The Pied Bull is an historic Chester city centre pub that has origins as far back as 1155 and is reputed to be the oldest licenced premises in Chester. The strengths of the pub lie in the wide selection of real ales on cask (along with a couple of their own brews which I’ll get to in a bit), and the cosy traditional style of the interior. Given that it’s a city centre pub with history you can expect to bump into a variety of characters in there ranging from typical CAMRA aficionados to American tourists looking for Bed & Breakfast and an experience with a medieval English ghost or two. Rooms are reasonably priced for the city and they also do good food in there.
Inside the pub there is a lot of carved wood panelling and a staircase that dates back to 1533. The seating area is on one floor with numerous little nooks and crannies that you can find if you want a quiet pint. There are one or two sofas dotted around the place that adds to the comfort but you’ll be typically perched on a bar stool or wooden chair.
Of real interest is the fact that The Pied Bull has a fully operational microbrewery on the premises. Tom, the head brewer gave me a quick tour not long back and they have the beginnings of a nice little operation considering it only opened in 2011. In testament to the quality of the beer Tom is producing, they received a CAMRA awarded for their Matador beer only a year later. There are usually a couple of their own brewed ales on cask at any one time so you could have the choice of a range of styles including the Matador (a 5% malty ale), Pied Eyed (their session bitter), Bull’s Hit (a hoppy golden ale), or the Black Bull (porter) amongst others. All of which I’ve tried and enjoyed!
The microbrewery in the depths of the pub is the only working brewery within the city walls and adds a real character to the place to the extent that you can actually tell when they are brewing an ale. My mind is cast back to a few months ago when I walked into the pub behind a couple and as soon as they entered, the chap looked at his partner with a quizzical look on his face and nose in the air and his partner simply said “They’re brewing again!”. There can’t be many pubs where the smell of hops from your beer are accompanied by the smell of fresh hops in the air! This only adds to enhance the character of the place.
You can expect at least 6 very decent beers on cask at any one time from some quality breweries. Recent brews have been from the likes of Red Willow, Quantum, Hawkshead, Tiny Rebel, Offbeat and Marble. The staff have always been very friendly and knowledgeable about the ale so if you aren’t sure about what to order that will usually give you a little sample to help you make up your mind.
The only real downside that I can think of when considering the Pied Bull is the lack of outside space. If you’re thinking of having a pint in the sun, you’ll have difficulty because there is no beer garden. That said, there hasn’t been a consistent run of sunny days in this country since 1977 so the lack of an outdoor area isn’t an issue for me.
In many ways the pub is a throwback to the old days of the traditional English pub which is now unfortunately disappearing from the drinking landscape in favour of modern trendy wine bars and fun pubs. The fact that pubs like the Pied Bull exist and are continuing to thrive in these tough economic times is testament to the quality of the pub itself and the ales on offer.
I’m a regular in the Pied Bull and I’ll continue to be for some time to come.
The Pied Bull
57 Northgate St, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2HQ.