There’s a craft beer renaissance brewing round this way, and London Fields Brewery, at a whole three years old, is one of the originals. They fly their hops in from as far afield as New Zealand and the Tap Room housed in some railway arches is a convivial spot to sup.
Drink: The Hackney Hopster, a lovely 4.2% Pacific Pale Ale.
Housed in a miniscule Victorian gatehouse in the previously barren area outside Euston station, the Tap is a cornucopia of fridges, kegs and casks. It’s shoulder to shoulder drinking unless you escape outside, but a lot more interesting for a pre-train pint than the local ‘Spoons.
Drink: A Brewdog or a Kernel from the 150 bottled choices in the fridge.
Pizza plus beer equals eternal joy. It’s not a hard equation to grasp but a tough one to master. Crate Brewery, squatting by the canal in Hackney Wick, has it down to a T.
Drink: The Crate IPA goes down nicely.
This one has a beer vending machine. Plus 22 draught pumps, nearly 200 bottled beers, and a range of stodgy food to soak it up. Gets rammed on weekends but worth a visit.
Drink: Mikkeller Beer Hop Breakfast, promising a bitter coffee and chocolate stout finish is as pricey (£6.90) as it is strong (7.5%) but will put a fire in your belly.
Meantime was founded way before London’s current craft beer renaissance, back in 1999, and the Old Brewery’s beer making legacy, in the grounds of the Royal Naval College, dates back hundreds of years. Nowadays the bar offers Meantime classics alongside British and Belgian highlights.
Drink: Meantime Coffee Porter or Meantime Yakima Red would be good places to start.
Another mini chain, and one of a number of pubs now offering third pint portions, the Draft House is a great spot for experimentation. Other outposts in City, London Bridge, Northcote Road and Tower Hill offer the same enthusiastic education.
Drink: If you’ve never had a Beavertown Gamma Ray, perhaps this is your time.
It’s literally impossible to walk through Soho at 5pm without giving up previous plans and diving into a pub – the area has a magnetic pull. A lot of them offer the same beers in the same Victorian interiors, but The Old Coffee House is different. Run by Leyton brewers Brodies, it eschews Fosters junk for an interesting selection that includes a bacon beer.
Drink: The Hoxton Special IPA is the fruity taste of summer.
Whether you like your beer pale or dark, fruity or wheaty, British or Belgian, the Old Red Cow should be able to procure something suitable.
Drink: Go for a Redchurch and a scotch egg and take it from there.
You’ll probably get through a few Camden Town beers during this epic crawl, but it’s worth nipping to the source. Under the de rigeur railway arches and offering tours on Thursdays, the bar is a friendly place to talk beer until kicking out time.
Drink: There’s something brilliantly perverse about drinking Gentleman’s Wit until yours have left the building.
While there are plenty of London brews on tap, including the house Beavertown which is named after the historic nickname for this part of London, it’s probably best to hunker down to their huge BBQ platters with something American like Flying Dog or Bear Republic.
Drink: Bear Republic’s Red Rocket is a malty treat straight from California.
Another relative newcomer that links craft beer havens in Islington, Hackney and Stoke Newington, Hops & Glory is full of leather sofas, snacking platters and of course umpteen beers.
Drink: Ask the bar staff to surprise you.
A real ale as much as a craft beer place, the Butchers focus on produce from London and the South East. Taps and fridges overflow with choice and they favour proper glass beer mugs too.
Drink: You can’t got wrong with something from the East London Brewing Company. If their Jamboree is on, the summer starts here.
This place near the top of Brick Lane languished empty for some time but is now heaving with locals working their way through oysters and porters, spending with enough abandon to live up to Dickens’ observation that “poverty and oysters always seem to go together”.
Drink: Mine’s a Crate Golden Ale.
14. Holborn Whippet
This one keeps it simple: beer from the brick. A series of taps protruding from a central wall dispense a rotating selection of 15+ beers to thirsty Holbornites. It gets busy, especially on the narrow stairs to the sweaty basement, but there’s ample room outside.
Drink: The drinks change regularly but 3% pints of Redemption Trinity were great during our last visit.
Camra-nominated within a year of opening, this south London boozer behind the Jolly Butchers team serves seven ales from the cask and 14 from the keg.
Drink: Settle in for the night and work your way through regulars Dark Star, Redemption, Camden Town, Brew Dog, Kernel and Five Points.
Offering hundreds of beers from around the world, including innumerable craft beer surprises, and a great American beer festival around Independence Day, this place does it properly.
Drink: Goose Island IPA or Snake Dog IPA for a taste of Chicago’s or Maryland’s finest.
Aiming to support the 40-odd independent brewers across London, Powder Keg Diplomacy focus on local beers, while their Lost Brewing arm collaborates with producers to exhume long dead recipes.
Drink: Ask the staff for the guest brew.
The sign says it all really.
Drink: Something from an independent brewer such as Marble or Slater’s, depending on who they’re showcasing at the time.
A tiny pub with an epic selection, The Rake packs 130 beers into the fridges behind the bar. You might have to navigate a fair few suits to get to the front but it’s worth it.
Drink: Go for a lucky dip; everything changes too often.
The green brick exterior might be a hangover from its time as a Courage pub, but inside it’s a different story. All the usual suspects, from London Fields to Mikkeller, are here, and the staff know what they’re talking about too.
Drink: Thornbridge Bracia, a 10% honey beer, will get the evening going.
This small Hackney operation offers regular beer tastings, and are hosting a summer Brew Fest in June.
Drink: The flavoursome Hook Island Red, with Chinook, Columbus and Simcoe hops, is a revelation.
One of several breweries along Bermondsey’s “beer mile”, which includes Partizan, Fourpure and Brew By Numbers, Kernel offer a range of beers “bottled alive”, from strong punchy brews like their Imperial Brown Stout at 10.2% to the much more benign, but still tasty, London Sour at 2.5%, via a number of excellent IPAs.
Drink: Anything really, but the Table Beer – which comes in at around 3.5% depending on the batch – is a great session drink for sunny afternoons.
“Shit loads of UK indy beer and no silly nonsense” – their Twitter bio speaks for itself, really. Home to the Howling Hops brewery.
Drink: Go for a rich chocolate stout or a refreshing American light ale.
24. The Lyric, Soho
Another Victorian boozer tucked in the heart of Soho, the Lyric has revitalised its drinks selection and now offers the usual London suspects – Beavertown, Kernel, Camden Town - among Brighton’s Dark Star, Bristol’s Beer Factory and beyond.
Drink: Fourpure’s Amber Ale.