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The thing you need to know about York is that everybody there is pissed all the time.
Okay, I’m prepared to accept that there might be statistical issues with my sample. It was Easter Sunday afternoon, and The Belated Birthday Girl and I were on a street with at least a dozen bars on it while the football was on telly. But it’s still the case that everyone we encountered during that period was out of it to some degree or other.
Including ourselves, it has to be said, as we’d just come out of a lunchtime session from one of those bars. So: how was it doing?
Heading straight to the bar from York station (no point in hanging around, and we need lunch anyway), at first glance the location of BrewDog York looks ideal - a short walk from the station, in a prominent spot on Micklegate, a street headed up by the city gate that's confusingly referred to as Micklegate Bar. It's initially a little hard to get a handle on how large it is, due to some idiosyncrasies in the layout - more on that later. But we find a spare table near the back, and go for the predictable combination of a couple of beers and a couple of pizzas, which work just fine as our lunch.
As we scoff our pizzas and beer, we spend a bit more time checking the place out. During that afternoon session, the main feature we observe from our nook in the rear of the building is the collection of fridges for takeaway beer. As BrewDog have walked back from their original plans to have dedicated off-licence premises like the late lamented BottleDog, their focus these days is on selling a decent range of takeaway beers at the bars. The off-sales area in the York bar is an excellent example of this, with two fridges of BrewDog's own beers and two fridges of guests from the UK, USA and Europe. As our table is right by these fridges, we get to see how popular they are - not just with people who are buying beer for later, but also by people who are fascinated by the range on display. At one point, I swear we watch a family leave their child in a pushchair just looking at the fridges, treating the colours and lights as a babysitting device like they're an episode of In The Night Garden or something.
When we return for a nighttime visit later the same day, we again have to look around for a free table before settling for one in the front window. And it's at that point we discover something odd about the bar - there may not be many people in there, but it's still an effort to find free seating. It eventually hits us that although the bar itself is quite big, with at least three distinct areas in it, the number of actual seats in there is relatively small - in fact, the area in front of the bar is basically just a great open space with virtually no tables or chairs in it. You could be cynical and assume that the furniture was reduced to matchwood in a gigantic fight the night before, but it seems more likely that this is how bars work in York - the majority of people like to stand up with their pint, and the bar's been configured accordingly.
It seems to be an approach that's working well for BrewDog York: there were definitely more people around in the afternoon than the evening, but I suspect that's a result of us visiting on Easter Sunday, and other bars seemed to be hit in a similar way. It's a relatively small selection of taps (just fourteen in total, split between BrewDog and guests in the usual fashion), but the large amount of bottles available in the fridges is adequate compensation for that. I'm happy to consider it one of the good ones.
As for other things you can do in York during a flying 28 hour visit, here's a list:
- For some reason, there are two Premier Inns that are virtually next door to each other, one on Blossom Street North and one on Blossom Street South. If for some reason they're both full (as they were on that Easter Sunday), there's a perfectly serviceable Ibis just down the road from them both.
- York Castle Museum is a fine tourist attraction, although we foolishly went there one hour before closing time and had to rush it. Leave a bit longer if you're going to visit it yourself. We managed to see the permanent Victorian street display and a timely exhibit about York's long association with chocolate (Easter Sunday, remember?), but there's plenty more there to see.
- York Minster is, inevitably, also worth a visit. Note that it's worth getting the general admission ticket that includes entrance to the Undercroft, where there's a terrific exhibition about the history of the building and its renovation.
- If you'd rather do something that won't cost any money, you could always do a walk of York's city walls. This map might help, but watch out for the bits where the wall isn't there any more and you've got to do part of the walk at street level. Some signposts might have been nice, guys.
- For food and drink of a non-BrewDog variety, we had a fancy dinner at Source, a decent fry-up at Robinsons, and lunch with a pint at the magnificently named House Of The Trembling Madness.
- We had plans to fit in the National Railway Museum as well, but unfortunately our 28 hours ran out. Maybe next time?