Odd Pub Names and Real Ale
Fuller’s 1845 6.3% – a sterling effort from Fullers and a modern classic. It looks lovely, with a creamy head that lingers. The aroma and flavour are well balanced, with fruity malt dominating the proceedings and a satisfying touch of alcohol. Great body – smooth and mildly viscous. Not one to down in a hurry, but a pleasant sipper that suits the autumn weather. Definitely worth your time if you come across it. (I haven’t tried all the beers listed on this page, but of those I have, 1845 is the best, closely followed by Wadworth 6X)
Truman’s are back in business in east London. The brewery was founded in 1666 in Brick Lane as the Black Eagle Brewery. At the end of the 19th century it was the largest brewery in the world. After several changes of ownership (including Watneys) and competition from nauseating lager, the brewery closed in 1989. A new brewery bearing the trademark, and with luck the old product’s quality, reopened in September 2013 in Hackney Wick.
They say: Great beer should be complex, full of flavour and utterly delicious. We achieve this by using the best possible ingredients, brewing on a modern purpose-built kit and putting in a lot of skill, belief and passion.
All of our beers are brewed with 100% malted grain, only the very best quality hops and no cheap adjuncts or fillers. We use the same yeast that was used by Truman’s in its heyday and give each beer the time it needs to ferment and condition to perfection.
The majority of our production is served in cask, which means no filtration or pasteurisation.
Our first beer of the 21st Century is called ‘Truman’s Runner’.
Runner was traditionally the name of a brewery’s easy drinking session beer – available to everyone everywhere.
Truman’s Runner is our interpretation of this custom.
Runner is a dark copper bitter that weighs in at 4% abv. Brewed with three different types of hops and two types of malt, it is packed full of flavour yet remains unashamedly easy drinking.
We wanted Runner to be a celebration of what’s great about British beer. And according to the experts we seem to have achieved just that:
“Truman’s Runner Ale is a huge, hulking, giant of a beer, not caring for fashion or fripperies, self-assured and swaggering into the room with the sort of cocksure confidence that is born of genuinely not giving a toss about what anybody thinks, and is all the greater for it’.
Some Odd English Pub Names and their Meanings or Origins
- Red Lion
- Animals like this are almost certainly derived from heraldic coats of arms, not the zoo.
- Bird in Hand
- The bird sitting on the left gauntlet in falconry.
- Bear and Ragged Staff
- A badge of the Earls of Warwick referring to bear baiting. Many signs refer to rural ‘sports’.
- Crooked Billet
- A bent branch from a tree.
- White Horse
- The sign of the House of Hanover, adopted by many Eighteenth-Century inns to demonstrate loyalty to the new Royal dynasty. A white horse is also the emblem of the County of Kent. The name can also refer to the chalk horses carved into hillsides.
- Rising Sun
- A symbol of the east and of optimism.
- George and Dragon
- St George is the patron saint of England and his conflict with a dragon is essential to his story. This sign is a symbol of English nationalism.
- Green Man
- A spirit of the wild woods. The Green Man is not the same character as Robin Hood, although the two may be linked. Some pubs which were the Green Man have become the Robin Hood; there are no pubs in Robin’s own county of Nottinghamshire named the Green Man but there are Robin Hoods.
- Black Boy
- May refer to a negro boy, but many are now claimed to refer either to child chimney-sweeps or to a (genuine) historic description of King Charles I.
- Baron of Beef
- After a Nineteenth-Century landlord, George Baron, listed in Kelly’s Directory 1890 for Welwyn, Hertfordshire as Butcher and Beer Retailer.
- Nag’s Head
- Playing on the double meaning of Nag — a horse or a scolding woman.
- Anchor, Hope & Anchor, Anchor & Hope and We Anchor in Hope
- From the Letter to the Hebrews (6:19): “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope.”
Many names for pubs that appear nonsensical may have come from corruptions of old slogans or phrases.
