croft and has already built a large fan base for selling plenty of local beers and ciders at some affordable prices points. The interior decor is basic, with the focus being on the extensive drinks selection, making this one of the trendier places on Stokes Croft to be seen nowadays. The bar also hosts a variety of fun events including a collage club, gigs, a blues night and a bi-monthly storytelling night from yours truly!

The Crofter's Rights
Taps galore at The Crofter’s Rights

Small Bar
The third in the trilogy in Bristol’s so-called ‘Beermuda Triangle’, this bar plays host to more fine beers than you can shake a beery stick at – the board is helpfully ordered by beer type to make choosing that bit easier (look out for the latest offerings under ‘Crazy Shit’), and the staff are always on hand to help if you’re not sure.Their food menu is small but perfectly formed, and the pub itself feels like a cross between a lumberjack’s mountain lodge and a cosy traditional bar.

Small Bar, Bristol
Small Bar – good things come in (not so small) packages.

The Volunteer Tavern
Don’t let the obscure location fool you – this is a proper treasure of a pub. Rotating ales and beers throughout the week – they get some seriously special ones on tap as well as numerous local treats. The burger and curry nights are worth a look; plus they have a nice little back garden where they host their numerous beer festivals. Also pay a visit to sister pub The Hope & Anchor on Jacobs Wells Road for more fine beer, tasty pizzas and one of my favourite beer gardens in town.

Real ale glory at The Volunteer Tavern

The Barley Mow
Tucked away behind Temple Meads, this pub has still managed to make quite the name for itself for anyone who takes their beer seriously. With 10 beers on keg at any given time as well as several more on tap at the bar and in bottles, you’ll be stumped with where to start. Again this is a pub that matches the standard of its drinks with a great menu, so you’ll have no problem lining your stomach before sampling as much as possible. Also keep an eye to their events page for the array of brilliant tap takeovers and Meet the Brewers evenings they do throughout the year.

Brisbeer fact
Top of the pumps at The Barley Mow

Other hot tips for Bristol would be The Steam Crane in Bedminster; The Three Tuns or The Bag O’Nails (cat pub!) in Hotwells – but luckily more and more bars in town are realising the benefit of stocking local and specialist beers – hurrah!

Oh and if you want to enjoy some of your favourite beers at home, some of the best stocked shops for craft beer are Corks of Cotham, Brewers Droop Grape & Grind on Gloucester Road, or Independent Spirit in Bath.

If this post has left you a bit parched, how about checking out the following:

The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer
The traditional interior at The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer

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