“Go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all this to blow over,” suggested Simon Pegg’s character in the zombie movie Shaun of the Dead.
It always feels a little bit like that film for me around Christmas time in Aberdeen city centre.
Hoards of present-shoppers and office party-goers, shuffling aimlessly around the streets of Aberdeen.
It can all get a bit crazy, especially as we get closer to Mad Friday on the 22nd, and every man’s favourite shopping day of Christmas Eve.
So if you’re out and about in Aberdeen city centre this festive period, here’s my pick of the seven best pubs to duck into for a pint of good beer while this all blows over.
1. The Prince of Wales
I’ve put together this list of pubs considering three key factors:
- Will I probably get a seat?
- Will I get a good beer?
- Will it be a relaxing atmosphere?
The Prince of Wales ticks all of these three boxes and then some.
The classic venue, which is just off St Nicholas street, if you’ve never been, has one of Aberdeen’s best selections of cask ales, and plenty of regular beer besides.
It’s got plenty of nooks and crannies, and on all but the busiest nights, you’re very likely to find a table for you and your pals to have a couple of pints at.
If they’ve got any on, I can definitely recommend a cask ale pint of anything from Cromarty Brewing.
2. Under The Hammer
I was heartbroken when Under The Hammer, on North Silver Street just off Golden Square, shut down in 2020 in the pandemic.
But when news broke that it was being bought over by the good folks at the McGinty’s Group to be renovated and reopened, I couldn’t have been happier.
Since then, the venue has become one of the must-visit pubs in Aberdeen for drinkers on a night out.
With its red leathers, polished woods, chilled out vibe, as well as its friendly and professional staff, it’s like stepping into all the comfort of a 5 star hotel bar in the city centre.
Plus, it’s got a refreshing complete lack of phone signal (for me, anyway).
They offer a small selection of cask ales, great beer in bottles (try a bottle of the Belgian amber Kwak if you fancy something stronger), and Aberdeen’s Fierce Beer on taps.
Plus, if you’re lucky, you might be serenaded by the Led Zeppelin singer.
At peak times they’re often quite busy, but there’s almost always seats at the bar.
3. CASC Bar
Hidden away down Stirling Street, CASC Bar (which stands for Cigars, Ale, Scotch and Coffee) is one of the best pubs in Aberdeen for beer lovers.
Although they definitely focus on whisky, which is immediately apparent when you head down the stairs and see the giant wall of malts behind the bar, they have a huge range of constantly rotating beers suitable for any drinker.
They really have stuff from all over the world, including pints of Hofbrau lager from Germany, and Timmermans cherry beer from Belgium.
And of course, there’s loads of great stuff from Scotland and the rest of the UK, with breweries like Alloa’s Williams Brothers, and Peterhead’s Brew Toon.
And with such a great selection of whiskies, it’s the perfect place for a classic half and half pairing.
It might surprise you to learn that Krakatoa, which will forever be Moorings to me, has one of the best and widest beer selections in Aberdeen city centre.
The Trinity Quay dive bar might be more famous for its rowdy music scene on Friday and Saturday nights, but the rest of the time, I find it one of the best places to go for a great pint and a catch up with my friends.
With a huge variety of rotating beers from all across the world, as well as north-east locals like Six Degrees North, Fierce and Brew Toon, there’s something for everyone — and loads of fancy ciders too.
What I can’t guarantee you, though, is 100% relaxation if you’re not into certain kinds of music, as you’ll quite often find someone has put on some very heavy metal on the jukebox.
That’s definitely my kind of relaxed atmosphere, though.
5. Old Blackfriars
At the bottom of Union Street (or top if you like to be wrong), is Old Blackfriars.
The venue is a veritable rabbit’s warren of nooks and crannies to enjoy a pint in, with loads of cosy tables to sit around and chat with your fellow Christmas shopping avoiders.
In terms of beer, you’ll find your usual Belhaven pub fare, but the good news is that it now includes rather good beers like Level Head and Flinteye.
I popped into Blackfriar’s for the first time in ages a few weeks ago, and was delighted to find the staff and atmosphere as friendly and welcoming as ever.
One of the best pubs in Aberdeen for a cosy pint with pals.
6. Fierce Beer Bar
Fierce Beer’s bar, just of Ship Row and near the entrance to Vue, is an ideal pub for a pint of locally made, great-tasting beer.
They have an extensive tap list of 20, with a solid chunk of them dedicated to Fierce’s flagship beers like their self-titled Fierce IPA and their Cerveza Mexican style lager.
And there’s also plenty of beers from all across the country on tap too, with many you wouldn’t find in places like neighbouring Brewdog.
Plus, if you’re with a non-beer drinker, they’ve got lots of spirits and mixers, many from local companies.
They can get really busy in the evenings, but if you’re stopping off for a swift one to break up an afternoon’s Christmas shopping, you’re more than likely to find a seat.
7. Ma Cameron’s
Ma’s is not only one of Aberdeen’s oldest pubs, it’s also seemingly a portal to another dimension where you’re almost guaranteed to get a seat.
Even on the busiest of evenings, there always seems to be a table free somewhere in the depths of this sprawling, cosy venue.
Be it in the wee Snug area by the old front door, or along the benches and long tables at the back, you’d be hard pressed to walk into Ma Cameron’s and not get a table for you and your friends to have a pint.
They’ve often got a great small selection of cask ales to enjoy from breweries like Orkney Brewery, and they pour a mean Guinness.
There’s a very good reason Ma’s is often one of the top the go-to pubs in Aberdeen for both big nights out and quiet drinks alike for my colleagues and I.