How to choose a good pub

A guide to finding the best of Britain's public houses, or 'pubs'.

Step 1: Drinks

The first reason to enter a pub is for a drink. Britain is well known for serving beer warm. Traditional cask conditioned 'real' ale has been brewed for centuries in the British Isles and when served properly, it is a joy to the taste buds. There are a vast variety of brewers brewing a wide range of differing ales in the country. One normally expects a pub to serve different ales from different breweries, however - sometimes that is not possible due to restrictions placed by the brewery. The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) guide book is a good place to look if you are wanting to experience real British beer. Beers may be a bit of an acquired taste but make for a much richer experience than fizzy lager.

Cider is another drink popular in British pubs especially in the summer – you really should try some if you're in the South West of England. Guinness is a very popular drink in UK pubs. There are often a number of lagers on draught and served in bottles. It's best to check the alcohol content of the lagers which can vary from 3 to 6 percent.
Pubs now also offer a number of wines by the glass and bottle as well. It may well be worth checking out the wine list to see what's on offer.

Step 2: Food

A country's history largely determines it's eating and drinking traditions. There is great culinary diversity in the UK, and it varies from region to region. Always ask what the local dish is - you could be in for a very pleasant surprise. Delicacies such as Cornish pasties, Lancashire hotpot and Scottish haggis await you. Snacks at the bar are similarly different. Traditional pubs will serve crisps, what the rest of the world calls potato chips, and peanuts- either salted or dry-roasted. Gastro pubs tend to serve posher fodder like olives, cashew nuts and bruschetta.

Step 3: Pubs to avoid

Much can be said for judging a pub by it's exterior. If you're wanting to get an authentic pub experience it's best to avoid chain pubs. You could do worse than simply asking a local if they could recommend a nice pub. Try and avoid the obvious, pubs right next to major tourist attractions know that they are gaining a huge passing trade and are more concerned with volume of customers than quality of food or drink.

Step 4: Pub Interior

There are usually at least two rooms in each pub. The Bar is traditionally the male drinking domain with less seating and a more basic decoration. The Lounge is often decorated to a higher standard and is more comfortable surroundings for sitting in a group. The Lounge is normally the area where the pub serves food. Some pubs will have another separate room which they call the restaurant, although most still serve food in the lounge - sometimes from a less extensive menu.

As a rule for the traditional pub experience look for buildings with character and age. However it's not just country cottage, thatched roof inns that are recommended, occasionally you might come across a city centre pub with an interior that hasn't changed for many years, and gives you a sense of the hundreds of thousands of pints that have been swilled down over the centuries

Step 5: Games

A good pub might have a number of different types of games to play as you're drinking. Pool and darts are the most popular with some traditional pubs having bar billiards and bar skittles. Pool cues are often kept behind the bar with a deposit needed, there are also rules governing who plays next with a 'winner stays on' rule generally in operation. This is where the winner of the previous game plays again, with the challenger putting up the money for the game. Darts are also kept behind the bar so if you want to have a game ask a member of staff.

Step 6: Warm fire

Down the centuries the British love of an open fire has never waned. To fan the flames of this passion the designers of the nations buildings