- The Swan With Two Necks
- Originally “The Swan With Two Nicks”, not a two-headed bird. Swans have traditionally been the property of the reigning Monarch. However, in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I granted the right to ownership of some swans to the Worshipful Company of Vintners. To tell which Swan belonged to whom, the Vintners’ swans had their beaks marked with two notches, or nicks. In those days, “neck” was another form of “nick”.
- King and Castle
- After the King and Castle classes of steam engines on the Great Western Railway (now closed; near Stroud, Gloucestershire).
- The Bull and Bush
- Purportedly celebrates the victory of Henry VIII at “Boulogne Bouche” or Boulogne-sur-Mer Harbour.
- The Bag o’ Nails
- (Bacchanals) or just a sign once used by ironmongers.
- The Cat and the Fiddle
- A corruption of Caton le Fidèle, a governor of Calais loyal to King Edward III; alternatively from Katherine la Fidèle, Henry VIII’s first wife).
- Goat(s) and Compasses
- A corruption of the phrase “God encompasseth us”; but more likely to be based on the arms of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers. Cordwainers made shoes from goat skin. Also said to be a play on words between “chèvre” the French word for goat and the word “chevron”, a shape which resembles a pair of compasses.
- Pig and Whistle
- A corruption of the Anglo-Saxon saying “piggin wassail” meaning “good health”.
- Q and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn
- In Stalybridge, the shortest and longest pub names in Britain.
- Push Inn
- At one time a pub in Beverley had no external sign except for that on the entrance door which read, simply, PUSH.
- Hole in the Wall
- The official name or nickname of a number of very small pubs.
- The Goose and Granite
- A recent fad for renaming pubs, giving them a weird name.
- Bat and Ball
- A reference to cricket used by a number of pubs, one of which gave its name to a railway station in Sevenoaks. [Oh-oh! I’ve just given away the answer to one of my puzzles; mind you, this link only takes you to the web-page of puzzles – you’ll have to go searching!]
- Royal Oak, Elephant and Castle, Angel, Manor House and Swiss Cottage
- Five stations on the London Underground system are named after pubs. The area of Maida Vale, which has a Bakerloo line station, is named after a pub called the Heroes of Maida after the Battle of Maida in 1806.
- Elephant and Castle
- It is popularly believed that a 17th century publican near Newington named his tavern after the Spanish princess, the “Infanta de Castilla” who was betrothed to King Charles I of England. The prohibition of this marriage by Church authorities in 1623 was a cause of war with Spain so it seems unlikely to have been a popular name. A more probable and prosaic explanation is that the name derives from the arms of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, a London trade guild; an elephant carrying a castle-shaped howdah is also on the arms of the City of Coventry.
According to the British Beer and Pub Association, the most common names (with the number of each in brackets) are:
- Red Lion (759)
- Royal Oak (626)
- White Hart (427)
- Rose and Crown (326)
- Kings Head (310)
- Kings Arms (284)
- Queens Head (278)
- The Crown (261)
According to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) they are:
- Crown (704)
- Red Lion (668)
- Royal Oak (541)
- Swan (451)
- White Hart (431)
- Railway (420)
- Plough (413)
- White Horse (379)
- Bell (378)
- New Inn (372)
More about weird pub names at
Champion Winter Beer of Britain
Campaign for Real Ale
National Winter Ales Festival
(announced in January 2013)
Elland 1872 Porter 6.5% – West Yorkshire – rich, complex and dark porter from an original 1872 recipe, with an old port nose, and coffee and bitter chocolate flavours on the palate
Twitchell, Buntingford, Hertfordshire – a golden fruity bitter with a floral aroma and malty / hoppy aftertaste. Brewed with Maris Otter pale and wheat malts, and English Goldings hops, plus Cascade hops from the USA
Beeston, On the Huh (Norfolk) – an old style traditional strong bitter which is smooth, malty and full-bodied
Some Real Ales
Some web sites linked below may ask for your date of birth; beer drinking is X-rated (or even 6X-rated?).
The descriptions below are not mine. But those that I have tried and recommend are in red. The percentages given are the amount of alcohol by volume.
