Discovering York (through beer)

We did a lot of our favourite things when in a new city - mainly, visiting pubs and drinking beer.

We’ve just returned from a few days in York, where we celebrated Andy’s 40th birthday. We did a lot of our favourite things when in a new city - mainly, visiting pubs and drinking beer.

Our week of beer started when we arrived at our Airbnb, I Should Cocoa York - a beautiful studio apartment located in the former Rowntree cocoa bean warehouse, within the historic walls. The hosts, Mark & Emma, had very kindly bought a selection of local beer as a birthday gift for Andy which was waiting for us on arrival. The selection included beers from Raven Hill, North Brewing Co., Salt, and Brass Castle. Mark & Emma also gave us a long list of recommendations for beer and food so much of this blog was guided by them.

After dropping our things off and walking the city walls to get our bearings, we headed to House of Trembling Madness Lendal. A well-known craft beer online store, Trembling Madness have two physical premises in York. The Lendal site opened in 2018 and describes itself as a ‘Craft beer mansion’; it’s a beautiful 5-storey Georgian building, converted from a leather shop with lots of original features remaining. We sat on the first floor in a cosy window seat; ordering was via an app and very easy, and table service was super efficient. The selection was excellent with cask and keg, bottles and a wide range of spirits. The stand-out for me was a beautiful Vault City Pineapple and Coconut Sour (Pinazo), while Andy enjoyed a pint of Lush (by Wylam) on cask, as well as Phaedra and Factotum (by Pomona Island) on keg. To soak up the beer we ordered bangers & mash (with local sausages) and a selection of small tapas dishes. It felt safe and relaxed: a great introduction to York boozers.

The next day, after breakfast and a trip to York Minster, we headed to Pivni. Pivni is a small real ale freehouse in a 16th century building in central York just off the famous Shambles. They had a good selection of foreign beers in bottle, and on draught, but Andy opted for a pint of Summer (by Ilkley) on cask. We then headed just round the corner to Market Cat, which is a joint venture between Thornbridge and craft beer wholesaler and pub company Pivovar (who also own Pivni). Another venue that opened in 2018 after refurbishment, it’s modern and comfortable with a corner location and huge windows allowing for excellent people-watching - we sat on the first floor overlooking Shambles Market. Being a fan of Jaipur - Thornbridge Brewery’s iconic beer - Andy was excited to see Double Dry-Hopped Jaipur on the menu and ordered that immediately.

From the Market Cat, we headed out in the sunshine to Brew York, stopping off at independent street food destinations Spark:York on the way for vegan Korean chicken at Döner Summer. Brew York has a large taproom (or Brew Hall) located on the river, in fact directly opposite our Airbnb. Around 40 lines, there was a good selection of Brew York’s own beer on keg and cask with guest beers from the likes of War Pigs, Fierce Beer and Berkshire’s very own Siren. We both focused on Brew York’s brews: given it was the third venue and still not yet 5pm, we were relieved to see a favourite of ours – Tonkoko - on cask. A milk stout conditioned with tonka beans, hand-toasted coconut, Madagascan vanilla and Belgian-sourced cacao nibs, it is indulgent but not sickly sweet, and only 4.3% so a good afternoon beer. We also enjoyed Goose Willis, a gooseberry fool sour, and Rhubarbera Streisand, a milkshake IPA flavoured with Rhubarb. Our evening was spent eating excellent tapas at Ambiente, and planning the following day.

After a lovely breakfast at Partisan (shakshuka for me, and shakshuka with nduja sausage for Andy), we walked over to the National Railway Museum, close to York Station. Being a rail commuter, I wasn’t overly excited to be spending my morning looking at trains but I was beyond pleasantly surprised. It is well worth a visit - the old trains are beautiful and the attention to detail within the exhibits really brought the history to life. Once were were done meandering around the museum and shop (of course) we went to a York Tap, the station pub. Andy loves a station pub and this didn’t disappoint: a lovely traditional pub and a good selection of local beer on cask and keg. Andy had a pint of Yorkshire bitter on cask (Joshua Jane, by Ilkley) – a wonderful pint of beer and a truly brilliant beer style when done well. We sat in a window booth and watched the trains coming and going. From there we went to The Maltings, a cosy and traditional pub not far from the station. They had 7 real ales on cask, a small number of keg lines, and a wide selection of bottles and fruit wine. We sat among regulars and enjoyed the many vintage metal signs decorating the walls – with a nice pint of Disco king, on keg, by Turning Point.

We then walked back to the tiny shopping streets to seek out the original House of Trembling Madness. Located on Stonegate, it is a tiny three-storey medieval ale house, absolutely rammed full of beer. The ground floor is a bottle shop and the first floor the tavern, that has a surprising amount of seating even with social distancing taken into account. The first floor has 8 kegs, 3 casks and 1 cider; and beers can be bought in the bottle shop for drinking in. It is cosy and quirky with walls covered in taxidermy animal heads, and lovely views of the Minster through the characterful wonky windows. It also had a great playlist on the go (featuring Yazoo, Rod Stewart, Aztec Camera and Toto), which prompted synchronised toe-tapping among the patrons. I spotted a coffee and bramble sour by Vault City on the menu and it sounded so interesting I had to try it. It delivers strong coffee up front followed by tart fruit, and is well worth a try - at time of writing this is available at Grumpy Goat.

To round off our evening we headed back to Brew York where we met friends for a drink... or five. Again we focused on Brew York's beer, and given it was our last evening we *may* have enjoyed another one or two glasses of Tonkoko - it would be rude not to.

We had a lovely time in York; we felt safe and welcome, and had some excellent food and beer. It was super easy to get around the city on foot, and we were able to get tables everywhere we went with a combination of advanced booking and walk-ups. There were some recommendations we didn’t quite get to (including Hop O’Clock, a bottle shop with taps and seating), which fortunately means we’ll have to return. All for research purposes, of course!