The cheapest places to buy a pint – in Britain and beyond

There is cheaper beer, even in London – if you know where to look – RF Minute

There is a moment in every man’s life when he realizes that he has turned into a father. Mine came at the bar of a famous London pub last year, when a card reader, almost apologetic to the bartender, informed me that I owed close to £8 for the mass-produced beer I ordered. I swallowed hard. I almost spluttered. £8 for a pint? How?

Of all the vices of modern British life, expensive beer is one of the maddest. Beer should be an affordable pleasure – and yet, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), a glass of beer in the pub is now a “luxury”. According to the Office for National Statistics, Lager grew by more than 28 percent, on average, on the price before the pandemic. It lacks a pint of flavor.

And although it would be nice to be able to identify a culprit – moustache-twiddling brewery boss, beer-water, perhaps – the reasons nothing so handsome. The war in Ukraine has increased the costs of energy and raw materials, with a knock-on effect on everything else. Rents have risen as landlords try to recoup money lost during the Covid-19 lockdown. London’s staff have to survive in an overheated housing market, with rising wages – and the city attracts large numbers of tourists, keen to experience London’s pubs and generally less price-sensitive than the locals.

This is all on top of other, longer-term factors such as sky-high beer taxation and the fact that many pub tenants are forced to buy beer from their “pubs” (the company that owns the pub ), usually at prices higher than. on the open market. And brewers are not fully Blame-free: some beers are understandably expensive because tiny breweries make expensive ingredients in small batches, but others are expensive because their multinational owners know (or believe) they can drive prices down. hold high and punters will continue to fork out.

Ask a freehold landlord what he or she pays for a keg of the world’s best roughage.

But it’s not all bad. There is cheaper beer, even in London. In fact, I have never known a time when the price of beer varies so much depending on where you buy it. Wetherspoons is reliably cheap: according to a spokesman, this is based on a philosophical belief in “fair prices”, achieved through purchasing power and a tight purchasing structure. Others have abandoned the policy, like Sam Smith’s, which was once cited as a value in London.

And then there are the blessed places, in the UK and abroad, where good, reasonably priced beer remains in pubs of all kinds. Here are my suggestions if you want to avoid a disaster at the bar.

The Black Country

A few years ago, I interviewed Tim Batham, the brilliant owner of Batham’s Black Country brewery. “I think beer should be cheap, it’s a staple that everyone should have,” he told me. I was happy to discover later that this philosophy was shared by most people in this part of the world. Tim’s beer – or should I say his daughter Alice’s beer, since she makes it, at the brewery next door to the Vine pub (aka the Bull and Bladder) in Brierley Hill is well worth it. Also try it at the charismatic Beacon Hotel in Sedgley, where the strong and light ale, Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby, is still well under £4 for a really tasty 6 per cent beer.

Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby is a cheap but tasty pintSarah Hughes Dark Ruby is a cheap but tasty pint

Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby – Beacon Hotel in Sedgley is a cheap yet tasty pint


A debate about Britain’s best beer city can keep the pubs going all evening, but when it comes to good beer at great prices, one city stands out: Sheffield. It’s full of lively pubs, and has more breweries per capita, according to a recent Sheffield beer report, than anywhere else in the UK. Probably the best part of town for a pint is around Kelham Island, home to the Fat Cat and the Kelham Island Tavern, where a good pint of perfectly kept batch beer is generally yours for £4. There’s also a bonanza of choice: around 600 different beers are on sale in Sheffield on any given day.

The Fat Cat in Sheffield has pints of perfectly kept batch beer for less than £4The Fat Cat in Sheffield has pints of perfectly kept batch beer for less than £4

Pints ​​of perfectly kept batch beer are under £4 at The Fat Cat in Sheffield – Alex Ekins/Alamy

North East England

For my third choice, I enlisted the help of England’s top pub expert, Martin Taylor, who in 2022 completed Britain’s longest pub crawl of all establishments in the Good Beer Guide. He recommends the North East of England, particularly the coast between Stockton and Sunderland. “Try the bank bass at the Sun Inn [in Stockton] and the Camerons Strongarm in Hartlepool for maritime heritage and an affordable pint,” he told me. Bank beer has to be seen to be believed – with its huge head of foam, and at less than £3 a pint, it’s a luxury anyone can afford.

The Sun Inn is a popular pub in StocktonThe Sun Inn is a popular pub in Stockton

The Sun Inn is a popular pub in Stockton – Alamy Stock Photo

Franconia, Germany

There are many places on the Continent for cheap beer. In terms of headlines, Minsk works out the cheapest according to travel booking website Omio, with pints crossing the bar at 90p a day – although why you’d want to go to Belarus right now is beyond me (and the Foreign Office recommends against it. ).

Far better to head towards Bavaria’s northern third, Franconia, the best brewing region in the world’s biggest beer country. There are many small breweries here, offering delicious, characterful lager at prices that seem hardly possible given the quality. In the heart of Upper Franconia is Bamberg, a town of 70,000 souls with more than a dozen breweries. Spezial, Schlenkerla and Keesman, the last named producers of the best Pils in Germany, are must-visits.

Bohemia, Czech Republic

Lots of Brits go to Prague to drink, and the beer there is reliably cheaper than here. But for really good value, get out of the Czech capital. Here are two options to satisfy drinkers of both political persuasions: the Cvikov brewery, in the north of the country, was closed by the Communist government in 1968 (graffiti is still on the brewery wall mourning the minister who was responsible) but reopened in 2013, complete with a hotel in the malt times; and Kutna Hora, east of Prague, bought and closed its brewery by Heineken in 2009 but was reopened by locals in 2017. The latter is a delightful town with a stunning Gothic church, St Barbara’s – just the kind a tourist attraction. we are slowly turning into our grateful fathers.

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