Adnams Broadside 4.7% – brewed with Pale Ale malt and First Gold hops, Broadside is a dark ruby red beer rich in fruitcake aromas, almonds and conserved fruit. Broadside was brewed to commemorate the fierce Battle of Sole Bay, fought against the Dutch Republic in 1672 off the Southwold coast. Origin: Southwold, Suffolk, founded: 1672
Adnams South Town 4.9% – a new collaboration cask beer, jointly developed by Adnams and Camden Town Brewery and brewed in Southwold. This Red Ale is brewed with a great selection of Australian hops varieties including Topaz, Summer, Ella and Galaxy which give the beer aromas of peach, lychee and tropical fruits. The addition of naked golden oats gives the beer a nutty flavour and wonderful rich smoothness, malted Rye adds flavours of freshly baked bread and it’s all rounded off with a crisp finish – delicious!
Adnams Southwold Bitter 3.7% – a beautiful copper-coloured beer, late and dry-hopped with Fuggles for a distinctive, lingering hoppiness. Brewed with the finest East Anglian malted barley, sourced locally to the brewery. We use a blend of hop varieties, including Fuggles, which we add late in the boil to preserve the herbal flavours of this traditional English hop. We add more Fuggles to each cask so that the flavour of the hops infuses into the beer. Origin: Southwold, Suffolk, founded: 1972
Draught Bass 4.4% – brewed exclusively in Burton since 1777, Draught Bass is the oldest brand of Bass Brewers. Brewed to 4.4% ABV, Draught Bass is still brewed to an original recipe using only the finest ingredients and the experience of generations. It is a full flavoured ale, brewed with two strains of yeast to produce a complex nutty, malty taste with subtle hop undertones, which has widespread appeal to repertoire drinkers
Batemans XXXB 4.5% – classic English tawny pale ale, brewed with pale, chocolate, crystal and wheat malts, blended with spicy Challenger, Styrian and Golding hops, to create a fruity beer with peppery aroma and fruity, biscuity flavour
Bath Gem 4.1% – with its rich aroma of hops and malt, and a long, deep, bittersweet finish, we–ve carefully crafted Gem into an exceptional best bitter
Black Sheep Best Bitter 3.8% – peppery hop in the mouth with a long, bitter finish. A classic well-hopped and beautifully balanced beer with a deeply satisfying and refreshing taste that is followed by a distinctively dry and long bitter finish. Best enjoyed in true Black Sheep style, through a rich, creamy head. Origin: Masham, Yorks, founded: 1992
Bombardier, Wells 4.3% – an iconic real beer loaded with distinct English brilliance. It’s the epitome of impeccable taste and great character. The rich, full-bodied nectar is a lingering reward – English, ever reliable and damned tasty. Origin: Bedford, founded: 1842
The Rev. James 4.5% – brewed to a traditional recipe and has been described as having a flavour not commonly available these days. Full-bodied and warming, The Rev. James is rich in palate, spicy and aromatic with a deeply satisfying finish
Brains SA 4.2% – the renowned ’special ale’ is copper coloured with a full premium quality flavour. A nutty richness derived from a blend of fine pale and crystal malts is balanced with a satisfying dryness from the unique use of three hops: Challenger, Goldings and Fuggles. The aroma has a hint of spirit which adds to the legendary mystique of this premium cask ale
Cains Finest Bitter 4% – this refreshing yet full-bodied bitter is a favourite with beer drinkers everywhere. The rich flavours of premium malt and goldings hops are unmistakable in this well balanced, traditionally brewed bitter
Deuchars IPA 3.8% – distinctively radiant, deliciously refreshing, Deuchars is a naturally brilliant blend of malt and hops. A fabulous cask beer with enormous drinkability. Awards for Deuchars include CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain and World Champion Cask Ale. Discerning beer drinkers have stated it is the perfect gateway to quality cask beer
Camerons Strongarm 4% – well rounded, ruby red ale with a distinctive tight creamy head. Good balance of malt, hops and bitterness
Courage Best Bitter 4.0% – pale in appearance with a bitter aftertaste, this is a favourite in the South of England. The beer is fully balanced with a malty flavour and distinctive hop character. Best Bitter is a beer with a pedigree of more than 200 years of brewing heritage. Origin: Bermondsey, founded: 1787
Tiger Best Bitter, Everards 4.2% – a true award winning best bitter with universal appeal. Tiger Best Bitter is a classic example of getting the perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness. Crystal malt gives the beer its rounded toffee character. Origin: Leicestershire, founded: 1849
