Sunday, 13 October 2013

Renewing your acquaintance with Sam

Interesting results in my poll on when people last visited a Sam Smith’s pub. 11% (including myself) had done so within the past week, while 54% had during the past year. However, 33% had done so at some time in the past, but longer than a year ago, suggesting it is high time they made another visit to their distinctive, characterful and keenly-priced pubs. Only 13% had never been in one at all.

One commenter suggested that many people wouldn’t have been to one through simple reasons of geography, but Sam’s pubs are fairly widespread, with concentrations in Yorkshire, the North-West and London, and a scattering through the Midlands stretching down as far as Bristol and Cardiff. Plus it’s very unlikely that anyone of drinking age has lived such a limited life that they have never travelled to within reach of one. Here’s a map of their pub locations.

And, for those who complain about Sam’s limited and unadventurous beer range, John Clarke has provided me with a number of examples of their brewing innovations over the past thirty years:

  • First to seriously introduce revivalist oatmeal stout, (Taddy) porter and imperial stout in the 1980s
  • Exported these to the USA and arguably played a part in the revival of interest in those styles there
  • Produced strong bottle-conditioned Yorkshire Stingo - another revival of an old style
  • Continue to innovate, e.g. Organic Chocolate Stout
  • Make authentic German wheat beer in house in the UK
  • Run the only UK lambic brewery at Stamford - brew house had been sprayed with yeast from De Troch lambic brewery in Belgium (shame all goes into sweet fruit beers)


  1. Sam's brew their own lambic? That's impressive in anyone's language. I've had the cherry beer a couple of times and not been wildly impressed, but I think I'll have to investigate now.

  2. Back in the 80s when I lived in London, my local was a Sam Smith's. The Earl of Lonsdale, on the corner of Westbourne Grove and Portobello Road. I note from your Google map that it's still a Sam Smith's even now! That's continuity!

    I guess the last time I went there must have been 15 - 20 years ago. At the time it was my local, I used to do a lot of work for Virgin (when Virgin was still a fairly small company, before Richard bought the airline), and as there were a few Virgin offices in the area, on a Friday after work, it became the de facto Virgin drinking hall. It was a hoot! Great atmosphere in there, and as well as the Virgin crowd, we'd get a regular trickle of rock'n'rollers drinking there. Lemmy from Motorhead was a regular, I saw most of the Sex Pistols there at one time or another, plus many of the 'New Romantic' (ugh, not my cup of tea...) bands that were signed to Virgin and big names at the time. And I always liked the Sam Smith's beers. The landlord (Mike?) kept them well, and you never got a duff pint.

  3. If more of them actually had OBB on, I mightc all in. However, the keg ones near ne have zero appeal both in terms of beer and "character".

  4. well theres a big East Anglian shaped hole in that map of locations, the nearest Sam Smiths is a good 70-90 miles away, theres alot of pubs in between there Id favour Ive more reason and likelihood of visiting than a Sam Smiths

  5. You can add authentic craft brewed lout to the list too. Good enough to keep anyone off the pong.

  6. I'm one of those 'never been' voters, and quite surprised to see there is actually one in Cardiff.
    I shall rectify that when i get a chance, although a little reading online suggests its a place with frequently changing managers and suffers as a result of that.

  7. I was inspired by this post to revisit the only Sam's pub in Bristol, the King William Alehouse. Unfortunately it's keg only. However, my pint of OBB was drinkable and not badly priced at £2.50. However, I couldn't get my head around some of the other prices. A pint bottle of Imperial Stout at 7% was, I thought, not bad value at £3.80. However, a bottle of Yorkshire Stingo at 8% was £11.00! ELEVEN QUID! FOR A BOTTLE OF BEER!
    As it happens, I then ventured into a new pub, The Beer Emporium, which had seven ales on plus a multiplicity of craft keg. My eye was caught by one called "Wu Gang Chops The Tree", a foraged herb hefeweisse (I'm not making this up) at 3.7% which was £5.30 a pint. I didn't have any. Their website, confirms that the beer is brewed, yes, in a railway arch in Hackney, and before they moved there, yes, they used to brew in a shed. Unfortunately there are no photos on the site to confirm presence of daft hats, ironic facial hair etc. Give me a pint of Landlord any day of the week.


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