Please realise this: almost every pub (particularly in London) is a chain pub. Independent, your-grandad pubs are dropping off this flat earth like chocolate bon-bons off a factory line. Sure, your local Fuller’s pub might have retained its character on the surface, but you know underneath it all, it’s still owned by Big Beer.
But there’s nowt wrong with that, as far as I’m concerned. And there’s nowt wrong with the big boys in the pub chain gang either - like, there’s something to be said about knowing exactly what you’re getting. Sometimes, you don’t need a surprise, you need to wrap yourself tightly in a big, boozy comfort blanket. You need: a franchise pub.
Each one caters for a different crowd, or feeling, or need, and according to my expert knowledge (because I’ve been in all of them, thirty times, for research), I’ll happily let you know exactly what your favourite one says about you:
Let’s get the biggy out the way first, the reigning king of chain pubs, the dark overlord of cheap beer and flame-grilled McCoy’s, the carpeted czar of blue China plates and early opening times. There’s not really any denying it: Wetherspoon’s has conquered the country.
If you’re big on ‘Spoons, then you are, in my opinion, the everyman.
If you’re too stuffy to at least peek into one, then there’s something going on here, and it needs changing. The sad fact is: Wetherspoon’s caters for almost every alcohol-drinking adult - if you’re into cheap beer, you can get it from ‘Spoons; if you’re into ale, you can get it from ‘Spoons; if you’re into craft beer, you can get it from ‘Spoons (their selection is genuinely very, very good). OK, maybe the wine and cocktail selection leaves a ‘bit’ to be desired, but it pretty much covers all the bases. Be the everyman, at least once, come on.
My local one even has a beer vending machine in it, and if you’re going to deny yourself a go on that, then we’re done here. Press that little X up in the corner of your screen please.
You like to indulge in a swift spot of snogging, don’t you? You’re single, and you’ve not had a good night out unless you’ve whipped your big tongue around the inside of someone’s cheek like you’re swabbing for DNA. This is fine, I am onboard this train with you, and will ride it to its slimy end.
You also like Flo Rida, and again, you better fire up that furnace, because this locomotive is in for the long haul. AND WE AIN’T IN THE QUIET CARRIAGE.
All Bar One
A friend of mine was once taken out on a date - the bloke telling her he knew this “really posh place” he could take her. It turned out to be All Bar One. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a date in an All Bar One (I’ve done it), but you can’t preface it with the words “posh” or “really”. What you’re getting is nice lighting, some quite good cocktails, a small beer selection, and a pretty safe place to go for a sit-down loo, if I’m honest. And that’s genuinely a ringing endorsement.
So you are either someone who likes a cocktail but doesn’t want to go to one of those really silly £13-a-pop underground speakeasy prisons in a toilet in the pitch black, or you are slightly misguided and/or optimistic about what constitutes “posh”.
You’ve hit the jackpot of chain pubs, here. You’re either really into supporting independent breweries and all that stuff, or you’re just looking for a cheap pint. It covers both bases, and thankfully, Sam Smith’s beer is very nice. Try their chocolate stout if you want to taste the greatest beer that you can only have one of without dying - it’s the best.
You also have an equal chance of being very old, middle-aged, or in your early-to-mid twenties. You are most likely a man, too. Bit sweaty, if I’m honest, Sam Smith’s, lots of man sweat all up in that joint.
Chef and Brewer/Greene King
Dunno, you probably live near a roundabout or something.
I mean, you’re definitely not Australian, that’s a given. You’re in there for the rugby, or less likely but still possible, the extreme sports playing on every screen. If you’re not in there to watch sport, then you are highly disorganised, because nobody has ever genuinely planned to go to a Walkabout on a night out. People go into Walkabout because people walk past Walkabout and say “Shall we go in Walkabout for one” and that always seems like a great idea. It is the walk-in clinic of chain bars.
Unlike Walkabout, there’s a much higher chance that you belong to the country upon which these pubs are styled. You also like Guinness, and are sometimes unaware that it is, in fact, available in other pubs.
The only problem with O’Neill’s pubs is that they differ so much in quality - some are quiet, dimly lit assembly halls, and others are mind-blowing dream factories like the magical palace that is O’Neill’s Wardour Street. If you’re onto that one, then you’re doing what’s right, and I respect it.