London Pride, Fuller’s 4.1% – a rich, smooth and wonderfully balanced beer. Its distinctive malty base is complemented by well-developed hop character, from adding Target, Challenger and Northdown varieties to the brew. London Pride has twice been awarded Champion Best Bitter at the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival. Origin: Chiswick, founded: 1845
Greene King IPA 3.6% – a perfectly balanced ale, characterised by its fresh, hoppy taste and clean, bitter finish. This hoppy taste and aroma come from two varieties of English hops – Challenger and First Gold – which are combined with pale and crystal malts. A great beer to enjoy with curry, Mexican and other spicy food, or simply on its own
Abbot Ale, Greene King 5.0% – a premium bitter, with irresistible masses of fruit characters, a malty richness and superb hop balance. Brewed longer to a unique recipe, which makes for a full-flavoured, smooth and mature beer with a combination of pale crystal and amber malts. The famous Domesday Book chronicles ‘cerevisiarii’ or ale brewers as servants of the Abbot in the town’s Great Abbey. Origin: Bury St Edmonds, founded: 1799
Old Golden Hen 4.1% – (Brewer of Old Speckled Hen). This light golden beer delivers both flavour and refreshment. Brewed using the finest malts and the rare Galaxy hop to give the light golden colour, subtle tropical fruit notes and a deliciously smooth finish
Old Speckled Hen 4.5% – Old Speckled Hen has a full, smooth flavour and is very easy to drink. Its rich amber colour and superb fruity aromas are complemented by a delicious blend of malty tastes. Toffee and malt combine with bitterness on the back of the tongue to give a balanced sweetness. This is followed by a refreshingly dry finish. Old Speckled Hen continues to be appreciated by more and more fans, who are discovering that this crafted English beer is perfect with friends, during a quiet moment of relaxation or as a complement to a meal. Origin: Abingdon, founded: 1979
Harvey’s Sussex Bitter 4% – a superbly balanced session bitter with a prominent hop character
Bitter and Twisted, Harviestoun 3.8% – a sharp, blonde beer with a superb fresh hop profile. Hersbrücker hops, giving a hint of honey and the tang of Grapefruit; Challenger hops, giving a spicy fruitiness like the twist of a lemon. Origin: Alva, Clackmannanshire, founded: 1984
TEA, Hogs Back 4.2% – TEA (Traditional English Ale) is the brewery’s flagship ale and is pale brown, light, grassy and herbal on the nose. It has a hoppy and slightly fruity aroma supported by malt in the taste, creating a well-crafted, bittersweet beer with a long dry finish. Origin: Tongham, Surrey, founded: 1992
Hooky Bitter 3.5% – a subtly balanced, golden bitter, hoppy to the nose, malty on the palate – the classic session beer, eminently drinkable
Old Hooky 4.6% – a beautifully balanced beer, fruity by nature, with a well-rounded body and the suggestive echo of Crystal Malt
Hop Back Summer Lightning 5% – an extremely pleasant bitter, straw coloured beer with a terrific fresh, hoppy aroma. This, coupled with an intense bitterness, leads to an excellent long, dry finish
Jennings Cumberland Ale 4% – a supreme refreshing golden ale, brewed with pure Lakeland water drawn from the brewery’s own well. Brewed by craftsman at the Castle Brewery; carefully selected old English hop varieties: Fuggles, Goldings and Challenger
John Smith’s Cask 3.8% – John Smith’s bitter, which is still going strong, is a malty, bitter sweet ale with a slight fruitiness and a bitter aftertaste – we probably took the words right out of your mouth
Lancaster Blonde 4.1% – a uniquely vivid golden bitter. Blonde has been designed to offer a quality cask conditioned ale to drinkers seeking a pale beer with real taste and aromatic impact. This most stylish and contemporary beer is crafted from pale Maris Otter Malt and carefully combined with Germanic style Munich Malt. The slightly citrus and delicate earthy aromas are created by a combination of First Gold and imported Saaz hops. The initial bitterness is followed by a delightful mouth feel culminating with a long dry finish
Leeds Pale Ale 3.7% – an easy drinking pale ale. Light and hoppy with delicate floral notes and a well-balanced finish
London Fields Brewery Shoreditch Triangle IPA 6% (they also make Love not War) – Barley Oat and Wheat were sitting by a shady tree out in the countryside when Columbus and a Chinook Indian from the Centennial days of America came into sight. Barley said to Oat and Wheat “how is that possible?”, Columbus and the Indian said something about heading to Shoreditch in London. The rest is history. That’s the short version, for the long version, drink this beer and everything will become clear.
