Thirsty? Here’s a Map of London Underground by the Cheapest Pint

Thirsty? Here’s a Map of London Underground by the Cheapest Pint
July 17, 2019 Adam Stead
~ read | In Special Projects

The tube is the best way to get home after visiting the pub. It’s warm, cheaper than an Uber, and you can’t kill anyone unless you really intend to.

We were curious about the cheapest pub on the line, so we’ve built a map – showing the cheapest pint in the pub closest to every tube station. 

But that got us thinking. What’s the cheapest independent pub? And what, for that matter, is the cheapest line? What’s the cheapest zone by the pint? What’s the furthest tube station from a pub? And what’s the most common cheapest pint on the tube?

First, let’s back up a bit.

What do I mean when I say “the cheapest pint close to every tube stop?” 

Well, a pint has to be in a pub.* I’m not interested in drinking in bars, clubs, restaurants, or gin parlours. I’m too old for that. That asterisk means you can find my definition of what a pub is in the notes on this project page

Second, I don’t want to walk further than I have to, so it has to be the closest** pub to a tube station. Any tube station. That’s 263 pubs in total, across 270 stops.

And who am I? Why am I doing this? Hi. Hello. I’m Adam Stead. I work for StoreKit, and we count pubs among our favourite customers. And I love pints. Here’s me, drinking beer. 

picture of author drinking pints across 15 pubs

Disclaimer: don’t drink 15 pints, unless you’re REALLY thirsty

To find the cheapest pub on the tube, I called 263 pubs and I asked them about their cheapest and most popular pint. 

That’s an exhausting number of ring throughs, fake number tones, hang-ups, redials, can-you-call-back-laters, and I’ll-have-to-get-my-managers. It took about two weeks. There was one man who I’m sure I woke up complaining that the pub won’t effing delist his number from Google and that he doesn’t work there. One man who shouted that he didn’t know who I was and he didn’t have to answer my questions. 

After that much effort, it seemed a shame to make just one map. So we’ve split this into three articles. This looks at the cheapest independent pubs, the second article examines pubs by the line, and the final article talks about the distance of pubs from the tube.

 

OVERALL FINDINGS

The Map

Note: due to a request from TfL, this is not the original map, but an alternate piece of art inspired by the tube but built from scratch. It also has corrections from the original map. The downloadable version can be found here

tube map of cheapest beer and closest pub

 

 

The Most Expensive Pub

Yeah, right down to it. We’re naming and shaming here.

By the cheapest pint, the most expensive pub on the tube is the Union Tavern near Westbourne Park. There, the cheapest pint you can buy is a £5.55 pint of Frontier, and the barman told me that the most popular pint they sold was Neck Oil, for £5.80.

Screenshot of the Union Tavern pub, Westbourne Park

The Union Tavern’s patrons are such vociferous drinkers of “cool” expensive Beavertown brewery beer that their van was literally parked outside the pub in question. But with those margins, we could afford to drink at the Union Tavern too.

 

Now that’s *very expensive* for a cheapest pint, but their most popular pint was only 25p more, and unfortunately, £5.80 isn’t the most outrageous Neck Oil I’ve ever oiled my neck with. For example, The Hoop & Toy in South Kensington sells the same pint for £6.40, so I’m loathe to call the Union Tavern the most expensive pub in London. 

The most expensive “most popular” pint of all was at the Sutton Arms near the Barbican, which cited Gamma Ray as its most popular pint, for £6.50. £6.50! Not even their most expensive pint!

The Sutton Arms pub near the Barbican Street View Screenshot

When the stage production of Chernobyl comes out at the Barbican, pop round to the Sutton Arms for a pint of Gamma Ray at a radioactive price. The Beavertown website says of its Gamma Ray beer, “you can smell it from miles away!”

 

But again, Gamma Ray is an expensive pint wherever you buy it. And you can buy £4.90 London Pride in the Sutton Arms if you’re not too embarrassed to ask what their cheapest beer is.  

So one could argue that the *most* expensive pub is the pub which sells the most expensive pint versus the relative price of that pint in other pubs.

For that, we need to look at the price of different beers. The vertical bars on these graphs show two different prices. The bottom of the bar on this graph shows the cheapest recorded occurrence of that beer in one of our pubs, and the top shows the most expensive pint of that beer which occurred. 

Here’s the spread of individual beer brands across categories.

graph showing range of beer prices

Neck Oil is right up there at the top; but we don’t have the data for Frontier’s because the Union Tavern was the only pub to mention it. 

John Smith’s, at the bottom, is the taste of brown, lukewarm mediocrity and it rocks. It was the cheapest pint in 6.5% of pubs, and was the most popular pint in, er, zero. Sorry. At the far end, everything to the right of Peroni was only cited as a popular pint, so there was always something cheaper than Estrella or Birra Moretti on offer.

Perhaps, then, the most expensive pub is one of the high scorers on the far left. The price with the highest relative pricing for their cheapest pint was… the Heathrow Terminal 5 Wetherspoons, called The George. 

