Your Ultimate Guide To Real Ale & Craft Beer In London

real ale

Anspach & Hobday via BERNT ROSTAD

London’s streets are teeming with pubs and bars serving an astounding selection of craft beers and real ales. Some are old, creaking and cozy, others are brand-spanking new and serve beautifully unusual brews.

The city has a proud history of ale, stretching back to the 15th Century when female “alewives” or “brewsters” dominated the industry, often selling the malted brown liquid straight from their cellars. Today, the flat golden drink is enjoying a renaissance, and with increasing numbers of microbreweries setting up shop as if prohibition just ended.

While real ale is a British mainstay, craft beer, a US-influenced distinctly hoppier drink, is becoming equally popular on the island. The steady stream of imported, exquisitely labelled, bottles from the States has been bolstered by a healthy growth in local expert brewers.

For the discerning drinker who’s new to London we’ve rounded up the most delectable institutions to visit, whether you’re looking for a swift half or a place to quaff away the day. Also look out for annual real ale and craft beer fests across the city year round.

North

The Bree Louise is tipped as London’s finest real ale pub by a number of respected connoisseurs. The wonderfully quaint Euston pub has won a number of CAMRA awards (CAMRA, if you haven’t heard of it already, is the Oscars of the ale world). For a more modern ambiance try The Bull Highgate — which also serves a fine selection of food — or Tuffnel Park’s Southampton Arms.

Craft beer pubs in the north include Euston Tap, Hops & Glory and The North Pole.

East

East London is the epicenter of ale. The best way to enjoy the fruits of the region is walking. Start at Whitechapel’s White Hart Brew Pub, which has a brewery in the basement. From there it’s a half an hour walk or a super short bus ride to Bethnal Green, where you can grab a pint at the Redchurch Brewery. This brewery is surrounded by other fine drinking opportunities, including London Fields Brewery, Cock Tavern, Five Points Brewing Company and Pressure Drop Brewing.

real ale

CRATE Brewery via MATT BROWN

If you’re heading further east try Hackney Wick’s CRATE Brewery, or head to Walthamstow, which boasts Wildcard Brewing Company, East London Brewing Company, Signature Brew and Brodie’s. If you’re thinking of staying somewhere more central, Shoreditch’s branch of BrewDog — fast becoming a household name — serves nice tasting bottles and draught craft beer.

South

South of the river the best bet for getting your whistle wet is the Bermondsey Beer Mile. Riding the crest of the new wave of microbreweries, Bermondsey’s six breweries are dotted along the railway arches that stretch to London Bridge. The best time to check out the area is from 6pm on a Saturday, when the DIY brewsters are all open for business. Look out for the longest serving microbrewery in the area – The Kernel Brewery – as well as the delicious tastes of Brew By Numbers, Partizan Brewing, Fourpure Brewing, Anspach & Hobday and Bullfinch Brewery. Expect exposed brick, wooden benches and punters with topknots.

real ale

Craft beer via QUINN DOMBROWSKI

West

The splendidly named The Mad Bishop and Bear was voted West London’s best pub by our old friends at CAMRA (London’s strangest moniker is probably The Hung Drawn and Quartered, close to Tower Hill). The Paddington pub’s Fuller’s real ale is a treasured brew which regular punters happily nurse into the late night.

The White Horse in Parson’s Green is another respected joint which pays reverence to the art of brewing by serving up the cream of the hops to its loyal customers. The Moncada microbrewery set up shop in Notting Hill in 2011, and is working hard to drive the beer scene forwards in West London. It sells its brews in bottles, from the cask and keg, and also boasts a chili farm.

By Jo Eckersley

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Jo Eckersley

Jo is a British freelance writer who has lived in five cities over the last five years, most recently Sri Lanka. Interested in politics, travel, activism and culture, her work has appeared in The New Internationalist, Time Out Sri Lanka and The Big Issue North. You can read more at joannaeckersley.com, or get in touch via Twitter @joeckersley.

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