Marstons EPA 3.6% – a refreshing, lighter blonde ale with subtle citrus flavours and a delicate bitter aftertaste. It will appeal to drinkers both of traditional bitters, ales and even lagers because it delivers refreshment with flavour
Pedigree, Marstons 4.5% – a truly distinctive flavour, down to its special blend of Burton spring water, Maris Otter barley, Fuggles and wood using the world renowned Burton Union System. Goldings hops and Pedigree’s own unique strain of yeast. A smooth and very drinkable beer. Origin: Burton on Trent, founded: 1834
Pride of Pendle 4.1% – an exceptionally fine balance of malt and hops give the beer a long dry and extremely satisfying taste
Otter Bitter – an extremely popular session beer. The taste is not sacrificed despite its low gravity. A pale brown beer with a hoppy, fruity aroma and taste with a bitter finish
Pennine Real Blonde 4% – not your typical blonde which is finally balanced in hops and natural sugars that combine to add a fruity aftertaste
Pompey Royal 4.5% – a classic pale ale with a strong aroma of hops, but also yeast and apples, light body, good caramel flavour, some toffee, with a delicate bitter hop finish
Purity Mad Goose 4.2% – brewed with Maris Otter Malt, Caragold and Wheat Malt with Hallertau bittering hops and Cascade and Willamette aroma hops. Light copper in colour with a great zesty hop character with citrus overtone
Purity UBU 4.5% – using 100% English Maris Otter Malt with Challenger and Cascade hops, creates a balanced full flavoured beer that is a pleasure to drink
Ringwood Best 3.8% – delicious, easy drinking slightly tart pale bitter. Good malt feel in the mouth, dry, tangy fruit finish
Ringwood Fortyniner (49er) 4.9% – rounded malt in the mouth with strong hop balance, deep bittersweet finish
Robinsons Unicorn 4.2% – magnificent pale tart and thirst quenching bitter beer. Superb mouth feel of rich malt and hops and complex aromas of golding hops, malt and tart fruit. Long dry finish with citrus fruit notes. Gold Medal Winner at the Brewing Industry International Awards
St Austell Tribute 4.2% – pale amber in colour, Tribute is a moreishly drinkable 4.2% ABV beer with delicious full bodied malt flavours, hints of orange and grapefruit on the palate and a citrus aroma
Saltaire Blonde 4% – a straw coloured lager ale with creamy, soft malt flavours, delicately hopped with Czech and German hop varieties for modest bitterness and slight spice flavour
Sambrook’s Wandle 3.8% – a golden amber colour, with a distinctive, dry, hoppy finish. At 3.8% ABV, Wandle is a refreshing, session ale, to be drunk at any time of year
Doom Bar, Sharp’s 4.0% – the aroma combines an accomplished balance of spicy resinous hop, inviting sweet malt and delicate roasted notes. The mouth feel is a perfectly balanced and complex blend of succulent dried fruit, lightly roasted malty notes and a subtle yet assertive bitterness. The bitterness remains into the finish with dry fruity notes which implore the drinker to go back for more. Origin: Cornwall, founded: 1994
Shepherd Neame Spitfire 4.2% – this golden ale combines an underlying depth of maltiness, tinged with a subtle hint of toffee, with a bold citrus and fruity spiciness. Spitfire was originally brewed to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Origin: Faversham, founded: 1990
Stewart’s Edinburgh Gold 4.8% – refreshing, balanced and full of flavour. This is a captivating gold beer, sophisticated in taste and rich in colour. Edinburgh Gold boasts an attractive continental hop aroma with moderate bitterness and a pleasing smooth finish
