With one on nearly every corner, pubs are easily the crown of Brighton’s bountiful drinking scene. From Hove to Kemp Town to the ever popular North Laine, meandering anywhere in the city limits will bring you within sipping distance of a great spot. Here’s our pick for the best pints.
The Great Eastern
Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, British, Cocktails, Wine, Beer, $$$
Great Eastern Interior | @thegreateasternbtn Instagram
Christened after Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s many storied behemoth the SS Great Eastern, Brighton’s version is as cozy and dishevelled as a first mate’s cabin and just as well stocked. The Great Eastern, capping the busy North Laine is afloat with a range of American whiskies surpassing triple digits. But if you’re not in the spirit, the selection of craft beer’s not bad either – and the bar staff, or ‘Whiskey Preachers’ are always knowledgeable (and in some cases, rhapsodic) about their wares. Catch live swamp and blues music – or the DJs from The Big Itch – in the week.
Deep in Kemp Town lies a little brew pub with a big heart that’s been around for over 150 years in some form or another. The regulars here wouldn’t look out of place in a Guy Ritchie film, but you’ll struggle to leave without a good chat and a smile on your face. Roll up on a Sunday for some soft, sweet jazz and a pint brewed on site or signature cocktail at a decent price.
With the swagger of an old-time saloon and the lush fire-glow of a 19th century salon, this is less pub, more immersive experience. Situated over several floors with boltholes galore, exploration can be done with a tipple; but it’s not just about the drink – tuck into award-winning, seasonal fare in the delightful Regency Restaurant. Situated on the Hove-Brighton boundary, it’s the perfect introduction to Hove from Brighton – or vice versa.
Legend tells of a Black Dove who, fleeing the Pope’s service hellbent on revenge, became bound in an unholy, renegade alliance with The Inkeeper. Over the years, mellowed by learning the wisdom of the grape, grains and spirits, the Black Dove settled into more pedestrian pursuits such as cocktail making. Sampling the fruits of these and the Black Dove’s brewed endeavours feels decadent and ever so slightly wicked in the rich black interior of this Kemp Town pub – a fantastic place to lose a few hours.
In need of a place to quench your thirst straight off the train? Head below the viaduct and look for the mural featuring some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century (and George Best). The picnic tables outside are usually full of cool kids and still cool adults but inside, there’s plenty of space to bring friends to watch the footy or catch the next Nirvana in the Albert’s upstairs music venue.
Bar, Pub, Bodega, Pub Grub, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, British, $$$
For those who take their beer seriously enough to keep score in a notebook, this Southey Brewery pub is unmissable. There’s not much to look at but the beer listings, curated by people who care and are a long study. The Dizzy Gull kitchen serves up specials like Three Cheese Fries and Reuben Burgers – with the obligatory roasts on Sundays – to help the beer go down.
Shakespeare's Head Exterior | Courtesy of Shakespeare's Head
As the man himself wrote, ‘…a quart of Ale is a dish for a King.’ Climbing up to Seven Dials can be a chore; so stop in Shakie’s to cool your heels and refuel with their renowned and plentiful bangers and mash and a flagon of their finest ale. The company will be cultured and the staff know their Cumberlands from their Lincolnshires – and it’s just enough off the beaten path to make you feel like a true Brightonian.
Every Brightonian is a regular at the Basketmakers, just off the well-trod tourist paths in the North Laine. Those lucky enough to bag a seat can catch up on all the secrets, lies and poetic endeavours of patrons tucked away in the pub’s many mounted tobacco tins. No room inside? Thirsty travellers needn’t worry – the pavement outside tolerates hoards of friendly patrons each Friday evening. The perfect spot to catch the last rays of the sun with a craft lager or ale.