It’s no exaggeration to say that London’s beer scene has never been so eclectic, so local, so bespoke. Whether you’re talking real ale or craft, there’s literally hundreds of specialised local microbreweries popping up all across the capital.
There are particular hotspots such as Bermondsey, home of the Bermondsey beer mile (a weekend brewery crawl through the arches), and Hackney, where it’s hard to find a pub without several local ales on draft, and indeed plans to close Chesham Arms have been scrapped after an epic 1,000-day battle by local campaigners.
These are just the tip of the iceberg, so wherever you live, get out there and get drinking...responsibly, of course. These are your top 10 best London microbreweries...
Image credit: Beerguidelondon
The Southwark has become one of the highlights of the Bermondsey railway arch scene after opening in Autumn 2014, boasting a tap room open on Saturdays, with four handpumps starring London Pale Ale, Bermondsey Best and Gold, plus seasonal brews. As experienced brewer and owner Peter Jackson points out, it has history on it’s side too, being very near the original site of two of the biggest breweries in London: Barclay Perkins and Thrales.
Image credit: East London Brewing Company
You’ll see the results of four years hard work by ELB behind many a bar in central london, as this husband and wife team chucked in the day jobs in 2011 to found a small 10-barrel microbrewery in E10. However, the gamble has paid off, with the brewery now employing three staff and expanding into the premises next door. Among the excellent cask beers is Cowcatcher, an American Pale Ale, well worth testing...
Image credit: Dragonfly
The locally famous Dragonfly brewery at The George & Dragon, Acton is one of the largest brewpubs in London, knocking out 1,200 litres of cask and kegged beer per brew. Aside from drinking them in the pub, beers from the crisp pale ale Early Doors through to the weighty Dark Matter stout are available for takeaway in 4 pint ‘growlers’.
Image credit: Hackney Brewery
Another established favourite guesting at bars across the capital is the peerless Hackney Brewery, established in 2011 by Jon Swain and Peter Hills. Starting out by producing real ale, the team has introduced craft kegged beers as their range has expanded; American IPA and Session IPA are particularly popular.
Image credit: Strawman
A recent refugee from the Hackney scene, Strawman has taken up residence at the New Cross end of the Old Kent Road, where beer is handmade in small batches. Stocked in the Cock tavern, as well as the City Beverage Company, Strawman has four beers out at the moment, including the excellent Saison session ale.
Image credit: Brockley Brewing Co
The Brockley Brewery was founded in March 2013, and is more of a collective than a standard brewery, made up as it is of local residents who banded together to ‘bring the finest ales to the people of south east london’; they’ve done a fantastic job. Based a short stagger from Brockley tube, there is a brewery tap where ales such as the excellent Brockley Gold can be bought direct (in milk containers, rather brilliantly), and a licence for proper drinking there is imminent.
Image credit: Howling Hops
Formerly housed in the cellar of the Cock Tavern in Hackney, and thus a long-term resident on the pub’s bar, Howling Hops' Ed Taylor has broken new ground in recent weeks by opening “the UK’s first dedicated tank bar” in Hackney Wick. Whether the Guinness book will be allowing that or no, it’s an undisputed vision of beer in the best possible taste.
Image credit: Partizan
Another railway arch special in Bermondsey, Partizan brewing has gone from strength to strength, beginning with classic pale ales and now offering a full range, from IPA to stout. Head brewer Andy Smith loves to rediscover older styles of brewing, which gives an extra intrigue to each batch, as if the awesome label-art by Alex Doherty, above, wasn’t enough.
Image credit: London Glider
Indeed, it’s not just beer brewing hitting the headlines, as summer actually bothers to turn up, cider springs to mind. London Glider has an even more urban twist on localisation though, as the Glider team source all their raw material from otherwise unwanted urban apple trees. The result is two blends dry and medium dry, available at events and shops across the capital.
Image credit: Bythehorns
This Wandsworth microbrewery began in a garage, and has grown into a prolific local provider of quality ales. Now running to four flagship ales, five bottled beers and a slew of seasonal offerings, this is one to savour. There’s a brewery tap (vitally) open most days, so well worth visiting for a taster; the Wolfie Smith Amber Ale is particularly easy drinking.