This is the second in a series of posts dedicated to sharing my experiences and recommendations as I tour a variety of the world’s cities. If you missed it the first-time round, the series was kicked off with a post on Athens, Greece. This time, my tour took me a little closer to home, as I visited Cardiff, Wales in September 2017. As with the Athens post, you’ll be able to find a Google map at the bottom of this page, pinpointing pubs and bars that I visited in my time here.
It’s important to note that this is not a comprehensive list of all pubs and bars in Cardiff, just the ones that I visited. If you don’t have time like I had to visit all these pubs, I have marked my top five favourite with a ⋆. These are also coloured differently on the map.
As a shareholder, I am of course interested in protecting my investment by putting some money behind Brewdog bars! So, if I find myself in a city with a Brewdog bar, it finds its way near to the top of my list of places to visit. You’ll find the usual Brewdog experience here, a large range of Brewdog beers available, from headliners like Punk IPA to small batch beers, in this case including an Imperial Pilsner. What makes this bar unique in the Brewdog world is it has pool tables available in a basement area. If you are there early enough, you can even play for free.
Situated at the end of ‘Chippy Alley‘, this is a Brains bar with a modern twist. The focus is very clearly on the Brains Craft part of the business. There is a great choice of cask and keg beers, with many from Brains’ own range. There is a good selection of guest beers too. On one of the walls is a giant painting showing some of the Brains Craft beer range that have been brewed, along with guest brewers that helped them.
⋆ Crafty Devil Cellar Bar and Shop
A short bus ride out of Cardiff centre and towards Canton will take you to this wonderful little bar. The Crafty Devil takes its name from the brewery it is owned by. At the time of writing this, the brewery is just a few hundred yards away from the bar. Don’t expect that to last much longer though as they are currently crowdfunding to help towards costs of a move towards a bigger premise. The bar acts as a tap room for the brewery, showcasing some fantastic Crafty Devil brews, alongside other guest Welsh ales. The taps here are all keg fonts, and there is a good choice of bottles and cans available too to either drink in or takeaway. The welcome and hospitality I received here was great, add this to the great beers and lovely venue, and you have yourself a terrific drinking hole.
Gatekeeper – JD Wetherspoon
This is a large Wetherspoon, which is a good thing given its locality to the Millennium Stadium. This ‘Spoons is a supporter of locally brewed beers, including Bullmastiff. On the day I visited, they even had a planned tap takeover by Glamorgan Brewing – dedicating five cask ale lines to the brewer.
Great Western – JD Wetherspoon
Standard ‘Spoons fair with 6 hand-pulled cask ales and a large variety of bottles and cans. Some local brews are available such as Boss, a brewery based in Swansea, Brains and Glamorgan. This unusually laid out pub is situated conveniently next to Cardiff Central station.
This is a superb drinkers bar, no fuss this is all about the beer. With 15 hand pulled cask lines and 22 keg fonts available, featuring beers and ciders, there is something for everyone here. Of the local breweries, Hopcraft Brewery (Also known as Pixie Springs) is well represented. The walls are covered in beer memorabilia and posters, and it shouldn’t take you too long to spot that the Hopbunker is a CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) multi award-winning pub. Pub of the Year and Cider Pub of the Year for 2016 and 2017. If you plan to spend a while here, then there is plenty of reading material and games to keep you entertained.
Little Man Coffee Company
This is a fabulous venue that not only offers food and drink, but a safe, comfortable and pretty cool environment. Perfect for meetings away from the office, socialising and reading groups, as the name suggests the focus isn’t on the beer, but rather providing this fantastic space and the services that people may want to use whilst here (it opens 7am-11pm!). Having said that though, they do have a good range of locally brewed bottled beer, some of which you can find downstairs in ‘the vault’ – which is exactly what its name suggests it is! Well worth a visit here to enjoy a beverage and the ambience.