Theakston Best 3.8% – the definitive English Bitter. This fine golden-coloured beer has a full flavour that lingers pleasantly on the palate. With good bitter sweet balance, this beer has a subtle hop character described as citrus and spicy. It’s a refreshing and very satisfying pint – noted for the aroma of its Fuggle hops and the dry hopping of Bramling Cross to add to its characteristic Theakston aroma
Theakston Old Peculier 5.6% – the beer that made Masham famous – rich, dark and smooth tasting, with a character all of its own. Brewed using the traditional Fuggle hop, Old Peculier is our best known beer and has a large and enthusiastic following all over Britain and around the world
Wainwright Blonde 4.1% – a golden ale inspired by Alfred Wainwright, famous son of Blackburn and his pictorial guides to Lakeland walking. A refreshing straw coloured beer with soft fruit flavours and a hint of summery sweetness from the fine malt. Utterly drinkable
Directors Bitter, Courage 4.8% – full bodied with a clean, bitter taste, balanced with a sweet burnt, malty and fruity notes with a distinctive dry-hop aroma and flavour. Origin: Hampshire, founded: 1787
Tether Blond 4.1% – a pale, straw coloured and highly drinkable ale, using a blend of American hops and late hopped with Galaxy (NZ), giving a wonderful resinous character and a very distinctive citrus – passionfruit top note. A fantastic blonde beer
Tetley Cask 3.7% – Tetley’s Original is a traditional style ale with a full-bodied hoppy flavour and a refreshing crispness on the palate
Timothy Taylor Landlord 4.3% – a classic Strong Pale Ale, Landlord has won more awards nationally than any other beer. This includes four times as Champion at the Brewers’ International Exhibition and four times as CAMRA’s beer of the year. Refreshingly reliable, nationally renowned, this full-drinking Pale Ale has a complex and hoppy aroma
Wadworth 6X 4.3% – classic English tawny pale ale, brewed with pale, chocolate, crystal and wheat malts, blended with spicy Challenger, Styrian and Golding hops, to create a fruity beer with peppery aroma and fruity, biscuity flavour
Woodforde’s Wherry 3.8% – fresh and zesty with crisp floral flavours. A background of sweet malt and a hoppy ‘grapefruit’ bitter finish characterises this Champion Beer of Britain
Hobgoblin, Wychwood 4.5% – traditionally brewed to produce a wonderfully well-balanced blend of smooth, rich and satisfying flavours from chocolate and crystal malts combined with a crisp, bitterness from Styrian, Goldings and Fuggles hops. A unique and original beer with a character not unlike the Hobgoblin himself! Hobgoblin has long been considered the unofficial beer of Halloween. Origin: Oxfordshire, founded: 1983
Young’s Bitter 3.7% – bursting with taste, Young’s Bitter is an easy to drink, refreshing cask ale with a fresh, fruity aroma that leaves a long, satisfying bitter finish. It is traditionally brewed to deliver a clean taste and is light and dry in flavour with a subtle taste of hops. Young’s Bitter is the fastest growing standard cask ale in London
Young’s London Gold 3.7% – a light, golden beer with a refreshing bite. The combination of English malted barley and Styrian hops provides a well rounded floral and citrus flavour with hints of fruit, finished off with a dry, hoppy bitterness
Young’s Special 4.5% – a classic bitter that has gained cult status among cask ale drinkers. Amber in colour, it has a fruity, slightly estery nose with a good hop aroma and full round flavour, a fine balance between malt and hops. 100% malt brew: Maris Otter and crystal malt together with Fuggle and Golding hops