When my book The CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars was published a year ago in July 2011, London’s specialist beer scene was in its healthiest state for years, and the expansion hasn’t stopped since. And with so many more great places to drink, the Top 25 seems in need of a refresh.
So here’s my updated list showcasing pubs and bars that should be regarded as essential calls for anyone on a beer odyssey in London. Most are independent specialist pubs and bars offering a notably wide range of unusual beers; a few are exceptional brewery and chain pubs. I’ve cheated a little in excising the specialist shops that appeared in the original list, and giving them a Top 5 of their own.
Note the list is in alphabetical order, not order of merit.
Asterisks indicate the new entries, most of which have opened since the book went to press. A couple were in the book but not in the original Top 25. I’ve had to drop some venues from the list – not because they have fallen in quality individually, but to make space for others I now consider more deserving of a place.
The list represents a personal choice and wasn’t drawn up according to any formal scoring or assessment, but I feel confident that in visiting all these pubs and bars in turn you’d be treating yourself to a beer experience few other cities in the world could rival. If you choose to test this suggestion, please bear in mind the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines on alcohol consumption and ensure you build in some alcohol-free days.
If you have you have any comments, objections or suggestions of other pubs that should have been there, I’d be delighted to hear from you.
- BrewDog Camden* NW1
Camden Town, www.brewdog.com/bars/camden
Beer geek heaven in the Scottish iconoclasts’ stylish new bar – but no cask.
- Cask SW1
Westminster, Victoria and Pimlico (p115), www.caskpubandkitchen.com
Connoisseur’s choice with 10 casks and 400 bottles.
- Craft Beer Co* EC1
Clerkenwell and Farringdon, thecraftbeerco.com
30+ draughts and hundreds of bottles in a grand old Clerkenwell boozer.
- Crosse Keys EC3
City (p66), www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/home/pubs/the-crosse-keys
Top Wetherspoon with up to 25 casks in a spectacular setting.
- Dean Swift SE1
Borough (p54). thedeanswift.com
Homely new generation specialist with rare casks and cool bottles.
Dog and Bell SE8
Greenwich and Deptford (p179)
Civilised community pub with good cask and top Belgian bottles.
- Duchess of Cambridge* W6
Fulham and Hammersmith, www.theduchessofcambridgepub.com
Sister pub to the cask friendly Bree Louise, but world beer and comfy chairs too.
- Dukes Brew and Que* N1
Canonbury and Barnsbury, www.beavertownbrewery.com
Brewpub and barbie with immaculate cellar and great guest policy.
- Euston Tap NW1
Bloomsbury, Euston and St Pancras (p49), www.eustontap.com
A TARDIS of rare delights with 8 cask, 19 specialist kegs and up to 100 bottles.
- Falcon* SW11
Battersea and Clapham (p198), www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/thefalconclaphamjunctionlondon
Best range in the Nicholson’s chain at this Clapham Junction landmark.
- Harp WC2
Covent Garden (p75), www.harpcoventgarden.com
8 top local casks in the first ever London pub to win CAMRA Pub of the Year.
- Hoopers SE5
Camberwell, Dulwich and Peckham (p174), www.hoopersbar.co.uk
Refurbished local with rare casks and a classic bottled list.
NOTE: This pub sadly closes on 8 October 2012.
- Jolly Butchers* N16
Stoke Newington (p158), jollybutchers.co.uk
Craft beer pub for mere mortals, with great beer and food matching.
- King William IV E10
Leyton, Leytonstone and Walthamstow (p129), williamthefourth.net
Brodies’ rambling, quirky brewpub with up to 20 beers on tap.
- Market Porter SE1
Borough (p59), www.markettaverns.co.uk/the_market_porter.html
12 handpumps constantly rotating through new and unusual cask delights.
Mason & Taylor* E1
Shoreditch and Hoxton (p103), www.masonandtaylor.co.uk
Relaxed contemporary refuge with well chosen craft choices near Brick Lane.
NOTE: This pub sadly closed in late September 2012 and is due to be converted into London’s second BrewDog bar.
- Old Brewery SE10
Greenwich and Deptford (p180), www.oldbrewerygreenwich.com
Meantime’s upmarket beer hall in the heart of a World Heritage Site.
- Rake SE1
Borough (p60), www.utobeer.co.uk
London’s international beer geek drop-in centre with a wide world beer range.
- Red Lion* E11
Leyton, Leytonstone and Walthamstow, www.theredlionleytonstone.com
The adventurous and quirky Antic pubco’s showcase beer venue.
- Royal Oak SE1
Borough (p61), www.harveys.org.uk/theroyaloaklondon.htm
Close to perfect traditional pub with fine cask and bottled beer from Harvey’s.
- Southampton Arms NW5
Kentish Town and Tufnell Park (p157), thesouthamptonarms.co.uk
Outstanding contemporary ale house with 10 mainly local casks.
- Star* SW1
Westminster, Victoria and Pimlico (p118), www.star-tavern-belgravia.co.uk
Fuller’s pub with award winning cellar in every edition of the Good Beer Guide.
- Sussex Arms* TW2
Twickenham and Hampton Hill, www.thesussexarmstwickenham.co.uk
Big roadside pub in rugby country revived with dazzling beer range.
- Tapping the Admiral* NW1
Kentish Town and Tufnell Park, www.tappingtheadmiral.co.uk
London and local beers in a delightful backstreet hideaway.
- White Horse SW6
Fulham and Hammersmith (p225), www.whitehorsesw6.com
Longstanding smart specialist beer champion with 8 cask and 200 bottles.
- Beer Boutique* SW15
Raising beer retailing to a stylish new level with well chosen beers.
- Dr.Ink* SW6
Fulham and Hammersmith (p224), www.drinkoffulham.com
Indian spices and snacks alongside an extensive and well priced beer range
- Kernel Brewery* SE16
Open only on Saturdays and stocks only own beer – but what beer!
- Kris Wines N7
Kentish Town and Tufnell Park (p155), www.kriswines.com
750 specialist bottles, including many rarities, sourced by persistent beer hunter.
- Utobeer SE1
Borough (p62), www.utobeer.co.uk
Shop with more than 700 international beers in Borough Market’s gourmet haven.