Exeter has around 30 pubs within easy reach of the university and contrary to national trends, the number of watering holes in the city continues to rise. Whilst some ale fans would have surely been disappointed by the shutting of The Hopback Brewery owned first and last sometime in 2014, the popularity of sleek new bars such as The Beer Cellar, The Samuel Adams and The Exeter Brewery Tap mean our city is hardly lacking in quality spots to get a pint, a glass of wine, or even a choice whisky. Meanwhile, old student haunts such as The Old Firehouse, The Imperial (one of four Wetherspoons in the city), The “Vic”, Monkey Suit and The Ram continue to offer competitive deals and vibrant atmospheres for all members of our university body. This guide however will not concentrate on these areas. As, whilst The Beer Cellar and suchlike are great drinkeries, they don’t have regular live performers. Conversely, The Old Firehouse and The Ram emphatically tick this box, but their overwhelming popularity with Undergraduates and Postgraduates alike means I shouldn’t waste your time telling you how good they are – you already know that, or you will know that very soon! Therefore the four below, are some lesser-known bars that I believe exist in a happy equilibrium between quality drink and awesome music. Each and every one is a great way to wile away a quiet evening between essays or trips to Timepiece.
The Globe Inn
The Globe is hidden somewhat in a housing estate to the south of the Printworks accommodations, and whilst heavily advertised at its opening a few years back, is rarely in my experience visited by the student body. They do however endeavour to book some of the better live acts in the city, with upwardly mobile bands such as The Sound of Sirens often gracing the pub’s stage. Their ticketed events are also intriguing, with one part of I Am Kloot, John Bramwell, performing twice over the last calendar year, which constitutes a rare opportunity in the South West to see such a high calibre booking in a decidedly intimate environment. Whilst above averages prices mean multiple drinks at the pub might singe your wallet, The Globe is amongst the best places in Exeter to watch local music.
The Sorry Head
Whilst The Sorry Head invariably has circuit live acts on Friday and Saturday evenings, I’ve selected this Blackboy Road establishment on the merit of its Jam Nights, which take place on Thursdays and on Tuesdays unplugged. Whilst Campus Bands provide invaluable opportunities to the student body to meet like-minded musicians, this is one of the few regular modes of crossover between university and local performers, a crucial intersection in the continued development of live music in Exeter. Whilst the interactions here from time to time throw out exciting collaborations between student and non-student artists, these events are primarily a bit of fun and an opportunity for budding songwriters to share their work with an extremely appreciative fraternity.
At the Bar: Rotating Handpumps, Lagers, great spirit deals on weekdays
The Bike Shed Theatre
The Bike Shed Theatre, situated opposite the sticky floored mess that is Walkabout is a bit of an oddity. Aside from offering one the most extensive collections of board games I’ve ever seen in a bar (Settlers of Katan, anyone?), this venue-come-pub has a vibrant schedule of diverse and often avant-garde art, mainly dramatic or musical. Notably The Bike Shed excels in niche DJ nights, and whilst an old favourite of mine, Cabaret Voltaire (electroswing) has vanished from their listings, you can still catch doo-wop at Shake!, rockabilly and ska at Blow Your Wig, and more conventional electro playlists at Electric Feel every second Saturday of the Month. An often-ignored arm of Exeter’s nightlife, The Bike Shed is a quality place to catch some genres that can be difficult to unearth elsewhere.
At the Bar: Otter Bitter on Keg, Bottled Lager, Wine
A favourite drinking establishment in its own regard for its strong St. Austell-dominated range downstairs supplemented by a classy cocktail bar upstairs, Oddfellows makes the list for its well thought of open mic nights, which alongside mainstays such as RamJam or Extunes Live offer one of the best points of entry into the local scene for emerging acts. Billing itself as The Longest Running Open Mic in Exeter, the proximity of the pub to student housing hotspots such as the Howell Road and Pennsylvania Road areas make it an easy, low-pressure option for those looking to take the plunge into live music in the city. Meanwhile, its extensive food and drink menu means any fans/housemates/Facebook friends will have more than enough to keep them occupied throughout the performances.
At the Bar: St. Austell products including Korev, Rattler and Tribute, three other guest ales, cocktails upstairs