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The “Underground AleWay” Brighton & Sussex Ale Trail

Posted by on October 29, 2013

If you’ve been with me from the beginning you’ll remember my post on the Prince Albert, my first pub of this years’ Ale Trail.

Well, while I didn’t want to bore you with all the details, rest assured, I’ve been busy.


I am what I am.

I’ve taken the liberty of ranking each pub from one to 40.

It’s worth pointing out that due to the nature of the ale trail, I ended up in these pubs at very different times of day, from first thing on a Monday morning to late on a Friday night. Some I caught during festivals, others happened to have live music, while others benefited from perfect beer garden weather. In other words, my scores are based on my own, limited experiences and while I know some of these pubs intimately, others got just a few minutes of my time.

So what I’m saying is, these are all great pubs. They wouldn’t be on the ale trail in the first place if they weren’t. Even the poor Mitre Tavern, who came in at 40, is still leagues above some of the pubs that didn’t make the cut.

Why not think of this as a list of the…

Top 40 Real Ale Pubs in Brighton and the Greater Sussex Area

The Prince Albert, Brighton

One of Brighton’s premier live music venues, yet totally down to earth. You can read the full report here.

The Pump House, Brighton

Located in the Lanes, this one feels a little too up-market for the likes of me. Nevertheless, it was relaxed, comfortable and benefitted from its own ale and cider festival.

The Battle of Trafalgar, Brighton

Though there were many similar pubs on the trail, this was one of the first and so its down to earth atmosphere stuck with me. This is exactly what a good pub should be!

Craft Beer, Brighton

I have to confess, I was expecting pretentious and soulless, but what I found was a whatever’s-comfortable hangout for people who love beer. Sure, they have a beer for over £50, but you can also get a beer for what you’d pay in any other Brighton pub – around £3.50 – and it’ll be a damn good beer too! They specialise in sourcing the most unique and interesting international brews, and while the Drinking Traveller is scouring the globe for them, Craft Beer is bringing them home for everyone!

The Evening Star, Brighton

A favourite of the Brighton real-ale-drinking community and it’s easy to see why. Has probably the best range of quirky brews and ciders of any pub on this list. A bit of a local’s secret. Great on a summer’s evening, straight after work, with the sun on the outdoor seating area. The only let down is the lack of indoor seating on a busy night, but if you’re a stander, you’re good to go!


Outside the Evening Star, Brighton


With Hat & Carly outside the Evening Star

The Victory Inn, Brighton

I caught the Victory on a Saturday night when, due to its central location, it blends into the mess that is Brighton’s weekend nightlife. However, I’m assured (and got the impression) that it’s a great pub when quieter.

the victory-inn-brighton

A brief Jager-bomb tangent in the Victory Inn, Brighton…

the victory-inn-brighton-2

Pablo, Carly & Hattie in the Victory

The Prestonville, Brighton

Excellent pub! A bit out of the way for a night out on the town, but perfect for locals of the Seven Dials and Prestonville areas. Like the Battle of Trafalgar only with great food too!

Mitre Tavern, Brighton

The lowest scoring of this selection, but still one of Brighton’s finest. Let down by its shitty location and the fact I hit it up on a weekday afternoon. The staff and clientele are great though.

The Basketmakers Arms, Brighton

I really wanted to hate this pub. However, when it came down to it I couldn’t. There’s a reason it’s so popular. Everyone is welcoming and on a sunny day the chilled out atmosphere spills out onto the street, where you can enjoy your pint sitting on the curb with the rest of the happy people and occasional entourage of street performers. This one is Brighton at its Brightoniest.


In the Basketmaker’s Arms

Lord Nelson, Brighton

Looks dingy and dodgy and generally unapproachable from the outside, but is the complete opposite once inside. Friendly, genuine, cosy, a little odd…in a good way. Plus you can have the best pizzas in Brighton delivered by hand from Cafe Aldo across the road!

The Alma Arms, Uckfield

During the day, this place feels like some frontier bar on the edge of the world. A perfectly pleasant, no thrills place to have a drink. I hear it gets nice and rowdy in the evenings though.

The Laughing Fish, Isfield

This is the perfect place to while away a summer’s day, relaxing in the beer garden just beside the Lavender Line in the remote village of Isfield – also home to the Isfield Brewery, whose beers they regularly stock.


