Mike Harris, owner of The Strawberry Thief bar in Bristol's Old City talks about his bar and how Bristol has made a name for itself with beer lovers, with some recommendations available for you to order in too:

Strawberry Thief bar in Old City Bristol with beer drinkers sitting outside

Image: Sitting outside The Strawberry Thief in Bristol's Old City

The beer revolution of the last 20 years has altered how we as a nation consume, create and experience beer. At the turn of the century you could count on both hands the selection of beers occupying the vast majority of draught lines, with only cask showing variation. Today (outside of lockdown) you are almost always a short distance from high quality beer havens, with most cities host to a plethora of beer led ‘candy’ shops to delve into.

The Strawberry Thief is a merger of my fascination with beer and venue. At the time I completed the take-over of the bar in June 2016, about 18 months after it opened its doors, my beer knowledge was low. However, the journey over the following few months imbedded the excitement around the vast array of beer styles and flavour profiles, and how they come to life in the right environment, which we loosely based on the fabulous continental café bars with great service. 

Beer can be as dry as a Chablis, as sweet as a liqueur. Some beers are crisp, light and extremely pale, and others are thick black and syrupy. Beer can have a sharp taste on the tongue, but it can also be soft and velvety, weighty and complex. Our weekly beer menu contains around 70 of the finest beers from Belgium and the UK (plus some other world brews we love) containing a huge array of aromas such as banana, cloves, grapefruit, coffee, pine needles, black pepper, chocolate, and caramel. The next big beer bubble is around food pairing, and its no surprise as there is literally a beer for every occasion! We’ve even toyed with having a breakfast beer menu in the future, what could be better than a full English with a perfect beer pair? 

William Morris Strawberry Thief patter wallpaper that adorns the walls of the bar in Bristol

Image: The Strawberry Thief pattern by William Morris, which adorns the walls and what the bar is named after

It’s no secret that Bristol’s beer scene is revered, so much so that our local breweries have been winning international accolades for beer and brewing. Much of this has been based on a local market that doesn’t just encourage experimentation, it demands it! Bristol is a food and drink fantasy, where a stroll from dawn to dusk can take you around the globe consuming scrumptious creations from passionate people, all working with high quality local ingredients fused with imported delights. 

Favourites

Here are a few of my favourite Bristol beers for a summer's day, all perfectly pairing with BBQ’d food, which is a must currently with the sun shining. All are currently delivering locally, and in need of support from us (tough job I know!):

Lost and Grounded – Keller Pils
Unfiltered hop bitter Lager, fresh and clean. Super refreshing, and vegan-friendly too. We put this on draught the week it was released, coming up to four years ago, and its remained on ever since, which says it all! 

Cans of Wiper and True beers in the window of Strawberry Thief bar in Bristol

Wiper and True – Kaleidoscope 
Pale ale made with three seasonal hops to create a beer that is harmonious, bright and refreshing. Vegan-friendly. It always goes fast when it stock at the bar as its sessionable, fresh, hoppy and always so drinkable!

Arbor Ales – Shangri La
Liberally hopped session India Pale Ale. Citra, Columbus, Equinox & Mosaic hops combine for a highly flavoursome moreish beer. Vegan-friendly. This has been a firm favourite at the bar throughout the last four years, everyone loves it! 

Man holding Arbor Ales beer in Strawberry Thief bar in Bristol

Lost and Grounded – Running with Sceptres
This cracking beer sits somewhere between a lager and a pale ale. Pilsner, Vienna and Caramalts combine with a huge whack of hops to make a special lager beer. Vegan-friendly. I had to add this beer as its what I’m currently drinking on those sunny days. It’s the perfect summer beer, and drinks best whilst standing over the hot coals!


A note to all our friends:

We have been pretty quiet since we pressed pause on our adventure in mid-March. Suffice to say that we were all exhausted, anxious and finding our way through the unknown, so we took the decision to all look inwards until we were ready to emerge. 

All of us have been through huge change and faced up to personal circumstances that have often felt out of our control. That doesn’t seem set to be relieved greatly in the coming weeks, but there is a sense of optimism growing in response to small liberties being restored. A new ‘normal’ is being established, and a picture of a future coming into focus, albeit with blurred borders. However, the time now feels right to come out of hibernation, figuratively, and share our excitement, share our ideas, and gather your feedback so we can welcome you through our door, or (*spoiler alert*) you can welcome us through your door!

View of inside of Strawberry Thief bar in Bristol 

Closing the doors to The Strawberry Thief for an indefinite period was heart-wrenching. The future is uncertain and how we will operate when hospitality is given the green light to reopen is far from clear currently. However, as we approach our 4th birthday I am bursting with pride and achievement over what our little bar has become. 

Let me leave you with special thanks to everyone who has taken the time to send us a message, from the well-wishers to those seeking their specialist beer fix to those missing their favourite staff member, all have helped to keep us in positive spirits and eagerly plotting our return! 

Take care everyone, we look forward to lifting the finger off the pause button soon! 

Big love,

Mike and The Strawberry Thief Team

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The Strawberry Thief
Bar
The Strawberry Thief

Elegant and inclusive continental style bar in the creative heart of Bristol. Proudly independent, specialising in Belgian & local beers.