Before we left London, we put together a few beer recommendations for friends new to the city (or to beer). Before our recommendations go stale (we’re assuming in relation to the new breweries that have inevitably popped up in east and south London they already are), we wanted to share our thoughts with everyone via our blog. So, here are some of our favourite beer spots in London. As we’ve mainly spent our time in the north and east of London, this is heavily weighted to those areas, but objectively those areas are/were the best for beer anyway (except in respect of Bermondsey, which we mention below).
- Craft Beer Co. (Clerkenwell, Leather Lane): This was the bar that really kicked off the craft beer craze in London. It gets extremely crowded after work on Thursday and Friday, so we would suggest only going on the weekends. The bartenders there are very knowledgeable; they have a great selection of beers on keg, cask (good place to try English-style ales since they can point you to good ones) and in bottle.
- Craft Beer Co. (Islington, Baron Street): Newer addition to the Craft Beer Co. pubs. Nicer pub atmosphere than the Clerkenwell pub and a broader selection of keg beers (though a narrower selection of cask beers). Overall a better place, but can get very crowded Friday and Saturday nights. On the subject of Craft Beer Co., if you ever find yourself in Brighton, their pub there is by far our favourite, with a much more relaxed and local vibe.
- Cock Tavern (Hackney Central, Mare Street): Great pub atmosphere (dim lighting, wood surfaces). Have their own brewery in the basement (Howling Hops), which actually has a few very good beers. They always have Howling Hops on cask and usually on keg too. The brewer/bartender Tim, who is usually there (and as of our departure had a huge beard), is (highly) discerning and a good person for suggestions. The bottle selection is narrow, but it’s overall a great pub. Food is basically pies and scotch eggs, but they are pretty good; they don’t have real food. If you find yourself out there and are looking for dinner, try Tre Viet, which is a fantastic Vietnamese place down the road on Mare Street.
- London Fields Brewery (London Fields, Warburton Street): You should be able to find London Fields beer in most decent pubs in East London; it used to be solid but nothing special, but recently they have been stepping up their game with latest beers. Try their Shoreditch Triangle IPA and anything in their Gunslinger series. The pub attached to the brewery is a bit hipster, but if you find yourself in the London Fields area on a Saturday (we highly suggest checking out Broadway Market on a Saturday, which is a great place to get lunch, baked goods, etc.), it’s a good place to go for a drink.
- Crate Brewery (Hackney Wick, Queen’s Yard): Crate is a fairly new brewery with pretty good (but we wouldn’t say necessarily standout) beer. They primarily have their own beers on cask and keg, but have an okay bottle selection as well. If you go there, we would say to stick with their beer. However, Crate is notable for a few reasons: (1) their pizza is fantastic, (2) the pub is in an awesome industrial space and (3) the pub is right on the canal, which is great for a nice day. It’s a good place to combine with a visit to Victoria Park on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Unlike a lot of beer places, they also have a very thoughtful and well-sourced wine selection from The Sampler if beer isn’t your thing.
- William IV (Leyton, Leyton High Road): One of Adam’s favourites, and probably the most authentic “pub” on this list. Truly a pub for East London locals; no hipsters in sight (yet). The pub is attached to Brodie’s Brewery, which we think is one of the most underrated brewers in London; they still haven’t figured out to distribute their beer in a rational way. Broad range of Brodie’s beers on cask and keg. Food is available and edible, but nothing special. Be prepared for it being really local, English and underwhelming, but we really love this place for a Sunday afternoon.
- Other places to try: Old Coffee House (Soho; only carries Brodie’s (which contrary to whatever is said online is truly fantastic beer) and lager, but has a very good selection for Central London, otherwise sort of a crappy pub but in a good way), Southampton Arms (Gospel Oak; good beer and cider offering, good pub food/snacks), Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (City/Fleet Street; close to the City, beer is cheap and all from Samuel Smith, a very good, typical brewery from Yorkshire, the stout and mild are very good), Draft House (Fitzrovia/Charlotte Street; great beer selection and great food in Central London), The Harp (Covent Garden; good beer selection, but can get rammed on a Friday or Saturday night and after work).
- The Kernel (Southwark/Bermondsey, Dockley Road): Kernel was one of the first breweries to contribute to the craft beer craze in London. Their beers are generally very good and change based on hop availability. The brewery is open to the public every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and they have beer hall-style seating. Combine a visit to the brewery with a visit to Druid Street and Maltby Street market, both of which are great places to shop for food/ingredients and to get lunch. Also, next to Kernel in that industrial yard is a fantastic butcher on one side and a fantastic charcuterie store on the other side. Lots of people buy meat and cheese from the place next door and bring it into Kernel to eat with some beer. It’s a good picnic-style lunch.
- Partizan (Southwark, Almond Road): Partizan is (from what we understand, though it may not be accurate) an off-shoot of Kernel and it has a fantastic range of beers. They are also open to the public on Saturdays (and maybe Sundays but I’m not positive), though they have very little seating (most people just hang around outside and sit on the crates and pallets). Definitely worth a visit if you have some free time on a Saturday and it’s near Southwark Park, which is a decent park on a nice day.
- The Bottle Shop: this is our favourite beer retailer; the supplier of beer for our wedding and the source for all of the specialty beer we buy online. Andrew and his employees have great taste. He’s done deliveries in London for us in the past, and we understand now delivers to customers in London generally. We understand they are opening at 128 Druid Street in SE1, but the original location is in Canterbury (The Goods Shed, by Canterbury West train station) so if you find yourself in England’s premier destination, it is a must visit.
- Kernel and Partizan breweries (see above)
- Utobeer in Borough Market
- Bottle Apostle: they have branches in Victoria Park Village and Crouch End and you can by online