I’d say you were a bit of a chameleon - you’ve got many guises, basically. You can equally pal with the proletariat, hang with the hipsters, bang on about beer with the beards, go for afters with the after-work crowd, swill in a station, or Sunday roast with the soppies. Essentially, you’ve got quite the number of strings to your bow. Apart from any really expensive ones, that is. But who wants an expensive string? I certainly don’t.
Also, you are aged from 0 - 100.
Well, I guess you like vodka. It’s pretty much the modus operandi in here - grab a 12-stick of vodka shots with flavours like bubblegum (yes), butterscotch (no) and chilli (if you buy me this your head’s going through a window) and sit down with it, surrounded by a glowing aura of regret. Apart from that, you prefer not seeing what the people around you look like (and vice versa) and are happy slinking about in almost darkness.
You are a booze owl, essentially, an R&B-loving, shot-regretting owl, stuck to the floor, by the DJ booth, snogging what turns out to be a vulture when the lights come on.
I’ll tell you what you like: you like a lunchtime pint, you do. You like really making use of that hour break you get in the middle of the day, and you like neatly fitting two pints into it. Other times you like to squeeze in three because it’s Thursday, and if it’s Friday you’re having four, and there ain’t nothing nobody can dee aboot it.
Daytime drinking is your bag, weekdays and weekends, and at the end of it you’re in bed by around eleven most nights, tucked up, thumb in mouth, kebab on chin, feet hanging over either side of a double bed. Night!
Be At One
Maybe you got it confused with All Bar One? Either way, it’s still not “really posh” but you can still get a relatively nice cocktail for a reasonable price. Specifically during happy hour.
You got it confused with All Bar One though, didn’t you?
Well, you’re approaching payday aren’t ya? Counting those pennies, watching the wallet. Thankfully Simmons will provide fun for Not A Lot Of Cash, and it’s admirable that you’ve recognised this. It’s nice to pull a fast one over the bar scene now and again - really stick it to King Beer. And you can do that in Simmons, because for the enjoyment it supplies, you won’t have to spend a whole heap of dough to experience it.
Also some of them have Playstations in if you like pretending you’re at home when you’re out. Don’t make yourself too at home though, if you know what I mean.*
*I was making a wank joke
Whooo boy, you love a good queue, don’t ya? You like a long queue because everyone is talking to the bar staff and trying all the beers before they buy them. Brewdog pubs are very good when they are mildly-to-moderately busy, but when they are packed, they are the front row of the main stage at Glastonbury, only Kanye West is handing out beers instead of giving lectures.
However, in calmer times, a visit to a Brewdog pub essentially means you are a beer geek, most likely with a large beard. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, unless there’s a big slab of fudge stuck in it or something.
Craft Beer Co
You are looking for somewhere to go, you have looked inside a Craft Beer Co, you think it looks nice, and you have gone in. You have also enjoyed it. I would hazard a guess that you are neither a beer nerd nor a beer novice - you just like a beer. Mr. I Like Beer, look at me. Your favourite film is probably The Shawshank Redemption, too.
You think, for some reason, that a place that brews its own beer inside the actual pub, must serve better beer than everywhere else. You share this same view as me, and it is completely unfounded, yet you still go in time and again, and bang on about it, saying things like “Told ya, isn’t the beer bloody great in here?” You (and I) do not know why you think this, but you do. Let’s be mates.
Slug and Lettuce
You really like Long Island Ice Tea, and you are well aware that it comes under their 2-for-1 cocktail deal. You also realise that this will get you far too pissed for your own good, but you do it anyway. I mean, really, everybody else in there is going to be on your level too, so you won’t stand out too much, but it’s still not the greatest idea in the world. And this is coming from someone who makes this mistake every time. Whatever.
Pitcher and Piano
I’m gonna make a guess, but I reckon you’re in finance, right? I mean, you definitely wear a suit to work whatever it is you do. Either way, you’ve got one near your big office, and you like the mirrors behind the bar, the nice cold beer (that has a more premium price, natch) and the lack of all-day old-man bar-hogs that you might find in some of the other pubs on this list. You’re gonna be in with a younger crowd in a P&P - like, from mid-twenties up to about mid-forties, and that’s just the way you like it.
Also, once it all kicks off, there’s still a chance of that all-elusive snog you’ve been pining for all day. Unfortunately, it’ll most likely be with a work colleague, so prepare yourself for an awkward lift ride the next morning.
DO NOT LOOK THEM IN THE EYE.
Anyway, I’m off to the pub. Bye ya!