There, a bud light costs £4.75, more than double the £2.37 average price of bud light recorded. Which is extremely expensive for a pint of lager you couldn’t pay me to drink. 

Heathrow Airport street view image

One thing pushing up the price at Heathrow Wetherspoons is that they get all their beer delivered by drone.

 

The Cheapest Pint

And what’s the cheapest pint on the tube? 

It’s a Wetherspoons

It’s two Wetherspoons, in fact – The New Fairlop Oak in Fairlop, and the Oyster Rooms in Fulham Broadway, which both sell a £1.89 pint. That’s for a pint of Kozel in Fairlop, and for a pint called Greene King Ruddles Best in Fulham, which I’ve never drank, so could be delicious. 

picture of the New Fairlop Oak pub in Fairlop

Here it is – the absolute cheapest pint on the underground is a £1.89 pint of Kozel beer bought here, at the New Fairlop Oak, near Fairlop tube station. We’ve put this one in the article because The New Fairlop Oak is probably the premier attraction in Fairlop.

 

This was a conundrum for me. 

I wanted to go and to enjoy the cheapest pint possible in any pub on the tube. But the fact that it was a Wetherspoons felt kind of unsatisfying. I have nothing against the chain – I always make a point of reading Wetherspoons news to help make sense of the latest round of Brexit negotiations – but I wanted to go and support somewhere independent. (I also suspect that £1.89 is an offer which might move between Wetherspoons pubs from time to time). 

So I began working my way up the list of pubs I had made from the cheapest and adjudicating whether I thought they were independent. After all the calls there turned out to be two joint contenders for the cheapest independent pub, whom I had to decide between. 

 

1. The Coach & Horses, Hounslow East

Coach & Horses Pub in Hounslow East

Google inexplicably lists Coach & Horses in Hounslow as an Indian restaurant, so it retains an air of mystery.

 

In Hounslow, there’s an “urban farm”, transport links out of Hounslow, and best of all, there’s the Coach & Horses pub, which is 0.3 miles from the underground station along a busy road. You can drink yourself into a stupor for £2.00 a pop there, before visiting the urban farm’s snake house.

On the sixth time I tried the Coach & Horses, I got a response. But the barman would only tell me that they had a £2.00 pint, before telling me I would have to call back another time and he was too busy to answer my second question. Frustratingly I don’t know what kind of pint this is. I mean, maybe it’s a Beck’s Blue?

2. The Salmon & Ball, Bethnal Green

The Salmon & Ball was a pub I once passed nearly every day on my way to work; but which I’d never been into. Their phone number didn’t work but I live close by, and I was itchy enough about the pricing to pop in on a Saturday. 

And then I saw it. Written in chalk on the side of the building. The offer of the century. It was another £2.00 pint. This time, Best Bitter. Available only between 10am and 3pm on a weekday. 

You might be tempted to say, “well I didn’t hear any time conditions attached to the Coach & Horses” and you’d be right – but I don’t even know what beer that is. And drinking a £2.00 pint at 10AM on a Tuesday in Bethnal Green is a kind of rock bottom experience which can transform a person’s life. For £2.00, that’s a steal. It’s cheaper than a self-help book. And if we look at pint price by the zone – I mean, this is zone 2. It’s zone 2. It’s a zone 2 independent pub with a £2.00 pint. Zone 4 is the cheapest zone. Zone 2 is expensive.

Salmon and Ball pub Bethnal Green street view

The “ball” may refer to a ball of wool – we’re near Weaver’s fields, and, as it happens, Billingsgate fish market. Salmon & Ball has an, uh, interesting history which involves hangings and then Oswald Moseley.

 

This is a historic pub. It was incorporated in the 18th century. This is a listed bloody building. This was the pub I had been searching for all my life, and it was right there – pretty close to my house. This pub, this £2.00-a-pint pub, is in zone 2. This is absolutely the cheap pint you need in your life right now. And it was where I would go to complete the first part of my investigation into the cheapest pint on the tube.

Read on…

CHAPTER 2 – THE BEST DRINKING LINE

Curious about what the cheapest line on the tube is by PINT? Keep reading… this is the chapter where we go into a little more detail line by line, including – the cheapest line, the line with the best taste in beer, and the most popular pint on the tube.

CHAPTER 3 – THE FURTHEST PUB 

For this project, I had to do a lot of measuring the distance from stations. The third and final chapter in this trilogy explains how to reduce the distance between your exiting the underground station and entering the pub to 0.

CHAPTER 4 – NOTES ON THE PROJECT

Think I’m wrong about the closest pub? Read my full methodology and a list of notes and exceptions.

 

At the request of TfL, the map of the “cheapest pint” has been removed from the blog.

 

 

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Comments (22)

  1. Robert 4 months ago

    All I’d say – and please believe I’m no neckbearded artisan beer fan; I just like a decent pint – is that “Bud Light” is pretty far away from anyone’s idea of a rewarding beverage.