The Laughing Fish, Isfield

The Cock, Ringmer

Like the Laughing Fish, this is another quintessential English country pub, set back in rural surroundings; the sun shimmering on the grass and dragonflies abuzz. There’s a great (though slightly pricey) food menu and an idyllic beer garden.


The sign says it all.

Covering up the “mer” on the “Cock Ringmer” stamp also gave me hours of amusement.


The Cockmobile!


Ruth @ The Cock


On the road again…


Drinking Traveller Style

The Anchor Inn, Ringmer

Something about this pub really made a good impression on me. Maybe it was the great, friendly people of Ringmer, or maybe it was the board games and the decor, which for me was the perfect blend of traditional pub and modern trendy.

The Snowdrop, Lewes

We caught this one during some kind of event and in a considerably intoxicated state. Champion drinkers Mark Swan and Tabby also put in an honorary appearance. It seemed like the kind of pub that is, rain or shine, event or no event, a good place to be. I will be back to test that theory!


Outside the Snowdrop Inn, Lewes


Too drunk to know what this was, only that I tried to get on stage at one point.

The Gardeners Arms, Lewes

We hit this pub twice: once for cider, once for beer. The first time it was a bit dead and a tad sketchy, the second time it was full and friendly. On both occasions, the staff were jovial and the beer good.

The Stanley Arms, Portslade

I won’t lie, I heard Portslade backstreet and expected a shithole, but the Stanley Arms is anything but! This pub is a Real-Aler’s dream! Hip beer garden, great clientele and plenty of events.

The Westbourne, Hove

Sadly, I didn’t get to see the Westbourne at its best and was a little disappointed. I’ve heard great things, about both the food and the selection of beers. Cool and kitsch, it’s still the ideal Hove hangout.

The Neptune, Hove

The Neptune is small but lively. They host some top live music and are another favourite haunt of Hove’s hardcore beer-loving community. This is the kind of pub I plan to frequent when I’ve done my share of travelling and decide to settle back down in Brighton, old and content.


My off-license (liquor store) on the way to the Wellington Hotel, Seaford

Wellington Hotel, Seaford

The only Seaford pub on the trail and one of my personal favourites. The range of good beer is second only to the Evening Star. This pub somehow manages to make everyone at home, from your local Everyman to your outlandish Rebel-type. There’s also blue fairy lights…You know, for the ladies.

Rights of Man, Lewes

Ruth insisted on rating this one incredibly high as apparently they have amazing toilets. Unfortunately I didn’t get to experience them myself (strong bladder) but I had a perfectly good time in this Lewes High Street pub.

The Lewes Arms, Lewes

This is Lewes’ answer to the Basketmakers in Brighton. Cool staff, nice building, great location. Looks like they do a good meal too. Not to mention the overspill seating on the curb outside. The quintessential Lewes pub!

Con Club, Lewes

I’ve marked this one so highly just because it’s so unlike anything else on the trail. Lewes Constitutional Club, as it is more formerly known, feels like another world, with a good range of ales, big, comfy armchairs and a members-only/sign-in policy that’ll make you feel like a VIP.


Walking from Devil’s Dyke to Fulking


Ruth trekking the Downs





Shepherd and Dog, Fulking

If there is a winner here, this is it! Best served after a trek across the South Downs from Devil’s Dyke, which is arguably the best way to reach this obscure number. Flawless food, high quality ales and superb beer garden. Even the little dog on their pub-sign is cool. A must for anyone, not just Ale-Trailers!


Cool pub-sign

The Swan Inn, Falmer

“A day in the country is worth a million in town.”

Just across the road from the universities, yet tucked away in quaint Falmer village, this relaxed, historic pub felt like the haunt of students both past and present and loyal lecturers in tweed jackets.

Buckingham Arms, Shoreham

Right opposite Shoreham Station, this big, cheerful pub is where the men of Shoreham congregate for an after-work bevvy. Great atmosphere, best enjoyed on a Friday, late afternoon.

Duke of Wellington, Shoreham

This controversial pub had our posse divided like no other. While I loved the sociable beer garden, the unusual but top-notch range of ales, the deafening live music, the lively crowds, bar billiards table and that strange device in the men’s room that I won’t even begin to try to describe here, I appreciate that it’s not for everyone. Check it out! See which side of the fence you lie on!


“A tribute to Roy”…It seems my reputation preceded me.

Red Lion, Shoreham

“This might sound like a strange question, but is this actually an ‘Inn’?” I asked the barman when we found ourselves a good way out of town and at closing time. He didn’t know and went to check.

