10 of the best pubs and bars in Nottingham

It is not just Nottingham Forest on the rise now that the Reds have taken the top flight for the first time in 23 years. Nottingham’s beer scene is now Premier League quality too – the city has just launched seven Ale Trails, all named after a friend or foe of its famous outlaw Robin Hood. So as the new season kicks off, with fans of both craft beer and football in mind, we present our pick of the action in the city center – from bustling boho haunts to traditional pubs and vintage treasures.

Barrel Drop

Tucked away on a narrow ginnel, the cozy Barrel Drop – scrubbed tables, beer ephemera, interesting music – has a bit of a Parisian jazz cellar feel. It is closely allied with Nottingham’s Magpie Brewery, whose beers are a key draw across Barrel Drop’s 17 cask, cask and cider lines. Beer lovers longing for the bitter, resinous era of West Coast IPAs will love Magpie’s Simcoe-packaged Trailhound, while beers from the likes of Siren, Arbor and Wild Beer cover many stylistic bases. Of particular interest to traveling football fans, Magpie’s Artificial stock brewery-tap (Fri-Sat, Unit 4-6, Ashling Court) is located next to Notts County’s Meadow Lane, a 10- to 15-minute walk from Nottingham Forest’s City Ground. It opens on match days.
Pints ​​from £3.60, magpiebrewery.com

Kilpin and Junkyard

Named after Nottingham-born AC Milan founder Herbert Kilpin, Kilpin shares a farm garden and ownership with the nearby Junkyard. Roughly speaking, Junkyard is a hip, post-industrial bar that serves 15 lines of all manner of craft beers, from complex imperial stouts to fruity pastries. Events with pioneering breweries, recently Poland’s Maltgarden or Sweden’s Brewski, complete this beer geek heaven. Kilpin is more traditional: it looks like a pub, it shows live sports and the beer selection runs deep on German and Belgian beers; try the zesty, elderflower-hued Kilpin pale, created by Nottingham aces Black Iris. Fans of Trappist beers, wits, saisons and funky, spontaneously fermented sour beers can never leave.
Kilpin pints from £3.70, thekilpin.co.uk

BeerHeadZ

This Edwardian cab driver’s home at Nottingham station is a vintage gem: a simple wood-panelled room with 11 taps of immaculate cask and ale and a compact, discerning selection of cans, ciders and perries. Local breweries, such as Totally Brewed and Lenton Lane, share bar space with the cream of British craft: Burning Sky, Buxton, Wander Beyond, Wilderness. There are a few outdoor tables, but stay inside if you like musical surprises with a pint – Jonathan Richman, on this visit.
Pints ​​from £3.90, beerheadz.biz

Malt cross

A stone’s throw from Nottingham’s Old Market Square (fun fact: Britain’s largest public square after London’s Trafalgar), this architecturally impressive Victorian music hall is now an ideal cafe-bar and event space run by the Nottinghamshire YMCA. The aptly named Malt Cross is also an ardent supporter of craft beer. The selection takes in national scene leaders such as Marble, Kernel and Verdant, with Nottingham’s Liquid Light, in particular, well represented on cask (the malt was pouring Veloria, a blueberry and lemon sour radler, at the time of writing), and in several canned options.
Pints ​​from £3.80, maltcross.com

Kean’s head

Nottingham’s Castle Rock began brewing in 1997 and as a pub group has enthusiastically supported the rise of modern craft beer. Its US-influenced, hoppy Harvest Pale was stylistically groundbreaking, and in the pubs Castle Rock has always featured its beers alongside those of its international brewing peers. Its beer cafe, that Build twist (91 Carrington St), or ChannelHouse (a pub with an actual canal running through it, 48-52 Canal St) would be worthy additions to this guide in their own right. However, the one-room Kean’s Head at Saint Mary’s Church, in Nottingham’s historic Lace Market district, is a place of pilgrimage for beer lovers. A screen whirring through 14 pages of bottles and cans gives you an indication of the range, even before you include six barrels and 18 barrel lines. In the kitchen, Paajis turns out great food too; try the Punjabi samosa chaat.
Pints ​​from £3.90, castlerockbrewery.co.uk

Related: The pub crowd: 10 of the UK’s best refurbished foodie pubs with rooms

The angel

This large and bustling boho hangout in Nottingham’s hip Hockley enclave is both brew pub and music venue; you’ll find racks of vinyl, reel-to-reel tape machines and a game room, the chapel, which once hosted the Arctic Monkeys, upstairs. Alongside beers from Northern Monk or Glen Affric, expect to see Angel’s own four-grain pale Exodus, Archangel IPA and the nicely citrusy Genesis pale on the bar. Very much a pub where you can pop in for one, at 4pm, and find yourself dancing upstairs at midnight.
Pints ​​from £3.80, theangelmicrobrewery.co.uk

Six Barrels Drafthouse

The draft selection at Hockley Six Barrels includes some eye-catching beers (on this visit, a 12% chilli stout from Nottingham’s Navigation Brewery), but it’s the bar’s fridge that will make beer geeks bow in awe. They’re packed with beers from hot-tip breweries (Birmingham’s Dig, Derbyshire’s Bang the Elephant, Edinburgh’s sour specialists Vault City) covering every beer style imaginable, from dessert-inspired pastries to lightly salted fizzy beers. If you want a 10% New England IPA from Dutch brewery Moersleutel, you’ve come to the right place. There is a second Six Barrels (14 Mansfield Road) near Victoria Shopping Centre.
Pints ​​from £3.60, sixbarreldrafthouse.co.uk

Cock & Hoop

Unusually, this little bar at the Lace Market Hotel goes big on beer. On this fly-by, there was a host of a tap takeover from Derby’s Shiny Brewery, but don’t overlook the selection of cans, which due to Cock’s new pricing strategy (calculated by strength, saw a 4.1% can of Pentrich Brewing’s Little Fury will cost £4.10), could provide some relative bargains. The Cock’s fridge is packed with good stuff from breweries such as Burnt Mill and Elusive, as well as Nottingham talents Black Iris and Totally Brewed.
Pints ​​from around £4, lacemarkethotel.co.uk

Bunkers Hill

Any pub advertising a 10% Evil Twin triple IPA as their beer of the week (25% off!) is clearly serious about such things, and Bunkers Hill’s fridges, keg pumps and 10 keg lines (with breweries like North, Almasty and Yonder Brewing) is packed with next-level beer options. Also notable – a theme in Nottingham – was how friendly and engaged the bar staff were, sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge of good beer in a way that felt inclusive and welcoming.
Pints ​​from £3.70, bunkershillnottingham.co.uk

Brewery taps

Across the road from Bunkers Hill you’ll find the low-level lanes of Sneinton Market, a 1930s wholesale market resurrected as a hub for creative businesses and shops. The 12 lines at Neon Raptor’s brewery tap (Fri-Sun, pints about £5, neonraptorbrewingco.com) brings in a range of pale, sour and stronger, grand IPAs and stouts. Its 6.2% Dial Emma New England IPA is excellent. From Neon Raptor it’s a short walk to another of Nottingham’s hottest young breweries, Floating light. It’s a nice indoor-outdoor set-up (Fri-Sun, pints from £4.80, liquidlightbrewco.com), with street food and a lovely stack of vintage speakers above the bar. If you have time to venture out of the center it is consistently brilliant Black Iris is easily accessible by tram, open to the public Fri-Sun, and serves 12 beers on tap and draft (litres from £3.30, blackirisbottleshop.co.uk)

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