    • Author
      Adam Stead 4 months ago

      Hear hear. I do lay into bud light somewhat at the end of chapter 2, you’ll be pleased to learn

  2. Dario 4 months ago

    Interesting but there are no Overground stops reviewed:-((

    • I. P. Hey 4 months ago

      Yep. Bias towards SE London which has the best pubs..

    • Patches O'Houlihan 4 months ago

      “Interesting but”. Everyone’s a critic right? Very observant of you to point out the lack of overground, but perhaps you missed the title of the article – “Thirsty? Here’s a Map of London Underground by the Cheapest Pint”… Undergournd….

  3. Ian Gibson 4 months ago

    Superb job!

    One error! The Red Lion sells Vordens, not Bordens.

    I hereby claim my free beer voucher!

    • Author
      Adam Stead 4 months ago

      Ack! I am cringing at this. I intend to start drinking Vorden’s beer to make up for it

  4. Jason Smith 4 months ago

    This is great. I should point out that you couldn’t get an answer from the Kilkenny Tavern in South Wimbledon because it is permanently closed. I think the closest pub to the underground is probably The Trafalgar Freehouse, which is a rather wonderful independent pub that looks like it’s a converted industrial unit bolted onto the council estate.

  5. Joe Hickey 4 months ago

    The Hart in Southgate is more shisha joint than pub now. I went in there and the only beer they had on tap was Heineken for £6 a pint. The nearest actual pub is the Fishmonger’s where you can get a pint for around £4.

  6. Theo Higgins 4 months ago

    Surprised to hear about The George in Heathrow Terminal 5 considering the nearest pub to Wanstead station is a spoons called The George and charges the same rate for a Bud Light. Even more interesting is just down the road in South Woodford is another (independent?) pub called The George. Almost as if there was some important bloke named George knocking around at some point eh?
    Considering I pass near the Railway Bell in South Woodford (which lacks data) often enough would you be interested in me popping in to find the cheapest pint and reporting back?

    • Author
      Adam Stead 4 months ago

      Hi Theo – this is one of a couple of mistakes. The George in Wanstead does not charge £4.75 – I got mixed up when copying from the dataset because both spoons share a name, both are wetherspoons, and both have bud light as their cheapest pint. It charges £1.99

      By all means report back! We’ve had to take the map down but would certainly be useful. 🙂

  7. Elliott L 4 months ago

    Any chance we could have a copy of the data set?

    Your tube map looks great but it’s very hard for my brain to parse!

    Also as a side note, the link to ‘Chapter 1 – The cheapest pint’ is missing the ‘advice’ segment (link on this page http://storekit.com/advice/london-underground-notes-on-the-project/)

    • Author
      Adam Stead 4 months ago

      Hi Elliott, not immediately – but maybe? email me at adam@storekit.com and let me know if there’s something specific you plan to do. We’re dealing with the fallout from this now but would definitely consider releasing it in a little while!

  8. Anne Layzell 4 months ago

    I love the Sutton Arms. But beware – there’s another Sutton Arms not far away, make sure you get the right one.

  9. Alex R 4 months ago

    Is the map going to be available to purchase? Would love that in my office!

  10. Greg T 4 months ago

    Can we have a privte link or copy of the Not-quite-the-tube map please?
    TfL are being stupid I’m afraid, but that should not disadvantage us, should it?

  11. Henry 4 months ago

    Hi Adam, a comment on part 2 as I don’t seem to be able to comment on that page – you say the Bakerloo has no Wetherspoons along the line, but the Metropolitan Bar at Baker St is a spoons…

  12. Masha 4 months ago

    The closest pub to Kings Cross station is Parcel yard, which is located inside the station near platform 9, 10, 11 and 9&3/4.

    https://www.parcelyard.co.uk

    Can’t consult on beer pricing though.

  13. Rod 4 months ago

    True Value Add to read this on a friday afternoon, curtesy of “The Nimbus Edit”

    • Author
      Adam Stead 4 months ago

      Good to hear from you Rod! The Nimbus Edit is the best pitstop for all your technology news 😉

  14. Joost de Folter 4 months ago

    Thank you, great series of articles! Also nice detail on the reshaped tube map.
    Thinking further about normalisation, average price of a pint would also be interesting, and could perhaps be nicely visualised by heat-map style overlay on the tube map.
    Or maybe pick a couple of common beers, using their normalised price-factor (i.e. (beer X price / average beer X price) failing that (beer Y price / average beer Y price)) then in percentage or heat-map. I imagine this may coincide more with intuitive expectations of increasing price by zone.
    Also really interested where they sell Doombar (i.e. Real ale) for around £2?

  15. Milo 2 months ago

    Great work Adam, although I have to point out that The Antelope, equal number of steps from Sloane Square as The Fox & Hounds (I’ve tried it), offers a pint of Seafarers at £4.10 (it’s a good pint too).

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