“No,” he said when he came back. “…They haven’t done that for years.”

The pub itself is a nice, old number with warm, cosy fireplace and little booths that you stoop into – plus beer garden – and the staff were kind enough to call us a cab.

The Hope, Newhaven

The Hope sticks out as though it were a lighthouse, looking out to sea and over Newhaven’s crumbling harbour. It’s a friendly, unaffected Newhaven pub, with a seaside twist. The perfect place to sit and quietly contemplate life in the afternoon, like a Sea Captain adrift on a long voyage, then join in the fun in the evening.

The Queen Victoria, Rottingdean

Snug and warm on a rainy day, original beer garden for the sunshine. Sit down for a pint in this sultry and deeply atmospheric joint and you’ll never want to leave.

The Brewers Arms, Lewes

We had to do this one shortly after it opened at 10am and found it peppered with old men playing chess and catching up over a scotch or two. My kind of place!

The Royal Oak, Barcombe

The Royal Oak has all the ingredients of a great country pub – including the delicious ploughmans – and the only let down, when up against the likes of the Cock and the Laughing Fish, was the lack of comfortable seating.

The Cock, Wivelsfield Green

Probably the best pub in the area, but tough to reach for outsiders. Though the staff were friendly, the range of real ale was pretty limited and the layout gave it a certain emptiness. Just your average country pub.


We managed to squeeze another Cock Inn…

The Horn’s Lodge, South Chailey

What gave the Horn’s Lodge the edge was its laid-back, muddy-wellington-boots-by-the-fireside feel. There’s nothing like coming in out of the rain and having a few ciders with the local, young farming folk.

The John Harvey, Lewes

Great location by the riverside, and maybe a little too cool for its own good, this is a Harvey’s pub, so perfect if you like the Harvey’s range (who doesn’t?), but not if you’re looking for something else.


After a tiring day, fashioned myself a pair of Homer-Simpson-style sleeping glasses.

The Ship, Cuckfield

These old boys and girls made us feel very welcome here. Stylish yet traditional, the Ship somehow makes you feel like it’s Christmas, every night. The pool table, the books, the beer, and the sofas you just sink into, make this the perfect pub for those cold winter nights and totally deserving of its number five spot.

The Sloop Inn, Scaynes Hill

On the far reaches of the Ale Trail, literally in the middle of nowhere, is the Sloop – known for miles around. Everyone here, from the staff to the locals

The Poacher, Hurstpierpoint

An unpretentious Sussex boozer and a pleasant walk from Hassocks Station (on a good day). When it comes to real ale, the landlady really knows her shit!

Abergavenny Arms, Rodmell

For those who make the journey to Southease Station (an unmanned platform somewhere in the void between Lewes and Newhaven, with nothing but the river and rolling fields to be seen) through the country lanes, Rodmell village and finally the pub itself, amazing pub-food, cushy seats and beer-garden await. As do a real local vibe and limited phone signal.

The Elephant and Castle, Lewes

My favourite of all the Lewes pubs on the trail. We walked right into their “175th Anniversary Cider, Perry and Ale Festival” and the Harvey’s Elephant Ale milk stout (brewed specially by Harvey’s for the occasion) was already out. Obviously I’m not the only one who likes this pub.

The Scoreboard

Ale Pub Score
Shepherd & Dog 1
Sloop 2
Queen Victoria 3
Ship 4
Craft Beer 5
Prince Albert 6
Abergavenny Arms 7
Wellington Hotel 8
Evening Star 9
Duke of Wellington 10
Laughing Fish 11
Anchor 12
Stanley Arms 13
Elephant & Castle 14
Red Lion 15
Prestonville 16
Battle of Trafalgar 17
Basketmakers 18
Cock (Ringmer) 19
Swan 20
Snowdrop 21
Hope 22
Horn’s Lodge 23
Lewes Arms 24
Neptune 25
Con Club 26
Poacher 27
Lord Nelson 28
Westbourne 29
Brewers Arms 30
Rights of Man 31
John Harvey 32
Alma 33
Cock (Wivelsfield) 34
Royal Oak 35
Victory 36
Pump House 37
Buckingham Arms 38
Gardeners 39
Mitre 40

If you want any advice on how to get to any of these pubs, feel free to contact me.

Happy trails!


3 Responses to The “Underground AleWay” Brighton & Sussex Ale Trail

  1. Ruth

    So much fun!!!!!!!

  2. Carls

    <3 The Snowdrop!

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