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

Cheaper beer exists, even in London – if you know where to look – Moment RF

There is a moment in every man’s life when he realizes that he has become his father. Mine came last year at the bar of a well-known pub in central London, when a card reader, almost apologetically by the bartender, told me that I owed almost £8 for the mass-produced beer I had ordered. I swallowed hard. I almost sputtered. 8 euros for a beer? How?

Of all the indignities of modern British life, expensive beer is one of the most irritating. 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 has risen in price by more than 28 percent on average since before the pandemic. It’s nothing short of a pint-tastrophe.

And while it would be nice to be able to identify a culprit – a mustache-twirling, beer-drinking brewery boss perhaps – the causes aren’t so colorful. The war in Ukraine has increased energy and raw material costs, with a knock-on effect on everything else. Rents have risen as landlords try to reclaim the money lost during the Covid-19 lockdowns. London’s workforce is struggling to survive in a ridiculously overheated housing market, which is driving up wages – and the city is attracting huge numbers of tourists, eager to experience London’s pubs and generally less price sensitive than locals.

All this is on top of other longer-term factors such as sky-high beer taxes and the fact that many pub tenants are forced to buy beer from their ‘pubco’ (the company that owns their pub), invariably at prices higher than quoted the open market. And brewers are not whole without guilt: some beers are understandably expensive because they are made in small batches with expensive ingredients by small breweries, but others are expensive because their multinational owners know (or believe) that they can keep prices high and that punters will continue to spend their money .

Ask a landlord what he or she will pay for a barrel of the world’s favorite stout.

But it’s not all bad. There is cheaper beer, even in London. In fact, I’ve never known a time when the price of a beer varies so much depending on where you buy it. Wetherspoons is reliably cheap: according to a spokesperson, this is based on a philosophical belief in ‘fair prices’, achieved through purchasing power and a rigid purchasing structure. Others, such as that of Sam Smith, once known for his value in London, have abandoned the policy.

And then there are the blessed places, in Britain and beyond, where good beer remains reasonably priced in pubs of all kinds. Here are my recommendations if you want to avoid a meltdown at the bar.

The Black Country

A few years ago I interviewed Tim Batham, friendly owner of Black Country brewery Batham’s. “I think beer should be cheap, it’s a basic product that everyone should have,” he told me. I was pleased to find that this philosophy was shared by most in this part of the world. Tim’s beer – or should I say his daughter Alice’s, as she makes it, in the brewery next to the Vine pub (popularly known as the Bull and Bladder) in Brierley Hill – remains of great value. Also try the charismatic Beacon Hotel in Sedgley, home of the legendary strong, mild Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby, still well under £4 for a truly delicious 6 percent beer.

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

Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby is a cheap but delicious pint – Beacon Hotel in Sedgley


Debate about Britain’s best beer city can keep the pub boring all evening, but when it comes to good beer at excellent prices, one city stands out: Sheffield. It’s full of charismatic pubs and, according to the recent Sheffield beer report, has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in Britain. Probably the best part of town for a pint is around Kelham Island, home of the Fat Cat and the Kelham Island Tavern, where a good pint of perfectly kept cask ale is usually yours for much less than £4. There’s also a Huge choice: there are around 600 different beers on sale in Sheffield every day.

The Fat Cat in Sheffield offers pints of perfectly kept cask ale for under £4The Fat Cat in Sheffield offers pints of perfectly kept cask ale for under £4

The Fat Cat in Sheffield offers pints of perfectly kept cask ale for under £4 – Alex Ekins/Alamy

The North East of England

For my third choice, I enlisted the help of England’s leading pub expert, Martin Taylor, who completed Britain’s longest pub crawl in 2022 of any establishment in the Good Beer Guide. He suggests the north-east of England, particularly the coast between Stockton and Sunderland. “Try the Banked Bass at the Sun Inn [in Stockton] and Camerons Strongarm in Hartlepool for maritime heritage and affordable pints,” he told me. Beer on the bench – with its huge, teetering head – has to be seen to be believed, and at less than £3 a pint it’s a luxury everyone 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 plenty of places on the mainland for cheap beer. In terms of capitals, Minsk comes out the cheapest according to travel booking website Omio, with pints passing the bar at 90p a pop – although why you would want to go to Belarus now (and the Foreign Office recommends this) is beyond me off ).

Far better to head to the northern third of Bavaria, Franconia, the largest brewing region in what is arguably the most important beer country in the world. There are dozens of small breweries here that produce delicious, characterful lager at prices that seem barely feasible given the quality. In the heart of Upper Franconia lies Bamberg, a city with 70,000 inhabitants and more than a dozen breweries. Spezial, Schlenkerla and Keesman, the latter producers of what is arguably Germany’s best lager, are must-visits.

Bohemia, Czech Republic

Many Brits go to Prague to drink, and the beer there is reliably cheaper than here. But for a really good price you can leave the Czech capital. Here are two options to satisfy drinkers of both political persuasions: Cvikov, in the north of the country, saw the brewery closed by the communist government in 1968 (there is still graffiti on the wall of the brewery identifying the person responsible minister criticizes), but the brewery was reopened in 2013. , complete with hotel in the former malthouse; and Kutna Hora, east of Prague, had its brewery bought and closed by Heineken in 2009, but reopened by locals in 2017. The latter is a particularly lovely town with a remarkable Gothic church, St Barbara’s Church – exactly the kind of tourist attraction that we are slowly turning into our fathers appreciating.

Leave a Comment