This is a very proud Welsh boozer. Owned by Brains Brewery, the choice on the six hand pulled cask lines, keg fonts, cans and bottles is predominantly Brains stock. The walls are decorated with Welsh flags and Welsh rugby memorabilia, I’m sure this place is a wonderful atmosphere when Wales’ rugby team are playing. The venue is comfortable and the staff friendly. This was also where the local Cardiff branch of CAMRA was first formed in 1975
As I walked in, there was a decent crowd of people watching Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion. Sports crowds can be quite raucous but this isn’t that type of venue. Beer focused, they even have a sign on the bar encouraging people to share the beer they are drinking at the pub on Untappd. A good range of locally brewed beers is available. On my visit this included beers from Bragdy Twt and Grey Trees.
Blink and you may miss this one! The exterior is quite small and unassuming, however inside is a long venue with plenty of seating and a good choice of food and beer. Décor is in the style of a ‘Ye Olde Pub’. Eight hand pulled cask lines are available, including cider, with an additional range of great beers in bottles.
This is in the style of a more modern bar, with rough and ready décor (think pallets for tables, old school-style high stools, exposed pipework). Set over two floors, this is a large venue where the focus is beer, with a support cast of food such as burgers, hot dogs and wings. Of the bars and pubs visited, this one had the most wide-ranging choice of beers on tap, from pale ales, to sours, to (in their own words) ‘crazy shit’. £7.50 gets you five 1/3rd pint measures of any beer (there is a supplement to pay for beers over 7%) and there is plenty of choice to seriously consider taking this deal more than once.
The City Arms
The first of the Brains’ owned pubs I visited. This traditional ale house has a wide-ranging selection of hand pulled ales, including Brains own Bitter and a selection of guest ales. As often found in bars like this, the walls are decorated with pump clips of beers that once upon a time had been available on the bar. If you fancy a bit of a change from beer, then the City Arms is a CAMRA award winner for Cider and Perry. Sat in the middle of the bar are keg taps all dedicated to apple and pear based drinks.
⋆ The Goat Major
As if the name alone wasn’t enough to make me want to try this place, it is also famed for its terrific pies. Owned by Brains Brewery, this is a very traditional pub, with a lovely ambience. There are seven traditional cask hand pulled lines and a range of Brains’ modern recipe beers in cans. Situated by the castle, this claims to be one of the oldest pubs in Cardiff, circa 1830. The pies? Did not disappoint!
Tiny Rebel Cardiff/Urban Tap House
Tiny Rebel Brewery are based in neighbouring Newport and have quickly established themselves in the UK brewing scene for producing tasty and high-quality beers. So good, in fact, that Cwtch was named as Champion Beer of Britain in 2015. As success has continued, they have opened some bars to help showcase theirs and other brewery beers. This bar is right in the shadow of the Millennium Stadium, so perhaps check if there is an event on before visiting this. Here you will find a range of Tiny Rebel beers on hand pulled cask lines and keg fonts, you can also pick up a sampling tray of three third pints if you want to try a few.
On first impression, this feels like a local’s local, a no nonsense traditional boozer. The staff are friendly and they champion nearby Bullmastiff Brewery. If hand pulled cask isn’t your thing, then Goose Island IPA is also available on tap. When there is an event on at the Motorpoint Arena situated next door, this place gets busy!
Part of a chain of gastro pubs with a brewery built into it. Having seen first-hand how popular and wide spread this type of food and drinking experience is in the United States, this is the first time I’ve seen in the UK the style being adopted. If you have been to the US, then this place reminds me of the Gordon Biersch national chain, or the more local Capitol City brewing in Washington DC. It differs from a brew pub like Tapped in Leeds and Sheffield in that it only offers beers brewed on site. Additionally, the food is gastro style, offering a range of dishes that suits those people wanting a dining experience, not just drinking. The staff here are wonderful, friendly and make sure you feel at home. In fact, seeing my interest in the brewing equipment, the head brewer on site took the time out to show me around the kit and talk me through the process and equipment used. A must visit venue.