12 real ale pubs in Dorset you need to visit
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Where is the best real ale pub in Dorset? From traditional pubs to CAMRA-recommended freehouses, when it comes to real ale and craft beer, we’re spoiled for choice in Dorset - and as the nights get warmer, what better excuse to pull up a chair and enjoy an evening out?
With a continuous choice of four national and local ales on pump, the Digby Tap is a go-to destination for Dorset beer lovers. The freehouse has one 'session ale' and three guest ales running at any time so you can stick with the tried and tested or sample something new. The session ales on rotation include Cernes Abbas Ale, Otter Bitter and Telgnworthy Neap Tide.
Beer aside, this freehouse serves a hearty pub lunch if you're feeling peckish. On the menu you'll find burgers, sandwiches, Ploughman's lunch and big bowls of chips. No-frills, great pub food - just how we like it.
If you're on the hunt for a fuss-free proper pub, the Square & Compass is just the place. It is one of only nine pubs in the UK to appear in every single addition of CAMRA's Good Beer Guide and with good reason. In addition to a number of ales of beers on offer, the pub also serves up its own delicious Dorset cider and plays host to a never-ending line-up of live music and festivals throughout the year.
Michelin-starred it's not but we really don't mind. Pies and pasties are the name of the game here and we think they're the perfect accompaniment to a pint of ale. Previous ale offerings include Palmers Brewery Copper Ale, Wessex Brewery Moonlite and Wessex Warrior.
The Barking Cat was named East Dorset CAMRA Pub of the Spring 2019 and with eight pumps of perfectly-kept real ale on offer at any time, it's easy to see why. Owner Mark Ambrose is incredibly knowledgeable about his booze so rest-assured you're in very good hands. Previous choices include Great Eastern IPA and Hop Fizz Brut IPA from Siren Craft Brew. Beers are priced on their strength and there's always something a little bit daring and new to try.
The Barking Cat doesn't serve food but there's a Chinese takeaway next door which you're welcome to enjoy in the pub.
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The Micro Moose is the size of a living room so if you like great conversation and even better ale it should tick all the right boxes. You'll always find a friendly local to chat to over a pint. The pub has three to five ales on hand pump or straight from the cask and whilst the line-up is subject to change, the majority of ales on offer are always local ones from the South West.
Feeling peckish? The Micro Moose has a number of tempting beer snacks to accompany your drink. Think pork pies, scotch eggs and big sharing plates of nachos.
This Grade II listed, chocolate-box cottage is a real community-based pub that works alongside an array of local breweries to ensure there is always an ever-changing range of Dorset craft ales on offer. Regulars include Piddle - Spring Fair, Palmers - Dorset Gold and Twisted - Misty. The White Hart was named the West Dorset CAMRA Pub of the Year 2019.
The food is as good as the beer with honey and mustard sausages, homemade pork scratchings, spicy wings and grilled halloumi on the menu - and that's just the bar snacks. We can also recommend the Yetburger and fish and chips.
Make your way down the winding country lanes of Plush and you'll find The Brace of Pheasants. It's a 'watch your head' as you enter sort-of-place with low-beamed ceilings, roaring fires, decorative taxidermy and cosy nooks and crannies. Dogs are welcome with open paws - it's just how we like our rural pubs best.
Local ales are served straight from the cask and regulars include Flack's Double Drop and Ringwood Razorback. A pint of ale in hand, Fido at our feet and a hearty venison burger is one of our favourite ways to spend an afternoon here.
Described by CAMRA in the Good Beer Guide as a pub 'well worth seeking out', The Tiger Inn is not hard to find as it is right in the heart of Bridport. It has two bars and two courtyard gardens and one of the bars is in a refurbished skittles alley decorated with fresh beer hops!
There's always six different ales to choose from and it's a haven for beer drinkers. In proper pub fashion, the inn has board games, darts and regular events to keep you entertained.
The Black Bear has been a freehouse for a few years now and offers four pumps of different ales with St Austell Tribute and Flack Bear making regular appearances behind the bar. Offerings change daily and you can often find the line-up for the day on the pub's Facebook page.
The Black Bear holds regular Breakfast Club and Curry Night events but if you're looking for food to go with your beer you can expect a menu of hearty home cooked food too. They also make a cracking Sunday lunch.
All Hail Ale can be found on Queens Road a short walk from the centre of town but it's worth the trip as we think it's a super cool place to hang out. The micropub is on the 'Untappd' app so you can check out which beers are going to be available before you get there.
Inside you'll be greeted by the pub dog Jax and a blackboard brimming with beer choices. Take your pick from the 'On Cask' or 'On Keg' menu and put the world to rights over a pint. Whilst the pub doesn't serve food, you're welcome to bring your own (there's a pizza takeaway next door).
This freehouse combines our love for two things: great beer and yummy seafood (in that order). The pub is cool and quirky with lots of rugs, plenty of art, rouge red walls and rustic furniture. Behind the bar is an extensive selection of cask conditioned, cask marque accredited real ales.
Outside you'll find a big beer garden with ample seating and The Seafood Shack which serves up the Catch of the Day, moules and chips, and a warm Fish Platter - the perfect accompaniment to your pint of ale.
Expect a home-from-home type atmosphere when visiting the Royal Standard. Toby, the landlord, is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable about good beer and the pub has previously been recognised in the CAMRA Good Pub Guide. Each year they hold an annual beer festival in May.
The Royal is very dog friendly and it's a great stop-off point after a ramble around Upwey. Kickback with a pint of ale, the rugby on TV and one of the pub's famous seafood platters.
This article was updated by Martha Griffiths in June 2021.